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

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  • #76
    Good posts Bench and Potato

    The ability to throw a baseball 90+ mph is very much a "natural gift." Without that gift, no amount of training and muscle building is going to make you throw smoke like Billy Wagner...or Walter Johnson.

    Perhaps today's training may help to maximize a player's gift, and thus may mean that some of the middle tier guys throw harder, but at the extreme, I doubt there was that much of a difference.

    Simple physics would prompt the question of how, if the pitchers of yesteryear didn't throw just about as hard, did players who did not even work out year round, hit balls out of stadiums bigger than the ones used today.
    THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT COME WITH A SCORECARD

    In the avy: AZ - Doe or Die

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    • #77
      Originally posted by Honus Wagner Rules
      Baseball has much more in common with golf than track, footbal, and basketball. It's a game of skill.
      Do the math: round ball, round bat, yet hit it square.
      It is indeed a game of skill in which evolutionary athletism only gets you so far.
      Witness Michael Jordan. At the height of his basketball career, with all the training/desire in the world, the best he could do was double A ball.
      Last edited by johnny; 02-19-2006, 08:38 PM.
      Johnny
      Delusion, Life's Coping Mechanism

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      • #78
        Have Pitching Skills Improved?

        I'm still baffled as to why baseball seems to be exempt from the natural "evolution" that has taken place in EVERY other sport. Obviously, throwing is a major component of this sport.

        It seems the major argument as to why throwing is exempt is because it's really a "skill" and not a product of athletic ability (strength, quickness, size). OK, let's go down that road.

        Granted you must have some God-given talent (skill) before you even pick up a baseball. With all the training in the world, Elmer Fudd would never be a Major League pitcher. However, all things being equal, someone with the latest mechanices/techniques/training will be a harder thrower than someone with the same God-given talents (skill) that did not receive the same training.
        Have you ever reviewed old video of the old-timers throwing? Their tecnique and mechanics (skill) would be laughed at by any of today's knowledgable pitching trainers. Does that amount to anything? Are they all wasting their time with these latest mechanics/techniques?? Should we use these old videos as training films? Has the REAL pitching art been lost? OK, so let's say you concede that this is worth 4 mph. Well, 4 mph is huge when you're talking about a major league fastball.

        Now add that 4 mph to the sheer physical differences that you continue to discount, and you clearly have a far superior crop of pitchers.

        Some of you have conceded that the "middle tier" pitchers of today are superior. Why would the middle tier be impacted by skill and athletic improvements, but not the "top" tier. Are we saying they are just freaks and exempt from developmental training and fine tuning of their feakish gifts. Well, that makes no sense. A freak of today will benefit from the training, etc. just like "joe" average of the middle tier. It's all relative.

        And those of you that think old Babe could swing his 45-50 oz. lumber against the likes of Randy Johnson - come on! Today, nobody would think about swinging anything close to that. Why? Because there is no way they could get around on today's fire-ballers. Was Babe stronger than players of today? Get real. (Oh, is batting a "skill", not impacted by strength? I don't think you want to go down that road...)

        Let's get out of the romantic memories of yester-year. Granted, some players of today are arrogant, cocky, money driven, unloyal, and just plain jerks. But, face it, when they step on the field, todays players (top to bottom) are far superior to those of yester-year.

        Let me get you "baseball romantics" really riled up. There's no doubt that the 2005 Yankees would absolutely destroy the '27 version of that team. In fact, I'm quite confident the '27 Yankees could NOT beat ANY major league team of today. Why? Because Babe's 50 oz. of lumber would never get off his shoulder against today's far superior pitching. While it would take a while for today's hitters to get used to high school level fast balls, by the third inning, the mercy rule would be in effect...

        I realize this is not a basketball thread, but I can't resist comparing that very skill-heavy sport from yester-year to today. Could you imagine Bob Cousy trying to play against today's pros? Take a look at that old video - apparently they hadn't developed dribbling with their left hands and shooting from above waists until the 1970's. While these are dramatic examples of improvement in mechanics/technique, there are similar, more subtle improvements in baseball techniques.

        Unfortunately, due to the lack of technology in yester-year, we really can't accurately measure how fast people were throwing. Please don't give me these stories about "speeding" cars and motorcycles racing a baseball. Or, balls going thru walls and breaking umpire masks. Come on! Radar guns of today are FAR superior to those of just 20 years ago.

        Back on track. In conclusion, how can throwing a baseball not be impacted by improvements in techniques/mechanics and obvious physical improvments that has clearly impacted ALL other sports??????

        Comment


        • #79
          Sure the 2005 Yanks would beat the 1927 Yanks...if the game took place in 2005. If they're playing back in the day, that's another story.

