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

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  • #46
    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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    • #47
      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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      • #48
        --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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        • #49
          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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          • #50
            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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            • #51
              Originally posted by Imapotato
              Leecemark speaks in vague terms
              That's why I asked about his sources on the speed of Koufax and others.

              Welcome back, Potato. Good to have an ex pro ballplayer back on a baseball forum.

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              • #52
                --If pitchers have gained several MPH on average in the last 40 years (which is strongly supported by evidence) it doesn't seem unlikley that the same kind of improvement was experienced during the pre-radar gun days. I actually believe I am overestimating the average fastball from the deadball period. While I believe that most pitchers could throw in the 80s, I don't think they did so on a regular basis (or at least not the mid-high 80s). It is well established that pitchers did not go all out with every pitch, but saved their best stuff for the critical moments in the deadball period.

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                • #53
                  You guys are forgetting one important contributor to ball velocity. THE BALL.

                  The live (tightly wound) ball will have a little more speed on it than the dead ball. Could make for an extra couple miles an hour.

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                  • #54
                    Stitching the seams could also be a factor, if a better grip helps to throw. Also the ball was changed from horsehide to other animal leathers. Smoothness of ball affects the gripping.

                    Remember, if we are only talking about a difference of 5 mph, anything could be a factor, including atmospheric density in Coors Field.

                    Another factor is the strike zone. The larger the strike zone, the harder you can throw and still get it in there. If the zone were ever expanded to the tops of the shoulders, as it was in the 60's, pitchers could crank it up more, and still throw it over the plate for strikes.

                    And if you only have to go 6-7 innings, that again will let one throw it harder, in strategic moments. No need to save it for later. So a closer can throw it hard and not worry.

                    Welcome back, JT, old friend. Great to have you back home!! Cheers to you. Hope you health is fine.

                    Bill Burgess
                    Last edited by Bill Burgess; 01-21-2006, 01:38 PM.

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                    • #55
                      There's too different ways of looking at this.
                      1) Did pitchers from the past throw as fast on average throughout the course of a game as a STYLE of pitching or;
                      2) Did pitchers from the past have the ABILITY to throw as hard as pitchers today.

                      I think that the answer to the first question is that prior to the deadball era, pitchers didn't throw as hard as the can on every pitch. They could pace themselves and throw their hardest in crucial situations. They had several advantages that later pitchers didn't have such as being able to scuff and darken the ball. If players today have a hard time seeing a ball thrown 98 MPH, imagine how hard it was for players in the early 1900s. That style of pitching didn't work after the advent of the "lively" ball.

                      As far as pure ability, I think that the best fastball pitchers of the game have always been able to throw in the 95-100 range. The first scientific test for speed showed that the fastest pitcher of the 1930s and 1940s could throw just as fast as the fastest pitchers today. Again, Feller's speed was measured as it crossed the plate. Modern radar guns measure the speed shortly after it leaves the hand. His 98.6 is more like 102-103 today.

                      That being said, I think its possible that the average pitchers of the past didn't throw as fast as the average pitcher of today. But who knows. There's not much film of pitchers throwing prior to the 60s in game conditions so it's a guess either way. I've seen film of Walter Johnson, Feller, Grove throwing and it sure as hell looked like they could bring some heat. And when I watch film of Ruth, Gehrig or other old-timers hit, the speed of the ball as it approaches the plate doesn't have a perceptible lack of speed. It looks similar to modern play.

                      When you are talking about comparing Sandy Koufax or Don Drysdale's fastball to a modern pitcher I think you have to consider that the means of measuring the speed are different. Koufax was timed at 93 and Drysdale at 95 back in 1960. But if the speed measured in 1960 was based upon speed as it crossed the plate, then it's not an apples to apples comparison. I think that has a lot to do with the perception that pitchers today can throw about 5 MPH harder on average than pitchers from the past.

                      There was an article in the Sporting News about 10-12 years ago in which they claimed the exact opposite. The article stated that pitchers of the 90s could not throw as hard as their counterparts in the 60s. They cited the fact that on the old guns, not many current pitchers could actually break 90. I suspect that the guns that they show on TV and in the parks are "juiced" a bit for the fans. Maybe not but that's my perception.
                      "Batting slumps? I never had one. When a guy hits .358, he doesn't have slumps."

                      Rogers Hornsby, 1961

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                      • #56
                        i concur with Bench 5

                        For this very reason, while we may not be able to quantify exactly how fast pitchers actually pitched in terms of sheer speed we can get an idea of how quick batters could swing through the strike zone by taking a look at the size of their bats. While we can debate many facts, I am assuming that we are not going to debate that batters today can swing it through the bat zone at least as fast as the batters of yesteryear. Yet bats today are lighter. Hence, for the reason that the bats of today's homerun hitters are lighter than those of yesteryear such as a Ruth or Gehrig I think it would be safe to assume that the overall level of fastball speed was less. Not saying that there were not speed merchants out there ala Walter, Dazzy, et al. Instead, that over the entire spectrum of pitchers the overall level of speed was less.
                        Johnny
                        Delusion, Life's Coping Mechanism

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                        • #57
                          --Thats a good point Johnny. Everybody was using heavier bats than anybody uses today. That makes good circumstanial evidence that they were facing as fast of pitchers. Very few guys are going to be able to catch up to a mid/high 90s fastball swinging the heavy lumber used before WWII. Most guys would even have trouble making regular contact with a low 90s pitch swinging those clubs.

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                          • #58
                            bat weight

                            As a measure of velocity faced, does anyone track the the bat weights associated with top hitters over the past decades? A Wagner, Cobb, Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio, Williams, Musial, Mantle, Mays, Aaron, Kaline, Yaz, Reggie, Ripken, Canseco, Mac, and Bonds may be interesting.
                            Johnny
                            Delusion, Life's Coping Mechanism

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                            • #59
                              Originally posted by Imapotato

                              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
                              Very true. There is no substitute for actual "throwing," which is what kids used to do from a very young age. Also, many pitchers used to work on farms and do labor type of work that would naturally strengthen their arms, and give it stamina. Cy Young split railroad as a kid, and had been quoted as saying it built up his arm.

                              Johnny, pretty sure McGwire used a 36 ounce bat during '98.

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                              • #60
                                Originally posted by leecemark
                                --Thats a good point Johnny. Everybody was using heavier bats than anybody uses today. That makes good circumstanial evidence that they were facing as fast of pitchers. Very few guys are going to be able to catch up to a mid/high 90s fastball swinging the heavy lumber used before WWII. Most guys would even have trouble making regular contact with a low 90s pitch swinging those clubs.

                                Actually it would be EASIER to hit a 90mph fastball with a bigger bat if one choked up, which players did with regularity on deadball and the 20's (the few power hitters nonwithstanding). Go to a batting cage and try it...but don't swing as ballplayers today, but almost a half bunt/half swing...you WILL make contact alot more then a lighter bat and full swing

                                Bigger area=bigger chance to hit the ball

                                That is why we classify them as contact hitters, but really they were compensating for the speed of the pitch and that is always why there were less K's, it was kinda hard to miss the ball with say...Heinie Groh's bottle bat


                                As for Cy Young, that was his non medical reasoning...and axe chopping did in fact help muscles to have him pitch so many innings, but his ability to pitch was genetic in the form that he had better high twitch fibers

                                and thanks Chris and Bill, nice to be back

                                My health is fine, I just take a break after November to about this time...threads are usually the same things we have discussed ad nasuem throughout the season
                                Last edited by Imapotato; 01-22-2006, 11:41 AM.

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