Posts Tagged ‘Pitching Evolution’

Was watching MLB Central this morning and they were talking about what baseball has become and how it’s different then even when the retired guys hosting it played.

This made me think, and normally that involves smoke pouring out my ears and intense pain. I did it anyway for the good of the human race… or some race that was probably wiped out by falling off curb into a sewer grate.

What would Babe Ruth think about our game if he could sit in the stands, with a beer and over sized hotdog of course? What about Mickey Mantle? What about Tony Gwynn(Since I am a Padres fan)?

I mean I look at it and I’m closing in on 40 and they play so completely different then they did a decade ago. Yes there is still a bat, a ball, and nine guys on the field but the ‘how’ is totally different. Since there are so many different aspects that have changed, in my opinion, I’m breaking this down in to a couple part series because my fingers can only type so many letters before the cramps set it.

Part 1

Evolution of the Pitcher.

Lets start with the Babe. Historically listed as an Outfielder and Pitcher. Seriously look it up, I did. When was the last time you saw this? Well honestly it was last year during the world series but before that was like never. More to the point is the fact that Ruth pitched 107 complete games out of 147 starts in his 10 year career. Let that sink in for a minute.

107 complete 9 inning games against another actual baseball team.

Even more impressive he pitched over 300 innings two years in a row where he had a 1.75 ERA and a 2.01 ERA respectively. When was the last time you heard of someone getting to 300 innings in a season? I looked it up so you don’t have to Steve Carlton of the Phillies back in 1980. Now a days if you hit 200 innings without having to have Tommy-John Surgery it’s nearly amazing. Heck so many of the pitchers are on a ‘pitch limit’ that they won’t even get close to that. Back to the 107 complete games, in 1917 Ruth had 35 complete games. The highest total for who we are currently calling the best pitcher in the league, Clayton Kershaw is 6 in one season. Not only do pitchers not throw complete games anymore but they don’t throw even close to 30 games. Again referencing Kershaw’s stats he has never had more then 26 games in a season. Saying all this lets look at Steve Carlton since he was the last one to reach 300+ innings. Carlton pitched for 24 years. Let me say that again TWENTY-FOUR YEARS. Even if we take out the years he didn’t pitch at least 100 innings (8 years) this guy pitched 4.963 innings in 16 years. Kershaw 1760 in 9 years. Max Scherzer another of the pitching greats of this age 1696 in 9 years. They both would need to throw over 3000 innings in the next 7 years to get close. By the way Ruth who really didn’t pitch more then 5 years, the other 5 years he only had 7 starts, had 1167 innings.

Do I need to go on with the innings or amount of pitches? The guys now don’t even come close to what used to take place. Even the great Kershaw and Scherzer don’t come close.

What does this tell us? That we just didn’t have the medical knowledge to know when guys were hurt so we pitched them anyways? This is possible, hell anything is possible but the probability is not there. I have no doubts that some guys ruined their arms and no one understood why back then, however that doesn’t account for all the guys that had long careers pitching huge amounts of innings. So there is no way the majority of guys pitched effectively with injuries.

What else could it be? Secret ninja tricks? Fountain of youth drinking fountains in the locker rooms? Magic Jobu dolls?  Corn Fields of everlasting baseball? Susan Sarandon in negligee posters? Like I said anythings possible but I think it comes down to one word.

Effort.

Effort? Seriously? What are you talking about these guys give every ounce of effort they have and then some every day!

Now hold on cowboy. Lets look at something to emphasize my point. Greg Maddux is one of the greatest pitchers in my lifetime and possibly of all baseball. Maddux pitched for 23 years and only 3 of those years did he pitch under 100 innings. 4864 innings in those 20 years (5008 in all 23 years). Now tell me why Maddux could pitch that many innings for that long and be as incredibly effective as he was (.610 win percentage and lifetime 3.16 ERA). Effort and much more specifically MAX Effort. Maddux was not a fireballer he was a locator, by this I mean he didn’t over power you with the speed of his fastball. He over powered you with the location of his fastball and every other one of his pitches. He pitched where you weren’t swinging, to say it nicely he pitched smarter then you could hit. This goes for a lot of pitchers of his era, the pre-steroid and then the first part of the steroid era. They actually pitched, while the radar gun was around it wasn’t the only thing that mattered. Pitchers used smarts and mastery of pitches to get hitters out.

Pitchers now don’t think that way, hell they aren’t trained that way so how could they even try to think that way. Proof of that is how Noah Syndergaard came into this season saying he put on muscle weight to ‘throw harder’ then he did last season. In which he had the fastest slider mph speed in the entire league not to mention many of the top fastball mph speeds(for a starter). What is wrong with that? Well to start with Noah barely ever makes it past 5 innings per start. Yeah they are an exciting radar gun busting 5 innings but still only 5 innings out of a 9 inning game. So throwing harder doesn’t help if you’re only pitching half a game to start with. We don’t hear about pitchers anymore unless they are throwing ‘heat’. Heck the graphics for the televised games emphasize how fast they are pitching with little flames around the radar readings. Thank goodness for pitchers like Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs, so we can see what real pitching is. Remember there is a HUGE difference between throwing and pitching. Throwing means you are throwing it past the hitter, pitching means you are using your brain and PITCHES to get the hitter out.

What’s next? More of the same unfortunately. More ‘fireballers’ with short careers because of injuries because there is a dozen guys waiting to take their place. I liked what John Smoltz said when talking about this ‘The system is broken and no one cares.’ He is completely right in my mind. We are telling kids in little league to throw hard, we are teaching them in high school how to throw harder, and in college when they destroy their arms we are perfecting the surgeries to get them back on the field. I can attest to watching/coaching little league pitchers. I have been an assistant coach for many teams and watching how most head coaches use their pitchers is awful. Jimmy pitches hard and our defense is terrible so lets have him pitch 4 innings or 75 pitches before we bring in someone else. What are we teaching them? Don’t rely on your defense to help you, you have to pitch harder and strikeout every batter you see. That only intensifies as they progress in to more competitive age brackets. We don’t show them how to pitch, or when to throw a certain pitch. We just tell them to throw hard and reward them when they strikeout a batter. You don’t have to believe me, go out and watch a little league game.

Want more proof?

https://www.rush.edu/news/tommy-john-surgeries-highest-among-teens

http://newsroom.cumc.columbia.edu/blog/2016/03/07/tommy-john-reconstructive-surgeries-rise-among-young-athletes/

You do the research and figure it out for yourself, but the system is broken and it isn’t going to change anytime soon unfortunately.

Stay tuned for the next Part where I discuss hitting.

SD Signature

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