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

  1. #126
    Quote Originally Posted by Honus Wagner Rules View Post
    Then show us the evidence! Don't just assert it or make comments like "We all know the old timers could throw 100 mph." I don't want to "know" that way. How do you "know".
    I think the burden is on YOU to prove that there weren't pitchers who threw in the 90's back then.

    So when did this see change happen? There are pitchers today that throw upper 90's and a great many pimple faced high schoolers that can throw in the 90's as well. Pitcher's existed in the 60's who could do the same, such as Ryan, Gibson, or Koufax, and I'm sure there were plenty others. So it must have happened before the 60's.



    Maybe people suddenly figured out pitching mechanics and started eating their Wheaties in the 1940's when Hal Newhouser came around. They said he could throw in the low 80's...but it was only whispered; nobody at the time dare think that a pitcher could throw above 80, lest they be shunned by their friends and colleagues for thinking crazy thoughts.





    Perhaps this change happened when Bob Feller was born? He was born in 1918, so maybe there was some excess gas from the European battlefields that wafted over the ocean and settled into the genes of humans that made them not only physically capable of throwing in the 90's, but intelligent enough to figure out how to optimize velocity.





    Or maybe it happened when Dizzy Dean was born in 1910. He was noted for having an exceptional fastball. Personally, I think it only topped out around 82-83, given that the fastball enabling gas hadn't come over yet.





    Dazzy Vance was born in 1891, almost a full 30 years before humans were being born that were capable of throwing in the 90's. Thus, my guess is that he threw in the mid 70's, which is about what I was throwing in High School with zero training. I probably could have struck out 262 men in 1924 too with my blazing 70's fastball.


    *Though it looks like slow motion, this is actually Vance's pitching motion in real time.

  2. #127

    Food for Thought

    I think this debate is starting to drift. We need to stop and redefine what exactly we're debating here. I think it is simply, were pitchers 100 years ago capable of throwing in excess of 95-100 mph? With that said, I would like to make a few comments.

    Regarding difficulty of the era: While It think it is obvious pitchers had it easier during the deadball era, the argument is whether pitchers could throw at a maximum velocity equal to that of modern pitchers. Pitchers 100 years ago could definitely get through a game easier without throwing their hardest thanks to the mushy nature of the ball, but that doesn't relate to the question at hand.

    Regarding size: This really doesn't make a huge difference. While there are a few out there like Randy Johnson who are just so tall that it must give him an edge in gaining velocity, for the most part a few inches here or there isn't going to make a world of difference. Tim Lincecum and Pedro Martinez are two good examples. They're both about 170 lbs, 5"11' and they can (Or could, in Pedro's case) throw serious heat. Yes, the average pre-WWII player was shorter in stature, but not by a huge margin, and not enough to make a great difference. Many deadball pitchers were at least within four inches of the modern average. If you wanted to argue that height made all the difference than why isn't Randy Johnson throwing 110 mph and Yao Ming throwing 400 mph? Final conclusion: Height is not a major factor in pitching speed (Although it isn't totally irrelevant).

    Regarding player accounts: There was talk earlier of accounts from old timers who claimed to have been unable to see some of Johnson's fastballs. Well, while I'm for the side saying these guys could throw just as hard as their modern peers, some credit must go to the fact that a baseball in the deadball era lasted much longer during a game than a modern one. in 1920 Ray Chapman was hit in the head and killed because of a dirty ball that he couldn't see coming, and that ball was thrown by Carl Mays, not known to be a spectacular fireballer if I remember right.

    Regarding Training: Yes, training is helpful and does improve pitching ability, and velocity to a lesser extent. This being noted, it's seems common sense to me that pitching itself is the best exercise to improve pitching velocity and pitching ability in general. I would say that pitchers 100 years ago did much more of this kind of training than modern pitchers. They grew up with nothing to do but work (Equivalent to strength training) and play baseball. Practice makes perfect I say.

