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Starting Pitching evolution: is it getting worse?

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  • Starting Pitching evolution: is it getting worse?

    The starters in today's game are no where near the ones who played years ago. Only Clemens, Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and Maddux can really compete in the higher portion of baseball's greatest pitchers. But now by 2008, some are begining to believe that pitchers are mostly getting worse (as read from newspaper article). I always bring such issues to the BBF public for opinions. So I ask you: is the evolution of pitchers getting worse?

    Personally, I would say yes using raw statistics. But when sabermetics and adjusted stats of the sort are included things can change.

    I think most of the problems stem from the treatment of pitchers. Apparntly, they are "fragile" in a sense that is nonsense. They are governed under the magical 100 pitch count in a game. What is this? Something to give the broadcasters to fill the air for three seconds? Many times starters are doing well but will hit, oh say, 105 pitches. Out comes the manager from the dugout and the starter goes bye-bye. A reliver will come in after 5-and-a-third innings and pitch. To me, this is nonsense. A pitcher should be taken out if he is either really blowing the game or is absolutely exhausted. This creates an over-use of the bullpen.
    Now I'm babbling. The point is is that pitchers are taken too soon a good portion of the time. So if they let up 2 runs but pitch 5 innings, their ERA is already up to 3.60. This is good, but sometimes they may let up 4 runs in 5 innings, boosting the ERA.
    This is want casual fans see. A boosted ERA which could be a good run shorter if Pitchers werent' governed by foolishness such as the 100 pitch count and the over-use of relievers. They are taken out too early a good portion of the time. Because of this, there are also now hardly any complete games or shut-outs or stikeouts anymore. This deters them greatly when looking at the stats of pitchers past when looking at raw stats which is what a casual fan will do, causing them to think that picthing is getting worse.

    So, what is your opinion? I say picthing for starters is getting worse, but not as much as some would think.
    "Allen Sutton Sothoron pitched his initials off today."--1920s article

  • #2
    Before I did any statistical calculations etc., I would say that the average pitcher is getting worse. However, I do believe that the top tier pitchers are just as good (See my current poll in the current events about the "new Generation" of pitchers).

    Brandon Webb, Johan Santana, Doc Halladay, and Roy Oswalt are examples of what I'm talking about. They will no doubt if they continue on their current paces, be regarded as top 50 pitchers when all is said and done I believe.

    Like I said, this is before any actual evaluation, which I'll do my own little work on it soon (But I have to go play a game of catch right now).
    AL East Champions: 1981 1982
    AL Pennant: 1982
    NL Central Champions: 2011
    NL Wild Card: 2008

    "It was like coming this close to your dreams and then watching them brush past you like a stranger in a crowd. At the time you don't think much of it; you know, we just don't recognize the significant moments of our lives while they're happening. Back then I thought, 'Well, there'll be other days.' I didn't realize that that was the only day." - Moonlight Graham

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    • #3
      Oh I think the pitching today is doing fine. It's always easy to look back at the greats of past and think that today's pitching as a whole isn't as good. Of course it isn't. We are comparing the very best of the past with all pitchers of today, the best and the mediocre. That's an unfair comparison. The game today is so heavily in favor of the hitter. The playing environment to today is extremely hostile on pitchers. There are many reasons pitchers today don't pitch 300 innings. The offensive environment won't allow it. The greats of the past wouldn't be able to pitch 300 innings today either. Plus the strategy of the game has moved in the direction of a hard throwing relievers at the first sign of trouble. Many managers do hold too tightly to the 100 pitch count silliness. But not all teams do it. Just last night Matt Cain pitched eight innings in a 4-2 win against the Astros. He threw 114 pitches in those eight innings and no one even mentioned it on the radio broadcast. There is no reason to believe Cain will break down simply because he threw 114 pitches last night. But teams are so used to bringing in the closer in the 9th regardless if the starting pitcher is pitching well or not. Why didn't Cain finish up his game last night? He was in control and there was no reason he couldn't have finished his game. I'll tell you why. Bochy knows that if he did let Cain finish the game and he pushed his pitch count to about 130 he would never hear the end of it.
      Last edited by Honus Wagner Rules; 05-14-2008, 11:34 AM.
      Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

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      • #4
        Another problem is that when looking at players today, we're looking at just a couple years at most. Whereas we're comparing them to all of baseball history.
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDxgNjMTPIs

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Tyrus4189Cobb View Post
          I say picthing for starters is getting worse, but not as much as some would think.
          I'd say this is true for pitching in general, not just starters. Pitchers are a little bit worse (not tons) and more being closer to mediocre than in the past.
          Sure, pitchers are giving up more runs and pitchers are being taken out of the park more often. Even hits are slightly higher.
          But strikeout are up and it looks like BBs have stayed pretty close to historic levels.

          One thing that makes todays pitchers seem worse are the bottom feeders.
          From 1950-2007 there have been 11 pitchers who have pitched 1000+ innings and had a career ERA of 5.00+. All 11 have played sometime in the 2000s.
          From 1950-2007 there have been 23 pitchers who have pitched 1000+ innings and had a career ERA of 4.81+. All but 1 of them have played sometime in the 2000s.
          From 1950-2007 there have been 40 pitchers who have pitched 1000+ innings and had a career ERA of 4.68+. All but 2 of them have played sometime in the 2000s.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by dgarza View Post
            I'd say this is true for pitching in general, not just starters. Pitchers are a little bit worse (not tons) and more being closer to mediocre than in the past.
            Sure, pitchers are giving up more runs and pitchers are being taken out of the park more often. Even hits are slightly higher.
            But strikeout are up and it looks like BBs have stayed pretty close to historic levels.

