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

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  • drstrangelove
    replied
    Originally posted by csh19792001 View Post
    On the league quality issue:

    Retrosheet recently posted the 1918 box scores and game logs...I was looking at Walter Johnson's 1918, and realized that he really was either A) Simply the greatest that ever lived, or B) That hitters just weren't nearly as good, on average, back then. Or perhaps, C) both??
    Johnson was the best ever and no one really comes close. First, his pitching motion did not put the same strain on his arm that the 'modern' pitching motion does. Second, it is irrefutable that he was the fastest (or among the 2-3 fastest) of his time. There are quotes that I've seen of him throwing batting practice in the 1930's (when he was well past 40) and people said he still had a noticeble velocity.

    Keep in mind that Koufax won multiple complete games (including shutouts) on 2 days rest, threw over 200 pitches in a game, and did this while suffering bone spurs in his elbow.

    If you can throw 100-101 MPH, and dial it down to 92-93 for most of the game, you can throw a lot more innings and complete games than we see today, especially if pitchers today are throwing at max speed on every pitch.

    I don't know that any can prove it one way of the other, but my gut feel is that Johnson used his best stuff (98-100, for example) against the likes of Cobb, Ruth, Speaker, while dropping it down to 88-90 for lesser mortals. Koufax likely did the same because he has often said he rarely tried to striek out batters.

    It was in the transistion period of Nolan Ryan, free agency and relief pitching specialists that starters began to try to use it all up in the first 6 innings.

    Again back to Johnson, he threw 3 shutouts in 4 days. You can't do that unless you have a LOT of surplus velocity so you can pick and choose where to use it. He also at a later time threw 2 shutouts in one day. Since no one else has ever done that, even in the deadball era of Mathewson, Young, Rusie, Alexander, Walsh, Brown and Wood, I'm going to guess that Johnson was seriously superior to that group of pitchers as well.
    Last edited by drstrangelove; 05-29-2012, 11:01 AM.

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  • Honus Wagner Rules
    replied
    Originally posted by csh19792001 View Post
    On the league quality issue:

    Retrosheet recently posted the 1918 box scores and game logs...I was looking at Walter Johnson's 1918, and realized that he really was either A) Simply the greatest that ever lived, or B) That hitters just weren't nearly as good, on average, back then. Or perhaps, C) both??

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/pl...ear=1918#below

    How did baseball bear any resemblance to today's baseball (or pitching of that era to today's pitching, when, for example):

    1. Clark Griffith left their franchise player (Walter Johnson) in for 18 innings on May 15th? Did anyone know ANYTHING about shoulder and elbow injuries? Forget MRI's and scientific inquiry...didn't they intuitively know they would usually ruin a guy for months, maybe forever, making him endure these workloads? Was their really THAT much of a scarcity of very good or great pitchers on the roster that could have relieved him?

    2. He pitched more than 9 innings 10 times.

    3. Johnson threw 29 complete games. He ALSO relieved 10 games. Earlier in the decade he was completing 40 games and pitching 50.

    So, how was STILL able to put up a 1.27 ERA?

    My line of thinking is.....there's just no way that guys like Johnson were averaging over 30 complete games per season- AND relieving/finishing 5-10 games per year- for over a decade, if they were exerting nearly as much effort per pitch (i.e., throwing nearly as hard) as guys do today. They couldn't have been! It's just not physically possible. When these guys knew they would be pitching on either no rest, or maybe 2-3 days rest, AND would have to complete nearly every game they started, shoulder and elbow injuries must have been far more common than rested arms. AND guys must have pitched injured all the time. Hitters were often teeing off against an exhausted starter for the 4th and 5th time most games, sometimes even more often.

    That never, ever happens today.

    Back then the top starters had to have been throwing 200 pitches regularly...in the past 20 years only a knuckleballer has been over 160 in any single game.