    So, here we are. What are we to make of this? Well, I for one don't think that all the stories regarding Johnson can be blamed on dirty baseballs. There are accounts from Johnny Evers, Casey Stengel, and dozens more claiming they never saw pitches that Johnson threw. So, taking this in mind with my earlier post (Which I think just got buried amidst the Wagner_rules/shoeless joe debate) it is probably safe to say that while deadball era pitchers did not throw as many fastballs as modern pitchers, they could rear back and throw them just as hard as modern guys when they wanted to. I also want to emphasize that although Walter Johnson is the old timer all of us deadball-promoters throw forth first as a modern-style fastballer, he wasn't the only one who could hit the mid and high nineties. Johnson himself, when asked if Joe Wood threw as hard as him, stated: ďJoe Wood? No man alive throws harder than Joe Wood can.Ē Thatís directly from the mouth of the man himself (I think itís worth noting that Joe Wood was of similar build to Lincecum). Johnson is only heralded so often because he won so many games, threw so many shutouts and was a fan favorite. There are less famous pitchers whose speed was compared to Johnsonís. Lefty Grove was known as an incredible fastball pitcher, Rube Waddell Was as well. There is even a section in the book ďThe Old Ball GameĒ that suggests Matthewson could throw with near Johnson-like speed (Although I doubt it. Itís likely a review from a biased fan). In regards to talking about gaining speed through delivery, Johnson had a great delivery. Pitchers like Lincecum and Koufax came over the top, using their arms like catapults to get the top speed on their pitches. Johnsonís delivery worked on the same principle. If youíve ever had the privilege to watch old video of Johnson pitching, youíll notice that his arm doesnít come around his body until heís planting his foot and turning his body to its fullest. This would allow his arm to work like a sling and create incredible whip to his pitches. His power comes not from his arm, but by transferring energy through his body into his arm. There is no wasted motion and he gets a long stride and good arm extension. His arm is essentially doing very little of the work, which not only generates great speed, it allowed him to extend his career twenty-one years. Look at the video I've attached to the bottom of this post to see what Iím talking about. I've also included video of Nolan Ryan next to Dizzy Dean. While these two had basically similar deliveries, is is widely accepted (and rightfully so I think) that Ryan threw significantly faster. Note how much Ryan and Dean are relying on their shoulder and arm to do the brunt of the work.

    By the way, I did manage to find the page in Johnson's biography regarding throwing speed. You can read it if you follow the link I've pasted here:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=0ca...um=3&ct=result

    Essentially it shows that Johnson, while pitching in street clothes and at an angle not in line with his regular throwing motion, AND without throwing his hardest, Johnson threw 82 mph.

    My final verdict: While the old guys didn't throw as many fastballs as modern pitchers, they could cut one loose with the best of the modern pitchers when they needed to. There are likely more pitchers throwing high-velocity heat now than 100 years ago, but that doesn't mean the deadballers couldn't do if they really wanted to.

    I would assume that this debate over pitching velocity is just a reworded way of asking whether olde-tyme or modern pitchers werebetter, and in the end I say regardless of who was throwing the fastest, Tim Wakefield does pretty darn good with a 65 mph fastball. Speed does not equal greatness. Old timers may not have used the heat as much, but maybe that's because they were smarter. Cy Young probably wouldn't have lasted through 749 complete games if he'd thrown his arm off every game like they do today. Maddux is the best modern pitcher in my estimation, and he relies on cunning, not speed. Heck, look at Warren Spahn too. At any rate, I think this last paragraph is kind of off topic, so don't consider this an argument in any way. Just look at everything I stated before this last paragraph and tell me what you think.

    To get a good handle on pitching from generation to generation, I recommend reading up on the greats of each generation. Walter Johnson has the biography I've already mentioned, sandy Koufax has a splendidly written bio titled "Lefty's Legacy" that I highly recommend. there are even bios out there on guys like Rube Waddell (What a character, I wish he were pitching today!) and Christy Matthewson. You can find them all on Amazon. Arm yourselves with knowledge! One request- Please donít bring that darn javelin thing back up.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  3. #128
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    Quote Originally Posted by OleMissCub View Post
    I think the burden is on YOU to prove that there weren't pitchers who threw in the 90's back then.
    OMC, that's not how debates work. If an assertion is made, (old time pitchers could throw 100 mph) then it up to those asserting this to show evidence. It's not logically possible to prove something didn't exist. I'll I'm asking for is solid evidence that other pitchers besides Walter Johnson could throw that hard. Is that too much to ask?
    Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

  4. #129
    Quote Originally Posted by Honus Wagner Rules View Post
    OMC, that's not how debates work. If an assertion is made, (old time pitchers could throw 100 mph) then it up to those asserting this to show evidence. It's not logically possible to prove something didn't exist. I'll I'm asking for is solid evidence that other pitchers besides Walter Johnson could throw that hard. Is that too much to ask?
    First off, I never said they could throw 100 mph.

