The Frailty of the Modern Pitcher

jon abbey

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Out of my depth here a bit, but technology has made it so much easier for hitters to prepare for pitchers. You can set pitching machines to mimic specific pitchers, you can watch previous ABs on your iPad in the dugout (maybe this is banned? but you can do similar stuff anyway), and I'm sure plenty of other things I don't know about. I think if pitchers didn't go max effort in today's game, they'd generally get hammered.

As for the Tom Glavine mention upthread, I would love to see how that guy would do if there was an electronic strike zone. He must be the leader for balls that were called strikes in my lifetime as a MLB fan.
 

CR67dream

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I’ve whined enough about advanced stats ruining the sports so I won’t bring it in here.
I won't whine either, and I don't necessarily know if I'd go far as to use the word ruin, but the introduction and continued development of advanced metrics has played a huge role in the way the game has changed drastically, with a good deal of that change being negative. Interestingly, one of the prominent people to recognize this is Theo Epstein, and though most of that has been due to the aesthetics of the game and the implementation of the recent rule changes, I have to wonder if he and others are also coming to realize that the current state of affairs with injuries and pitching, particularly starters, is not sustainable.

I mean, the 2004 Sox staff that Epstein put together (with a big assist from Dan Duquette) were horses that year. 157 starts between them, Schilling with 32 for 226.2 and Pedro with 33 for 217.0. Then you have Wake at 30/188.1 and Lowe with 33/182.2. Bronson went 29/178.2 from the 5 slot. While that was an outlier even at the time, the Sox had two pitchers with 200+, which would be 40% of the MLB total of 5 in 2023, but less than 5% of the 41 pitchers who put up 200+ in '04. Schilling's 226.2 was good for 7th, and Pedro came in at 13th. In those days, 200+ guys were solid or exceptional horses. These days, they're freaking unicorns.

On one hand, I can see why teams are reluctant to shell out huge dollars or top prospects these days when one pitch gone wrong can flush that investment down the toilet, or overall performance can fluctuate wildly or just fall off the table. Can you imagine if we'd pulled off a trade for Cabrera, giving up significant assets, and were talking about him getting an MRI today? I don't even want to think about it.

On the other, teams keep trying to maximize velocity, spin, and max effort, and that's not translating to durability, and in fact may add to already significant injury risk. How do you know who is going to break? Never mind that Tommy John surgery doesn't hold up like it used to, based upon the comments of Dr. Meister above. Seems like something's got to give.

Focusing very briefly on what the Sox are doing, I really like that they are acquiring young starting pitchers, and I like a lot of the young arms we already had. I find myself really hoping that Bailey&Co. have the talent to balance developing durability as well as stuff. Is it even possible to "develop" durability?

As far as pitchers getting shelled in today's game at less than max effort, if that's the case it seems that it would take more rule changes (such as raising the mound) to level the field, so to speak. God forbid they go with the 7 inning solution.
 

Apisith

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Out of my depth here a bit, but technology has made it so much easier for hitters to prepare for pitchers. You can set pitching machines to mimic specific pitchers, you can watch previous ABs on your iPad in the dugout (maybe this is banned? but you can do similar stuff anyway), and I'm sure plenty of other things I don't know about. I think if pitchers didn't go max effort in today's game, they'd generally get hammered.

As for the Tom Glavine mention upthread, I would love to see how that guy would do if there was an electronic strike zone. He must be the leader for balls that were called strikes in my lifetime as a MLB fan.
I agree very much with this.

Sports is a star-driven entertainment. People watch LeBron, Messi, Federer etc because they are stars. Stars in baseball used to be starting pitchers. Hitters don't get enough PAs to be stars IMO because the average fan wants to see the best pitchers in the highest leverage moments of the game (7th inning onwards).

So baseball needs more stars, which means it needs more starting pitchers who go deeper into games. This means pitchers can't go max-effort every pitch.

