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HitchedtoaSpark
10-11-2004, 04:47 PM
It happened again. While perusing the threads this afternoon, I once again ran across the curious statement that pitchers of 20/50/100 years ago threw with "much less" velocity than they pitchers of today do.

What with all the talk of records and records being broken recently, this doctrine seems to be on just about every Fever-er's lips these days. As I have provided partial rebuttals to these claims in several threads, I thought it would be a good idea to collect them and centralize the argument in this one thread.

As for myself, I can offer at least four strong reasons/evidences that pitchers of yesteryear threw no slower than today, but I thought I would first toss the question out there.

Why do you think pitchers 20/50/100 years ago threw with much less velocity than their modern counterparts do?

Bill Burgess
10-11-2004, 07:13 PM
There are few ways to measure velocity, but every once in a while, there occurs other ways. For example:

Batters facing Walter Johnson often alleged that they could not actually see the ball. Umpire Billy Evans admitted that even he couldn't tell if the ball was crossing the plate or not. Quite an admission.

Batters often admitted that they couldn't tell if they were swinging over the ball, under the ball, or anything. Even Babe Ruth told of his first AB against Johnson in 1915. He says he stepped into the batters box. Bam, bam, bam. Back to the dugout. Easiest victim Walter ever had. Babe never swung, never saw any pitches. But he heard something swish by. He told the ump that the pitches sounded high.

Another batter, I think it was Jimmie Dykes was, was batting agaisnt Walter and his arm comes down. Jimmie is waiting and the ball never arrives. Then the catcher is returning the ball. Jimmie turns to the ump, with questioning eyes. The ump tells him to take his base. Huh? says Jimmie. The ump then informs him that if he doesn't think the ball clipped him, feel his bill cap.

Jimmie does and the bill is turned all the way around. Jimmie turns white. Never even saw a ball! Only Nolan Ryan was that fast in modern times.
No one ever alleged they couldn't even see a ball. So I equate Johnson with Ryan. Ryan was timed over 100 mph.

Feller was time at 98.6. Body temperature. Many equated Feller with Grove. But no one ever claimed that they couldn't follow Feller's pitches. So I measure Johnson over 100. With Ryan.

When Feller came along in '37, he electrified the BB world, with his 98.5 mph velocity. So that was the top rate for the BB world at the time.

Today, so many pitchers register over 98 on the radar gun, that I stopped counting. Rod Dibble, JR Richards were both over 100. Didn't create a stir then. But it would have in 1940. So that is one way to measure velocity by era. Today, I suspect that Clemens, Johnson, Martinez, Rivera, and lots of others could go over 100 perhaps several times a game.

If that were possible in 1938, they would have created the same stir as Feller did in '38.

Bill Burgess

HitchedtoaSpark
10-11-2004, 07:36 PM
Today, so many pitchers register over 98 on the <a href="http://www.serverlogic3.com/lm/rtl3.asp?si=1&k=radar%20gun" onmouseover="window.status='radar gun'; return true;" onmouseout="window.status=''; return true;">radar gun</a>, that I stopped counting.
Bill, you are aware that these scoreboard radar guns are "warmed up," aren't you? With the idea of charging up the spectators, scoreboard radar guns are often set 3-4-mph. fast. The scouts' guns, the registers of which are not posted on the scoreboard, are far more accurate.

Incidentally, although the instrument which was used to time Feller in 1938 seems primitive by today's standards, it was actually even more accurate than a radar gun. In fact, it wasn't a radar gun, but an apparatus similar to Feller's which was used in the famous Nolan Ryan test which clocked him at 100.9-mph.

ElHalo
10-11-2004, 07:40 PM
You'd be surprised how few pitchers can register over 100 consistently today.

Billy Wagner can. Bartolo Colon can. That's about the extent of it.

Billy Wagner, in 2003, threw more pitches that registered over 100 mph than everybody else in the majors combined. I can't exactly remember the number, but I'm pretty sure it was in the 140 pitches range.

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. 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.

BoSox Rule
10-11-2004, 07:44 PM
Martinez hasn't hit 97 in almost five years. 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.

Pedro hasn't consistently hit 97 since the first half of 2001 when he got injured, but he'll hit it every now and then. He hit 97 alot late in the game in his 2003 starts, including Game 7 last year. And he was consistently hitting 95-96 in Anaheim for Game 2 and can top out at 97, but why do it in the regular season when he can easily get hurt, because he has been effective throwing 90-91 before?

And I think I read that Clemens hit 99 MPH once or twice last year in his 300th win game.

santotohof
10-12-2004, 09:02 AM
Heck No.Look at the 60's Gibby,McDowell,Seaver,Ryan ,go all the way to THE BIG TRAIN in the 20's.This is why I love baseball.Football,basketball even golf have seen players markedly surpass their predecessors,yet baseball (Ruth said it best "The only Sport") is still linked to it's past as far as comparisons go.

dgarza
10-12-2004, 09:15 AM
Radar guns measure the speed of the ball, but velocity can also measure the movement of the ball as it spins. Perhaps this is what is being judged against the pitchers of the past...the velocity of the spin put on the ball.

HitchedtoaSpark
10-12-2004, 12:56 PM
So far the responses have been pleasantly intelligent, thanks guys. I wonder, though, where the crowd is who literally ascribe old-time pitchers' fastballs as equivalent in velocity to today's batting-practice pitches? Believe it or not, but I have read just such a sentiment expressed multiple times on this forum.

HitchedtoaSpark
10-12-2004, 12:59 PM
MORE of today's pitchers throw harder compared to those of the past but the maximum speed is probably about the same.

It is similar to longevity. MORE individuals today live longer than those in the past, but the maximum age of those that live the longest is about the same.
Interesting. Although I appreciate your analogy, can elborate on this hypothesis of yours? I'm hoping to stimulate some more actual discussion out of the topic.

Bill Burgess
10-12-2004, 04:17 PM
I'm afraid that I am the one who has asserted on this site, that I believe that old time pitchers, as a collective group, probably couldn't hit the 90's on the radar gun. But that's not to say that there were not any exceptions.

I have said this several times, since those few pitchers, such as Amos Rusie, Walter Johnson, Waddell, Vance, Grove, Feller were singled out as fireballers, while few other pitchers were ever mentioned as exceptional fastball pitchers.

I'm such a presumptious guy, here is what my gut tells me about their top end velocity. No evidence whatsoever.

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.

I believe that the 60's featured such good fastball pitching due to the high strike zone. Larger your target area, easier to cut loose. Guys like Koufax were clocked at 93, Drysdale at 95, Bob Turley at 97. I haven't seen any number for Sam McDowell but he was probably at 98, at the least.

I further believe that todays pitchers can fire so fast is that they don't have to do it for very long. Not the whole game. But they're also limited by having to fire it into a much smaller target area. Which limits their velocity.

Bill Burgess

Plus the Negro Leaguers, like Paige/Williams, whom I forgot. They no doubt were over the 95 mph threshhold. And possibly over 100.

soxlady
10-12-2004, 05:04 PM
Though we'll never know the exact speed, Amos Rusie's deadly fastball was the reason for moving the pitching mound from fifty feet to its present distance of sixty feet six inches from home plate.

However, I suspect in the deadball era everything moved a tad slower than today. We know that players hit fewer home runs back then.

On the other hand, there was a certain Denton True Young with his funny way of pushing off the mound and whirling like a cyclone. He probably pitched in the 90s at his peak.

And don't forget some of the great pitchers of the Negro Leagues, like Satchel Paige and Smoky Joe Williams!

HitchedtoaSpark
10-12-2004, 09:16 PM
I have said this several times, since those few pitchers, such as Amos Rusie, Walter Johnson, Waddell, Vance, Grove, Feller were singled out as fireballers, while few other pitchers were ever mentioned as exceptional fastball pitchers.You mean, few other pitchers from these eras that you are aware of. Of note is the fact that, at various times in their careers, such a seemingly-disparate crowd as Cy Young, Kid Nichols, Jouett Meekin, Frank Killen, Cy Seymour, Jack Chesbro, Christy Mathewson, Chief Bender, Orval Overall, Ed Walsh, Nap Rucker, Smoky Joe Wood, Bullet Joe Bush, Rube Marquard, Marty O'Toole, Grover Lowdermilk, Dutch Leonard, Babe Ruth, Hippo Vaughn, Fred Toney, Slim Love, Firpo Marberry, George Earnshaw, Charlie Root, Pat Malone, Lefty Gomez, Dizzy Dean, Paul Dean, Johnny Allen, Van Mungo, Rex Barney, Kirby Higbee, Atley Donald, Johnny Vander Meer, Ewell Blackwell, Tommy Byrne, and many more names from less glamrous to downright obscure all had their heaters compared favorably with the elite group you cited above. What most of these moundsmen lacked that their more prominently fireballing contemporaries sported was a devastating second pitch (such as Rusie, Waddell, Vance, Feller, and Koufax had in their knee-buckling curves) which could turn them into strikeout artists vying for all-time K record; or simply a lack of control, whether on or off the field, which kept them from developing their talents. Transport this undeniably talented group into today's overcoached game, most of these guys would probably be relegated to the bullpen, be taught to throw the slider/split-finger, and commence with racking up KP9I records.


I'm such a presumptious guy, here is what my gut tells me about their top end velocity. No evidence whatsoever.

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.
As you admitted, you have no evidence for these claims beyond what your gut says. I would be interested, however, in knowing what has taught your gut to behave this way as regards pitching velocities of past generations. Why, for instance, such an exclusive 93+mph. club, in your book? And why such an extremely sharp fall-off in velocity from your top few guys to what you consider the rest of the league could approach? Is there a historical pitching model you can base this radical notion on?

Windy City Fan
10-12-2004, 09:55 PM
One thing that pops into my mind is how the standard for an excellent fastball has risen in even the last 15 years. Back in 1989 or so, a 90 MPH fastball was considered a good fastball. 95 or better was elite. Now, 95 MPH is good. 90 is nothing, and to be considered one of the best heaters, you better be able to hit 97 or 98 with some degree of consistency.

