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

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  • Imapotato
    replied
    Leecemark speaks in vague terms

    How can you say that Pitchers "probably" threw in the mid 80's?

    When it HAS been studied that fast twitch fibers are the cause of velocity and not new technology, training or drugs

    Steroids in P's excel the speed of recovery of the muscles used in the MOTION of pitching, not what gives someone their speed, that is a fact

    Where they a tad bit slower in deadball and before mechanical wound balls? Yes, the mass of the ball was less dense, but it doesn't mean they could not throw as fast, especially if the ball was almost black, it would look worse coming in

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  • Bill Burgess
    replied
    Originally posted by leecemark
    --There is some pretty good evidence that not only did most pitchers from 1910 or 1940 not throw as hard as the fastest guys today, but that was still true in the 60s. In 1960 a group of the hardest throwers in baseball were tested for speed. Steve Barber won that competetion at 95.5 MPH. Virtually every team in baseball has a pitcher or two who can exceeed that today (although some of them have no other skills and are not especially good pitchers).
    I happen to agree.
    Last edited by Bill Burgess; 02-19-2006, 10:18 PM.

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  • leecemark
    replied
    --My source for the 1960 tests is the James/Neyer Guide to Pitchers, where they cite tests done with a high speed camera in Miami after the 1960 season. The inferences to earlier periods does not have a specific source. It is my own interpretation of general reading done over the last 30 years.

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  • csh19792001
    replied
    Originally posted by leecemark
    --There is some pretty good evidence that not only did most pitchers from 1910 or 1940 not throw as hard as the fastest guys today, but that was still true in the 60s. In 1960 a group of the hardest throwers in baseball were tested for speed. Steve Barber won that competetion at 95.5 MPH. Virtually every team in baseball has a pitcher or two who can exceeed that today (although some of them have no other skills and are not especially good pitchers).
    --Sandy Koufax (who was one of the men tested) is often refered to as having a great fastball and he topped out at 94-95 MPH. Of course, he had great movement and a great curve to go along with it. Speed is not everything, or even the most imporant thing, in a great pitcher's arsenal.
    .
    What are your sources here? I'd like to see the research. What qualifies as "pretty good" evidence?

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  • csh19792001
    replied
    Originally posted by mac195
    Those throwing contest numbers are interesting. Japan League players have a "field day" every year during the New Year's holliday. I watched this years throwing contest... they had the players throw from home plate to a 120 meter (396 feet) CF fence. Nobody hit the fence on the fly, but one guy came very close on a 119 meter throw. Several other players threw over 115 meters.
    Strange that you use that number.

    The beloved luminary sportswriter (and ex ballplayer) Tim Murnane died in 1917. They organized a benefit in September at Fenway Park to raise money for his Murnane's survivors.

    Joe Jackson threw a ball 396 feet that day. Arm strength has very, very little to do with size and strength- look at guys like Billy Wagner, Glen Gorbous, and Steve Dalkowski. It's more a god given gift of coordination than anything else. If you look at the guys who hit it the farthest on the PGA tour, most of them have actually been slender and/or short in stature.

    The point is that the greatest fireball pitchers of yore (Grove, Johnson, Feller, Young) could certainly have thrown just as hard as modern guys.

    Also, Ty Cobb was timed at 3.15 seconds from home-first that day. What was Mantle's official record time?
    Last edited by csh19792001; 01-21-2006, 11:58 AM.

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  • leecemark
    replied
    --There is some pretty good evidence that not only did most pitchers from 1910 or 1940 not throw as hard as the fastest guys today, but that was still true in the 60s. In 1960 a group of the hardest throwers in baseball were tested for speed. Steve Barber won that competetion at 95.5 MPH. Virtually every team in baseball has a pitcher or two who can exceeed that today (although some of them have no other skills and are not especially good pitchers).
    --Sandy Koufax (who was one of the men tested) is often refered to as having a great fastball and he topped out at 94-95 MPH. Of course, he had great movement and a great curve to go along with it. Speed is not everything, or even the most imporant thing, in a great pitcher's arsenal.
    --While there have been some genetic freaks (freak beign a positive term in this case) who could throw as fast, or nearly so, as the fastest pitchers today, most almost assuredly could not. The average fastball in Johnson's day was probably in the mid-80s, with a few speedballers breaking 90. If he could throw 95 under game conditions he would have seemed faster than a 100 MPH pitcher today. If he were able to hit the 99 he was clocked at by the "pendulum device" with any consistency then his fastball would have been in relative terms the best ever, even though a fair number of pitchers can match or exceed that today.
    Last edited by leecemark; 01-21-2006, 11:51 AM.

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  • johnny
    replied
    time warp just for an inning

    and just to bend the hypothetical a little more if we fast forwarded the babe to 2006 he might decide to lighten up on his traditional bat. and you gotta believe that pedro would give the babe some decent pitches as he can see a confused lou gehrig in the on deck circle asking ol miller huggins 'what the hell happened to yankee stadium?'