            One thing that makes todays pitchers seem worse are the bottom feeders.
            From 1950-2007 there have been 11 pitchers who have pitched 1000+ innings and had a career ERA of 5.00+. All 11 have played sometime in the 2000s.
            From 1950-2007 there have been 23 pitchers who have pitched 1000+ innings and had a career ERA of 4.81+. All but 1 of them have played sometime in the 2000s.
            From 1950-2007 there have been 40 pitchers who have pitched 1000+ innings and had a career ERA of 4.68+. All but 2 of them have played sometime in the 2000s.
            I think relievers have generally got a litle worse also, but I think there are a handful in today's game (such as Rivera and Hoffman) who can compete with all-time relievers (and maybe starters). Maybe this is because relieevrs weren't used up until about 50 years ago.
            "Allen Sutton Sothoron pitched his initials off today."--1920s article

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            • #7
              You know there's a problem with teams when a pitcher can be pulled in the middle of a no-hitter because of his pitch count.

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              • #8
                One thing to do to keep this study fair would be adequate research on the typical avearge number of pitches thrown in a typical complete game from the 1960s. An assumption should not be made that say, just because for example Bob Gibson completed 28 of 35 starts in 1969 that managers then just let guys pitch until their arms dropped off. I don't know for certain but having been around then to follow the game, I 'd bet people would be surprised to see it likely may have been around 100-140 depending on whether the game was a shut out, low hit game, etc.

                There is something to be said for talent and stamina. Also, the idea that some pitchers just pitch so well the majority of the time that there is just no need to pull them prematurely and managers have great confidence they can pitch their way out of any jams. In other words a lot of pitchers in the 60s for example, just average to great, often could have as many as 25 - 80 percent of their starts be CGs.

                Taking just 1961 as an arbitrary example, something like 26 or so percent of all starts were CGs and around 50 starters in regular rotations that made at least 25 starts had at least 6 CGs. I know this is limited sample and proves nothing but we all know there were more CGs at that time. I do not agree it was simply because managers did not have pitch counts in those days. You just do not get left in a game to go nine from 6 to maybe 28 games in a season unless you pitch well enough a lot of the time to get left in to pitch. Yes, circumstances were different then in comparison to today but even then you still didn't keep a guy in if he was growing tired and getting lit up.

                In fairness to today's pitchers, the arbitrary pitch counts may be keeping some modern pitchers from realizing their true greatness in comparison to past eras. Eliminate the pitch count many managers seem to use and then we see what happens. Then we can better measure the average middle of the rotation guy of today who may pitch 6 CGs in his while career against the average counterpart of past eras who may have as many as six most every season. However, it is possible that many pitchers today would just break down under the workload some past era pitchers regularly did simply because they are not trained to handle the workload.

                My vote would have to be that overall starting pitching is not as good today as in some past eras. However, a certain handful of the top pitchers of modern times would be just as successful, and probably more so, if they had their careers in the 60s. However, I do not think they would be greater then the greatest pitchers then, only as great.

                As for average pitchers as a whole, I think the lower rotation guys are not as good overall as lower rotation guys of past eras.

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                • #9
                  I'll point to this article that is one of my favorites on the subject of starting pitching:

                  What Pitch Counts Hath Wrought

                  To some it up for you that don't like to read , basically it says that starting pitchers are throwing 10% less pitches a season than pitchers of the 1940's-1960's, and the 1980's, with pitchers of the 1970 throwing a huge amount of pitches more so than any decade else.

                  However, the amount of pitches thrown by each team in a game, has remained relatively the same.

                  Therefor, I think we can come to two conclusions:
                  1.Starting pitchers are throwing MUCH harder than they used to, which limits them to the amount of pitches they can throw

                  or

                  2.The relievers role has become so specialized and our teams have become too worried about their 50 million dollar investments becoming injured, that they limit them from throwing "too many" pitches.

                  Now, over in the "Jake Peavy" thread, we began talking about how fast pitchers threw previously and are throwing now. However, if there was a study done on the average MPH thrown by pitchers back then and now ... I think that could unlock the key to how much harder pitchers throw now.
                  AL East Champions: 1981 1982
                  AL Pennant: 1982
                  NL Central Champions: 2011
                  NL Wild Card: 2008

                  "It was like coming this close to your dreams and then watching them brush past you like a stranger in a crowd. At the time you don't think much of it; you know, we just don't recognize the significant moments of our lives while they're happening. Back then I thought, 'Well, there'll be other days.' I didn't realize that that was the only day." - Moonlight Graham

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Now that the pitchers are being tested for steroids they don't have the stamena they had when they could get away with taking them.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by John Shoemaker View Post
                      Now that the pitchers are being tested for steroids they don't have the stamena they had when they could get away with taking them.
                      Proof please.

                      I think two factors affect pitching quality nowadays:

                      Firstly, regimented pitch counts, you seldom see anyone throw more than 110 anymore, this in turn means teams need to use their bullpen more which means that more marginal pitchers get to pitch a larger amount of innings.

                      Secondly, the home run has become so prevalent, that many lineups have 6-8 hitters who are a home run threat. There are fewer dead spots in the lineups which means that pitchers need to use their A-stuff every pitch, this in turn affects stamina, innings pitched, and pitch counts.

                      Another point that may be relevant is the strike zone being much smaller than it was in the 1960's. More balls means more pitches. If the high strike were brought back I think that would make a significant difference in the amount of innings pitched and CG totals.

                      I see no reason to think that pitching is getting worse when every other factor suggests that baseball players are in better condition than ever before. Plain and simple the game is different now than it was in the 1960's.
                      "It's good to be young and a Giant." - Larry Doyle

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