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Thread: Did Pitchers of Yesteryear Throw With "Much Less" Velocity Than They Do Today?

  1. #201
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    A couple years ago I collected a bunch of articles on past attempts to measure the speed of pitchers including the ones that Ubi mentions above.

    The Gilbreth study was done using a big stop watch. I have footage of the actual study which shows them attempting to measure the speed of the pitch as well as the speed of the throw from catcher to second and other times related to baseball. Gilbreth used a motion picture camera that included the pitcher and a stop watch in order to calculate the speed of the pitch. Based on the purported speeds, either the clock was in error or else he made a mistake in calculation. The actual study was done in May, 1913 before a Giants/Phillies game. Gilbreth performed the same study on a college team earlier that year.

    Koenig threw the ball 150 feet per second which is about 100 MPH in 1930.
    Last edited by Bench 5; 08-12-2009 at 06:40 PM.
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  2. #202
    Quote Originally Posted by Ubiquitous View Post
    According to study done by Frank Gilbreth, of Cheaper by the Dozen fame Fromme in 1916 threw pitches that had an average speed of between 117 to 148 mph.
    Where did you find that fascinating information? At what distance? Did Gilbreth's rival theorist Frederick Winslow Taylor ever do any studies on the subject?

  3. #203
    Quote Originally Posted by Death to Crawling Things View Post
    My take is there have been guys around that could put it in 95+ (maybe Walter Johnson was the first, maybe even Amos Rusie, whatever).


    But, what I beleive is that there were probably less % of pitchers who could put above 90 overall. ANd today you'd never see a guy in the majors who cant throw 80 except maybe a knucleballer. Whereas back then you probably did like Stu Miller and Eddie Lopat and Dave LaPoint.


    It probably doesnt matter.
    Actually, anyone who has/had a change-up as good as Miller's would be able to pitch successfully in any era.
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  4. #204
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    Which era does Nolan Ryan fit into? He started his career in 1966 and made it to the Mets full time in 1968. Fast, raw and very wild. So wild, he never fit in the Met rotation and they shipped him to California for Jim Fregosi. He pitched through 1993. 60', 70's, 80's and 90's. He was probably at his fastest in the 70's when he was with the Angels.

    I saw Ryan pitch as a kid and as an older man. I also remember seeing Sudden Sam McDowell pitch in his younger days. That guy had some heat comprable to any era. Wild too. Nobody likes to bat against a kid who is fast and wild. I remember batting against a kid who threw over 93 in high school, but he couldn't get it across the plate and had a lot of walks and HBP's (he hit me on the calf and the thigh one game). He wound up in the NFL later on.

  5. #205
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    This website below has some good information on past attempts to measure speed and current speed of pitchers. The most important concept that they stress is the fact that the velocity of the pitch decelerates over distance. In order to compare the speed you have to take into account the distance and the conditions.

    There are a few items that are not correct such as the story that Smokey Joe Wood, Matthewson and Johnson were timed in 1917. I have found no record of this. Matthewson was no longer playing and Wood was no longer a pitcher. I think this was first incorrectly introduced as a story in 1939 when the Speed Meter was rolled out by the Cleveland Plains Dealer.

    Also Bob Feller was actually timed three different times. Once in 1939 by the Speed Meter, once in 1940 versus a motorcycle and once in 1946 by photo-electric cell.

    Atley Donald as well as a couple other pitchers were timed at 95 MPH by the Speed Meter in 1939.

    When I get some free time I will post all of the stories that I found from the past couple years ago. There were actually attempts to measure speed going back to 1884.

    http://www.efastball.com/baseball/st...major-leagues/
    "Batting slumps? I never had one. When a guy hits .358, he doesn't have slumps."

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  6. #206
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dalkowski110 View Post
    Well-put. BTW, here's one of only a handful of period articles about Steve and both his wildness and speed. It appeared in Time Magazine in July, 1960...

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/ar...9618-1,00.html

    Steve is referred to as "Steve Dalkowski Jr." because his father, Steve Sr., was a semi-pro and I believe briefly pro shortstop. Nobody called him Steve though...he was "Ratsy." If he played pro ball, both Steve and his sister claimed he anglicized his name. Steve thought he played as "Steve Dalko" and his sister wasn't sure either way.
    At Risk of repetition:
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  7. #207
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    Here's a picture of Art Fromme throwing a pitch to home plate in 1913 as he is being timed by a stop-clock set up by Frank Gilbreth. The apparatus behind home plate was set-up to help Gilbreth track the flight of the ball as it was thrown to home and subsequently thrown by the catcher to second. The clock was a high speed chronometer that went at the rate of 6 revolutions per second. Interestingly this is essentially the same concept that is currently employed by MLB Enhanced Gameday. Gilbreth had the right idea but his purported times were obviously inaccurate. One of the interesting items in the film is that the catcher is in a stand up position. That might explain why stolen base % was so low. My assumption is that the strike zone had to be called higher as well.
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    Last edited by Bench 5; 08-17-2009 at 09:38 PM.
    "Batting slumps? I never had one. When a guy hits .358, he doesn't have slumps."