Look at all the pitchers that can hit 95 MPH. Just to name a few: Wood, Prior, Farnsworth, Zambrano (that's just one team), Martinez, Johnson, Percival, Benetiz, Smoltz, Wagner, Clemens (I think he can still dial it up that high), Schilling, Rivera, Colon, and I'm sure there are plenty more names that are slipping my mind right now.

I think its a reasonable assumption that in the past there wasn't that kind of overall velocity. I think the best of the best (Johnson, Young, Grove, ect.) of the past could match heaters with the pitchers of today, but as an overall general rule the velocity was slower in past years.

Bill Burgess
10-12-2004, 10:41 PM
I LOVE this kind of exchange. I think that I'm in a most solitary position on this site. Of all the posters here, I'm the only one who takes opinions of observers seriously. And I collect those observations. One such observation is that only Walter Johnson and Nolan Ryan had batters unable to adjust their swings to the pitches. Why was that?

Is there an inherent difference between Feller's ball at 98 and those of Ryan/Johnson's? I think there must be. The hitters just couldn't swing fast enough. So I deduce there must be an optical difference in that threshhold.

And I use that as a measureing device. Another measureing device is the effect/hype of Feller. He just amazed the BB world with his 98.6 pitches. I must ask myself, why did Feller's pitches create such a blitz of PR? Obviously, his speed must have had something that Ewell Blackwell's didn't.

Blackwell possessed a rather violent delivery, and came in sidearm, like a crossfire from 3rd base. The combo of his delivery/speed was extremely effective in keeping his hitters off-balance.

Cy Young, Kid Nichols, Jouett Meekin, Frank Killen, Cy Seymour, Jack Chesbro, Christy Mathewson, Chief Bender, Orval Overall, Ed Walsh, Nap Rucker, Smoky Joe Wood, Bullet Joe Bush, Rube Marquard, Marty O'Toole, Grover Lowdermilk, Dutch Leonard, Babe Ruth, Hippo Vaughn, Fred Toney, Slim Love, Firpo Marberry, George Earnshaw, Charlie Root, Pat Malone, Lefty Gomez, Dizzy Dean, Paul Dean, Johnny Allen, Van Mungo, Rex Barney, Kirby Higbee, Atley Donald, Johnny Vander Meer, Ewell Blackwell, Tommy Byrne,


Actually, I am familiar with the above guys, with these exceptions: Meekin, Killen, Seymour, O'Toole, Lowdermilk, Toney, Love, Marberry, Malone, Allen, Higbee, Donald, Byrne. And even these guys, I've heard of half of them, just am not too familiar with their work.

You are quite astute in realizing that the above guys didn't just accomplish their great work with speed. The great names, are the strike-out artists, and to be one of them, one needed the devastating off-pitch. Like Rusie, Waddell, Mathewson, Vance, Feller, Pascual, Koufax, Ryan.

The group you compiled, most of them DID have a credible off-pitch. Just not on the level of the Rusie, Waddell crowd.

Your group with the good off pitch included Ruth, Young, Chesbro, Walsh, Mathewson, Root, Gomez, Dean. And these are only the ones of whom I've heard of their spitballs, curves. Actually, I believe that all the rest must have had other pitches, or else they wouldn't have lasted. No one can survive the ML without an off-pitch. Except Walter Johnson. And he had a little wrinkle, which allowed him to not throw all fastballs. And even concerning fastballs, there is your best fastball, and your eased off fastball. Which serves as another off-pitch. Not quite a change-up, but somewhere in between.

I also didn't mean to convey that there was a stark drop-off between the few pitchers I mentioned and everyone else. Firstly, I suspect that before 1920, many of the very best ballplayers never found their way into the MLs. Some were black, others never got discovered in the sticks, some simply never played baseball.

I also believe that, down through the decades, players grew larger, their arms stronger, and their techniques more refined. The emergence of coaching helped young guys avoid injuries. After 1950, the emergence of relievers, allowed pitchers to throw harder, since they needn't save themselves for 9 full innings.

So, for these and other reasons, Feller's 98.6 mph got enormous PR in '37, due to sheer brute speed, whereas, today, 98.6 will get you your tryout, but you better make a good impression after that. You will need to bring your A game; and that means your location, your pitching smarts, and your off-pitch.

Bill Burgess

HitchedtoaSpark
10-13-2004, 07:11 AM
One thing that pops into my mind is how the standard for an excellent fastball has risen in even the last 15 years. Back in 1989 or so, a 90 MPH fastball was considered a good fastball. 95 or better was elite. Now, 95 MPH is good. 90 is nothing, and to be considered one of the best heaters, you better be able to hit 97 or 98 with some degree of consistency.

Look at all the pitchers that can hit 95 MPH. Just to name a few: Wood, Prior, Farnsworth, Zambrano (that's just one team), Martinez, Johnson, Percival, Benetiz, Smoltz, Wagner, Clemens (I think he can still dial it up that high), Schilling, Rivera, Colon, and I'm sure there are plenty more names that are slipping my mind right now.
*Cough* (http://www.baseball-fever.com/showpost.php?p=207162&postcount=4)

Despite the fairly recent trend in overclocking scoreboard radar guns, and the impression it seems to have wrought, scouts' standards for ranking quality fastballs still hasn't changed after all these years.

"There are two basic models of radar guns used to clock the speed of fast balls. The Jugs Speed Gun (Fast Gun) will pick up the speed of the fast ball after it has traveled 3.5 feet and the Raglan (Slow Gun) will pick up the speed after the ball has traveled 40-50 feet. A fast ball will lose 8 mph from the time it leaves the pitchers hand to the time it crosses home plate. The JUGS speed Gun is usually 3-4 mph faster than the Raglan. The average major league fast ball is 88-89 mph on a JUGS Speed Gun and 84-85 mph on the Raglan. Scouts will rarely if ever sign a pitcher who does not throw at least 85 mph on the JUGS Speed Gun."

and this from a "What MLB Scouts Look For" article:


"The following fastball velocities are Major League Baseball pitcher ratings

Very Above Average 94+ mph
Above Average 92 - 93 mph
Average 89 - 91 mph
Below Average 87 - 88 mph
Very Below Average 85 - 86 mph

And then this, the scores normally used by scouts on their scouting sheets:

"The numbers below were compiled by Andy May from information he obtained from the MLB Scouting Bureau. We thank Andy for giving WebBall permission to reprint them from his site.

Scale Velocity
8 98 mph +
7 93-97 mph
6 90-92 mph
5 88-89 mph
4 85-87 mph
3 83-84 mph
2 82 mph - "

HitchedtoaSpark
10-13-2004, 07:23 AM
Again, thanks to you guys for your intelligent responses, and no ludicrous claims about pitchers of the past throwing batting-practice fastballs in-game. However, for those advocates that may be reading, I would like to address this conceit, as well as other aspects of this argument, in the following post.



HitchedtoaSpark’s Reasons why pitchers were throwing with just as much velocity in the old days as they are now.

1. There is no physiological reason to support the assumption that pitchers are throwing faster now than they were 20/50/100 years ago.

One that is pointed out is the increased physical stature in players over the last several generations. While it is true that, in general, pitchers (and players) have gotten increasingly taller with each generation, this means little since the model fireball pitcher over the past 100+ years and even today has been, with few exceptions, a rather mid-sized fellow—6’-6’4”: Cy Young (6’2”), Amos Rusie (6’1”), Rube Waddell (6’2”), Ed Walsh (6’1”), Walter Johnson (6’2”), Dazzy Vance (6’2”), Lefty Grove (6’3”), Dizzy Dean (6’2”), Bob Feller (6’), Johnny Vander Meer (6’1”), Sandy Koufax (6’2”), Bob Gibson (6’1”), Tom Seaver (6’1”), Steve Carlton (6’4”), Nolan Ryan (6’2”), Dwight Gooden (6’2”), Roger Clemens (6’4”), David Cone (6’1”), Mark Wohlers (6’4”), Eric Gagne (6’2”), etc. Of course, exceptions on the tall side exist—Don Drysdale (6’5”), Sam McDowell (6’5”), J.R. Richard (6’8”), Randy Johnson (6’10”), Kerry Wood (6’5”)—but then so do shorter examples—Kid Nichols (5’10”), Smoky Joe Wood (5’10”), Ron Guidry (5’11”), Pedro Martinez (5’9”), Billy Wagner (5’8”)—the most recent examples of which display a height well within the stature of even the smallest starting pitchers 100 years ago, and a dominance of today’s much taller ML product which puts paid to the idea that pitchers of more modest stature cannot challenge the gun achievements of their more generously-statured peers.

Another oft-cited rebuttal is the claim that today’s weight training programs have given today’s moundsmen pitching arms of a strength superior to their predecessors. The problem with this claim is that there exists no evidence whatsoever that weight training increases pitching velocity. While I’m sure than many, if not most, recognize the importance of weight training in helping their pitchers build endurance, there’s not a pitching coach in the majors today who believes that it can do anything to help their charges’ fastballs. Most weight training is designed to build your maximum strength—the maximum amount of weight that you can lift—not absolute strength—the maximum amount you can lift at the maximum amount of speed; a.k.a., explosive strength—or muscle elasticity, which are the type of strength components that go into pitching velocity. Leo Mazzone, perhaps MLB’s most respected pitching coach, has gone on record regarding building velocity by saying that there is “simply no replacement for picking up a ball and throwing it.” To reiterate, there has not been one iota of evidence produced which shows that weight training increases pitching velocity.


2. Simple physics and Babe Ruth

In Robert K. Adair’s famous tome, The Physics of Baseball, we learn that the faster the pitch coming in, the greater energy it contains. Therefore, the heavier the bat needed to “reverse” the power of the pitch and send in rocketing toward the outfield fence. Conversely, the slower the pitch (batting practice), the less energy it contains; and therefore, the lighter the bat needed to provide the extra energy needed to drive the ball for distance (look at fungo-hitting, for instance). This simple physics lesson provides us with a lot of insight into the batter-pitcher paradigm, and allows us to draw several conclusions which seem to be very much in line with those subscribed to by today’s batters. After all, they typically bring their lightest bat to batting-practice, and consequently hit their farthest drives during this pre-game exercise.