          You think the '05 Yanks might be a little surprised that the entire game will be played with like, three different balls- dripping with sweat, tobacco, maybe even blood? You think Jeter would be a little surprised when he gets drilled on the first pitch for hanging over the plate...oh, of course that's assuming these guys are even allowed to play, or are allowed to travel on the same bus with Mike Mussina, Randy Johnson and the rest of the white players.

          Oh yeah, no scouting reports, no pre game massages, none of the luxuries afforded to modern players. I wouldn't put my paycheck on the '05 Yanks under those conditions.

          Your point was rather vapid, and bereft of any historical context. To say that the modern athlete is more skilled than the athlete of the past is fine, but to attempt to prove it through some convoluded time machine scenario, on your own skewed terms, is banal and more importantly, fruitless.

          For the record, I actually agree with the psycho-analytic element of your opinion. I have repeatedly stated that I think many members romatisize the past in order to preserve the godly status of their boyhood idols. This is not the battle to fight however, especially in relation to the specific issue of pitching velocity as there is empirical evidence to support pitchers throwing in the upper 90's over three quarters of a century ago.
          THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT COME WITH A SCORECARD

          In the avy: AZ - Doe or Die

          Comment


          • #80
            Originally posted by bbforlife
            I'm still baffled
            It must be nice to make up your own rules for your little time machine experiment.

            Players today could, and should, use heavier bats. By your theory, the pitcher is supplying all the power today, so creating maximum swing quickness by way of a 32 ounce bat should be of little importance. Why not use a heavier bat? More barrel mass with a slightly less "quick" swing, against supposedly harder pitching sounds like a good combo doesn't it?

            I would agree that the average pitcher today throws harder than the average pitcher back then. And you would have to agree that there is a very big difference between a pitcher and a "thrower," and that velocity means very little when we're talking about a difference of 5-7 mph. A pitcher with movement who controls the strike zone, keeps the hitter off balance while disrupting his timing consistently is far superior than what we see today. The young guns who rear back to overpower the hitter are playing right into their hands. They play into the games hands with how it is setup. The zone, the park sizes, the strength of hitters, etc. The way to succeed isn't to blow it by 'em, but rather out smart 'em.

            Players have gotten bigger and stronger, but not necessarily faster imo. As I posted earlier, baseball is a unique game, in that it takes much more than bigger and stronger to succeed. This is why it can't be compared with track and field records, or weightlifting records, or anything else that doesn't require a rare blend of mental and physical coordination combined with so many different skills.

            In your scenario, 2005 against '27 Yanks, you're playing with a stacked deck. If you make no adjustments, then sure, 2005 has all the advantage in the world. Would a race car driver from a long time ago have a chance against today's? Is it because of the driver, or technology?

            Even leaving the 2005 Yanks with their same size/strength/speed, but taking away everything else they enjoy. Too lazy to list 'em all right now, I'm assuming you know what I mean. Everything on and off the field where technology has created luxury.

            Even leaving them with their size/strength/speed, it would be very even because baseball is such a unique game. They will get thrown at routinely and there will be no warnings. They won't have helmets which give a feel of security and comfort. Cleats will cause them blisters, sliding in the infield will leave their legs raw. Horrible injury rehab/prevention, low level knowledge in fielding and hitting techniques. Have you seen the gloves? Fields are much larger, strike zone larger, softer ball, etc...Give them their same size/strength/speed. They would have a battle on their hands, and they'd need to toughen up a bit also.

            Comment


            • #81
              Originally posted by bbforlife
              I'm still baffled as to why baseball seems to be exempt from the natural "evolution" that has taken place in EVERY other sport. Obviously, throwing is a major component of this sport.

              It seems the major argument as to why throwing is exempt is because it's really a "skill" and not a product of athletic ability (strength, quickness, size). OK, let's go down that road.

              It just cannot, as for let's get out of yesteryears

              Ok, Dontrelle Willis

              You know how many times pitching coaches tried to change his delivery...all the time

              He said no, I am comfortable the way I throw

              Hence he is probably a top 5 P in the game

              So take Willis' mechanics, they are flawed, not by the doctorine set forth by trainers, yet he excels...I bet alot of pitchers careers are ruined by changing their delivery and technique

              One guy I played with, Bill Pulsipher could be deemed as such...he changed to what the Mets wanted him to pitch and he had all sorts of injury problems along with his personal demons
              Last edited by Bill Burgess; 02-19-2006, 10:05 PM.

              Comment


              • #82
                True Or False: (No Maybe)

                1. Pitching skills (techniques, mechanics, training) have improved from yester-year?

                2. Human beings are stronger, faster and bigger than yester-year?

                3. Pitching is a combination of skill and physical ability?

                4. Pitchers are human beings?

                5. Conclusion: Pitchers today (from top to bottom) are superior to pitchers from yester-year.

                If you say false to any of these, please explain why things have gone backwards or stayed stagnant while ALL other sports (skill) have advanced dramatically.