    What also doesn't make sense is how Johnson could have had ERA's like that, despite that workload...unless he was very rarely throwing his 100mph fastball, didn't have to worry about home runs (ever), and just threw 80-90% on most pitches against most hitters. The only logical conclusion I can come up with, given the incredibly low ERA's people put up despite this impossible workload is that there must have been far more "easy outs", with almost no power hitters, most of the action in the infield, and much weaker bottom half of the order hitters. It must have often looked like more like batting practice than what we're used to.

    The other conclusion is that Big Train and others like Pete Alexander were simply bionic men, and he could throw with almost max velocity/effort like Koufax did, 45 games and 340 innings a year, almost always on short rest and often on almost no rest.............and still never suffer a significant arm injury. Which, from what I read in the biographies of both pitchers, neither did until 1919 (Alexander) and 1920 (Big Train).....

    Walter Johnson won 297 games before 1920 even rolled around. 4100 innings, 388 complete games. He allowed 31 home runs, total. That's one (poor) season for a starting pitcher these days....
    This kind of stuff was happening into the 1970's. One of my favorite pitching seasons is Gaylord Perry's 1972 Cy young Season with the Indians. It's mostly forgotten now but a while back I was looking at Perry's box scores. Perry had a 22 start stretch where he pitching the following innings per game.

    05/06: 9.0 innings
    05/10: 9.0
    05/14: 10.0
    05/19: 9.0
    05/23: 9.0
    05/27: 8.0
    06/01: 9.0
    06/05: 10.0
    06/09: 9.0
    06/13: 10.2
    06/17: 6.0
    06/21: 9.0
    06/25: 8.1
    06/30: 8.2
    07/06: 9.0
    07/10: 9.0
    07/14: 13.0
    07/19: 9.0
    07/23: 8.2
    07:28: 10.0
    08/01: 9.0
    08/05: 11.0

    Are you kidding me?!! Perry pitched 203 innings in these 22 starts going 15-7 W-L, 1.55 ERA, 19 CG. After this stretch Perry pitched another nine complete games in his final 13 starts.

    48347e125a88c_66095b.jpg

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  • Honus Wagner Rules
    replied
    Originally posted by leewileyfan View Post
    The mentality back in the late 1930s and into the '40s was much different from what it is today. Overpowering speed was an eye-opening novelty that made onlookers "oohhhh and aahhhh"; but the key for successful pitchers was MASTERY.

    Mastery meant control and control over the pitches one considered to be in his repertoire. Infield chatter pretty much summed up the psychology: "Make 'im a hitta, babe!" "Ya can't hit it with the bat on yer shoulder, man!" 'Gotcha covered, babe!" The fielders kept the pitcher well-informed why they were out there wearing gloves.

    For batters, contact was crucial. A strike out was frowned upon as a wasted at bat. Of course, anybody with a strong arms and a powerful fastball [as a young guy] loved to pile up the K's [like a gunslinger with notches]. However, if one was lucky enough to have a strong coach or mentor of any kind, he was reminded that strikeouts require multiple pitches [as do walks]; so the non-batted ball at-bats can wear you out.

    Bottom line: Pitchers back in Johnson's day were perfectly capable of bringing it. Those who mastered pitching knew when, how, and in what situations to bring the heat.

    The physical aspect on pitching work loads was: Use it or lose it. Of course, that brought abuses; but the basic concept [IMO] was better tan coddling arms; making specialists out of kids' and limiting endurance expectations to the point that more than half a game per start makes one a workhorse.
    That is still the key to today's game. I don't think that as changed or will ever change. Greg Maddux was a master pitcher. Randy Johnson didn't become a truly great pitcher until he mastered his stuff. Tim Lincecum is struggling because he has yet to really master his stuff and his fastball has declined. Barry Zito is mediocre because he has trouble with his control. Jonathan Sanchez has swing-and-miss stuff but he is terrible because he has no control and no feel for pitching.