And yet, if one believes in-game fastballs of, say, 80 years ago were the equivalent of today’s batting-practice pitches, how does one account for Ruth? During his prime years of the 1920’s, Ruth used bats between 54-42 oz. in-game—far heavier than anything seen in today’s game, much less batting-practice. And yet, research of the most painstaking type by home run expert Bill Jenkinson has established that Ruth was the greatest (furthest and most consistent) distance hitter of all-time. In 1921, for instance, it is an established fact that Ruth hit at least one 500-ft. home run in each of the eight American League parks. During this season, Ruth was typically employing 50-54 oz. war clubs. If the simple physics lesson above teaches us anything, it is that no one should be able to hit the ball as far with much heavier bats as other similarly-powered sluggers do with conversely lighter bats against pitches of relatively equal, low velocity; for one cannot swing the heavy bat with as much velocity as the light bat. And yet, if one subscribes to the theory that in-game fastballs of 80 years ago were the equivalent of today’s batting-practice pitches, then one must accept that Ruth could literally defy physics. The rejoinder, “Imagine how far he might have hit him had he used the same weight of bat that today’s sluggers use!” would be missing the point; for, according to the physics model above, it should have already been impossible for Ruth to have hit them as far as he did with the hefty bats he used. According to the model above, he would have had to have already been using much lighter bats to have been able to remain such a prodigious and consistent distance hitter in this would-be era of batting-practice pitches.

Of course, a more logical conclusion to this seeming-conundrum would be that the in-game pitches Ruth was hitting were traveling much faster than batting-practice velocity. In fact, the faster one assumes the pitches were traveling, the more credible Ruth’s distance achievements become; as it would accord with the demonstrated physics model Adair outlines in The Physics of Baseball, and the one which experience has taught us. For instance, concluding that Ruth’s May 7, 1921, 500+-ft. blast off Walter Johnson, which sailed over Griffith Stadium’s 457-ft. centerfield wall high into the trees behind, was hit off of a 95+-mph. fastball makes immensely more logical sense according to the demonstrated physics models than believing Johnson’s victimized pitch was little more than ~80-mph. At this lower speed, Ruth would have had to have provided the lion’s share of the energy himself—something he just would not have been able to do swinging his 50+ oz. war club (unless, again, we are willing to accept that Ruth had far greater bat velocity than any hitter in history; a model I’m less willing to accept as logical). Indeed, as mentioned above, the faster we assume Johnson’s pitch was, the less “superhuman” Ruth becomes. As for me, I’m more willing to believe that Ruth’s distance hitting was the beneficiary of some realistically fast, “energy-loaded” pitching over the superstitious conclusion that Ruth was simply “superhuman” (amazing, yes; superhuman, no).
In conclusion, respect of the very science involved in these paradigms demands a conclusion in line with the one scientifically laid out; and, therefore, the common sensical one.


3. Evidence in the form of batter injuries suffered at the hands of yesteryear’s fireballers.
Experience helps us to recognize that pitches thrown at batting-practice speed, the pedigree of velocity often and recklessly attributed to pitchers decades ago, cannot cause serious bodily injury to the batter 60’6” away. Yet, positively legion are the instances of serious bodily injury, and even compound fracture, caused by errant(?) pitches thrown by yesteryear’s moundsmen. Amos Rusie caved in the skull of Orioles shortstop Hughie Jennings and left him in a brink-of-death coma for four days after connecting one of his legendary heaters with Jennings’ noggin in the year 1892. Though this particular injury was “achieved” with the pitcher’s throwing distance a little more than 50 feet away from the batter, the moving back of the pitcher’s proximity to the batter to 60’6” wasn’t enough to prevent the same thing from happening to a young major-leaguer named Artie Ball six years later, also a victim of a Rusie fastball to the skull. In Ball’s case, he never played another ML game. Perhaps just as frightening as a Rusie fast one inside was Walter Johnson’s “hisser,” as a rookie named Jack Martin could testify in 1912, when he narrowly missed certain death, taking a Johnson fastball to the jaw, shattering it in five places and losing several teeth. A year earlier, a Johnson fast one to the throwing arm of Chicago’s Lee Tannehill had ended the veteran third baseman’s career, shattering his wrist so badly that the injury permanently impaired his throwing ability. In a game in 1915, an errant Johnson pitch struck the Tigers’ Ossie Vitt in the forehead and knocked him cold for ten minutes. Impressive (and scary), until one finds out that the pitch happened to be a curveball, in which case it becomes positively amazing and terrifying (fortunately, Vitt was OK). On May 25, 1937, player-manager and future-HOFer Mickey Cochrane had his skull fractured in three places by an errant Bump Hadley heater. Cochrane was be in a coma for ten days, and would never play again. Though accounts of serious bodily injury occurring at the hands of yesterday’s fireballers are, as I said, legion, I believe the point has been made so I’ll leave it at that for now. Lest we forget, the only death that has yet occurred on a ML diamond was at the hands of submarine fireballer Carl Mays, who crushed Ray Chapman’s skull with a high and inside fastball on August 16, 1920. A pitch thrown at so-called batting practice speed could not have caused such damage, in the case of Mays/Chapman, as in the case of the other instances of serious injury caused by a pitched ball.

4. Evidence in the form of yesteryear’s throwing contests
Finally, we have hard evidence that players of as much as 140+ years ago were throwing with velocities very comparable to today’s, in the form of throwing distance contests which were held by major-league teams in days gone by. These were commonly one of the attractions of what were known as Field Days, during which the best of two meeting teams (sometimes “All-Star” teams) would compete for top prizes in several field events testing baseball athleticism. Typically, there would be three primary events: 100-yard dash (or base circuit); distance fungo; and distance throw. As with the other two, records of the throwing contestants provides us today with some extremely valuable information regarding the physical skills of players from many decades ago—perhaps even in comparison to today’s—something which would be impossible to determine otherwise.

For instance, I recall something the Anaheim Angels did about a month back at their home ballpark. It wasn’t an official Field Day, simply the feat of lining up Vladimir Guerrero behind the third base bag and having him throw it over the right field fence. An impressive throw, no doubt (~350 ft.). Yet the muscular Vlad’s heave doesn’t compare to a throw made by Honus Wagner in a Field Day event held in Pittsburgh between the Louisville and Steel City ballclubs, October 16, 1898. Because records were kept, we know that Honus Wagner made what was considered a record-breaking throw of 403 ft., 8 in. in his (successful) attempt at gaining the day’s top throwing prizes.

My research has led me to so far uncover below’s recorded instances of similar distance throws. A couple, like the alleged Tony Mullane throw, I have not yet accepted as “official” because of lack of evidence. Two more, Foxx’s and Feller’s heaves, I have included simply because of the ages at which these respective feats were achieved. (BTW, because of health concerns, pitchers were almost always excluded from these throwing events.)


Name Date Distance Place
John Hatfield ?/?/? 349 ft. ?
John Hatfield 7/9/1868 396 ft. Cincinnati
John Hatfield 10/15/1872 400 ft., 7½ in. Brooklyn
Tony Mullane ?/?/? 416 ft., 7¾ in. ?
Farmer Vaughn 6/23/1890 402 ft., 2½ in. ?
Honus Wagner 10/16/1898 403 ft., 8 in. Pittsburgh
Honus Wagner ?/?/1907 399 ft., 10¾ in.?
Larry LeJeune 10/3/1908 435 ft. Chicago
Larry LeJeune 10/12/1910 401 ft., 4½ in. Cincinnati
Larry LeJeune 10/12/1910 426 ft., 9½ in. Cincinnati
Joe Jackson 9/27/1917 396 ft., 8 in. Boston
Duffy Lewis 9/27/1917 384 ft., 6 in. Boston
Clarence Walker 9/27/1917 384 ft., 6 in. Boston
Al Nixon ?/?/? 400 ft. ?
Don Grate 9/7/1952 434 ft., 1 in. Chattanooga
Don Grate 8/23/1953 443 ft., 3½ in. ?
Glen Gorbous 8/1/1957 445 ft., 10 in. Omaha
Jimmie Foxx 5/21/1919 183 ft., 5 in. Maryland
Bob Feller ?/?/1928 275 ft. Van Meter, IW

The next step is to convert these throwing distances into velocity over 60’6”. This is done by consulting Chart 2.5 in Adair’s The Physics of Baseball, which gives us a “muzzle velocity” for each distance achieved between 200 and 500 ft.; factoring in the 8-mph. drop in velocity from the release point 55’ feet away to the plate; and accounting for an additional ~8-mph. gained by “crow-hopping” (as outfielders do before throwing). According to Chart 2.5, someone who can launch a ball ~404 ft. on the fly throws with a muzzle velocity of ~110 mph. Considering that fast pitchers lose ~8-mph. on their pitches from their release point to the plate, and subtracting the extra ~8-mph. Wagner probably gained from crow-hopping, we see that Wagner’s heave was the equivalent of a 94-mph. fastball. (Likewise, if we take John Hatfield’s 400 ft., 7½ in. throw made on October 15, 1872, we see that Hatfield could speed them in at ~92-mph.)
If we then follow the accepted model that the strongest arms in MLB have always been on the pitchers mound, we logically infer that the fastest pitchers in Wagner’s day were throwing over 95-mph—much the same as today.