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  8. #208
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Burgess View Post
    I'm afraid that I am the one who has asserted on this site, that I believe that old time pitchers, as a collective group, probably couldn't hit the 90's on the radar gun. But that's not to say that there were not any exceptions.

    I have said this several times, since those few pitchers, such as Amos Rusie, Walter Johnson, Waddell, Vance, Grove, Feller were singled out as fireballers, while few other pitchers were ever mentioned as exceptional fastball pitchers.

    I'm such a presumptious guy, here is what my gut tells me about their top end velocity. No evidence whatsoever.

    Johnson 101, Rusie 99, Feller/Grove 98, Waddell 94, Vance 93. I doubt if any of the other pitchers pre-1950, could have hit 90.

    I believe that the 60's featured such good fastball pitching due to the high strike zone. Larger your target area, easier to cut loose. Guys like Koufax were clocked at 93, Drysdale at 95, Bob Turley at 97. I haven't seen any number for Sam McDowell but he was probably at 98, at the least.

    I further believe that todays pitchers can fire so fast is that they don't have to do it for very long. Not the whole game. But they're also limited by having to fire it into a much smaller target area. Which limits their velocity.

    Bill Burgess

    Plus the Negro Leaguers, like Paige/Williams, whom I forgot. They no doubt were over the 95 mph threshhold. And possibly over 100.
    I am pretty sure that Vance threw considerably harder than 93 m.p.h. as did Van Lingle Mungo.

    Take a look at the wide disparity between the K totals of Vance and Mungo and league averages.

    The pitchers of the 1963-68 ERA Era threw the hardest as the height of the strike zone enabled the high release point that resulted from the windups of that time.

    I think that velocity started to decline in the early 70's as the strike zone shrunk and the height of the 10" mound was enforced.

    The increase in stolen bases prompted by artificial turf stadiums worked against young hurlers using the double-pump windups uised by Juan Marichal and Ferguson Jenkins.

    This process was quickened by Jim Kaat's abandonment of the windup.
    This enabled him to hold runners and conserve energy.
    This practice was widely copied and is one of the many reasons Kaat should be in the Hall of Fame.

    On recent Red Sox teams only Paul Byrd has had a full windup.

    The pitchers of the last 20 years with the exceptions of the usual suspects haven't thrown nearly as hard as the pitchers of my youth.

    Almost all of the hardest throwers of the past 20 years have been closers.

  9. #209
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    Quote Originally Posted by evetts18 View Post
    Here's the sort of thing your asking me to believe. The best sprinters in the world run the 100 meters in just under 9.7 seconds and probably, on average, run it in about 9.75 to 9.8 or so. However, suddenly some guy could come along who could consistently run the 100 meters in under 9.7 seconds and set the world record at 9.6 seconds, or maybe less. I don't believe that sort of thing is possible, no mater what Earl Weaver thinks.

    One thing the radar guns over the last 20 years have told us, if nothing else, is that no one performs that far out of the norm. We know what the fastest pitchers throw and that the next really hard thrower who comes along isn't going to throw 107 or 108. He'll top out in the low 100's and probably not be able to sustain that for more than a couple of innings. You can bet on it.

    By the way, don't be such a sensitive guy. This is all in good fun, isn't it?
    Usain Bolt says hi.
    Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

  10. #210
    Quote Originally Posted by Honus Wagner Rules View Post
    Usain Bolt says hi.
    LOL. What's really interesting is that there's evidence humans are capable of running considerably faster than that. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/10/19/wuss_men/

  11. #211
    Quote Originally Posted by davewashere View Post
    LOL. What's really interesting is that there's evidence humans are capable of running considerably faster than that. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/10/19/wuss_men/
    Let me first make this clear, I don't doubt that Bolt or some one else could run even faster.
    But this guy has to be kidding, he can tell the speed or that aboriginal man by his foot prints, are you buying, I'm not.

  12. #212
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    I haven't read the article but yest you can compute the speed of a creature based on the footprints.

  13. #213
    Quote Originally Posted by Ubiquitous View Post
    I haven't read the article but yest you can compute the speed of a creature based on the footprints.
    I'm speaking of this particular case, 20,000 years ago.Figures for speed are arrived at by " estimating" leg length by foot size, key word estimating and also factoring in stride length.