                For those of you addressing the "toughness" of the players from the different eras (or even the race issue) - what the heck does that have to do with anything? I'm just saying players today can throw and hit better than yester-year.

                I also get a kick out the guy who says current players "could and should" use heavier bats...you must know far more than all the current players and professional experts...Oh, I forgot, we're going backwards in terms of skill, and, I guess, knowledge, as well.

                Really, what do you think of the mechanics from the old films of these guys? Why are they different today? Or, are mechanics not relavent? Or as the last post implied, should we get rid of trainers? Boy, the Major Leagues sure are spending alot of money on these useless trainers! I guess Dontrel learned how to pitch by watch these old, grainy, black and white movies of the yester-year guys!

                And the commment about "young guns" of today just trying to blow it by 'em. Do you realize that there are far more variations of speed, movement, and placement of pitches? Was the "split finger" even heard of back then? I think not. This is a huge pitch in today's game. Again, these "advances" come with time. How can you continue to discount them.

                Again, I ask what did they do better then, that we have somehow lost? There are plenty of examples of improvements: Faster, stronger, better mechanices, better training.

                Bottom line: While I can't talk about every sport, ALL the major sports (and all aspects of them) have dramatically improved (except the sportsmanship - not relevant in this argument). Please tell me why baseball, including the mental aspect, has not improved.

                Please, I love the old guys too. But I'm realistic and honest enough to know that these arrogant, cocky, obnoxious, greedy players today are, unfortunately better (in every way) than my heroes...

                Comment


                • #83
                  Originally posted by bbforlife
                  It seems the major argument as to why throwing is exempt is because it's really a "skill" and not a product of athletic ability (strength, quickness, size). OK, let's go down that road.

                  Have you ever reviewed old video of the old-timers throwing? Their tecnique and mechanics (skill) would be laughed at by any of today's knowledgable pitching trainers. Does that amount to anything? Are they all wasting their time with these latest mechanics/techniques?? Should we use these old videos as training films? Has the REAL pitching art been lost? OK, so let's say you concede that this is worth 4 mph. Well, 4 mph is huge when you're talking about a major league fastball.
                  If you discount any of the testing done on the speed of pitchers from the past then what basis do you have to argue that they couldn't throw as hard as pitchers of today? The machine that was used to test the speed of Feller's fastball was more accurate than the radar guns in most major league stadiums. Considering that the military used similar testing devices to measure the speed of ballistics, I consider that to be accurate. If you don't judge that to be accurate then how can you believe the accuracy of how fast Chuck Yeager or other pilots flew their planes at the time?

                  I disagree with you regarding the pitching tecniques of old-timers. A lot of the videos of old-timers show them playing catch on the sideline or going through a motion just for the camera. And a lot of the videos were shot using shutter speeds that make them look herky-jerky. If you slow it down their pitching motions are really no different than a modern pitcher.

                  And just because major leaguers are trained like cookie cutters to use the same motion doesn't mean that variation is bad anyway. That's one of the reasons I like watching some of the Asian pitchers. They try some funky wind-ups that they wouldn't be allowed to use if they were trained in the USA as children.

                  I think it's possible that pitchers throw harder on average nowadays but there's no definitive proof.

                  As for the heavier bats in the past, keep in mind that most players choked up back then. So a 40 ounce bat might feel like a 35 ouncer.

                  If Bob Cousy were allowed to palm and carry the ball like Allen Iverson I have no doubt that he would be similar to a Stockton or Nash of modern times. How do you think Wilt Chamberlain would do against all of the 6'9" and 6'10" centers of today.
                  "Batting slumps? I never had one. When a guy hits .358, he doesn't have slumps."

                  Rogers Hornsby, 1961

                  Comment


                  • #84
                    Originally posted by digglahhh
                    Simple physics would prompt the question of how, if the pitchers of yesteryear didn't throw just about as hard, did players who did not even work out year round, hit balls out of stadiums bigger than the ones used today.
                    Interesting that you ask that because I found an article from 1886 that describes a ball jacked 450 feet on the fly in 1885. His name was W.H. Lyon........This guy must be the great-great-grandaddy of Mark McGwire! Attached is the article.
                    Attached Files
                    "Batting slumps? I never had one. When a guy hits .358, he doesn't have slumps."

                    Rogers Hornsby, 1961

                    Comment


                    • #85
                      Originally posted by bbforlife
                      But I'm realistic and honest enough to know that these arrogant, cocky, obnoxious, greedy players today are, unfortunately better (in every way) than my heroes...
                      This is where we part ways. These players only appear better because everything surrounding the game is better. That is fact. Strip them of all of this, and they aren't better down to the core, even being bigger and stronger, because baseball above every other game, doesn't rely on bigger and stronger as primary necessities.