In sum, it is for these four, and other reasons I have accumulated in my research that leads me to, I believe, logically conclude that pitchers were throwing with just as much velocity 20/50/100 years ago as they are today. I sincerely believe that intensive, open-minded research into matters such as these will turn up a lot of surprising things which may overturn some of the preconceived notions the baseball collective holds so jealously to today, and will benefit us in the long run. After all, if we don’t learn from history, we will be, as they say, condemned to repeat it. ;)

leecemark
10-13-2004, 07:48 AM
--I think an important point about Feller's 98.6 MPH clocling is that it came in 1946 and probably did not represent his top speed. I've read comments by Feller to the effect that when he returned from the War he started throwing the slider more and that accounted for his strikeout record in 1946. Batters simply weren't prepared to deal with a very good slider in additon to the great fastball - and a pretty damn good curve. Another comment by Feller that suggests he was not throwing as hard then, although more effectively, is that he used a very high leg kick early in his career but abandoned it after several years. The high leg kick gave him a little extra speed, but hurt his control. I'm fairly confident that had Feller been timed before the War he could have hit 100+. Also, as Hitched has mentioned, many of the pitches/pitchers who hit 100 on todays stadium guns probably would not under the more accurate conditions Feller was measured by. I would guess Grove and Johnson were at least in the high 90s and many of the notable fastball pitchers of old threw at speeds close to those of today's fireballers.

soxlady
10-13-2004, 07:54 AM
Along with his killer fastball, Rusie owned a nasty slider a la Roger Clemens. I think people were pretty relieved when he started to lose his best stuff around 1898.

Though he was an outfielder not a pitcher, Louis Sockalexis was known for heaving the ball to the plate from deep center or right in time to nail runners from third. One documented throw was measured at 414 feet! He was 5'11", big for his time though not one of the biggest. So guys were capable of lightning throws even in the 1890s.

santotohof
10-13-2004, 09:23 AM
You know what I think? I think todays TV radar guns are a lot like the distance markers at the Driving Range.I know on the course I hit my 7 iron consistently to the front of the green from the 150 marker but lo and behold at the Range that same 7 ,now hitting a beat up ball as opposed to a sorta new Pinnacle easily carries the 165 marker.That on the screws drive that travels 245 on the course is a solid 270 at the Range. I think as PT Barnum said best "A sucker is born every day"

LouGehrig
10-13-2004, 11:16 AM
Interesting. Although I appreciate your analogy, can elborate on this hypothesis of yours? I'm hoping to stimulate some more actual discussion out of the topic.

You have stimulated much discussion and my statements have been touched upon fairly well.

Today's pitchers, as a group, throw harder than those of the past only because they are bigger and stronger. There are genetic limits to speed, both speed of foot and speed of one's fastball.

There may have been and probably were as many individuals in the past who could throw 95 mph, but because they were denied the proper environmental conditions (nutrition, diet, exercise time), they never reached their genetic potential.

As conditions changed for the better, more individuals ate better, had better shelter, and more free time (which has changed in the last twenty years). More pitchers today reach their maximum fastball velocity.

The limit is a human factor. Steve Dalkowski threw harder than anyone. Using him as the upper limit, some may one day reach it but there is an upper limit.

I like your post with the four factors. I will get back to it soon.

Imapotato
10-13-2004, 10:40 PM
My .02 cents

For every argument that players today are bigger, faster and have better equipment thus can throw faster...

Look at the guys El Halo mentioned

Bartolo Colon gets winded climbing stairs...yet throws 100 mph
Billy Wagner is one of the smallest guys in MLB baseball today

So YES players of yesteryear threw FAST!

Thing is...alot of spitballs...which were not thrown fast or else they would not work, lead many to believe pitchers were slow...but a spitball is a changeup with extreme movement

Walter Johnson may have thrown 100+, for his first 10 years...he only threw a fastball...he developed a curve in his 30's

One pitch...for 10 years? You damn skippy he threw heat

Amos Rusie the same...there was a reason they moved the mound back...at 50 feet he probably threw what would seem like 110 mph, but he threw so hard he ripped his shoulder out

Smokey Joe Wood was another that threw too hard and probably reached 98-100

So Bill you are wrong.

Pitchers of Cobb's and Ruth's day were not facing 83 mph fastballs...they were facing 83 mph spitballs...which would be as deadly today as back then

Pitching has gotten WORSE...because there is too much meddling. Throw this way, pitch every 5 days...but throw 50 pitches on your 3rd off day. Too much micro managing...and many wonder why pitchers are considered better before 1970? Because they WERE.

Cy Young pitched so long, not with careful pitch counts, off days and cortisone shots and ice on his shoulder...Cy Young chopped wood...and never had a sore arm...figure that out.

Maybe they should have minro league pitchers work for logging companies if they want a long succesful career :)

soxlady
10-13-2004, 11:23 PM
Cy Young did have an iron arm but some years he had a sore ankle like Curt Schilling, which made it harder for him to push off the mound with his usual speed. For example, 1897 was an off year for him.
He also didn't drink or smoke. "Water, pure cool water, should be good enough for any man."

csh19792001
10-13-2004, 11:32 PM
\

Today's pitchers, as a group, throw harder than those of the past only because they are bigger and stronger. There are genetic limits to speed, both speed of foot and speed of one's fastball.

There may have been and probably were as many individuals in the past who could throw 95 mph, but because they were denied the proper environmental conditions (nutrition, diet, exercise time), they never reached their genetic potential.

As conditions changed for the better, more individuals ate better, had better shelter, and more free time (which has changed in the last twenty years). More pitchers today reach their maximum fastball velocity.

The limit is a human factor. Steve Dalkowski threw harder than anyone. Using him as the upper limit, some may one day reach it but there is an upper limit.

I like your post with the four factors. I will get back to it soon.

Arm strength is a god given talent. I've never read anything to suggest that it can be improved by strength training, nutrition, or any other environmental contingencies. If you have this kind of information, I'd be interested to see it.

You say there are "genetic" limits to arm strength, I say bodily limits.

janduscframe
10-14-2004, 05:01 AM
This is an outstanding thread and I can relate to what most of you say. I'd say that if you could line up a 20 year old Johnson,a 20 year old Feller,20year old Wagner and so forth. It's very much possible they would all be similar in velocity.
I agree with Windy that it wasn't that long ago that 90 was considered fast.
However, if you would randomly select a bunch of 9 man staffs from all the eras,I would guess that as a group today's would be superior. Even today's staffs probably have two or three at the bottom of the totem pole that top out at 86 or so. Years ago I'd guess you would maybe have half the staff top out that high.
The better nutrition point has already been raised. What instruction did a pitcher in the old days have? Maybe "try holding the ball like this" and maybe not much more. Look at the video advances along with computers where you can learn to pitch faster and more efficiently. One of you states that there are no known exercises to increase velocity. However there are exercises that can decrease velocity. You may remember a kid named Juan Nieves that everyone was after. He had some success. During one off season he decided he would be a better pitcher if he was stronger. He started lifting weights unsupervised. He perhaps got bigger muscles, but they were the wrong ones. He developed arm problems and quickly became history. Remember the pitchers of yesterday instead of having the help of a professional in the off season would likely be doing grunt labor to make ends meet. Lifting feed sacks and developing bulging biceps isn't likely to increase velocity, probably the opposite would occur. Ben Sheets used to top out at 93or 94.This year he was hitting 96 and 97 and these speeds were at different parks.
I think each era was probably blessed with a few born with a natural talent for throwing hard. However today's advancements should make today's pitchers overall faster.

Bill Burgess
10-14-2004, 07:32 AM
So Bill you are wrong.

Pitchers of Cobb's and Ruth's day were not facing 83 mph fastballs...they were facing 83 mph spitballs...which would be as deadly today as back then
Let's go a little slow here. I am not in trauma of "being wrong." I'm not so sure if that is the message here. Firstly, my little theory was that players improve in general each decade, from the worst to the average players. But not the top level.

I don't think that Hitched is trying to state that the bulk of the leagues pitchers threw as fast then as now. He showed a league report that stated that today's scouts don't consider a prospect to be promising if his fastball is under 87 mph.

And I don't think Hitched is contending that the leagues bulk of pitchers in the 1920's could throw that hard. I'm reading this as his contention is that a certain, select number of them could throw hard, the top level.

If I am wrong/incorrect, I am open to be corrected.

Am I reading you wrong, Hitched? If so, please re-state your position, for slow learners like me. If I have misunderstood, I'm open to listen further.

Bill Burgess

Imapotato
10-14-2004, 11:19 AM
I just won't accept that pitchers today throw faster

but Mr. Burgess...I do believe you HIT on something

Scouts do not look at a pitcher if he throws less then 87 mph fastball.

So it's not that today's pitchers throw faster, it's just supply and demand.

Yesteryear's pitchers were ALOT more developed in regards to movement and spin...and finding tricks to baffle hitters, while today it's a one dimensional game. Throw heat as a pitcher...hit HR's as a hitter...still think Bonds is on par with the greats? I mean who can't hit a 98 mph fastball with no movement...even I can do that...and I stink...plus they can't get any breaking balls near that small zone.

Another example is Billy Wagner...5'8" he throws 100 mph. Obviously size and bulk do not mean a thing. leg power and the push off the mound gives velocity.

The mound itself. Wasn't it slightly higher in the 20's? I know when the raised mound hit in the late 60's Bob Gibson and Juan Mariachal started throwing MAD heat. So old timers had the advantage of pushing off on a better mound than today.

So we can sumise....that overall

1) Today's pitchers throw faster, because it is the #1 attribute that many believe is essential to become a great pitcher...somebody forgot to tell Greg Maddux though

2) If a 5'8" 170 lbs Billy Wagner can throw 100 mph...the theory that today's players are bigger and stronger MUST be thrown out.

3) Old time pitchers had a higher mound, so that should offset #1 a bit..since they could throw 'down' at the hitter.

4) Old time pitchers threw more 'junk' and so more than likely did not throw as many fastballs as today...instead opting for legal and 'illegal' pitches.

5) Even with equipment, studies, stats and 'ease of use' Old timers were much more developed as 'Pitchers' while today's pitchers are throwers. For Example...look at our government...too many laws hinders our freedom. In baseball, too many unwritten laws on how to handle pitchers instead of letting them figure it out knowing their own style, leads to it being ineffective.

csh19792001
10-14-2004, 10:24 PM
Another example is Billy Wagner...5'8" he throws 100 mph. Obviously size and bulk do not mean a thing. leg power and the push off the mound gives velocity.