    Obviously stride length can be measured with accuracy but leg length is an estimate, not accurate enough to measure a number, speed.

    In the past this method has been used to "estimate" speed of some dinosaurs. In some cases after a speed was reached it was noted that it might not be accurate because the leg length of that dinosaur could not be certain.

    I'm not accepting, his conclusion, could be slower could be faster than the number he gives.

  14. #214
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    Quote Originally Posted by davewashere View Post
    LOL. What's really interesting is that there's evidence humans are capable of running considerably faster than that. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/10/19/wuss_men/
    What was so ironic is that just 21 days after that post regarding running 100 meters Usain Bolt broke the 100 m world record.
    Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

  15. #215
    Quote Originally Posted by Honus Wagner Rules View Post
    What was so ironic is that just 21 days after that post regarding running 100 meters Usain Bolt broke the 100 m world record.
    This guy is on another planet, all by himself.
    When he's out there it seems the only real race is for second place.

  16. #216
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    Does anyone have any detailed info on the design of the apparatus that timed Bob Feller at 98.6 mph? From what I understand they used army ordinance equipment called the Sky Screen Chronograph. It was designed to measure the velocity of artillery shells. From what I've found from Internet sources this device had an accuracy of 1/10,000th of second. But here is the kicker. The 98.6 mph reading is supposed to be the velocity as the ball crossed home plate! Doesn't a baseball lose about 8 mph from when the ball leaves the pitcher's hand to when it crosses home plate? That would imply that Feller threw that pitch at about 106-107 mph.
    Last edited by Honus Wagner Rules; 03-05-2010 at 02:11 PM.
    Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

  17. #217
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    Thats true. I saw a test (data) run on W.Johnson by a bullet mfgr (I think) that yielded results in feet per second which calculated out to a value below 90 mph, but that too was not likely the initial velocity. I believe that I posted the details on this somewhere here. I will see if I can dig that out.

  18. #218
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Burgess View Post
    There are few ways to measure velocity, but every once in a while, there occurs other ways. For example:

    Batters facing Walter Johnson often alleged that they could not actually see the ball. Umpire Billy Evans admitted that even he couldn't tell if the ball was crossing the plate or not. Quite an admission.

    Batters often admitted that they couldn't tell if they were swinging over the ball, under the ball, or anything. Even Babe Ruth told of his first AB against Johnson in 1915. He says he stepped into the batters box. Bam, bam, bam. Back to the dugout. Easiest victim Walter ever had. Babe never swung, never saw any pitches. But he heard something swish by. He told the ump that the pitches sounded high.

    Another batter, I think it was Jimmie Dykes was, was batting agaisnt Walter and his arm comes down. Jimmie is waiting and the ball never arrives. Then the catcher is returning the ball. Jimmie turns to the ump, with questioning eyes. The ump tells him to take his base. Huh? says Jimmie. The ump then informs him that if he doesn't think the ball clipped him, feel his bill cap.

    Jimmie does and the bill is turned all the way around. Jimmie turns white. Never even saw a ball! Only Nolan Ryan was that fast in modern times.
    No one ever alleged they couldn't even see a ball. So I equate Johnson with Ryan. Ryan was timed over 100 mph.

    Feller was time at 98.6. Body temperature. Many equated Feller with Grove. But no one ever claimed that they couldn't follow Feller's pitches. So I measure Johnson over 100. With Ryan.

    When Feller came along in '37, he electrified the BB world, with his 98.5 mph velocity. So that was the top rate for the BB world at the time.

    Today, so many pitchers register over 98 on the radar gun, that I stopped counting. Rod Dibble, JR Richards were both over 100. Didn't create a stir then. But it would have in 1940. So that is one way to measure velocity by era. Today, I suspect that Clemens, Johnson, Martinez, Rivera, and lots of others could go over 100 perhaps several times a game.

    If that were possible in 1938, they would have created the same stir as Feller did in '38.

    Bill Burgess
    I love these anecdotes and apocryphal stories, but I have one problem with them. If Johnson's fastball was so fast that the best batters and umpires could not track them, how did Johnson's catchers ever stand a chance? I believe that these stories are surely exaggerated. I will say this in agreement with you. Johnson might have had the fastest fastball relative to other pitchers ever. If he's throwing 93-95 and everybody else is topping out at 87-89, then it would be as if someone could throw 103 routinely in today's game when most everyone else is topping out in the 96-98 range.

  19. #219
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    And wow, THIS thread has been resurrected! A few quick points that I believe need correcting from my prior comments...