    I said:

    As far as velocity goes, there are probably more guys who throw harder today than there were back in the day merely on the basis of talent pool and conditioning.

    However, I'm certain there were some deadball pitchers who threw as hard as anyone does today.
    Furthermore, you are asking for something that you know there is no way your opponents can prove. Speed guns didn't exist back then, so there is nothing we can do to "prove" that they threw such and such speed. What we can do is look at their pitching motions and recognize the same mechanics that allow people to throw with great velocity today.

    What I want to know is how it is possible that there were 16-17 year olds that I played with and against in high school and legion ball that threw 90mph with no advanced training other than their beer gutted hillbilly coach, but professional pitchers wouldn't be able to do it 100 years ago.
    Last edited by OleMissCub; 07-22-2008 at 12:07 AM.

  5. #130
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    Quote Originally Posted by deadball-era-rules View Post
    One request- Please donít bring that darn javelin thing back up.
    Why is that? Are we going to be dictating what topics can and cannot be mentioned in an open forum, now? My whole point is that throwing a javelin is very similar to throwing a baseball. Here's a video of world class javelin throwers.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMtrM...eature=related

    Their throwing motions look very familiar no? So if javelin throwers can improve their velocity over the decades it seems odd to argue that somehow pitchers could not improve their velocity over the decades as well. I wonder how fast a javelin thrower could throw a baseball?

    To restate my position if it's not clear. I believe that the hard throwers in the game today as group throw harder and more often than the pitchers of the Dead Ball era. Sure there were guys like Walter Johnson and Bob Feller but they were the extreme exception. Even so we have no idea if they ever threw 100 mph in a game. We just don't. To assert that they did as if it a known proven fact is just silly to me. We do know Feller throw a baseball at 98.6 mph and that Johnson was supposedly clocked at 99 mph. However, throwing a baseball at 99 mph is not the same thing as pitching a ball 99 mph off of a pitching mound for a strike facing a major league batter. All these 100+ mph pitches for Ryan, Zumaya, Johnson, J.R. Richard, etc. were in actual game conditions, something that neither Johnson nor Feller was ever recorded of doing.
    Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

  6. #131
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    Quote Originally Posted by OleMissCub View Post
    First off, I never said they could throw 100 mph.

    I said:



    Furthermore, you are asking for something that you know there is no way your opponents can prove. Speed guns didn't exist back then, so there is nothing we can do to "prove" that they threw such and such speed. What we can do is look at their pitching motions and recognize the same mechanics that allow people to throw with great velocity today.

    What I want to know is how it is possible that there were 16-17 year olds that I played with and against in high school and legion ball that threw 90mph with no advanced training other than their beer gutted hillbilly coach, but professional pitchers wouldn't be able to do it 100 years ago.
    Then I guess we misunderstood each other. I never said the Dead Ball guys couldn't pitch 90 mph. I was referring to pitching at 98-100 mph.
    Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

  7. #132
    Ok, I guess you two just want to go at it instead of trying to help one another learn something. I'm trying to bring forth some points to talk about but you guys aren't interested. I'll find another topic to discuss.

  8. #133
    Quote Originally Posted by Honus Wagner Rules View Post
    Then I guess we misunderstood each other. I never said the Dead Ball guys couldn't pitch 90 mph. I was referring to pitching at 98-100 mph.
    Well, there aren't many guys that get it up that high today either.

    There is no way of proving the speed of the great pitchers of the old days, and you know this. It's like as if someone said "I don't believe humans had the ability to smile before 1900 because no photographs exist of people doing it."

    Just use your logic. Nolan Ryan was throwing his tremendous heat in the late 60's. Steve Dalkowski threw just as hard, and probably harder, than Ryan did during the 1950's. 40 years before Dalkowski were the deadballers. 40 years before us right now was Nolan Ryan. Do you honestly think that humans can change in 40 years time?

    I don't see why you have to have strong physical evidence (which you know doesn't exist) on something that simple logic should explain. If a human could do something 50+ years ago, why wouldn't they also be able to do that same thing just 30 years before that?

