Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

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

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Second Base Coach
    replied
    Pitchers of yesteryear threw just as hard as today's pitchers. We just have more of them today because we are very good at finding them, and we have created more jobs for them by way of more teams and larger pitching staffs.

    And the guys don't throw that much harder nowadays. We just see it more often thanks to our mature media.

    And as far as the old timers, here is all you have to know from the best pitcher there ever wuz:

    "Can I throw harder than Joe Wood? Listen, my friend, there's no man alive can throw harder than Smoky Joe Wood." — Walter Johnson

    Leave a comment:


  • Mingo
    replied
    Originally posted by Honus Wagner Rules View Post
    Great stuff Mingo. I read lots of first hand accounts like this. I do have one issue with such accounts, though. IMO I believe it's impossible for any person to known with a strong degree of certainty who threw harder between two pitchers who played decades apart. Lets I say I was born in 1895 and I say Walter Johnson pitching in 1915 at age 20. Then I saw Nolan Ryan pitch in 1973 at age 78. I don't think the human memory is so accurate as to remember exactly how hard Walter Johnson threw. Also, lets say the human memory was accurate. Can such a person differentiate between a 98 mph fastball and a 100 mph fastball thown 50-60 years apart?
    For the average Joe who just observed a guy like Johnson pitch from the bleachers, I'd have to say no. What makes this observation interesting to me is that this was not an average Joe fan, but a Pacific Coast League pro who actually caught Johnson in spring training back when was trying to stick with the Senators. He was making all kinds of comments during the Nolan Ryan game about pitch calls by the catcher, etc. He didn't say a whole lot about Ryan until my dad asked the question. He was focused on their catcher and how he handled Ryan from behind the plate. My dad says the old guy was quick as a whip mentally. Allowing for a fairly generous allowance for emotional attachment to a bygone era and to a somewhat faded memory, it still tells an interesting story about Walter from someone who actually felt the sting of his heater.

    Leave a comment:


  • Ubiquitous
    replied
    The main difference between the two radar guns (Jugs and I forget the other one) is on how long it takes to process the information. The "slower" gun needed a larger area to catch the speed so consequently it was measuring a thrown ball over a greater area than a "fast" gun that needed a much smaller area. Think about it in terms of a sprint to the finish in a mile run. The sprint in those last 100m is going to be faster than the speed of a runner over the entire mile. Same sort of thing is going on with a decelerating fast ball. It loses speed from the moment it leaves the hand.

    Leave a comment:


  • dominik
    replied
    Originally posted by PVNICK View Post
    Of course you also hear references to the radar guns now being "faster" than those of say 20 years ago, so I take it with a grain of salt.
    Radar guns are "faster" now because they now measure the max speed ( out of the hand) and not speed at home plate. The ball loses a couple mph on the way to home plate.

    However guns now measure out of the hand for more than 20 years so the last decade trends are pretty accurate.

    We dont really know for sure what happened before the 1990s but if you see that the average went up the last 15 years it is not a bolt assumption that this was not the starting point of raising velocity.

    It was not really a quick spike, just a slow and very gradual raise over the years.

    Leave a comment:


  • Honus Wagner Rules
    replied
    Originally posted by Mingo View Post
    Great thread. I can add an interesting anecdotal observation from a guy who caught Walter Johnson in spring training (but never made the big show) and played for the Portland Beavers. I'll have to ask my dad his name again, but he was my dad's catching coach in Portland youth baseball leagues in the late 30s and early 40s. Many years later, the two of them were watching Nolan Ryan pitch on TV and the announcers were gushing over Ryan's speed on the radar gun. My dad asked the ancient backstop if Johnson could throw as hard as Ryan and old man's answer totally surprised my dad. Without a second of hesitation or "generational hubris", he said "yep, he threw at least that hard when he needed to. And he threw sidearm, so his fastball tailed into righties and really messed them up....but it also tailed away from lefties and messed them up just as bad!"

    At the end of the game he said something to the effect that "just thinking of catching him (Johnson) again makes my hand hurt."

    I know this contains no science, but I find it very interesting from an old catcher who loved the modern game and modern ballplayers yet had a connection to the past and knew firsthand what a Johnson heater felt like when it smacked into this glove.
    Great stuff Mingo. I read lots of first hand accounts like this. I do have one issue with such accounts, though. IMO I believe it's impossible for any person to known with a strong degree of certainty who threw harder between two pitchers who played decades apart. Lets I say I was born in 1895 and I say Walter Johnson pitching in 1915 at age 20. Then I saw Nolan Ryan pitch in 1973 at age 78. I don't think the human memory is so accurate as to remember exactly how hard Walter Johnson threw. Also, lets say the human memory was accurate. Can such a person differentiate between a 98 mph fastball and a 100 mph fastball thown 50-60 years apart?