    -After doing some rather extensive newspaper research, Steve Dalkowski was attempted to be timed at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Aberdeen, MD AT LEAST four different times. I've also spoken with Joe Ginsberg, who caught Steve on perhaps the best-covered test by the media. This one took place in June 1958. I was lucky enough to obtain a photograph of Steve pitching, taken by James Kelmartin of the UPI (RIP). I have been thus far able to confirm...
    -Steve was pitching on one or perhaps two days rest at most. He had indeed started a game either one or two days earlier with the Knoxville Smokies.
    -Steve could not get the ball into the chronograph measuring him for a minimum of 15 minutes.
    -Steve WAS wearing spikes and pitching off a mound.
    -Baltimore was angry because he'd thrown a slip pitch through the machine to get it to record a speed of 85.8 mph at a distance of 60'6" from home plate, repeating the test once the season had concluded (unsure of the exact date), in Spring Training 1959 (where he likely hit 93.4 or 94.3; I've found both figures), and a third test I have almost nothing on that occured in 1960.
    -The device Steve was measured on was a lumiline chronograph; almost identical to the one Feller was clocked on in 1946. Unfortunately, in my studies of the lumiline chronograph (often incorrectly referred to as a "sky screen"; this is but one of two components that takes speed), I've come to be absolutely convinced that it had such a horrific margin of error that it was almost useless. The device was designed to function in a controlled environment and some factors that could throw timing off included wind conditions, an insect flying over the aft lumiline screen, dirt blowing across the field, and even clouds! I would extend this being basically useless to Feller's 98.6 mph pitch, as well. The problems with the device included speed readings taken of pitches that were literally 10 mph apart or more. Feller also registered in the high 80's during that same test where he hit 98.6! I believe Frank Gilbreth's studies of Art Fromme suffered from something similar, albeit far worse.
    -Nolan Ryan was almost certainly clocked between 30 and 45 feet away from his hand, NOT at home plate. The people at Rockwell International had actually published this prior to their taking his speed on radar. The sports journalists seemed to merely assume it was home plate, and while a few very early articles say it was "about 45 feet" from Ryan's hand, they were soon after replaced by Ryan being clocked at home plate. In my mind, that pitch would have registered about 104 mph on a modern radar gun. Highly impressive? Yes. But as fast as either Dalkowski or Zumaya? I doubt it.
    -Zumaya's pitches (and everyone else's these days, as well) are measured between point of release and about 10 feet away from the hand.
    -Walter Johnson's pitching mechanics (which HAVE been recorded on video and have been slowed down, and have been looked at by a ton of people) likely didn't allow him to throw much faster than 92-93 mph at release. But then consider that due to the primitive nature of throwing mechanics at the time, the league average for fastballs was in the high 70's or low 80's. Here you have a guy about 10-12 mph faster than the league average, on pretty much every pitch. In terms of simply being "faster than his peers," Walter Johnson was probably unparalleled on a Major League level at any time in history. Why was he so fast with such a mechanically-weak delivery? It's possible he simply had a tremendous amount of "fast twitch" muscle fiber in his right arm, allowing him to generate greater arm speed.
    -I firmly believe based on what I've gathered that Steve Dalkowski threw a minimum of 105 mph and a maximum of 109 mph. However, bear in mind I'm using the Zumaya release point. The studies performed by Dr. Glenn Fleisig on the human arm saying the UCL explodes at just over 100 mph (possibly 101 mph) are indeed dead on...if you're using home plate as the 100 mph barrier. A fastball loses about 10-11 mph of velocity from point of release to home. Therefore, it's perfectly anatomically possible for Steve to have thrown 100 mph at home plate. Most pitcher can generate neither the mechanics nor tolerate the pain threshhold it takes to reach these speeds. With regards to pitching mechanics, you'll see more about that in my book on Steve. However, I will say this: Steve was almost certainly hitting 90 mph at release with a twice-torn MCL during California Angels Spring Training of 1966. He was in extreme agony, but pitched anyway. With regards to pain threshhold, I believe Steve's was incredibly high.
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  20. #220
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dalkowski110 View Post
    -Walter Johnson's pitching mechanics (which HAVE been recorded on video and have been slowed down, and have been looked at by a ton of people) likely didn't allow him to throw much faster than 92-93 mph at release. But then consider that due to the primitive nature of throwing mechanics at the time, the league average for fastballs was in the high 70's or low 80's.
    Dalkowski, your passionate, meticulous research into the life and achievements of the eponymous baseball legend are always a highlight of my sporadic board lurking these days. You may yet do for Dalkowski what Bill Jenkinson has done for Ruth and other distance hitters.