    If not, when did this miraculous ability to throw 98-100 first occur?

  9. #134
    Quote Originally Posted by deadball-era-rules View Post
    Ok, I guess you two just want to go at it instead of trying to help one another learn something. I'm trying to bring forth some points to talk about but you guys aren't interested. I'll find another topic to discuss.
    What are you barking at me for? I was in agreement with everything you said in your post, thus I had no reason to comment on it.

  10. #135
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    You guys are debating something with little utility.

    What we SHOULD be debating is..."Did old pitchers ROUTINELY throw 95+ the way today's pitchers do?"

    And the answer to that question is not likely to be yes. I think there are athletic freaks in every generation...from the dawn of man, people have been capable of things no one else around them were. I think the difference between 1900 baseball and 2000 baseball is MASS PRODUCTION. In 1900, if you were a freak, you could throw it hard. If not...you probably couldn't. Today, the expertise, intelligence and training of hundreds of athletic coaches, families and players is producing 95 mph relief pitchers like Ford produces cars. Today, it's not at all surprising that even the worst teams have three or four guys who can throw it 95+ with good movement (command and good pitch selection may be lacking...LOL). That is almost definitely not going to be true in 1920.

    The other difference is that old time pitchers who WERE freaks who could throw hard naturally didn't choose to throw hard on the vast majority of their pitches. They only reached back for their best fastball in high leverage situations and against the best hitters. Today, game conditions force pitchers to throw hard at least half the time...if not more. Max effort pitchers fill every bullpen in baseball. The starters throw harder and burn out more rapidly. Injury rates are increasing. But the game is much tougher for the the average batter.

  11. #136
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    Quote Originally Posted by SABR Matt View Post
    You guys are debating something with little utility.

    What we SHOULD be debating is..."Did old pitchers ROUTINELY throw 95+ the way today's pitchers do?"
    I think the answer to that question is a definite "no." Having said that, the more important question, imo, is "Does throwing hard constitute being a better pitcher?" The answer to that is also, a definite no." While having extreme velocity will allow you to get away with many more mistakes, essentially just raising your margin for error, considering the lack of time the batter has to see, read and react, it is not a requirement for being a great pitcher.

    Another important point you bring up, is that even though some pitchers had 92-96 MPH ability, why in their right minds would they bring that in routinely, given the state of the game. In a pinch, sure. On certain counts, sure. As a show-me pitch from time to time, sure. But not consistently. That would be foolish.

    When Babe came along, and he stepped into the box, it became an immediate pinch. It became a situation of, you better get this guy out or simply give him a pass. And passing him became all the more dangerous once Lou came around. It must be taken into consideration, that the best, most dangerous hitters back then, faced pitchers who were indeed throwing with their best stuff, and not coasting. So you can say that a guy's OPS+ wouldn't be as high if he played today. But the counter point to that, is that he was already receiving more focus/energy from the pitcher, than most other hitters, which, imo, off-setts some of that OPS+ talk.

    I don't like the javelin comparison. Different motion. You don't use the same muscles. You use your legs and torso much more after having sprinted forward.

    There were all-time outfield arms several decades ago, and those weren't the guys being scouted primarily for their arms. The pitchers were. I see no reason to believe pitchers back then didn't have the ability to throw in the mid-90's, and would have done it consistently, had the game style called for it. Today, pitchers have to give every ounce on every pitch, for the most part, because hitters have never enjoyed more comfort. The environment has never been geared for pitchers to fail more than today. Lucky for them, most hitters take screwed up approaches and slightly decrease an otherwise huge margin for error, allowing some pitchers to thrive.
    "Everyone left here, but I remain at my post, documenting my sports writers and photos. I don't do Ty Cobb anymore. I did for him everything I could do. Work will live on. Personalities will fade.

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  12. #137
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    Velocity isn't REQUIRED for good pitching to occur, no. It does, however, raise the general level of pitching quality in the game when the average velocity of each pitch increases. And IMHO, the "pitch-to-contact" mentality of the deadball era made pitchers considerably less important to the outcome of games and therefore less valuable.