    Leave a comment:


  • Mingo
    replied
    Great thread. I can add an interesting anecdotal observation from a guy who caught Walter Johnson in spring training (but never made the big show) and played for the Portland Beavers. I'll have to ask my dad his name again, but he was my dad's catching coach in Portland youth baseball leagues in the late 30s and early 40s. Many years later, the two of them were watching Nolan Ryan pitch on TV and the announcers were gushing over Ryan's speed on the radar gun. My dad asked the ancient backstop if Johnson could throw as hard as Ryan and old man's answer totally surprised my dad. Without a second of hesitation or "generational hubris", he said "yep, he threw at least that hard when he needed to. And he threw sidearm, so his fastball tailed into righties and really messed them up....but it also tailed away from lefties and messed them up just as bad!"

    At the end of the game he said something to the effect that "just thinking of catching him (Johnson) again makes my hand hurt."

    I know this contains no science, but I find it very interesting from an old catcher who loved the modern game and modern ballplayers yet had a connection to the past and knew firsthand what a Johnson heater felt like when it smacked into this glove.

    Leave a comment:


  • Herr28
    replied
    Originally posted by Dude Paskert View Post
    Great excuse to post my favorite picture of Bob Feller...
    [ATTACH]150498[/ATTACH]
    That is a great pic of Bob Feller! Good job, Dude!

    Leave a comment:


  • Toledo Inquisition
    replied
    Originally posted by PVNICK View Post
    Of course you also hear references to the radar guns now being "faster" than those of say 20 years ago, so I take it with a grain of salt.
    I went back and looked at my Bill Mazeroski baseball books from the 1980's, and a good fastball for a prospect was in the 90-91 mph range. From memory, there were two "guns" in service back in that era, a fast one and a slow one. I think the fast one became the one of choice in the early-mid 1990's. I assume the slow gun was the one Bill Mazeroski's magazine used for analysis.



    Van Mungo was also noted for having a blazing fastball circa 1930.
    Last edited by Toledo Inquisition; 10-06-2015, 07:27 AM.

    Leave a comment:


  • SHOELESSJOE3
    replied
    For sure more hard throwers in today's game but it's obvious a part of strikeout increase in more modern times comes from more hitters going for the long ball.
    A combo of both.

    Leave a comment:


  • Dude Paskert
    replied
    Originally posted by dominik View Post
    the Thing you have to consider is that averages likely went up.

    yes, bob feller likely threw 95+ and there might even have been an occasional guy touching 100 but now even many middle relievers throw 94-95. back then 95 was more of an exception while today they are dime a dozen.

    strikeout rate is almost consistently going up since 1920 and while Swinging for the fences (starting with ruth) is one reason pitcher velocity certainly is too.
    Great excuse to post my favorite picture of Bob Feller...
    feller.jpg

    Leave a comment:


  • Dude Paskert
    replied
    Originally posted by Sultan_1895-1948 View Post
    A great post there. A couple things....

    Pitchers back then most certainly didn't have full control of their own arms though. The horses were expected to go at nearly any cost. If you had to adjust, so be it. In his recent Ebook Jenkinson points out Ruth being told to pitch batting practice after complaining of a sore arm. That would never happen today.

    In terms of pitch counts I think it's too regimented, but nobody today tells these multi million dollar pitchers what to do with their arms. The next manager who forces a guy to take a start, after he complains of soreness, will be the first. And he would be unsuccessfully looking for a job if he pulled that. Owners have too much invested in these guys. The pitcher's opinion of his own body rules the day, and rightfully so.

    You're certainly correct about being noticed if you were good. You would be quickly moved up the ranks and if you had major league talent, or potential, it would definitely be noticed.

    There's something to be said for older players having no choice, but to learn by trial and error. Every generation benefits from the next. In an ultra perform to stay league you had to quickly scrap something that you felt couldn't be developed. In his Ebook, Bill also mentions Pennock having three different breaking pitches: curve, slider (slurve) and a screwball. Mathewson, Hubbell, and many others threw the screwball. There's a reason why it hasn't been throw since Fernando.

    The same ball action can be achieved by throwing a great two-seam fastball, or even a circle change has screwball like qualities without needing to turn the wrist violently (thumb down for a righty). Trial and error means a lot, in any aspect.

    Later guys get that knowledge AND modern advances of everything else. Which is good. But it's all of that gathered knowledge, combined with no secrets about training or nutrition, combined with a game that begs for one approach that disallows for separation. Not sure why people are still struggling with that one.
    I know this an old post, but I wanted to corroborate this with some personal experience from catching a guy who had played some pro ball years ago. He threw a circle change that I just could not catch, it had such deceptive movement into a righty (from a righty) that even telling myself to anticipate it and move my glove to my left when I didn't think I needed to didn't work. The guy threw me about 20, I missed almost all of them, and he suggested it might not be a good game pitch. I was no Bench back there, but I could catch sliders, curves, knuckleballs, sinkers, even a sorta screwball that another guy on the team (former college player who could throw 5 pitches for strikes) threw...just could not glove that circle change.
    And, the guy threw it with a grip change, not by twisting his arm in a horrible way...