    However, in the five years plus since I originally posted this thread, I still have yet to see a convincing or well-thought out argument for the above claim. My research has found, among other things, way too many caved in batter skulls, broken arms, smashed ribs, ended careers, and other maiming/mangling physical traumae at the blow of wayward(?) twirler pitches to accept the early 20th century moundsman-as-soft-tosser model. (See post #16.)

    It's well-established by now that, for various reasons, nearly all existing film (not video--a mid-20th century innovation) records of early 20th century baseball athletes are of extremely limited value for making determinations about player physical skills. Of far better utility are any surviving records of skill competitions in which definite measurements were made; such as the throwing contest figures I listed (also in post #16). If simple math based on his recorded best tells you that Honus Wagner (a position player) could demonstrably break 90mph on a hypothetical gun, it's all but certain that Johnson (as well as the other top speedballers of the day) were exceeding this implied figure by quite a wide margin.
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  21. #221
    Of course the average pitchers speed has increased as the 100m times have improved over the time. esp. I think todays pitchers can maintain speed longer.
    But of course that doesn't mean all pitchers where really slow then, because velocity in throwing like 100m speed is more a talent then speed thing.
    100m runners 80 years ago didn't run 11.0(jesse owens ran 10.2) and of course not all pitchers did throw in the 80s.

    sure there where some guys who could top out in the low to even mid 90s although they might not have thrown it as consistently as todays pitchers who can maintain top speed for 5 or 6 innings.

  22. #222
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    You don't need to throw 100 mph to injure a human being.

  23. #223
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    "However, in the five years plus since I originally posted this thread, I still have yet to see a convincing or well-thought out argument for the above claim. My research has found, among other things, way too many caved in batter skulls, broken arms, smashed ribs, ended careers, and other maiming/mangling physical traumae at the blow of wayward(?) twirler pitches to accept the early 20th century moundsman-as-soft-tosser model."

    Here's the problem with this: do you recall Salomon Torres doing this...

    http://reds.enquirer.com/2003/04/21/wwwred3a21.html

    ...to Sammy Sosa's batting helmet? Well, Torres "only" threw that pitch at about 92 mph at release. And yet, he shattered Sosa's batting helmet. A collapsed skull (something roughly equivalent) doesn't need a fastball thrown at Zumaya/Dalkowski/Ryan/Randy Johnson velocity to collapse it. If you can shatter a pretty-flexible batting helmet with a 92 mph fastball, imagine what you can do to bones.

    "It's well-established by now that, for various reasons, nearly all existing film (not video--a mid-20th century innovation) records of early 20th century baseball athletes are of extremely limited value for making determinations about player physical skills."

    Usually. And if you mean try and extrapolate a speed from it, then forget it; you're totally right. But it does allow us to examine Johnson's pitching mechanics. He has no scapular load to speak of, does not have a particularly powerful arm action (NOT be be confused with arm speed), throws with a relatively stiff lower half, and his stride is almost non-existent. Therefore, we must take into account what things he DOES show. Relative to the rest of his mechanics, Johnson shows remarkable arm speed. He also shows very good (unusually good considering the time period) hip/shoulder seperation; that is to say, his hips are facing home plate far before his shoulders start to turn. He also has an aggressive follow-through. Although I have extreme difficulty buying something in the high 90's/low 100's from examining the biomechanical aspect of his delivery, I can bring myself to believe that if he had a very significant amount of "fast twitch" muscle fiber in his right arm, he could have been throwing in the low 90's.

    Further, Johnson's speed WAS likely accurately tested at about 92-93 mph. How could this be? Especially seeing as it was 1912? Well, I happen to be a bigtime firearms enthusiast as well as a baseball enthusiast. That's why I don't believe any of the lumiline chonograph readings can be taken seriously. But recall the story of Johnson's speed being tested at the Remington-Union Metallic Cartridge Company's Bridgeport line drop chronograph in 1912. That device was A) very accurate and B) could not be moved. Therefore, it was functioning under the conditions for which it was designed. And that's exactly the problem with the line-drop chronograph from a military logistics standpoint: it's immobile, too large to be practical, and while it can take effective measurements, it can't be moved from place to place. Johnson had warmed up, but reports vary as to whether he was pitching off a mound or not. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and say he wasn't. Well, the Remington-UMC guys had set up the device to take measurements at 60 feet, but there was a problem: Johnson was a sidearmer and difficulty getting the ball through the shoulder-height measuring device (which was actually quite open, as Remington-UMC had designed it to measure anything up to 1 gauge punt shell loads [legal for "market hunting" at the time] from a gun with no choke at 50 yards; you're looking at something that had an opening several FEET wide). Therefore, for Johnson's pitching, the device was moved back to 75 feet. That may sound unbelievable, but it's actually not; though the device was initially placed at 60 feet away, it would have recorded the results of a pitch thrown at 45 feet. This is because the Remington-UMC line-drop chronograph was FIFTEEN FEET LONG and while the actual recorder was placed 60 feet away, it recorded speeds taken fifteen feet in front of it, to compensate for its gigantic size. This is well-documented based on firearms testing with the device and was well-known by 1912. Therefore, though almost certainly by chance, Johnson had the distinction of being the first pitcher measured at mound-to-home distance: 60 feet. His pitch speed registered at 122 feet per second; about 83.2 mph.