2) If a 5'8" 170 lbs Billy Wagner can throw 100 mph...the theory that today's players are bigger and stronger MUST be thrown out.

3) Old time pitchers had a higher mound, so that should offset #1 a bit..since they could throw 'down' at the hitter.

4) Old time pitchers threw more 'junk' and so more than likely did not throw as many fastballs as today...instead opting for legal and 'illegal' pitches.

5) Even with equipment, studies, stats and 'ease of use' Old timers were much more developed as 'Pitchers' while today's pitchers are throwers. For Example...look at our government...too many laws hinders our freedom. In baseball, too many unwritten laws on how to handle pitchers instead of letting them figure it out knowing their own style, leads to it being ineffective.

As to pitching speed and size-

Steve Dalkowski threw at least as hard as anyone who ever pitched- almost certainly harder, in fact. Maris, Mantle, Elston Howard, and Ted Williams all faced him and said the same thing- that they had never seen anything ever CLOSE to that kind of speed.

Dalkowski was 5'11", 170 lbs, similar to Billy Wagner, who can throw the ball 102 mph.

As I've said before, how fast/far you can throw a baseball is a natural talent, and can't be improved upon by nutrition and training. So the average size of major leaguers and the fact that they train harder today means nothing if we're just talking about radar guns. You can throw the ball 100 mph or you can't- more or less. You can't teach arm speed/coordination, and you can't teach natural foot speed either.

These are largely innate, immutable, and exhaustable/finite human athletic qualities. A ton of training might be able to make a guy who in his prime can currently top out at 95 able to throw 101, but I doubt it. And if a guy is currently getting from home-first in 3.9, I'd find it hard that "training" could make him into Ichiro- 3.4 from home-first. I see these as almost exclusively static qualities.

ElHalo
10-14-2004, 10:31 PM
Was Dalkowski ever tested with a radar gun? I've read reports that his fastball was estimated at about 108-110 mph, but I've never seen an actual radar measurement... was that after his time?

csh19792001
10-14-2004, 10:36 PM
Was Dalkowski ever tested with a radar gun? I've read reports that his fastball was estimated at about 108-110 mph, but I've never seen an actual radar measurement... was that after his time?

Unfortunately, it seems that it was after his time. But I'll listen to the HOFers, Ted Williams included, and everyone else who ever actually saw this guy close up/faced him.

http://www.sportingnews.com/archives/sports2000/players/175838.html

http://www.widewordofsports.com/Articles-016.htm

http://www.baseball-almanac.com/articles/fastest-pitcher-in-baseball.shtml

Steve Dalkowski.

“To understand how Dalkowski, a chunky little man with thick glasses and a perpetually dazed expression, became a ‘legend in his own time’...”

— Pat Jordan in The Suitors of Spring (1974).

The fastest pitcher ever may have been 1950s phenom and flameout Steve Dalkowski. Dalkowski signed with the Orioles in 1957 at age 21. After nine years of erratic pitching he was released in 1966, never having made it to the Major Leagues. Despite his failure, he has been described as the fastest pitcher ever.

Ted Williams once stood in a spring training batting cage and took one pitch from Dalkowski. Williams swore he never saw the ball and claimed that Dalkowski probably was the fastest pitcher who ever lived. Others who claimed he was the fastest ever were Paul Richards, Harry Brecheen and Earl Weaver. They all thought he was faster than Bob Feller and Walter Johnson, though none of them probably saw Johnson pitch.

Source: The Cultural Encyclopedia of Baseball, 1997.

pretorius
10-15-2004, 09:55 AM
I actually read somewhere that Dalkowski did have his pitched clocked.

The story goes that after a game I think that their was this tube and if you threw into it your MPH were clocked. Dalkowski had control problems and supposedly after a game he had just pitched in he tried for like 100 pitches to get it in the tube...and he finally succeeded. I think he was clocked at 92 MPH.

You have to take into account that I think he may have pitched before hand (cannot remember the exact story) and that it took him forever before he could get it in the tube. He played in a time before radar guns but he was clocked once at 92mph.

santotohof
10-15-2004, 10:08 AM
Never mind your baseball quote. My Dad who died in November said VER BATIM your signature. "Fought the Germans face to face, hoped the French didn't ambush us" was a derivitave. Spent 18 months " winning the peace" ( hear that John?) in Vichy France and told me that the so called liberated French were deadlier than the (his words) Huns

CyNotSoYoung
10-19-2004, 01:13 PM
Pitchers in the past were able to throw as fast as pitchers of today. No one throws at the same speed all the time but I'm sure that for any one pitch, under the same conditions (same ball, mound height, etc.), Amos Rusie, Joe Wood, Walter Johnson, Bob Feller, or anyone you care to name could throw as fast as anyone pitching today. The difference is that they didn't try to throw fast on almost every pitch in every game. Few of today's power pitchers could last a full 9 innings throwing at top speed or close to it - but of course, they don't have to because the game is different now and they know they don't have to stay out there for nine innings. With the exception perhaps of Walter Johnson, no pitcher in history could throw a full nine innings almost every time out if they were also pitching as hard as they could on every pitch. And it doesn't have to be just fastballs. Even a change up, if thrown well, uses the same arm velocity and curves, sliders, etc. take as much of a toll on the arm as a fastball -maybe even more depending on the pitcher's mechanics.

So, while batters in the past surely saw 95 mph fastballs, they didn't see nearly as many as they do today.

Bill Burgess
10-19-2004, 05:41 PM
What was the fastest pitch ever thrown during a baseball game? Who was the fastest pitcher in baseball history? Who could throw the fastest fastball? These questions, and others like it, are some of the most commonly asked items here on Baseball Almanac. They are also some of the most widely debated by historians, researchers & experts alike.

Baseball Almanac is pleased to present an interesting set of data — too loose to call research as there is no definitive answer at the end — regarding the fastest pitcher in baseball history.

The Fastest Pitcher in Baseball History, by Baseball Almanac &#169;

Document Creator: Sean Holtz of Baseball Almanac &#169;

Published: February 2003 on Baseball Almanac

Fans, researchers, historians and even the players argue all the time about who was the fastest pitcher of all-time. The most widely quoted response is Nolan Ryan, whose fastball was "officially" clocked by the Guinness Book of World Records at 100.9 miles per hour in a game played on August 20, 1974 versus the Chicago White Sox. A record that's still included in the book.

Fascinating accounts, stories, and even myths about how fast - or not so fast - a pitch has gone are common in the annals of the game. One such account allegedly took place during a Spring Training game in 1968. A rookie catcher named Johnny Bench was behind the plate and eight-year veteran Jim Maloney was on the mound. Bench continuously called for breaking balls and Maloney continuously shook him off. Frustrated, the two met at the mound where Bench bluntly said, "Your fastball's not popping." Maloney, also blunt, replied, "%*$@ you." The rookie returned to his position behind the plate and called for a curve, only to be shaken off again. Bench gave in to the veteran (who had recently strung together four consecutive seasons with 200+ strikeouts) and signaled for a fastball. Maloney delivered. Before the pitch reached the plate Bench dropped his glove and caught the ball bare-handed - or so the story goes.

Stories about the fastest pitchers in history have also appeared in the Associated Press. Radar (RAdio Detection And Ranging) guns were first introduced in 1935 and the media has covered their evolution with great interest. Two early stories about this emerging technology and its application towards baseball pitching speeds are reprinted below:

Meter to Record Feller's Speed

CLEVELAND (AP) — A series of photo-electric cells may settle all those arguments over who is the speedball king of the major leagues.

A few amateurs warmed up yesterday on a new pitching speed meter. Today it will test the salary wings of Bob Feller, and any other members of the Cleveland and Boston American loop clubs who are willing. Other American League clubs will be given a chance at it later.

John A. Crawford of the Cleveland Plain Dealer thought the idea would be useful in selection of pitching and other talents. President Alvin Bradley of the Cleveland Indians agreed and Rex D. McDill, Cleveland electronics engineer, built the machine.

"A kid pitcher has to have a fast ball to succeed in the big leagues," said Bradley, "for he can never learn how to pitch faster. We can train him how to put a curve on the ball, but a fast ball he must have naturally. This machine will tell us at once whether he has the fast ball. The same goes for an infielder."

First Miss Cappy Ogiun, a visitor from Orlando, Fla., tried her speed yesterday. Her best was 40 feet per second.

A varied assortment of men followed. The best throw was 86 feet a second, the second best 84. A man of about 60 years old did a foot for each of his years.

Sponsors recalled that back in 1917, in Bridgeport (Conn.) arms laboratory, Walter Johnson recorded 134 feet per second, Christy Mathewson 127 and "Smoky Joe" Wood 124. They used a gravity drop interval recorder.

The new meter, which gives an immediate reading which engineers said compared with standard laboratory meter accuracy, is built in a trailer. You throw into a hole two feet square. Just inside is a set of photo-electric tubes, and five feet back is another set. The device measures the ball's speed between the two points and flashes it on a scale facing the pitcher.

Source: Richmond (VA) Times Dispatch, June 6, 1939.

Smoky Joe Wood often said, "I threw so hard, I thought my arm would fly right off my body." Walter Johnson, often cited as the fastest throwing pitcher in Major League history by experts, believed that Wood was faster than himself and once said, "Mister, no man alive can throw a baseball harder than Joe Wood." Both were mentioned in the Meter to Record Feller's Speed article above and the unit of measure was feet per second. Modern measurements / clockings are done in miles per hour in the United States and kilometers per hour in Canada & Japan. Baseball Almanac is pleased to provide you with a velocity calculator which you can use to convert these various formats and compare pitchers - both modern and historical.