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    I've posted this elsewhere on BBF, but I had the pleasure of seeing RJ pitch in person at Fenway a while ago, and he was hitting 93-94 with a motion that reminded me very much of film I've seen of Walter Johnson...fairly "low energy", wasn't bring the back leg around at all. As the game progressed, he started bringing the back leg around and throwing a tad harder...he was also out of the game after 6-7 or so innings.
    I firmly believe that a physical prodigy such as WJ could easily have thrown high 90s as a young man with his low energy delivery (as far as the lower body is concerned)...but, as SABR Matt says, the man was expected to finish every game he started, so he would have paced himself and those super fast pitches would have been few and far between. As a result, they would have been mind boggling to the hitters when they were thrown. Christy Mathewson emphasizes pace and only throwing at full effort when absolutely required in "Pitching in a Pinch", and even ridicules pitchers who are dumb enough to throw "hard" on every pitch.
    Guys like Vance, Grove, and Feller...well, they have "modern" high energy deliveries and I'm sure they threw hellacious fastballs, but I'm not sure if they paced themselves in quite the same way. I would guess that they did to some degree to be able to throw so many CGs, but I'm not sure. Can't we ask Mr. Feller directly somehow? I'm sure he'd share his opinions...
    "I throw him four wide ones, then try to pick him off first base." - Preacher Roe on pitching to Musial

  14. #139
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sultan_1895-1948 View Post
    I don't like the javelin comparison. Different motion. You don't use the same muscles. You use your legs and torso much more after having sprinted forward.
    It's a poor example, not the least because technological changes in the javelin itself and thrower's running track, plus stylistic overhauls in throwing mechanics have made it a whole different ballgame:

    http://www2.iaaf.org/TheSport/sport/jt/intro.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Javelin...ion_and_throws


    Quote Originally Posted by hellborn
    Christy Mathewson emphasizes pace and only throwing at full effort when absolutely required in "Pitching in a Pinch", and even ridicules pitchers who are dumb enough to throw "hard" on every pitch.
    On the other hand, such a remark indicates that there were indeed pitchers at that time who were throwing hard on every pitch; and there's no reason to suppose only mere journeymen were following this practice. Walter Johnson confessed that prior to 1910 he went all out on every pitch, and Joe Wood expressed a similar description of his fireballing style.

    I'll repeat from my OP that, four years later, I still see no good, defensible reason why hurlers as much as 100 years ago or more were not or could not bring the heat like today's mound aces do under normal game conditions.
    A swing--and a smash--and a gray streak partaking/Of ghostly manoeuvres that follow the whack;/The old earth rebounds with a quiver and quaking/And high flies the dust as he thuds on the track;/The atmosphere reels--and it isn't the comet--/There follows the blur of a phantom at play;/Then out from the reel comes the glitter of steel--/And damned be the fellow that gets in the way.                 A swing and a smash--and the far echoes quiver--/A ripping and rearing and volcanic roar;/And off streaks the Ghost with a shake and a shiver,/To hurdle red hell on the way to a score;/A cross between tidal wave, cyclone and earthquake--/Fire, wind and water all out on a lark;/Then out from the reel comes the glitter of steel,/Plus ten tons of dynamite hitched to a spark.

    --Cobb, Grantland Rice

  15. #140
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    Quote Originally Posted by HitchedtoaSpark View Post
    ...

    On the other hand, such a remark indicates that there were indeed pitchers at that time who were throwing hard on every pitch; and there's no reason to suppose only mere journeymen were following this practice. Walter Johnson confessed that prior to 1910 he went all out on every pitch, and Joe Wood expressed a similar description of his fireballing style.

    I'll repeat from my OP that, four years later, I still see no good, defensible reason why hurlers as much as 100 years ago or more were not or could not bring the heat like today's mound aces do under normal game conditions.
    I think that Christy was implying that such dumb pitchers wouldn't make the majors. It is interesting that '10 was Walter's first big year...ERA+ went from 109 to 183, CGs from 27/36 to 38/42, record from 13-25 to 25-17, Ks from 164 to 313 (in about 74 more innings pitched, to be fair). If that was really when WJ stopped throwing full effort on every pitch, maybe that's good evidence that Christy's advice was good for that time.
    But, it also shows that Walter probably was gunning high 90s heat in there pitch after pitch for a great many complete games for a few years, which backs up your point. Maybe it just didn't work so great for him due to the fatigue it brought on.
    Last edited by hellborn; 07-22-2008 at 08:28 AM. Reason: clarification
    "I throw him four wide ones, then try to pick him off first base." - Preacher Roe on pitching to Musial