    Given that a fastball loses 9-10 mph on its way to the plate, we safely say Johnson's pitch, for better or for worse, would probably have been clocked at 91-93 mph. Say he has no mound, though. So let's give him an extra 2 mph (this is the absolute most liberal measurement I can figure with no mound; and he may even have had a mound). You're looking at someone who is now throwing at maximum 95 mph on a modern radar gun on a remarkably accurate device that was sadly overlooked in its potential usefulness at the time (Bob Turley, who was timed at 93.8 mph on a magnetic oscillograph at release point, was also almost certainly throwing what he would have registered on a radar gun).

    Interestingly, Johnson WAS supposedly measured on a West Point device 20 feet from his release point at 91.4 mph (which would give a similar speed; 93 mph). I know that West Point had a nearly identical device at the time, although supposedly, the historical details from that test don't seem to jive (it also had Christy Mathewson, who was completely worn out, and Smoky Joe Wood, who had injured his arm, as being timed), so that one must be either looked at with an enormous grain of salt or just discarded.

    But there was another pitcher...a roughly average pitcher in terms of speed at the time, who was often described as being above average, though never as a fireballer...who took the Remington-UMC test and was measured at 45 feet: Nap Rucker. With the device placed 60 feet away and thus recording Rucker's fastball at 45 feet, he got one in at 113 fps; about 77.1 mph. We can probably give him about 6 extra mph, possibly even 8 if we don't think he was pitching from a mound. This means Nap Rucker was recorded on a very accurate device at about 85 mph on a modern radar gun, at maximum. If that's above average in 1912, then no wonder Walter Johnson is blowing everyone away.

    Then there's this...

    "Of far better utility are any surviving records of skill competitions in which definite measurements were made; such as the throwing contest figures I listed (also in post #16). If simple math based on his recorded best tells you that Honus Wagner (a position player) could demonstrably break 90mph on a hypothetical gun, it's all but certain that Johnson (as well as the other top speedballers of the day) were exceeding this implied figure by quite a wide margin."

    Your throwing data is good, but you have to take into account the circumstances behind all of it; you can't just assume there was no wind and no running start or that Wagner was throwing from a crow hop. It's well known that Glen Gorbous took a running jump, was throwing into a 6 mph recorded wind, and had warmed up. He admitted to it. Wagner had also reportedly warmed up and was throwing into the wind from "a running start." But just what do we define as "a running start" and what as "into the wind?" Unfortunately, whatever that was, unlike the VERY precise data we have on Glen Gorbous, has been lost to history.

    Then there's this: until the mid 1920's to early 1930's, pitching mechanics can't really be described as "modern" or really capable of producing as much speed from a biomechanical standpoint in terms of the arm actions, strides, leg drives, and (to an admittedly much-lesser extent) even the hip/shoulder seperations. That's why you all of a sudden start seeing so many "unbelievable, never-before-seen-speed" type pitchers from around that era. Dizzy Dean, Dazzy Vance, Lefty Grove...all these guys threw with reasonably modern mechanics compared to the Dead Ballers and all were quickly proclaimed to be the fastest pitcher in baseball the moment they showed up.

    Personally, it's my belief that Bob Feller was probably the pre-WWII speed king (EDIT: or at least ONE OF the fastest pre-WWII; i.e. of the better-known guys). Why? Because in the (literally) dozens of rejected speeds he was recording on that chronograph before the "107 mph error," he was hitting somewhere in the high 80's. At 60'6". That translates into consistently throwing in the high 90's on a modern gun. Had he warmed up? Yes. Was he throwing off a mound? Yes. Was the chronograph mostly useless? Yes. But given that it had a 10-12 mph margin of error, Feller's 98.7 mph pitch was in actuality 86 mph at home plate AT WORST. That's about 95-96 mph on a modern radar gun, and that's the worst speed he could have recorded. To be honest, he was probably in the 98-100 mph range on a modern device.
    Last edited by Dalkowski110; 03-10-2010 at 08:45 PM.
    "They put me in the Hall of Fame? They must really be scraping the bottom of the barrel!"
    -Eppa Rixey, upon learning of his induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

    Motafy (MO-ta-fy) vt. -fied, -fying 1. For a pitcher to melt down in a big game situation; to become like Guillermo Mota. 2. The transformation of a good pitcher into one of Guillermo Mota's caliber.