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  • mac195
    replied
    Those throwing contest numbers are interesting. Japan League players have a "field day" every year during the New Year's holliday. I watched this years throwing contest... they had the players throw from home plate to a 120 meter (396 feet) CF fence. Nobody hit the fence on the fly, but one guy came very close on a 119 meter throw. Several other players threw over 115 meters.

    Leave a comment:


  • Bench 5
    replied
    I posted this under a thread about Walter Johnson but I will post it here as well. I looked up any and every article I could find about attempts to measure the speed of pitchers prior to what has become accepted as the first "reliable" timing of a pitcher's fastball which was done on Bob Feller in 1946.
    • Walter Johnson and Nap Rucker were timed by the Remington Arms Factory in 1912. The electronic timing device was used to measure the speed of bullets so the box that they had to throw into was near shoulder height. The front of the 2' x 2' box was about 60 feet from where they threw the ball. They were both in street clothes although they took their jackets off. The device measured the speed of the ball as it passed the front end of the box until it smashed into a steel plate at the end of a box which was 5 yards long. So the test measured the speed as it traveled between 60 - 75 feet from the pitcher's hands. They both threw several times before they were able to hit a wire to trip the recording. Both had three times measured and Johnson's best was 122 feet per second (83 MPH) and Ruckers was 113 (77 MPH). Considering that a modern radar gun measures the speed of a ball as it leaves the pitcher's hand, the times above would register about 9-10 MPH faster by today's method of measuring speed. A ball loses 1 MPH for every 8 feet traveled from the start of the pitch.
    • In a Washington Post article in 1929 the writer states that Bill Tilden's serve was timed at 85 MPH by the Bureau of Standards and that Walter Johnson was timed at 113 MPH by the Bureau of Standards. The same article states that a ball was measured at 75 MPH off the bat of Babe Ruth.
    • In an article by Shirley Povich in 1937 it claims that Walter Johnson was timed at more than 100 MPH.
    • In the 1939 article that I mentioned in my earlier post, Walter Johnson was credited with throwing a ball 134 feet per second (91 MPH) with Joe Wood throwing 124 feet per second and Christy Mathewson 127. This story states that the test took place in 1917.
    • So either a) Johnson's fastball was measured by another recording device subsequent to the 1912 story or else b) over the years the original story was misreported due to bad memory etc. Either way considering that he threw the ball in street clothes without a mound and without warm-ups, I have no doubt he could chuck the ball close to 100 MPH.


    Here's some other pitched speed stories.
    • In 1930 several members of the Yankees were invited to West Point Military Academy. The point of this test was to determine whether the velocity of a "heavy" ball was greater than that of a "light" ball. We hear the same lingo today where people credit certain pitchers with throwing a heavy ball which tends to break bats. General Smith of the military academy felt that regardless of whether one pitcher threw a heavy ball and another threw a light ball, the difference was all a matter of velocity. A couple members of the Yankees threw into this "Boulenge chonograph". The idea behind this device was similar to the one from the 1912 test. Instead of a 15 foot gap between the front and back of the box there was a 6 foot gap. Pitcher Lew McEvoy threw about "4 innings of pitches" and the device failed to register a pitch. Ben Chapman stepped up and almost broke the machine on his second pitch. The military finally figured out why the machine failed to measure a pitch - a broken rubber band!! Up steps shortstop Mark Koenig who was known for having a great arm. Koenig threw the ball 150 feet per second - 102 MPH! Pitcher Lew McEvoy stepped back in and proceeded to throw a couple pitches around the same speed as Koenig before his arm gave out.
    • In 1933 Lefty Gomez and Van Lingo Mungo were timed at West Point. Gomez threw 111 feet per second (76 MPH) while Mungo threw 113.5 FPS (77 MPH).
    • A photo-electric speed meter was developed by the Cleveland Indians and Cleveland Plain Dealer. This machine had a 3 foot gap from front to back. There are several times that were reported from this device but the fastest was recorded by Atley Donald of the Yankees in 1939 at 139 FPS (94.7 MPH). He broke the record of 136 FPS held by outfielder Dee Miles with 136 FPS (92.7 MPH). Bob Feller also threw into this machine and only threw 119 FPS (81 MPH). Based upon a couple other articles at the time, there was skepticism about the validity of this machine since Feller's speed was lower than that of several other players on his own team.
    • In 1946 Feller threw into "Joe Chronograph" which was developed by the Army Ordinance Department. The device was considered more efficient than the earlier testing devices. This device measured the speed of the ball as it passed into the front end which was 5 feet in front of home plate and the back end which was at home plate. The device measured the speed for this 5 foot interval. Feller threw the ball 145 feet per second which has always been reported as 98.6 MPH. Using today's "fast" guns, this would measure in the low 100 MPH range.


    As I read some of these articles it struck me that writers of the time projected that the devices could be used to determine whether a prospect had the ability to throw hard enough to make the majors and also to keep track of a pitcher's speed throughout a game. That's exactly how radar guns are used nowadays.

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  • Sultan_1895-1948
    replied
    Originally posted by johnny
    Aside from the use of specialist today, how different would the actual pitching approach be?
    To answer that you'd need to understand each and every aspect of the game back then, and how it differs from today. The hitters approach, size of fields, size of bats, size of zone, hardness of ball, skill of fielders, condition of infield, speed of batter..all those things can change how a pitcher works.