  16. #141
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    Quote Originally Posted by hellborn View Post
    I think that Christy was implying that such dumb pitchers wouldn't make the majors. It is interesting that '10 was Walter's first big year...ERA+ went from 109 to 183, CGs from 27/36 to 38/42, record from 13-25 to 25-17, Ks from 164 to 313 (in about 74 more innings pitched, to be fair). If that was really when WJ stopped throwing full effort on every pitch, maybe that's good evidence that Christy's advice was good for that time.
    Such pitchers did, however, reach, and even thrive in the majors (and still do) following this approach. (The anecdotal evidence is overwhelming.) In the context of how atrocious his batting support was, and how heavily his decimated staffmates leaned on him that year, Johnson's 1909 season is actually a tremendous achievement.

    Nonetheless, Christy's advice was indeed absolutely good for the time; and still is today, despite the fact that changes in usage patterns have rendered this practice not nearly as critical as it used to be.
    A swing--and a smash--and a gray streak partaking/Of ghostly manoeuvres that follow the whack;/The old earth rebounds with a quiver and quaking/And high flies the dust as he thuds on the track;/The atmosphere reels--and it isn't the comet--/There follows the blur of a phantom at play;/Then out from the reel comes the glitter of steel--/And damned be the fellow that gets in the way.                 A swing and a smash--and the far echoes quiver--/A ripping and rearing and volcanic roar;/And off streaks the Ghost with a shake and a shiver,/To hurdle red hell on the way to a score;/A cross between tidal wave, cyclone and earthquake--/Fire, wind and water all out on a lark;/Then out from the reel comes the glitter of steel,/Plus ten tons of dynamite hitched to a spark.

    --Cobb, Grantland Rice

  17. #142
    It wouldn't surprise me. Players and people in general, are just bigger, stronger, and healthier today and pitchers have better conditioning targeted at maximizing their arm's potential (not to mention are working hard at early age with focused training to develop their pitching). Plus, with things like radar guns, there is something palpable to reach for - instead of just trying to throw hard, you're trying to shoot for a specific number. Also, hitters used much heavier bats way back when, which could suggest that they didn't need as much bat speed as today to catch up to pitches.

    I'd actually be surprised if pitchers say from 100 years ago threw as hard on the whole as pitchers today. Doesn't mean that no one back then could throw as hard as modern pitchers, but on the whole, I would think there's more velocity now.

  18. #143
    I agree. I think that there are a lot more high velocity fastballs being thrown today that 50/100 years ago. I don't, however, think that pitchers 100 years ago were incapable of hitting the high 90s. I think that even with pitchers throwing more high-speed fastballs today, if I was a manager of an MLB team I would be more worried to see Lefty Grove warming up in the opposing teams bullpen than a lot of modern pitchers.

    This argument is similar to trying to argue whether players during the deadball era could hit for great power since there were far less home runs. Everyone knows that would be an outrageous claim. Of course Wagner and Cobb could swat the ball as far as many of the top modern sluggers, but there's no way to prove it 100 percent.

  19. #144
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    Quote Originally Posted by leecemark View Post
    --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+.
    I remember reading an anecdote by Billy Goodman (AL batting champ, 1950), probably in an old issue of Baseball Digest, concerning his first AB against Feller in 1947 as a pinch-hitter.

    After not even seeing the ball, he went back to the bench and heard veterans saying, "What a shame Feller has lost his fastball."

    Goodman supposedly said, "Whatever he lost, he doesn't NEED!" Apparently Feller still possessed a very impressive fastball 10 years after his major league debut, and after 4 years off as a gunner on a battleship.

  20. #145
    Quote Originally Posted by deadball-era-rules View Post
    I agree. I think that there are a lot more high velocity fastballs being thrown today that 50/100 years ago. I don't, however, think that pitchers 100 years ago were incapable of hitting the high 90s.
    I would amend this to say that some pitchers could hit the 90s, but there were certainly many pitchers who could make it in that era with control and change of speed. Since pitchers could be successful throwing various speed stuff from 60-80, I think that most pitchers of the deadball era could not throw close to 90. Basically there was more variety of pitching styles.