  24. #224
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ubiquitous
    You don't need to throw 100 mph to injure a human being.
    What's it like arguing with yourself?


    Quote Originally Posted by Dalkowski110 View Post
    Here's the problem with this: do you recall Salomon Torres doing this...

    http://reds.enquirer.com/2003/04/21/wwwred3a21.html

    ...to Sammy Sosa's batting helmet? Well, Torres "only" threw that pitch at about 92 mph at release. And yet, he shattered Sosa's batting helmet. A collapsed skull (something roughly equivalent) doesn't need a fastball thrown at Zumaya/Dalkowski/Ryan/Randy Johnson velocity to collapse it. If you can shatter a pretty-flexible batting helmet with a 92 mph fastball, imagine what you can do to bones.
    Actually, you contradict your own point regarding the assumed velocity of old-time pitchers in selecting the instance of a 92-mph recorded pitch.

    My beef is not with those whom--for whatever reason--claim that pitchers of a hundred years ago weren't quite as fast as today's equivalent specimen. Although I don't agree, and am confident that I have stated a persuasive argument as to why, it seems a reasonable presupposition in light of the groupthink that currently prevails regarding the assumed superiority of contemporary athletes. I do, however, quibble at the confidence and naivete of "high 70's/low 80's mph"--hardly more than batting practice speed--pronouncements as the likely threshold for hurlers of yore. The reasoning is so faulty and vulnerable to close scrutiny--bereft, as it is, of any actual or implied evidence--that I invariably shake my head at the scholarship void which gives asylum to such arrogance. (The argument invariably reminds me of the hypothetical which compares the size/stature of the average 21st century homo sapien with those of the early 19th; which is a difference of about six or more inches. Following from this model, human beings of the medieval period must have been midgets. [Wrong.])

    Nobody here has said nor implied that a "Zumaya/Dalkowski/Ryan/Randy Johnson"-level fastball is required to break batter bones. However, I think we can agree that few instances can be called to memory of crushed temples, shattered jaws, fractured wrists, broken ribs occuring during batting practice sessions of any description (where pitches, alas, still occasionally go awry). There has to be a model intersecting the conditions of real-life (where pitches must be at least fast enough to cause serious bodily hurt, while preventing the necessary reaction time for successful dodge) on which to try the supposition if anything is to be proven. If you have few pitchers from a hundred years ago breaching the "high 70's/low 80's" threshold, how is it that you have so many recorded instances of serious batter injury, or even death, even from the most obscure of twirlers? How is it that Carl Mays was able to drill Ty Cobb in the ribs hard enough to have grievously fractured two of them if he was (extrapolating for his submarine delivery) chucking them in the high 60's/low 70's? Could the anonymous Ray White of the Columbia University nine have beaned Lou Gehrig in an exhibition game with such force as to reach the press box on the rebound if his fast one was, at best, "high 70's/low 80's"? (Weigh these considerations in light of the fact that both of these instances pre-date the era of the confidently dug-in batter--bisecting these events was the infamous Ray Chapman beanball fatality.) At this point, one must inevitably resort to impugning the eyesight and tracking ability of yesterday's batter in order for the argument to retain any water, which merely exposes the agenda of its proponent.

    If you look at a history of serious, pitch-caused batter injury (such as that here on page 20: http://www.iihs.org/research/paper_pdfs/mf_0738.pdf), you'll find much the same description of trauma suffered, regardless of era. Unless we further wish to stretch this rubber band to intimate that players 100 years ago had more brittle bones than players today do, I think it's fair to conclude that pitches hurled from major league mounds have always been more or less commensurate in the speed and danger that they hold.


    But it does allow us to examine Johnson's pitching mechanics. He has no scapular load to speak of, does not have a particularly powerful arm action (NOT be be confused with arm speed), throws with a relatively stiff lower half, and his stride is almost non-existent. Therefore, we must take into account what things he DOES show. Relative to the rest of his mechanics, Johnson shows remarkable arm speed. He also shows very good (unusually good considering the time period) hip/shoulder seperation; that is to say, his hips are facing home plate far before his shoulders start to turn. He also has an aggressive follow-through. Although I have extreme difficulty buying something in the high 90's/low 100's from examining the biomechanical aspect of his delivery, I can bring myself to believe that if he had a very significant amount of "fast twitch" muscle fiber in his right arm, he could have been throwing in the low 90's...