Baseball Almanac &#169;
Velocity of a Pitch Calculator

Miles / Hour Centimeters / Sec Feet / Hour

Feet / Min Feet / Sec Kilometers / Hour

Kilometers / Min Knots Meters / Min

Meters / Sec Miles / Min Velocity of Light

So how fast was Feller? The Meter to Record Feller's Speed article mentioned it was specifically going to examine his pitching speed. Satchel Paige, who could bring on the heat himself, believed Feller was the fastest and told teammates, "If anybody threw that ball any harder than Rapid Robert, then the human eye couldn't follow it." Feller once mentioned that he was clocked at 104 mph at Lincoln Park in Chicago. He also claimed he was clocked at 107.9 mph in a demonstration in 1946 at Griffith Stadium. At the Aberdeen Proving Grounds he was measured using the ever-popular speeding motorcycle test, once used in 1914 with Walter Johnson who reached 99.7 mph, and Feller reached 98.6 mph. The results of the test from the "new meter" were reported the day after the initial article:

Humphreys' 'Hard' Un' Faster Than Feller's, Meter Shows

CLEVELAND (AP) - Three Boston Red Sox threw a baseball 122 feet a second into a new photo-electric pitching meter yesterday. Three Cleveland Indians could do only 119 feet.

Pitchers were not included in yesterday's test but "unofficially," Bob Feller of Cleveland threw three balls into the meter from a distance of 20 feet. The best mark he recorded was 119 feet. His less-touted teammate, pitcher Johnny Humphreys, recorded 127 feet. There will be a contest for pitchers later.

Jimmy Foxx, Jim Tabor, and Roger Cramer made it a clean Boston sweep with a first-place tie in yesterday's fielders contest.

The best the Indians could do was a tie at 119 feet by Ben Chapman, Julius Solters and Jim Shilling.

Cleveland men who developed the speed meter said the only comparable scientific marks were made in 1917. Walter Johnson threw the ball 134 feet a second, Christy Mathewson 127 and "Smoky Joe" Wood 124. Their speeds were shown by a gravity drop interval recorder.

Source: Richmond (VA) Times Dispatch, June 7, 1939.

The results from the "contest for pitchers" have never been found. Since machine testing was rare and uncommon we are left with a scientific void about historical flamethrowers. Early comments about fastball pitchers can be found in many old newspapers and offer some interesting insight into who was considered fastest during this early era:

"He (Lefty Grove) was the fastest pitcher who ever lived." - Ford Frick

"Smokey Joe (Williams) could throw harder than all of them." - Satchel Paige in Blackball Stars (1988)

"You can talk about the speed of Walter Johnson or Amos Rusie, but I doubt that either had any more speed than (Chief) Bender when he was at his best. He was not physically as strong as some others, but he had long, tapering fingers and a peculiar whip to his arm that certainly drove that baseball through the air." - Eddie Collins

"You can't hit what you can't see." - Joe Tinker talking about Rube Marquard.

Another fascinating account of a fastball pitcher, who is often credited as one of the fastest ever, was described in great detail by baseball historian Jonathan Fraser Light. The "twist" here is this pitcher never appeared in a Major League game!

Steve Dalkowski.

“To understand how Dalkowski, a chunky little man with thick glasses and a perpetually dazed expression, became a ‘legend in his own time’...”

— Pat Jordan in The Suitors of Spring (1974).

The fastest pitcher ever may have been 1950s phenom and flameout Steve Dalkowski. Dalkowski signed with the Orioles in 1957 at age 21. After nine years of erratic pitching he was released in 1966, never having made it to the Major Leagues. Despite his failure, he has been described as the fastest pitcher ever.

Ted Williams once stood in a spring training batting cage and took one pitch from Dalkowski. Williams swore he never saw the ball and claimed that Dalkowski probably was the fastest pitcher who ever lived. Others who claimed he was the fastest ever were Paul Richards, Harry Brecheen and Earl Weaver. They all thought he was faster than Bob Feller and Walter Johnson, though none of them probably saw Johnson pitch.

In 1958 the Orioles sent Dalkowski to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, a military installation where Feller was once clocked. Feller was clocked at 98.6 mph. Dalkowski was clocked at only 93.5, but a few mitigating factors existed:

1) Dalkowski had pitched in a game the day before, so he could be expected to throw 5-10 mph slower than usual;

2) there was no mound to pitch from, which Feller had enjoyed, and this would drop his velocity by 5-8 mph;

3) he had to pitch for 40 minutes before the machine could measure his speed, and he was exhausted by the time there was a reading. Other sources reported that the measuring device was a tube and that he took a long time to finally throw one into the tube.

It was estimated that Dalkowski’s fastball at times reached 105 mph. Dalkowski was not physically imposing, standing only 5'8" and wearing thick glasses. He had legendary wildness, which kept him out of the Major Leagues. In 995 minor league innings, he walked 1,354 batters and struck out 1,396. He walked 21 in one minor league game and struck out 21 in another. In high school he pitched a no-hitter while walking 18 and striking out 18.

He threw 283 pitches in a complete game against Aberdeen and once threw 120 pitches in only two innings. He played in nine leagues in nine years.

In 1963 for Elmira he finally started throwing strikes. During spring training in 1964, Dalkowski was with the Major League club. After fielding a sacrifice bunt by pitcher Jim Bouton in spring training, Dalkowski’s arm went dead and he never recovered. He drifted to various jobs and landed in Bakersfield, California, where he was arrested many times for fighting.

He once threw a ball at least 450 feet on a bet. He was supposed to throw the ball from the outfield wall to home plate, but he threw it well above the plate into the press box. He once threw a pitch so hard that the catcher missed the ball and it shattered an umpire’s mask. Dalkowski was the basis for wild fastball pitcher Nuke LaLoosh in the movie Bull Durham.

Source: The Cultural Encyclopedia of Baseball, 1997.

Radar guns now routinely measure the modern pitcher's performance and the magic fastball number is now set at 100 miles per hour. Scoreboards in nearly every ballpark - including High Schools - now flash pitch speeds for the world to see. Breaking the 100 mph plateau makes news that can often travel to the front office at nearly the same speed. "You should see the scouts, " said Braves speed gun handler Jim Guadagno, "They're like kids with new toys when they see that 100 light up on their guns. Three digits! Nobody else in the league can do that." The pitcher Guadagno was referring to was Mark Wohlers and since then other hurlers have joined this unique fraternity:

"100 MPH Club"

Billy Wagner 101 MPH at Turner Field on July 30, 2003
Photo by Clinton Plaza

In Order by Fastest Observed Speed
(Listing Has Only The Fastest Known Speed by the Pitcher )

Pitcher
Radar Speed
Date
Location

Mark Wohlers
103.0 mph
1995
Spring Training

Armando Benitez
102.0 mph
2002
Shea Stadium

Randy Johnson
102.0 mph
07-09-2004
SBC Park

Robb Nen
102.0 mph
10-23-1997
Jacobs Field

Rob Dibble
101.0 mph
1992
Candlestick Park

Kyle Farnsworth
101.0 mph
05-27-2004
Minute Maid Park

Eric Gagne
101.0 mph
04-16-2004
SBC Park

Jose Mesa
101.0 mph
1993
Cleveland Stadium

Guillermo Mota
101.0 mph
07-24-2002
Qualcomm Stadium

Billy Wagner
101.0 mph
04-16-2004
Citizens Bank Park

Billy Wagner
101.0 mph
06-11-2003
Yankee Stadium

Nolan Ryan
100.9 mph
08-20-1974
Anaheim Stadium

Josh Beckett
100.0 mph
10-12-2003
Pro Player Park

Roger Clemens
100.0 mph
10-10-2001
Yankee Stadium

Francisco Cordero
100.0 mph
07-07-2004
Jacobs Field

Jorge Julio
100.0 mph
09-16-2004
Skydome

Ben Sheets
100.0 mph
07-10-2004
Miller Park

J.R. Richard
100.0 mph
1976
Candlestick Park

C.C. Sabathia
100.0 mph
2002
Jacobs Field


The list above IS NOT a comprehensive breakdown of every pitcher to ever surpass the 100 mph barrier, but rather a list of pitchers we have seen on ESPN Game of the Week, SportsCenter, or in person eclipsing the century mark. If you want to share an another or provide an accurate game date for those we have in the chart please send us an email.

So who is the fastest pitcher in baseball? Baseball Almanac honestly does not know. Major League Baseball does not recognize radar speeds as an official statistic. The Elias Sports Bureau, Stats Inc and The Sporting News are all highly respected resources who publish some form of record book every season, yet none of them recognize any pitcher as the fastest ever. Nobody really knows, but we do hope this article has shed some light on the topic and at least provided you with additional material to argue with your friends about.

Bill Burgess

SHOELESSJOE3
10-22-2004, 08:53 PM
What was the fastest pitch ever thrown during a baseball game? Who was the fastest pitcher in baseball history? Who could throw the fastest fastball? These questions, and others like it, are some of the most commonly asked items here on Baseball Almanac. They are also some of the most widely debated by historians, researchers & experts alike.

Nice piece of work Bill. Pardon my deletion of a good bit of your post no need to take up space and besides your closing paragraph just about wraps up the answer. I don't believe anyone can prove who was or is the fastest. We can probably assume that there would be only a small difference in the top 10 fastest there is or ever was in the game.

LouGehrig
10-23-2004, 03:52 PM
Steve Dalkowski.

Bill should support the contention since it is based on newspaper reports and anecdotal information, which ARE valid in many instances.

Bill Burgess
10-23-2004, 06:20 PM
Lou,

But I HAVE given qualified support. I even ventured the speculation that the very best/fastest of the pitchers of the long ago past, Johnson 101, Rusie 99, Feller/Grove 98, Waddell 94, Vance 93, were as fast as today's fastest.

My only reservation is that the long ago lacked the depth of today's velocity artists. And I think that the long article I did not write, but found on the internet, bore out my premise. There have been a number of modern pitchers who have hit over 100 mph on the radar gun, and that didn't happen in the long ago, except by Walter Johnson, and possibly Amos Rusie.

So I feel that I am nicely positioned between the 2 positions.