    Leave a comment:


  • HitchedtoaSpark
    replied
    Originally posted by csh19792001 View Post
    My line of thinking is.....there's just no way that guys like Johnson were averaging over 30 complete games per season- AND relieving/finishing 5-10 games per year- for over a decade, if they were exerting nearly as much effort per pitch (i.e., throwing nearly as hard) as guys do today. They couldn't have been! It's just not physically possible.
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz...-blisters.html

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  • leewileyfan
    replied
    The mentality back in the late 1930s and into the '40s was much different from what it is today. Overpowering speed was an eye-opening novelty that made onlookers "oohhhh and aahhhh"; but the key for successful pitchers was MASTERY.

    Mastery meant control and control over the pitches one considered to be in his repertoire. Infield chatter pretty much summed up the psychology: "Make 'im a hitta, babe!" "Ya can't hit it with the bat on yer shoulder, man!" 'Gotcha covered, babe!" The fielders kept the pitcher well-informed why they were out there wearing gloves.

    For batters, contact was crucial. A strike out was frowned upon as a wasted at bat. Of course, anybody with a strong arms and a powerful fastball [as a young guy] loved to pile up the K's [like a gunslinger with notches]. However, if one was lucky enough to have a strong coach or mentor of any kind, he was reminded that strikeouts require multiple pitches [as do walks]; so the non-batted ball at-bats can wear you out.

    Bottom line: Pitchers back in Johnson's day were perfectly capable of bringing it. Those who mastered pitching knew when, how, and in what situations to bring the heat.

    The physical aspect on pitching work loads was: Use it or lose it. Of course, that brought abuses; but the basic concept [IMO] was better tan coddling arms; making specialists out of kids' and limiting endurance expectations to the point that more than half a game per start makes one a workhorse.

    Leave a comment:


  • csh19792001
    replied
    1. A study on the evolution of pitching staff usage

    2. Another interesting article on this subject

    Leave a comment:


  • csh19792001
    replied
    On the league quality issue:

    Retrosheet recently posted the 1918 box scores and game logs...I was looking at Walter Johnson's 1918, and realized that he really was either A) Simply the greatest that ever lived, or B) That hitters just weren't nearly as good, on average, back then. Or perhaps, C) both??

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/pl...ear=1918#below

    How did baseball bear any resemblance to today's baseball (or pitching of that era to today's pitching, when, for example):

    1. Clark Griffith left their franchise player (Walter Johnson) in for 18 innings on May 15th? Did anyone know ANYTHING about shoulder and elbow injuries? Forget MRI's and scientific inquiry...didn't they intuitively know they would usually ruin a guy for months, maybe forever, making him endure these workloads? Was their really THAT much of a scarcity of very good or great pitchers on the roster that could have relieved him?

    2. He pitched more than 9 innings 10 times.

    3. Johnson threw 29 complete games. He ALSO relieved 10 games. Earlier in the decade he was completing 40 games and pitching 50.

    So, how was STILL able to put up a 1.27 ERA?

    My line of thinking is.....there's just no way that guys like Johnson were averaging over 30 complete games per season- AND relieving/finishing 5-10 games per year- for over a decade, if they were exerting nearly as much effort per pitch (i.e., throwing nearly as hard) as guys do today. They couldn't have been! It's just not physically possible. When these guys knew they would be pitching on either no rest, or maybe 2-3 days rest, AND would have to complete nearly every game they started, shoulder and elbow injuries must have been far more common than rested arms. AND guys must have pitched injured all the time. Hitters were often teeing off against an exhausted starter for the 4th and 5th time most games, sometimes even more often.

    That never, ever happens today.

    Back then the top starters had to have been throwing 200 pitches regularly...in the past 20 years only a knuckleballer has been over 160 in any single game.