    For example, how would a Pedro Martinez approach a 1927 vintage Ruth. I am assuming that Ruth is not going to point at the centerfied bleachers and yell 'who is your daddy? -although Tyrus Raymond Cobb might if he thought it would get in Pedro's head!
    lol, interesting. He wouldn't be the same Pedro we've seen over the years if he was in '27, and vice versa if Ruth came forward through your warp tunnel. If we plucked Pedro though and sent him back, his best bet would be to try and tie Babe up inside, not allowing him to extend his arms. That would be a very fine and dangerous line to walk, but Pedro just might be able to get away with it. Babe was never one to back away from a pitcher no matter how inside they threw, but once Pedro established the inner half, a backdoor curve, or a changeup would be a good idea, although also dangerous. Frightening to imagine Pedro with that strike zone at his disposal, wow.

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  • johnny
    replied
    good stuff

    Originally posted by Sultan_1895-1948
    Not really, because they weren't available as they are today. Players had other methods of getting in shape back then, and Babe did actually work out quite a bit. He struck everybody as the kind of guy who would work out when he reported to spring training at 212lbs in '26, which began his second reformation.
    Aside from the use of specialist today, how different would the actual pitching approach be?
    For example, how would a Pedro Martinez approach a 1927 vintage Ruth. I am assuming that Ruth is not going to point at the centerfied bleachers and yell 'who is your daddy? -although Tyrus Raymond Cobb might if he thought it would get in Pedro's head!
    Last edited by Bill Burgess; 02-19-2006, 10:17 PM.

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  • Sultan_1895-1948
    replied
    Originally posted by Honus Wagner Rules
    Does Babe Ruth strike you as the kind of guy that would lift weights in the off season?
    Not really, because they weren't available as they are today. Players had other methods of getting in shape back then, and Babe did actually work out quite a bit. He struck everybody as the kind of guy who would work out when he reported to spring training at 212lbs in '26, which began his second reformation.


    As far as this thread goes.

    The game has changed to the point where it's all about power. Power at the plate and power on the mound. Teams think that if they get a guy who can throw smoke, then he can be worked with to become something special. Actual "stuff" isn't looked at as much anymore, it's about being a "thrower."

    Important to note that higher velocity does not in any way equal "better pitching." Most would agree on that I'd hope.

    Here's my 2cents

    Back in the day, the majority probably threw around 91-92

    A smaller group (including Babe) probably threw around 93-95

    The few upper elite's who were 96+

    They chose their spots on when to throw their true heat. Whether it be a crucial situation, or just a dangerous hitter, they understood what "pitching" was. Using the hitters approach against him, messing with his timing and changing his eye level, utilizing the large strike zone.
    Last edited by Sultan_1895-1948; 01-20-2006, 05:44 PM.

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  • johnny
    replied
    Originally posted by bkmckenna
    when batters says that he didn't see the ball - he is exaggerating to prove his point - if you are unaware, this is a quite common method of description - it is not meant to be taken literally

    they see the ball - just can't handle that specific pitch at that specific time - as noted the catcher sees it - also batted balls and serves in tennis travel much faster than a pitch - the eye follows them as well

    as to feller - no sports personality has traveled as far and wide and as often as feller to make a buck on past fame in american history - his stories are repeatable if you have the $ for him to come visit - i wouldn't however mortgage the farm backing their authenticity

    Your last point sounds interesting. Can you give a few examples of Feller's exageration?

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  • johnny
    replied
    of course...

    Originally posted by bkmckenna
    when batters says that he didn't see the ball - he is exaggerating to prove his point - if you are unaware, this is a quite common method of description - it is not meant to be taken literally

    they see the ball - just can't handle that specific pitch at that specific time - as noted the catcher sees it - also batted balls and serves in tennis travel much faster than a pitch - the eye follows them as well

    as to feller - no sports personality has traveled as far and wide and as often as feller to make a buck on past fame in american history - his stories are repeatable if you have the $ for him to come visit - i wouldn't however mortgage the farm backing their authenticity
    Now, I don't think anyone really thought the pitches were so fast as to be 'invisible' per se. Rather, I think we all picked up on the inability of the eye to properly track depending upon your angle or perspective. A little David Copperfield hocus-pocus action would be too much.

    Sorry that your experiance with Mr. Feller didn't turn out like you wanted.

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  • Bill Burgess
    replied
    When I say that a batter can't "see" a pitch, I saying that he can't track it well enough to hit the thing. He may see the ball, but it may be a blur.

    Sometimes, I've read batters describe a pitcher's fastball. Grove's fastball was sometimes describes as a small pill, with a string behind it, describing the optical illusion of where the ball had been. Others describe the ball as the size of a watermelon seed.

    I have seen photos of Mays/Bonds, swinging at the ball, and about to make contact, but their eyes are clearly about 3-4 feet in the path of where the ball was. In other words, they're about to get a good hit, but they are not looking at the ball about to hit the bat! Proving, they could not track the pitch, but had gotten used to swinging in the path of where the ball would go.

    Bill

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