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

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  • Originally posted by HitchedtoaSpark View Post
    But why? Why do you believe this? What is your argument?
    Isn’t that always the key?

    What I find to be particularly damning to this argument is that when going through the possible defenses, most of them seem to be circumstantial. Simply following Occam’s Razor in search of the explanatoin, we’d have to go quite far down the list before arriving at profound changes in biophysiology that are anomalous to the normal rate of evolution.

    One possibility is that technique and exercise-specific training (yeah we know guys were strong, but how developed were programs intended to harness that strength specifically into throwing a baseball hard and accurately?) were less evolved. That, even assuming the above was true, would be a function of getting less out the same, not getting less out of less.

    Another possibility is that talent scouting and mining hadn’t evolved to the point that baseball was drawing as great a percentage of those with the most gifted arms on the planet. Add segregation arguments here as well. Again, this is circumstantial. The sample didn’t represent the best of the pool to the extent that today’s does.

    Another possibility is that the conditions of the game didn’t require it, at least not as such a high priority. Different skills have been prioritized throughout different eras as responses to macro conditions of said eras. Hopefully, I needn’t elaborate.

    To me, while some of these arguments, if true, might prove the conclusion that previous pitchers didn’t throw as hard, with regularity and frequency, that doesn’t mean they couldn’t (as the function of simply their era or something). There’s a material difference between “didn’t” and “couldn’t” and the former doesn’t necessarily imply the latter.

    Here’s a question though, Mark McGwire used a 35-ounce bat. Joe Dimaggio swung a 42. Is that evidence that pitching has gotten generally faster over the years (even if it’s a function of “did” and not necessarily “could”)?

    I'm not saying I even agree with the above arguments - but they sound a lot better than Walter Johnson being a girly man in comparison to Kip Wells.
    Last edited by digglahhh; 07-29-2008, 08:32 AM.
    THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT COME WITH A SCORECARD

    In the avy: AZ - Doe or Die

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    • Agreed with pretty much all of that steve...

      The rules made it nearly impossible for pitchers to ac tually demonstrate real skill until they allowed overhand deliveries and side-arm deliveries in the late 1880s...after which, pitchers like Cy Young and Amos Rusie IMMEDIATELY surfaced...that's when pitching became a skill...before that it might as well have been an automatic pitching machine in the box.

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      • Originally posted by digglahhh View Post
        ...
        Here’s a question though, Mark McGwire used a 35-ounce bat. Joe Dimaggio swung a 42. Is that evidence that pitching has gotten generally faster over the years (even if it’s a function of “did” and not necessarily “could”)?

        I'm not saying I even agree with the above arguments - but they sound a lot better than Walter Johnson being a girly man in comparison to Kip Wells.
        I think that WJ actually wrote the "Lumberjack Song"...he really did want to be a girly just like his dear mama!


        Interesting point on the bat weights. 31-33 ounces is probably the heart of the ML range now. Even immensely strong guys like Mantle and Killebrew used fairly light bats...Dick Allen is the last guy I've heard of over 40 oz (Jim Kaat wrote that Allen swung a 42 ouncer). Ruth was over 50 oz on occasion, typically in the 40s. Hornsby swung a bat in the 40s and ridiculed the tiny bats that players were using around 1960. Ted Williams was an avid proponent of a "light" bat (I think 33-34 ounces at 35") while Clipper was swinging his heavy bat.
        This shift has also been attributed to a greater variety of pitches being used by the average pitcher...the lighter bat gives the batter a bit more time to adjust to a pitch he isn't expecting. Musial said that he liked a light bat because he felt it allowed him to watch the pitch as long as possible and "flick" it out of the catcher's mitt if he desired (his M159 is a fairly thin model that is still popular).
        Many of the old models were not really that huge compared to modern bats, but much heavier wood stock was used (sometimes hickory). Players certainly could have gone lighter with ash if they had wanted to without changing models. I suspect that the shift in bat weight probably reflects an increasing sophistication amongst pitchers and hitters, and possibly better fastballs to deal with, especially since the old timers weren't striking out much with their heavy bats. I think there was also some machismo to deal with early on...real men were supposed to use meaty bats. I think that Splinter wrote that he used a much heavier bat until he met a guy in the minors using a very light bat that wasn't made from ash, believe that he called it Cuban Wood. Ted thought that it was pretty funny, but then tried the bat for the heck of it. He popped a HR, not a bomb but a good shot, and it got him thinking. He ended up dropping weight with ash, not to toothpick range but lighter than he had been using.
        "I throw him four wide ones, then try to pick him off first base." - Preacher Roe on pitching to Musial

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        • Originally posted by HitchedtoaSpark View Post
          It happened again. While perusing the threads this afternoon, I once again ran across the curious statement that pitchers of 20/50/100 years ago threw with "much less" velocity than they pitchers of today do.

          What with all the talk of records and records being broken recently, this doctrine seems to be on just about every Fever-er's lips these days. As I have provided partial rebuttals to these claims in several threads, I thought it would be a good idea to collect them and centralize the argument in this one thread.

          As for myself, I can offer at least four strong reasons/evidences that pitchers of yesteryear threw no slower than today, but I thought I would first toss the question out there.

          Why do you think pitchers 20/50/100 years ago threw with much less velocity than their modern counterparts do?
          Ask anyone who batted against pitchers like Walter Johnson, Lefty Grove, Bob Feller, et al.

          Bob

          Comment


          • Apparently the same device used to measure Feller's fastball at 98.6 mph also measured second baseman Mark Koenig's fastest throw at 127 mph. Somehow I doubt that. Years later Bob Turlet was measured at 94.2 mph.

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            • Originally posted by Ubiquitous View Post
              Apparently the same device used to measure Feller's fastball at 98.6 mph also measured second baseman Mark Koenig's fastest throw at 127 mph. Somehow I doubt that. Years later Bob Turlet was measured at 94.2 mph.
              What did they use to measure it, I gather this wasn't the motorcycle that you see in newsreelsy type stuff.

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              • 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.

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                • Originally posted by Ubiquitous View Post
                  Apparently the same device used to measure Feller's fastball at 98.6 mph also measured second baseman Mark Koenig's fastest throw at 127 mph. Somehow I doubt that. Years later Bob Turley was measured at 94.2 mph.
                  I'm also in doubt, for sure an error in the method used.

                  Comment


                  • 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, 06:40 PM.
                    "Batting slumps? I never had one. When a guy hits .358, he doesn't have slumps."

                    Rogers Hornsby, 1961

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                    • 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?

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                      • 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.
                        "(Van) Mungo and I get along fine. I just tell him I won't stand for no nonsense, and then I duck."
                        Casey Stengel

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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.

                          Comment


                          • 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."

                            Rogers Hornsby, 1961

                            Comment


                            • 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:
                              http://stlcardinals.scout.com/2/447168.html

                              Comment


                              • 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.
                                Attached Files
                                Last edited by Bench 5; 08-17-2009, 09:38 PM.
                                "Batting slumps? I never had one. When a guy hits .358, he doesn't have slumps."

                                Rogers Hornsby, 1961

                                Comment

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