    What also doesn't make sense is how Johnson could have had ERA's like that, despite that workload...unless he was very rarely throwing his 100mph fastball, didn't have to worry about home runs (ever), and just threw 80-90% on most pitches against most hitters. The only logical conclusion I can come up with, given the incredibly low ERA's people put up despite this impossible workload is that there must have been far more "easy outs", with almost no power hitters, most of the action in the infield, and much weaker bottom half of the order hitters. It must have often looked like more like batting practice than what we're used to.

    The other conclusion is that Big Train and others like Pete Alexander were simply bionic men, and he could throw with almost max velocity/effort like Koufax did, 45 games and 340 innings a year, almost always on short rest and often on almost no rest.............and still never suffer a significant arm injury. Which, from what I read in the biographies of both pitchers, neither did until 1919 (Alexander) and 1920 (Big Train).....

    Walter Johnson won 297 games before 1920 even rolled around. 4100 innings, 388 complete games. He allowed 31 home runs, total. That's one (poor) season for a starting pitcher these days....

    Leave a comment:


  • csh19792001
    replied
    Originally posted by Ubiquitous View Post
    Dave Winfield

    Re: Big Dave...

    Should be replayed for all those that think he was just a big, lumbering HR hitter.

    Thanks for sharing this, Ubi.

    Leave a comment:


  • SHOELESSJOE3
    replied
    Originally posted by Joltin' Joe View Post
    Yeah you're right. I always wondered why Winfield didn't hit more homeruns, or Dave Parker as well for that matter.
    Looked to me that Dave with that level swing hit many low drives and some hard gounders, hit so hard they skipped past infileders.
    His swing was something like Frank Howard's, both giants hitting some bullet line drives. I wouldn't want to be playing third base when these two came to bat.

    Leave a comment:


  • Joltin' Joe
    replied
    Originally posted by SHOELESSJOE3 View Post
    Super athlete and all the size to boot. If not for that level swing, which worked fine for him, he would have hit some of the longest homers in his time. Most of his home runs were "quick", gone.
    Yeah you're right. I always wondered why Winfield didn't hit more homeruns, or Dave Parker as well for that matter.

    Leave a comment:


  • SHOELESSJOE3
    replied
    Originally posted by Ubiquitous View Post
    Dave Winfield

    Super athlete and all the size to boot. If not for that level swing, which worked fine for him, he would have hit some of the longest homers in his time. Most of his home runs were "quick", gone.

    With that level swing, a wonder he never really hurt any infilelders.... or did he, I don't think so.

    Leave a comment:


  • Ubiquitous
    replied
    Mel Ott:

    Vs Righties: .298/.410/.518 in over 6,600 PA
    Vs Lefties: .208/.273/.328 in around 900 PA

    About 3,600 PA of unknown hand.

    In Mel's day Lefty NL'er that were not playing for the Giants completed about 40% of the games they started.
    Last edited by Ubiquitous; 02-19-2012, 02:07 PM.

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  • Ubiquitous
    replied
    Dave Winfield

    Leave a comment:


  • Bench 5
    replied
    My theory on why most old-timers had such big hitches is that it is because they used such heavy bats. One point though is that I think that a lot of the footage of old-time players hitting is from BP. From what I have seen, they did not hitch quite as much during the actual games. I have seen some footage of Ott during games (e.g. 1937 WS) when his hitch was much less exaggerated.

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  • csh19792001
    replied
    Originally posted by Honus Wagner Rules View Post
    In Ott's would it matter when facing a lefty like Billy Wagner who can jam Ott inside with a 98 mph fastball? I would be an interesting research project to find out how Ott did against hard throwing lefties.
    Can't speak to the speed portion, but Ott did quite well against lefties (esp. for a LH hitter). Only about 7% less productive against left handed pitching in his career.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/pl...=b#plato::none

    Consider Ted Williams, by comparison:

    Carrer: (1939-1960)
    Against RHP: .389/.527/.731
    Against LHP: .333/.458/.521


    About 29% less effective against left handed pitching.

    Leave a comment:

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