Bill Burgess

DoubleX
10-25-2004, 03:50 PM
I wouldn't be surprised if on the average, modern pitchers throw harder than their counterparts of yesteryear. I say this because physical improvement in other sports has been plainly recorded through the generations. Take track for example - the average finishing time in say the 100 Meters in recent Olympics is over a second faster than it was in the first Olympics, and this number keeps improving. So it seems only natural for the next generation to want to train to run faster and throw harder than previous generations. This is exaceberated by the fact that sports culture has developed so much in the past century. Growing up with sports, trying to achieve and surpass the known feats is something that society has increasingly grown up with.

SHOELESSJOE3
10-26-2004, 05:41 AM
I wouldn't be surprised if on the average, modern pitchers throw harder than their counterparts of yesteryear. I say this because physical improvement in other sports has been plainly recorded through the generations. Take track for example - the average finishing time in say the 100 Meters in recent Olympics is over a second faster than it was in the first Olympics, and this number keeps improving. So it seems only natural for the next generation to want to train to run faster and throw harder than previous generations. This is exaceberated by the fact that sports culture has developed so much in the past century. Growing up with sports, trying to achieve and surpass the known feats is something that society has increasingly grown up with.

Not sure if thats a fair comparison, not sure if any conclusion could be reached with a high degree of certainty.Throwing a baseball and comparing advancements made in track events.

In track events it's understandable that over decades shorter time will result. Improvments in nutrition, training methods and better equipment. Even the smallest seemingly insignificant change in running shoes and better track surfaces could figure in shaving fractions of a second, especially when linked with the better nutrition and advanced training methods.

Pitching, throwing a ball, not much can be done to make that much of a difference. Maybe if on average pitchers are bigger today that could result in harder throwers, but to what degree, hard to measure.

Bill Burgess
10-26-2004, 07:53 AM
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.

People like W. Johnson, R. Johnson, Koufax, had a gift. Heftier arms, may or may not have made them faster.

But in general, if all baseball players were committed to stay in as perfect a shape, work hard in the weight room, use body building apparatus, they probably might optimize their performances. But increasing pitching speed is slippery. Perhaps they might have longer careers, if their legs stayed in shape. I don't remember any speed kings who had body builders arms.

But if the Babe had shared the committment of Bonds, Sosa, McGuire, Canseco, to stay trim in the off season, run, work out with weights, it's hard to imagine what he might have accomplished. Who's to say? He did last until 40, abuse and all.

Bill Burgess

johnny
01-20-2006, 02:41 PM
Bill,
On the Bob Feller article I posted he discusses meeting Walter Johnson and hearing Walter Johnson say that he was probably a mite faster than Rapid Robert. Which was a lot for the notoriously modest Mr. Johnson. But I can cite no higher authority than Satchel Paige "who could bring on the heat himself, believed Feller was the fastest and told teammates, "If anybody threw that ball any harder than Rapid Robert, then the human eye couldn't follow it."

Well as you pointed out, umpire Bill Evans himself said he couldn't follow some of Mr. Johnson's fastballs. Ergo, if Satchel was correct...okay okay it's not absolute proof per se but it helps to tie the thread up a bit.

Rapid Robert also said he felt that Walter Johnson was the best righthanded pitcher in history.

leecemark
01-20-2006, 02:44 PM
--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?

Honus Wagner Rules
01-20-2006, 03:04 PM
There are few ways to measure velocity, but every once in a while, there occurs other ways. For example:

Batters facing Walter Johnson often alleged that they could not actually see the ball. Umpire Billy Evans admitted that even he couldn't tell if the ball was crossing the plate or not. Quite an admission.
I doubt the hitters who said this mean it in a literal sense, not being able to see the ball all (Did Johnson fold three dimensional space to hide the ball?). When major league hitters say they can't "see" the ball they usually mean the can't track the ball out of the pitcher's hand quick enough to adjust to the pitch. They do literally "see" the ball but they can't hit because they began to track the ball from the pitcher too late to do anything about it.



Batters often admitted that they couldn't tell if they were swinging over the ball, under the ball, or anything. Even Babe Ruth told of his first AB against Johnson in 1915. He says he stepped into the batters box. Bam, bam, bam. Back to the dugout. Easiest victim Walter ever had. Babe never swung, never saw any pitches. But he heard something swish by. He told the ump that the pitches sounded high.
I believe it's been proven that once the ball is within 10 feet of homeplate the human eye simoplay cannot track the ball. So hitters are basically swing at where they "think the ball will be.



Another batter, I think it was Jimmie Dykes was, was batting agaisnt Walter and his arm comes down. Jimmie is waiting and the ball never arrives. Then the catcher is returning the ball. Jimmie turns to the ump, with questioning eyes. The ump tells him to take his base. Huh? says Jimmie. The ump then informs him that if he doesn't think the ball clipped him, feel his bill cap.

Jimmie does and the bill is turned all the way around. Jimmie turns white. Never even saw a ball! Only Nolan Ryan was that fast in modern times.
No one ever alleged they couldn't even see a ball. So I equate Johnson with Ryan. Ryan was timed over 100 mph.
This sounds like a "tall tale" to me Bill. Why is it that the cather could "see" the ball enough to catch and Jimmie Dykes can't "see" the ball at all?



Feller was time at 98.6. Body temperature. Many equated Feller with Grove. But no one ever claimed that they couldn't follow Feller's pitches. So I measure Johnson over 100. With Ryan.

When Feller came along in '37, he electrified the BB world, with his 98.5 mph velocity. So that was the top rate for the BB world at the time.

Today, so many pitchers register over 98 on the radar gun, that I stopped counting. Rod Dibble, JR Richards were both over 100. Didn't create a stir then. But it would have in 1940. So that is one way to measure velocity by era. Today, I suspect that Clemens, Johnson, Martinez, Rivera, and lots of others could go over 100 perhaps several times a game.

If that were possible in 1938, they would have created the same stir as Feller did in '38.

Bill Burgess
There one problem with Feller's 98.6 mph pitch. It wasn't in a game. I think you are refering to the test done by the U.S. Army, right? And supposedly they clocked The Big Train at 99 mph using something called a "pendulum device", whatever that is. I've been trying to find out the details of Johnson's 99 mph pitch. Here's some good info on some "fast" pitchers.

http://www.baseball-almanac.com/articles/fastest-pitcher-in-baseball.shtml

Then there's the story of one Steve Dalkowski...



Steve Dalkowski.

“To understand how Dalkowski, a chunky little man with thick glasses and a perpetually dazed expression, became a ‘legend in his own time’...”

— Pat Jordan in The Suitors of Spring (1974).

The fastest pitcher ever may have been 1950s phenom and flameout Steve Dalkowski. Dalkowski signed with the Orioles in 1957 at age 21. After nine years of erratic pitching he was released in 1966, never having made it to the Major Leagues. Despite his failure, he has been described as the fastest pitcher ever.

Ted Williams once stood in a spring training batting cage and took one pitch from Dalkowski. Williams swore he never saw the ball and claimed that Dalkowski probably was the fastest pitcher who ever lived. Others who claimed he was the fastest ever were Paul Richards, Harry Brecheen and Earl Weaver. They all thought he was faster than Bob Feller and Walter Johnson, though none of them probably saw Johnson pitch.

In 1958 the Orioles sent Dalkowski to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, a military installation where Feller was once clocked. Feller was clocked at 98.6 mph. Dalkowski was clocked at only 93.5, but a few mitigating factors existed:

1) Dalkowski had pitched in a game the day before, so he could be expected to throw 5-10 mph slower than usual;

2) there was no mound to pitch from, which Feller had enjoyed, and this would drop his velocity by 5-8 mph;

3) he had to pitch for 40 minutes before the machine could measure his speed, and he was exhausted by the time there was a reading. Other sources reported that the measuring device was a tube and that he took a long time to finally throw one into the tube.

It was estimated that Dalkowski’s fastball at times reached 105 mph. Dalkowski was not physically imposing, standing only 5'8" and wearing thick glasses. He had legendary wildness, which kept him out of the Major Leagues. In 995 minor league innings, he walked 1,354 batters and struck out 1,396. He walked 21 in one minor league game and struck out 21 in another. In high school he pitched a no-hitter while walking 18 and striking out 18.

He threw 283 pitches in a complete game against Aberdeen and once threw 120 pitches in only two innings. He played in nine leagues in nine years.

In 1963 for Elmira he finally started throwing strikes. During spring training in 1964, Dalkowski was with the Major League club. After fielding a sacrifice bunt by pitcher Jim Bouton in spring training, Dalkowski’s arm went dead and he never recovered. He drifted to various jobs and landed in Bakersfield, California, where he was arrested many times for fighting.

He once threw a ball at least 450 feet on a bet. He was supposed to throw the ball from the outfield wall to home plate, but he threw it well above the plate into the press box. He once threw a pitch so hard that the catcher missed the ball and it shattered an umpire’s mask. Dalkowski was the basis for wild fastball pitcher Nuke LaLoosh in the movie Bull Durham.

Source: The Cultural Encyclopedia of Baseball, 1997.

johnny
01-20-2006, 03:05 PM
--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.

Honus Wagner Rules
01-20-2006, 03:05 PM
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.

johnny
01-20-2006, 03:08 PM
Blondes and redheads from barstools, swallowing rib eye steaks, and hydrating himself with some of Jacob:laugh Ruppert's tasty brew.

Brian McKenna
01-20-2006, 04:04 PM
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

DoubleX
01-20-2006, 04:28 PM
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.

Bill Burgess
01-20-2006, 05:12 PM
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

johnny
01-20-2006, 06:11 PM
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
01-20-2006, 06:30 PM
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?

Sultan_1895-1948
01-20-2006, 06:40 PM
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.

johnny
01-20-2006, 06:51 PM
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!

Sultan_1895-1948
01-20-2006, 07:11 PM
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.