    Then there's this: until the mid 1920's to early 1930's, pitching mechanics can't really be described as "modern" or really capable of producing as much speed from a biomechanical standpoint in terms of the arm actions, strides, leg drives, and (to an admittedly much-lesser extent) even the hip/shoulder seperations. That's why you all of a sudden start seeing so many "unbelievable, never-before-seen-speed" type pitchers from around that era. Dizzy Dean, Dazzy Vance, Lefty Grove...all these guys threw with reasonably modern mechanics compared to the Dead Ballers and all were quickly proclaimed to be the fastest pitcher in baseball the moment they showed up.
    OK, first of all, I have never heard this latter claim, that "all of a sudden" there appeared in the mid-20's/early 30's scene a plethora of "unbelievable, never-before-seen-speed" pitchers. EVERY era has trumpeted a parade of "fastest evers", from the Jim Creighton to the present day (most not amounting to much). In Johnson's day alone, there were pitching on various rosters Rube Waddell, Smoky Joe Wood, Pete Alexander, Nap Rucker, Dazzy Vance, Bill Hallahan, Louis Drucke, Grover Lowdermilk, Marty O'Toole, and more arms that were considered the ultimate in speed.

    Secondly, you again undermine your argument--here, in discussion of pitching mechanics--by bringing up Johnson, whom was considered in his time an outlier, a unique case in the matter of pitching mechanics. From professional top to bottom, Johnson always received an earful regarding the supposed "wrongness" of his mechanics (with an equal measure of stunned surprise that he was able to blaze them in just the same). Joe Wood, with his high leg kick and powerful, over-the-top motion (sound familiar?), was much more considered an object of standards and emulation. In point of fact, you are making the same mistake that certain authorities made in Johnson's day in assuming that speed is all mechanics; that there is only one universal, immutable, possible physical model to follow and adhere to. It is more than worth considering as an addendum that most authorities who saw Johnson, Grove, and Feller pitch during their prime years agreed that Johnson was the fastest of the three.

    Further, Johnson's speed WAS likely accurately tested at about 92-93 mph...

    [snip]
    The dubiousness of ballistics equipment testing is thoroughly demonstrated by citing the fact that Mark Koenig, Yankee shortstop (never known as one of the top guns at his position), was in 1930 put through this same test and measured at just a few feet per second slower than Johnson. On the other hand, the great Lou McEvoy, New York super-ace, was recorded at a mere 150 ft/sec.


    Your throwing data is good, but you have to take into account the circumstances behind all of it; you can't just assume there was no wind and no running start or that Wagner was throwing from a crow hop. It's well known that Glen Gorbous took a running jump, was throwing into a 6 mph recorded wind, and had warmed up. He admitted to it. Wagner had also reportedly warmed up and was throwing into the wind from "a running start." But just what do we define as "a running start" and what as "into the wind?" Unfortunately, whatever that was, unlike the VERY precise data we have on Glen Gorbous, has been lost to history.
    Adair uses the term "crop hop" to indicate a running start, so that factor has been accounted for. On the existence of wind-aided throws, these are every bit as probable as wind-aided tape-measure home runs. However, we also have Wagner's throw of 399 feet, made eight years after his 403 foot toss, to reinforce these figures. (Of course, it's very easy to claim that this, like all other Paleolithic long-tosses, was also wind-aided; just as home run distances were once aided by wavering gravity and player footspeed times abetted by downhill-in-every-direction baseball diamonds.)
    A swing--and a smash--and a gray streak partaking/Of ghostly manoeuvres that follow the whack;/The old earth rebounds with a quiver and quaking/And high flies the dust as he thuds on the track;/The atmosphere reels--and it isn't the comet--/There follows the blur of a phantom at play;/Then out from the reel comes the glitter of steel--/And damned be the fellow that gets in the way.                 A swing and a smash--and the far echoes quiver--/A ripping and rearing and volcanic roar;/And off streaks the Ghost with a shake and a shiver,/To hurdle red hell on the way to a score;/A cross between tidal wave, cyclone and earthquake--/Fire, wind and water all out on a lark;/Then out from the reel comes the glitter of steel,/Plus ten tons of dynamite hitched to a spark.

    --Cobb, Grantland Rice

  25. #225
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    What's it like arguing with yourself?


    Pleasant and not as rude.

    You made a statement about injuries and speed as if getting injured in those days happened because of pitch speeds that are comparable to nowadays. I disagree, because quite obviously you don't need someone to throw 95 mph to crush in a skull.

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