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Thread: Does height matter for MLB pitchers?

  1. #1

    Does height matter for MLB pitchers?

    I began to wonder about this after noticing how much taller pitchers making it to the big leagues are getting. I mean the average pitcher these days is much taller the average hitter. And alot of the ones who are listed at 6'5+ also happen be some of the most effective, like Beckett, Halladay, Haren, R. Johnson, Verlander, Papelbon, Sabathia, C. Young, etc. And so my question is is how does height factor into a pitcher's success? Or is it all just a coincident that they happen to be that good despite the height advantage (if it is an advantage at all)?
    Last edited by rsuriyop; 08-13-2009 at 05:23 PM.
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    Well, look at Tim Lincecum. I think that he's 5'9" or something like that, and pitches better than most others.
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    I know it allows you to fall off the mound more. Randy Johnson could fall off the mound by a few feet which allowed him to be more over powering to hitters.

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    I think long fingers definitely is important. Tall pitchers tend to have long fingers. Pedro was a midget by MLB pitcher standards but had really long fingers.

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    I think it has more to do with hand size. Smaller the person, smaller the hand. Less like to get that nice snap off of the fingertips.
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  6. #6
    I'm guessing it has something to do with leverage? When the pitching mound was taller, pitchers' numbers were better.

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    Size matters.

    G Man

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    Quote Originally Posted by sturg1dj View Post
    I think it has more to do with hand size. Smaller the person, smaller the hand. Less like to get that nice snap off of the fingertips.

    That's a big part of it of course. Maybe the biggest. And the leverage thing is there too.
    On the plus side it makes for greater speed with less effort due to long body, legs and arm.
    This can be seen easily in golf. If anyone remembers the specialized super long hitter's, they'll remember they used extra long shafts (total body length)on their clubs (throwing hand) to generate higher clubhead speed.
    It's akin to the difference between a shorter pitchers total length of say 7.5 feet and Randy Johnson's 8.5 feet.

    The downside of this is control. Just like in golf, for every micro degree you are off line at one length will be even larger further out. It's simple geometry.

    Take a triangle


    Angle two is the error, A=body length, B=size of error.
    Using the same angle, as "A" gets longer, so does B.

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    A taller pitcher releases the ball closer to homeplate, reducing a batter's reaction time. The level of advantage this gives a taller pitcher is debatable, but I believe there is at least some advantage.

    A lot of scouts and coaches believe that larger players are more durable and have the physical makeup that allows for greater demands to be met. Because of this players at the high school and college level may end up getting more attention and opportunities for advancement. I have spoken to one college coach that said he likes to meet a high school players father when he's interested in a kid in order to see what kind of size the kid might grow into. I think it's flawed thinking, but I doubt he's the only coach that does this. The additional opportunities that a taller pitcher may get could be an advantage.

    I don't really think that height is a great factor in scouting, but if there are two players with equal "stuff" the bigger pitcher is more likely to get attention.

  10. #10
    Throwers are in most cases very tall. This gives them longer levers and thus a longer acceleration path and higher velocity.

    For example most discus throwers are about 2m and have very long arms.

    It's just simple physics. Maximation of accelerating path is a general sports principle. You want to have a long path where you applay force to the ball. The longer the path you accelerate the implement the faster it will be in the end(if you step on the gas on your car you will be faster after 100m than after 10m). That's why discus throwers reach back that far and are that tall:
    http://images.google.de/imgres?imgur...%3D20%26um%3D1


    THis is the main reason why tall throwers have advantages. Other factors are having larger hands and fingers, have more downward plane on the ball and not having to use that much force to reach the same speed because of longer ball path. But the longer levers and resulting longer acceleration path is the main reason.

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    Height matters a lot to teams. Nine teams thought it mattered enough in 2006 not to draft Lincecum because of it.

    Fools.

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    look at Pedro and he has freakishly long fingers for his size.


    look at me and my hands pretty much match my height. and because of that all I ever threw were palmballs...haha
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    The exception that proves the rule?

    Bobby Shantz
    Robert Clayton Shantz
    Bats: Right , Throws: Left
    Height: 5' 6" , Weight: 142 lb.
    Born: September 26, 1925 in Pottstown, PA
    Signed by the Philadelphia Athletics as an amateur free agent in 1948. (All Transactions)
    Debut: May 1, 1949
    Final Game: September 29, 1964

    All-Star Games
    1951
    1952 *
    1957
    Awards (yr-lg-award)
    1952-AL-MVP
    1952-AL-TSN Pitcher of the Year
    Gold Gloves
    1957-ML-P
    1958-AL-P
    1959-AL-P
    1960-AL-P
    1961-NL-P
    1962-NL-P
    1963-NL-P
    1964-NL-P
    All multiple winners
    MVP (yr-lg-rk-shr)
    1951-AL-21-4%
    1952-AL-1-83%
    1957-AL-26-0%
    1 MVP
    0.87 Career Shares (273rd)

    Earned Run Average s c a p y
    1952 AL--2.478--3rd
    1957 AL--2.445--1st
    Wins s c a p y
    1951 AL--18--7th
    1952 AL--24--1st
    Win-Loss % s c a p y
    1951 AL--.643--5th
    1952 AL--.774--1st
    1957 AL--.688--4th
    Walks & Hits per IP s c a p y
    1952 AL--1.048--1st
    1957 AL--1.139--4th
    "Tactics were resorted to, unworthy of fair, manly players" - Brooklyn Eagle, June 12,1890

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    Since 1871 ML pitchers on average have always been taller than position players. I think someone posted this data on BBF within the past year. Pitchers from the 1890-1900 era were on average a hair or two above 6' tall.