                      The over-hand throwing motion is unnatural and awkward. Physics wise, it's possible to throw a harder pitch underhand than overhand, all things being equal. Less stess, tension, and joint issues. Throwing overhand has a ceiling in terms of velocity, and no amount of strength or mechanics can raise that ceiling.

                      Comment


                      • #86
                        ElHalo contributed this worthwhile data.
                        Mariano tops out at 97 with his two seamer. But he throws the four seamer at 93 and the cutter between 92 and 95.

                        Martinez hasn't hit 97 in almost five years. Randy Johnson regularly hits 98 or so, but he'll only hit 100 once in a blue moon. I haven't seen Clemens go higher than 96 since his Toronto days.
                        My presumptuous estimates for past pitchers.
                        Johnson 101, Rusie 99, Feller/Grove 98, Waddell 94, Vance 93. I doubt if any of the other pitchers pre-1950, could have hit 90.

                        Comment


                        • #87
                          Originally posted by [email protected]


                          My presumptuous estimates for past pitchers.
                          I agree with your 97+ guys Bill, although I would add Joe Wood in there somewhere.

                          Do you really think there aren't more guys in the 91-95 range though? To not have anyone else throwing 90 seems illogical. That gap is just too large between the elites and the pack. Gotta be a middle ground in there that is above the pack.

                          Comment


                          • #88
                            Originally posted by Sultan_1895-1948
                            I agree with your 97+ guys Bill, although I would add Joe Wood in there somewhere.

                            Do you really think there aren't more guys in the 91-95 range though? To not have anyone else throwing 90 seems illogical. That gap is just too large between the elites and the pack. Gotta be a middle ground in there that is above the pack.
                            Of course you're right. Joe Wood does belong in there. And I'm positive that many others probably do too. But some of the fastest might not have been among the best, and hence are not that well known to us. Bullet Joe Bush, Ewell Blackwell, Ed Crane and Cy Young were others who were known to have great speed.

                            Like the early Koufax, pure speed doesn't guarantee that a pitcher will find success, unless he masters other skills, such as his control, and a few other pitches, to set up his fastball.

                            Bill Burgess
                            Last edited by Bill Burgess; 02-19-2006, 10:40 PM.

                            Comment


                            • #89
                              Baseball is a business, trainers etc, are part of that business.

                              Should we all learn to take care of ourselves better and become less reliant on doctors and drugs? Absolutely! Is their obvious vested financial interest in the continuation of the healing over prevention medical model- you bet!

                              The greatest advantage of trainers is their advantage to technology, although becoming wholly dependent on that technology engenders a whole new set of problems- its a delicate balance. The necessity of having expanisive coaches and trainers is related to two big factors you didn't mention.

                              One is that players are not really self-dependent. They are pampered at an early age and, relish the codeling and attention and don't develop self-reliance to much later than they would otherwise. The other is the importance of following orthodoxy in the era of intense media scrutiny. Trainers and coachers are part of the baseball establishment any organization. Backlash for renouncing trainers would be huge, creating a media field day. The stigma against being self-educated feeds adds to the (somewhat contrived) need for pseudo-authorities/gurus. The players are not in need of the trainers so much as they are dependent on them.

                              Overall, trainers and coaches provide help, but the extent to which they allow players to achieve, beyond what they would by applying "themselves" is not as drastic as some may think, IMO. There have been numerous accounts of coaches ruining pitchers' careers too.

                              The references to the character of the players, and even to race- were a related to your hypothetical '05 Yanks vs. '27 Yanks match-up to point out the sheer skill level of the players was only one component, and not the totality of the equation.
                              THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT COME WITH A SCORECARD

                              In the avy: AZ - Doe or Die

                              Comment


                              • #90
                                Originally posted by Bench5 View Post
                                Steve O’Neill, who spanned the eras of the dead ball and the lively ball, first as a catcher and later as a manager, will tell you the old-time pitchers threw a lot fewer curve balls They threw the ball in there and let the batter hit it. They could rely more on their fielders, because there wasn’t the danger of somebody rocketing that dead ball over the wall or into the seats.-Rogers Hornsby, 1952
                                The quote above was excerpted from this post.

                                I wanted to bump this thread back up to get more/updated input from our constituency. Some questions ran through my head:

                                How was pitching different before 1920? Did pitchers throw fewer breaking pitches? How often did they rely on trick pitches vis-a-vis manipulating/destroying the ball? Did pitchers generally exert much less effort per pitch? How was pitching strategy different? I just keep thinking of how Greg Maddux, and how he must look just like the typical dead ball pitcher with his general style and approach.

                                I'd especially like to here if anyone has any contemporaneous information- quotes such as this one- to answer these questions?

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