    Leave a comment:


  • PVNICK
    replied
    Of course you also hear references to the radar guns now being "faster" than those of say 20 years ago, so I take it with a grain of salt.

    Leave a comment:


  • dominik
    replied
    the Thing you have to consider is that averages likely went up.

    yes, bob feller likely threw 95+ and there might even have been an occasional guy touching 100 but now even many middle relievers throw 94-95. back then 95 was more of an exception while today they are dime a dozen.

    strikeout rate is almost consistently going up since 1920 and while Swinging for the fences (starting with ruth) is one reason pitcher velocity certainly is too.

    Leave a comment:


  • welch
    replied
    Just noticed this discussion. Fascinating. I am reading Hank Thomas's biography of his grandfather, Walter Johnson. When I get to a section in which someone measure's Johnson's speed, I'll post it. (I'll also ask Hank).

    Johnson seems to have had unusually long arms. Batters who faced Johnson and writers, such as Shirley Povich, who covered him, mention that his pitching motion looked like the cracking of a whip. Each snap -- torso turn, shoulder, elbow, wrist, fingers would have accelerated the ball. Hank mentions that Johnson threw to Babe Ruth in an exhibition to raise war bonds in 1943. As they dressed in the Yankee clubhouse, Yankee players marveled at Johnson's long arms.

    My guess: Johnson was a sort of "bionic man", but in flexibility more than muscle-power.

    Oh: he threw a curve-ball but not a slider. That seems to be the pitch on which modern pitchers hurt their elbows.

    Leave a comment:


  • Tyrus4189Cobb
    replied
    Next is the strikeouts.

    A multitude of pitching talents can lead to strikeouts. However, I was only interested in the poet pitchers. Having unofficially isolated them, I took to comparing their K/9 to that of the league (with a minimum of 50 IP in a season). For example: Walter Johnson's K/9 in 1910 was 7.6. Compared to the league K/9 (4.2), that is an 81% increase. Rather than post the year-by-year findings, I will summarize them to eliminate the clutter of coded tables. The third number is the pitcher's top 20th percent of seasons (i.e. someone with 10 seasons will have 2 listed). If anyone is interested in the individual seasons for each individual player, I will be happy to send them the Excel file or post them here on BBF.

    Walter Johnson
    Unweighted Average: 52.3%
    Median: 55.2%
    Top Fifth: 88.9% (1924), 81% (1910), 76.2% (1912), 69% (1921), 63.3% (1920)

    Slim Harriss
    Unweighted Average: 13.8%
    Median: 22.2%
    Top Fifth: 37.9% (1922)

    Ed Reulbach
    Unweighted Average: 4.1%
    Median: 2.6%
    Top Fifth: 28.6% (1907), 27% (1905)

    Jack Powell
    Unweighted Average: 0.2%
    Median: -1.4%
    Top Fifth: 47.1% (1903), 34.3% (1904), 28.9% (1906)

    Joe Bush (1913-1918)
    Unweighted Average: 27.4%
    Median: 36.7%
    Top Fifth: 42.4% (1917)

    Rip Collins
    Unweighted Average: 0.4%
    Median: 0.0%
    Top Fifth: 44.8% (1921), 14.8% (1924)

    Hippo Vaughan
    Unweighted Average: 29.0%
    Median: 26.9%
    Top Fifth: 78.8% (1917), 58.6% (1918)

    Dazzy Vance
    Unweighted Average: 105.2%
    Median: 102%
    Top Fifth: 171.4% (1924), 167.9% (1925), 167.9% (1926)

    Joe Wood
    Unweighted Average: 47.4%
    Median: 57.1%
    Top Fifth: 90% (1913)

    Rube Waddell
    Unweighted Average: 106.2%
    Median: 113.5%
    Top Fifth: 147.1% (1903), 134.3% (1904)

    Willie Mitchell
    Unweighted Average: 27.5%
    Median: 21.4%
    Top Fifth: 53.7% (1914)

    Rube Marquard
    Unweighted Average: 28.2%
    Median: 23.2%
    Top Fifth: 97.4% (1911), 78.4% (1910), 58.3% (1909)
    -----------------------
    Out of the above pitchers, only Dazzy Vance and Rube Waddell outclass Johnson. Yet it is important to remember that both relied on a heavy curve, which some claimed to be as fast as their fastballs (though obviously impossible). Johnson used a small "wrinkle," as Eddie Collins described it, to throw off batters. Sheer speed dominated opposing hitters a vast majority of the time.

    I'll let these large posts settle in before I finish. Plus, I've run out of time in the real world
    Last edited by Tyrus4189Cobb; 07-25-2014, 02:21 PM.

    Leave a comment:

Ad Widget

Collapse
Working...
X