    I agree with the post that said it was due to the Laws of Physics.

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    To sum up what many have said, the tall guys can get the advantage for velocity because of their long arms as well. They're like big slingshots that over time develop to be flexible, thus increasing velocity. Walter Johnson wasn't a giant, but he had very long arms for his height. Even his delivery was like a catapult. I know a kid who is 6'5" and 180 lbs. He's skinny as anything, but his long arms shoot the ball to the batter. He's one of the fastest pitchers on his team.

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    Instead of using two or three pitchers for evidence (sample size, anyone?), or speculating as to why we think it matters, does anybody know of a correltaion study for height and "success" (however they those to measure it)? That would probably answer our question. I'll look to see if I can find one. If one doesn't exist, we can only continue to specualte on yes/no and why.
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    The Top 100 Pitchers In MLB History
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    Quote Originally Posted by STLCards2 View Post
    Instead of using two or three pitchers for evidence (sample size, anyone?), or speculating as to why we think it matters, does anybody know of a correltaion study for height and "success" (however they those to measure it)? That would probably answer our question. I'll look to see if I can find one. If one doesn't exist, we can only continue to specualte on yes/no and why.
    I think this is the thread TonyK mentioned seeing before.

    http://baseball-fever.com/showthread...ferrerid=13499

    Decade Pitchers Hitters
    1870 69.79 68.92
    1880 69.92 69.52
    1890 70.67 69.83
    1900 71.49 70.08
    1910 72.31 70.40
    1920 72.11 70.55
    1930 72.53 71.30
    1940 72.88 71.64
    1950 73.01 72.09
    1960 73.61 72.37
    1970 74.00 72.42
    1980 74.38 72.67
    1990 74.44 72.72
    2000 74.54 72.78

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    Quote Originally Posted by CandlestickBum View Post
    I think this is the thread TonyK mentioned seeing before.

    http://baseball-fever.com/showthread...ferrerid=13499

    Decade Pitchers Hitters
    1870 69.79 68.92
    1880 69.92 69.52
    1890 70.67 69.83
    1900 71.49 70.08
    1910 72.31 70.40
    1920 72.11 70.55
    1930 72.53 71.30
    1940 72.88 71.64
    1950 73.01 72.09
    1960 73.61 72.37
    1970 74.00 72.42
    1980 74.38 72.67
    1990 74.44 72.72
    2000 74.54 72.78

    I'd be more interested to see how pitchers of different heights contrasted in their own era. Of course pitchers are getting taller.
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    Quote Originally Posted by STLCards2 View Post
    I'd be more interested to see how pitchers of different heights contrasted in their own era. Of course pitchers are getting taller.
    Well, seeing how that compares pitchers to position players by decade, I don't know what more you'd be looking for? This looks exactly like what you're looking for.


    Decade Pitchers Hitters
    1920 72.11 70.55

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    Quote Originally Posted by STLCards2 View Post
    I'd be more interested to see how pitchers of different heights contrasted in their own era. Of course pitchers are getting taller.
    Are you asking if anyone has stats available that measure how well tall pitchers did compared to the other pitchers in the league?

  21. #21
    you could compare the average height of top 20 pitchers(use era as a crude estimation of pitcher quality ) with the average height of mlb pitchers.

    Fact is the longer levers give the pitchers a longer acceleration path and thus more an more effortless velocity.

    In the former GDR measurements where done on young athletes and if they are not likely to become 6"4or bigger they where not allowed to become track and field throwers.

    They even did not allow a world class shotputter internationally because he was only 6 feet tall and they believed he would not be able to repolicate this results.

    This approach I think is also stupid. Tall throwers have an advantage and thus are often preferred.
    But there are of course also great small throwers like lincecum or pedro.
    If you have great skill you can do it anyway.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TonyK View Post
    Are you asking if anyone has stats available that measure how well tall pitchers did compared to the other pitchers in the league?
    Yes - that would determine if height was an important factor in success. I though that was the point of the thread, not to see if pitchers were getting taller overall or at a higher rate thean position players. Maybe I misunderstood the topic.
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    1887 1888 1928 1930 1943 1968 1985 1987 2004 2013

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    Quote Originally Posted by STLCards2 View Post
    Yes - that would determine if height was an important factor in success. I though that was the point of the thread, not to see if pitchers were getting taller overall or at a higher rate thean position players. Maybe I misunderstood the topic.
    Well the topic covers a couple of sub topics doesn't it?

    General: Do tall pitchers have an advantage?

    a. mechanically, it would seem so, yes
    b. facts show that pitchers, on average, are taller that position players, which would seem to indicate heighth being a good thing.

    Specific:
    Is there evidence that tall(er) pitchers are more successful than shorter contemporaries?

    This I now see seems to be your specific question. Correct?

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    I crunched some numbers...

    There have been 3,297 pitchers that were 74+ inches tall.
    There have been 3,972 pitchers that were 73- inches tall.

    30.17% of pitchers that were 74+ inches tall have a career ERA+ of 100 or higher.
    28.35% of pitchers that were 73- inches tall have a career ERA+ of 100 or higher.
    "I throw my curveball like Clayton Kershaw and my fastball like Mo'Ne Davis. -Mo'Ne Davis

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    Quote Originally Posted by ipitch View Post
    I crunched some numbers...

    There have been 3,297 pitchers that were 74+ inches tall.
    There have been 3,972 pitchers that were 73- inches tall.

    30.17% of pitchers that were 74+ inches tall have a career ERA+ of 100 or higher.
    28.35% of pitchers that were 73- inches tall have a career ERA+ of 100 or higher.
    Well, that's certainly interesting. Maybe there's something to it.

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