Bench 5
01-20-2006, 07:42 PM
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.

mac195
01-20-2006, 08:16 PM
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.

johnny
01-20-2006, 09:21 PM
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?'

leecemark
01-21-2006, 12:49 PM
--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.

csh19792001
01-21-2006, 12:53 PM
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?

csh19792001
01-21-2006, 12:55 PM
--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?

leecemark
01-21-2006, 01:06 PM
--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.

Bill Burgess
01-21-2006, 01:12 PM
--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.

Imapotato
01-21-2006, 01:58 PM
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

csh19792001
01-21-2006, 02:04 PM
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.

leecemark
01-21-2006, 02:07 PM
--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.

SABR Matt
01-21-2006, 02:11 PM
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.

Bill Burgess
01-21-2006, 02:36 PM
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

Bench 5
01-21-2006, 05:53 PM
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.

johnny
01-21-2006, 06:44 PM
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.

leecemark
01-21-2006, 07:07 PM
--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.

johnny
01-22-2006, 10:06 AM
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.

Sultan_1895-1948
01-22-2006, 12:06 PM
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.

Imapotato
01-22-2006, 12:39 PM
--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

Sultan_1895-1948
01-22-2006, 05:06 PM
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


All of us have genetically determined amounts of fast and slow twitch muscle fibers in our muscles. It's possible that Cy had a genetic gift of a higher percent of slow twitch (endurance) fibers, and that his railroad work simply helped to build strength. In the end you have one mean machine.

bbforlife
02-18-2006, 02:48 PM
The argument between the great athletes of the past and the athletes of present time has been something that I have debated about for years.

The thing that strikes me is that the argument of the past athletes being anywhere close to the present athletes is only a matter of statistics.

I read all of the comments of this post regarding pitching speeds of the past, and I am totally surprised at the comments because the evidence is very obvious when you look at statistics that we can accurately measure.

All we have to do is go on a site like www.infoplease.com/ipsa/A0114920.html, and review the Olympic statistics that were carefully recorded of every athletic event since the late 1800's.

For example:
1912 2004 High School

100M Running 10.8 9.85 10.13
200M Running 21.7 19.79 20.13
High Jump 6'4" 7'8 3/4" 7'7"
Javlin 198'11" 283'9" 259'10" (Similar to throwing)
100MFS Swim 1:03.4 48.17 50.12

Understandably, these are a few examples across the board that show the progression of statistics that we can measure and in all cases we have consistantly made our times and measurements better through years.

It is obvious that current athletes are much faster, quicker, stronger, and bigger than athletes of the past.

So what I don't understand is, why would throwing a ball be any different than all the other sports that we have measured throughout the years?

John Wooden has stated that the athletes of today are much better than the athletes of the past. (paraphased) He is one person who, now is in his 90's , has seen the progression of the era's.

In my opinion, the only realistic answer to the question is, to use objective, measurable data. Objective, measureable data does not include, blown up fish stories.

Brian McKenna
02-18-2006, 03:11 PM
regardless which ever way this argument swings - i don't think the level of competiveness has changed drastically one way or the other

Honus Wagner Rules
02-18-2006, 04:16 PM
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.
Goog point Matt. The ball can effect velocity in two ways.

1) Mass- a heavier ball is more diffucult to throw at high speed because one must overcome a higher inertia. (think of throwing a tennis ball vs a steel ball of the same size)

2) The outer surface of the ball. A "rougher" ball would disrupt the airflow around it more and thus effect velocity.

And yes, I'm a nerdy engineer by profession. :D

Bill Burgess
02-18-2006, 07:14 PM
Would raised seems have an effect?

Bench 5
02-18-2006, 07:37 PM
Understandably, these are a few examples across the board that show the progression of statistics that we can measure and in all cases we have consistantly made our times and measurements better through years.

It is obvious that current athletes are much faster, quicker, stronger, and bigger than athletes of the past.

So what I don't understand is, why would throwing a ball be any different than all the other sports that we have measured throughout the years?


Olympic results have improved quite a bit over the past 100 plus years. But one thing to keep in mind is that the level of participation in the Olympics back then was not even close to the level of participation now. A lot more countries participate as well as hundreds and hundreds more athletes. Also, back then it was a true amateur contest. Now it's all about money. Athletes train all year and most are sponsored. If track and field was as big back then and had the participation levels as we have now, I think that the top results would have been better. They wouldn't be ad good as they are now but there wouldnn't be as big of a difference.

In the case of baseball, I think there's an upper limit to how fast a human being can throw a ball. The first reliable test to determine how fast the best pitcher can throw showed that the fastest pitcher from the late 30's and 40's could throw as hard as the fastest today. I don't think it's a stretch that players from even earlier eras could hit the 100 MPH level as well.

Sultan_1895-1948
02-18-2006, 08:15 PM
Would raised seems have an effect?

A positive one on curves, and a negative one on fastball, but probably not too much.

johnny
02-18-2006, 08:58 PM
Olympic results have improved quite a bit over the past 100 plus years. But one thing to keep in mind is that the level of participation in the Olympics back then was not even close to the level of participation now. A lot more countries participate as well as hundreds and hundreds more athletes. Also, back then it was a true amateur contest. Now it's all about money. Athletes train all year and most are sponsored. If track and field was as big back then and had the participation levels as we have now, I think that the top results would have been better. They wouldn't be ad good as they are now but there wouldnn't be as big of a difference.

In the case of baseball, I think there's an upper limit to how fast a human being can throw a ball. The first reliable test to determine how fast the best pitcher can throw showed that the fastest pitcher from the late 30's and 40's could throw as hard as the fastest today. I don't think it's a stretch that players from even earlier eras could hit the 100 MPH level as well.

I wonder if it is because baseball is so much a game of skill as opposed to pure athletism.

Imapotato
02-18-2006, 09:13 PM
Olympic results have improved quite a bit over the past 100 plus years. But one thing to keep in mind is that the level of participation in the Olympics back then was not even close to the level of participation now. A lot more countries participate as well as hundreds and hundreds more athletes. Also, back then it was a true amateur contest. Now it's all about money. Athletes train all year and most are sponsored. If track and field was as big back then and had the participation levels as we have now, I think that the top results would have been better. They wouldn't be ad good as they are now but there wouldnn't be as big of a difference.

In the case of baseball, I think there's an upper limit to how fast a human being can throw a ball. The first reliable test to determine how fast the best pitcher can throw showed that the fastest pitcher from the late 30's and 40's could throw as hard as the fastest today. I don't think it's a stretch that players from even earlier eras could hit the 100 MPH level as well.


True but we are bigger, faster, stronger today because of the food we eat and the chemicals in them

However, that has effected bones, and (forgot the medical term) muscles, those are the muscles that generate leg speed, strength

Those type of muscles do not give any significant improvement in the motion of throwing a baseball

Imapotato
02-18-2006, 09:15 PM
Oh and here is something to ponder

Because the older balls were less stiched and had rougher surfaces, they break on the ball especially with all the illegal pitches would be sharper, would they not?

Something to keep in thought when discussing the game was inferior back then, why they used bigger bats...etc.

Honus Wagner Rules
02-18-2006, 11:07 PM
Would raised seems have an effect?

Yes, raised seams create turbulent airflow around the ball and possibly increase the air friction on the ball. A perfectly smooth ball would have far less turbulent flow.

Honus Wagner Rules
02-18-2006, 11:09 PM
I wonder if it is because baseball is so much a game of skill as opposed to pure athletism.
Baseball has much more in common with golf than track, footbal, and basketball. It's a game of skill.

Sultan_1895-1948
02-18-2006, 11:30 PM
I wonder if it is because baseball is so much a game of skill as opposed to pure athletism.

It's always a hoot when baseball is compared to other sports, especially olympic events. Relating the improvements in track and field to baseball, only short-changes our National Pastime for what it truly is. Beyond all other games it's a game of strategy, heart, mental strength/quickness, reflexes, and technique perfected through failure.

Do size and strength matter in baseball. They sure do now, especially with how the game is setup. There was a time when a strong mind meant more than a strong bicep, and where the will to win was harshly tested inning by inning. Not so anymore. Baseball stands the test of time because of it's intricate details, and to somehow compare that to an "event" which is based on doing something as simple as running, is insulting and humorous altogether.

Todays baseball players are like pro motocross riders who were never financially strapped and always rode on the best bikes, with the best parts, had the best technicians using the best tools. Actual rider wise, there isn't much difference from a pro rider compared to some amateurs. Different opportunities and open doors create different results in the end, plain and simple.

If we stripped down some of these players today; take away the millions, take away the helmet, body armor, light bat, short fields, strike zone, no throwing inside approach, jets, best food, hotels, workout equipment, etc.. if we strip them down and even take away the evolution of knowledge they benefit from; they aren't better. In fact, they're worse if we let them keep their premadonna, lackadaisical approach.

Bill Burgess
02-19-2006, 07:28 AM
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.

I just don't think bigger, stronger, faster applies to pitching, because pitching has always depended on technique more than sheer strength. Otherwise, weight-lifters / body-builders would be great pitchers.

Bill

Bill Burgess
02-19-2006, 07:30 AM
I'm reposting a former post, since it was relavant.

http://www.baseball-fever.com/showpost.php?p=209795&postcount=33

digglahhh
02-19-2006, 09:47 AM
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.

johnny
02-19-2006, 10:11 AM
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.

bbforlife
02-19-2006, 08:01 PM
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??????

digglahhh
02-19-2006, 09:00 PM
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.

Sultan_1895-1948
02-19-2006, 09:29 PM
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.

Imapotato
02-19-2006, 10:10 PM
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

bbforlife
02-19-2006, 10:31 PM
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...

Bench 5
02-19-2006, 10:36 PM
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.

Bench 5
02-19-2006, 10:45 PM
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.

Sultan_1895-1948
02-19-2006, 10:58 PM
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.

Bill Burgess
02-19-2006, 11:10 PM
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.

Sultan_1895-1948
02-19-2006, 11:19 PM
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.

Bill Burgess
02-19-2006, 11:32 PM
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