    What batters FACED on average was pitchers who probably topped out in the low 80s.

  21. #146
    If y'all haven't seen it yet, check out my video for Bob Feller. At the end of it you get to see Feller make Greenberg look absolutely stupid with his fastball thrown from the stretch.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAm5fwb1Psw

  22. #147
    Quote Originally Posted by SABR Matt View Post
    And IMHO, the "pitch-to-contact" mentality of the deadball era made pitchers considerably less important to the outcome of games and therefore less valuable.
    But they individually pitched so much more than today's pitchers that the 3 day rest, 3 or 4 day rotation guys at least as valuable as today's 5 man, 5 day rest guys.

    In fact, "at least" isn't even accurate; the greatest pitchers of the pre-1920 era were certainly more valuable and important to their teams in comparison to today's greatest pitchers.

  23. #148
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    In terms of total wins created, yes that's true Chris.

    In terms of impact on any ONE game...no they weren't.

    Yeah...when you start 50 or 70 games for your team, you're going to amass a lot of raw value...but in terms of per-game impact...the pitching position as a whole was markedly less valuable.

  24. #149
    Quote Originally Posted by THE OX View Post
    I remember reading an anecdote by Billy Goodman (AL batting champ, 1950), probably in an old issue of Baseball Digest, concerning his first AB against Feller in 1947 as a pinch-hitter.

    After not even seeing the ball, he went back to the bench and heard veterans saying, "What a shame Feller has lost his fastball."

    Goodman supposedly said, "Whatever he lost, he doesn't NEED!" Apparently Feller still possessed a very impressive fastball 10 years after his major league debut, and after 4 years off as a gunner on a battleship.
    I very clearly remember an interview with Ted Williams on his ESPN Sportscentury hour episode commenting that not only had Feller not lost much on his fastball, but his fastball had actually gained movement in 46' as compared to 41'. And yes, he also developed the slider after WWII.

    I think his 1946 performance very clearly indicates that this was the case!!

  25. #150
    Quote Originally Posted by SABR Matt View Post
    But in terms of per-game impact...the pitching position as a whole was markedly less valuable.
    Sure, but impact "in any one game" is vastly less important than a pitcher's impact per season or over the course of a career.

    Moreover, the "per-game" impact is diluted given that pitchers throw far fewer games in the long run today!! We've gone from the 3 man rotation (Young, Alex, Johnson), to the four man rotation, which lasted until the mid 1970's, with the advent of the five man rotation.

    That's why Bill James arbitrarily chose to "halve" all the Win Share totals of 19th century pitchers. If he hadn't, every WS list would be completely dominated by those guys.

    Code:
    Career Win Shares
    Cy Young 634
    Walter Johnson 536
    Pete Alexander 476
    Roger Clemens* 440
    Christy Mathewson 426
    Warren Spahn 412
    Greg Maddux 392
    Lefty Grove 391
    Tom Seaver 388
    Phil Niekro 374
    Eddie Plank 361
    A majority of these guys pitched before integration, and only all were from eras where pitchers were more valuable to their teams (see: deadball, 60's-70's) than today.

    Of the top 10, only two are listed from the last 25 years. Clemens prolonged his career artificially twice with steroids; this is well documented. He wouldn't even be on this list without the massive doses of artificial help. OTOH, Maddux's career appears legit; no damning anecdotal or circumstantial evidence has come to light. And, given his skill set, he could/would be the best pitcher in the world in any era. He deserves a spot on this list.

    The point is, though, look at Maddux, with his 23 years and 5000 IP in the major leagues and how much less value he has accumulated compared to Alexander, who pitched a very similar # of innings.

    On top of the vastly disparate workloads they had to endure, when you also include the fact that deadball era pitchers not only had to field frequently, but were required to field well due to the level of infield plays/hits/bunts, it just solidifies that they were much more important then than they are today. A pitcher like RJ or Pedro can be an atrocious fielder and get away with it given the conditions.

    Going 5-6 every 5 days is nothing compared to going 8-9 every third day, while also being called in to relieve on short rest on your days off (Big Train, Alexander, and the other greats of his day were also asked to do this, in addition).

    You mentioned starts. Well, Maddux averaged 33 stars per season over his career, which is actually 1 more than Alexander did in his. Of course, he completed 22 games/season and Greg 5/season.

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