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

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  • #31
    Was Feller all wet?

    Originally posted by leecemark
    --Feller never saw Johnson pitch, so his opinion on that is not any more informed than anyody elses. Also, if he specified best RHP, did he think there was a LHP better than Walter?
    Well in the article Feller doesn't specify the evidence that he relies upon for his personal opinion. But your correct, Feller would not have seen Walter Johnson pitch in his prime. Yet, for some reason Feller believes it to be true. Having heard Feller speak before he is fairly blunt. But I am assuming that Feller is relying upon his knowledge of Johnson's record and personal conversations with other players who played with/against Johnson.
    Feller -in the article- didn't reference a left handed pitcher.

    My purpose was to tie in the velocity question with the comment made by HOF and Feller team-mate Satchel Paige who said if anyone threw faster than Feller it couldn't be seen with the comment from HOF umpire Bill Evans who stated that he sometimes couldn't see Johnson's pitches.Yes, Yes, Yes, in a more perfect world we would have pristine test conditions in which we could compare results. We just don't have it. So anecdotal is all we have, hence the above comments tied together. Take 'em for what you will.
    Johnny
    Delusion, Life's Coping Mechanism

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    • #32
      Originally posted by [email protected]
      While I agree in principle that the more fit an athlete stays, the better they'll do, I also think it's tricky to assume that that alone would improve a pitcher's speed.
      Does Babe Ruth strike you as the kind of guy that would lift weights in the off season? He's more John Kruk than Barry Bonds in that respect.
      Last edited by Bill Burgess; 02-19-2006, 10:16 PM.
      Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

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      • #33
        the babe stayed in shape lifting...

        Blondes and redheads from barstools, swallowing rib eye steaks, and hydrating himself with some of Jacob Ruppert's tasty brew.
        Johnny
        Delusion, Life's Coping Mechanism

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        • #34
          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
          Last edited by Brian McKenna; 01-20-2006, 03:09 PM.

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          • #35
            Sorry, I'm posting without reading through the other posts first, so this may have already been said...But I believe that while the best players of the distant past, say Walter Johnson, could bring the heat, I think on average, velocity was slower back in the day. Why do I think this? Conditioning and development. Players today, especially pitchers, take much better care of their arms and better understand the mechanics needed in order to maximize velocity. Additionally, pitchers and their trainers take care of their arms in such a way as to maximize velocity. It's become a science really, whereas a century ago it was more natural talent than conditioning. As for development, pitchers now develop with velocity in mind - with a number in mind. A century ago, there weren't radar guns, so a developing pitcher did not have a number to shoot for. Now a developing pitcher can have a palpable goal and push himself to achieve that goal. As a result, I believe that on the average, pitchers today through harder than pitchers of a century ago.

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            • #36
              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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              • #37
                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.
                Johnny
                Delusion, Life's Coping Mechanism

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                • #38
                  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?
                  Johnny
                  Delusion, Life's Coping Mechanism

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                  • #39
                    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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                    • #40
                      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.
                      Johnny
                      Delusion, Life's Coping Mechanism

                      Comment


                      • #41
                        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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                        • #42
                          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.
                          "Batting slumps? I never had one. When a guy hits .358, he doesn't have slumps."

                          Rogers Hornsby, 1961

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                          • #43
                            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.
                            "The numbers are what brought me here; as it appears they brought you."
                            - Danielle Rousseau

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                            • #44
                              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?'
                              Johnny
                              Delusion, Life's Coping Mechanism

                              Comment


                              • #45
                                --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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