I think the next equilibrium will be something like lowering the number of pitchers on staff (maybe by 2?) and also deadening the ball by a substantial amount. Then pitchers can 'pitch' to contact, go deeper into games and teams will be incentivized to tell these pitchers to not go max-effort every pitch because there's a restriction on the number of pitchers they can carry.
 

Devizier

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Average fastball velocity has increased 2 MPH in just the last 15 seasons. Thats not that long ago. I don’t see a way around it, hitters crush the slow stuff now.
 

Preacher

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I agree very much with this.

Sports is a star-driven entertainment. People watch LeBron, Messi, Federer etc because they are stars. Stars in baseball used to be starting pitchers. Hitters don't get enough PAs to be stars IMO because the average fan wants to see the best pitchers in the highest leverage moments of the game (7th inning onwards).

So baseball needs more stars, which means it needs more starting pitchers who go deeper into games. This means pitchers can't go max-effort every pitch.

I think the next equilibrium will be something like lowering the number of pitchers on staff (maybe by 2?) and also deadening the ball by a substantial amount. Then pitchers can 'pitch' to contact, go deeper into games and teams will be incentivized to tell these pitchers to not go max-effort every pitch because there's a restriction on the number of pitchers they can carry.
I don’t know about hitters not being considered stars. I think the average fan wants to see their favorite player at the plate in the highest leverage situations. After all, the hitters play everyday (for the most part).
 

Yo La Tengo

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Bringing a couple of posts over from the Bailey thread:



Thinking about the Bello contract and injury risk for pitchers of all ages. There seems to be a general agreement that pitchers maximizing their velocity and spin rates has led to more injuries and there is a good article in the Athletic today with some numbers:

As teams increased their emphasis on velocity and stuff, injury-list placements for pitchers rose from 241 in 2010 to 552 in 2021 before decreasing slightly each of the past two seasons, according to a Major League Baseball spokesperson. The days pitchers spent on the IL more than doubled over a slightly longer span.
A hyperfocus on performance often begins at the youth level. Many pitchers experience problems before ever reaching the majors. The number of pitchers drafted in the top 10 rounds with a history of elbow reconstruction rose from six between 2011 and 2013 to 24 between 2021 and 2023, the league spokesperson said.
https://theathletic.com/5325032/2024/03/08/elbow-injuries-mlb-pitchers/

It will be interesting to see how Bailey and Breslow deal with this tension between maximizing effort/performance and longevity.


Semi-related, there was another good article about the Rays philosophy on throwing strikes:

Every Rays pitcher seems to cite the same 95-percent statistic: A first-pitch quality strike, they say, yields a positive result 95 times out of 100. Ideally, it’s a quick out, but every take, swing and miss, or foul ball puts the pitcher in control of that at-bat. Yes, five percent of the time, that first pitch gets hammered, but the Rays love those odds and will live with the outliers. Pitchers who give up first-pitch homers are treated almost as sacrificial lambs because it shouldn’t happen more than once or twice a series.
. . .
The average major-league hitter had a .266 on-base percentage after falling behind 0-1 last year. That’s Martín Maldonado territory. After getting ahead 1-0, that same average major-league hitter had a .380 on-base percentage. That’s Mookie Betts.
https://theathletic.com/5318763/2024/03/06/tampa-bay-rays-pitcher-development/

Last year, the Sox were 10th in MLB for first pitch strike percentage at 62.6%. Seattle was first at 64.5% with the Giants second. I think we'll be hearing a lot more about this from Bailey: “Strikes are everything. Stuff in-zone plays. Limiting walks, being aggressive and ahead in counts.”
 

Yo La Tengo

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Here are the pitchers on the Sox who were better than 64.5% for first pitch strikes:

79160
79161


Martin's 76.4% was the second highest number in the entire league for anyone with over 50 innings pitched and Whitlock was third.

Here's the list for starters:
79162
79165



Michael Lorenzen, who I tried to hype up a bit earlier, is 15th on this list with 66.7%.


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Yo La Tengo

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From that Athletic article, anecdotally: "the average major-league career is now under three years for all players and just under 2.7 for pitchers."
 

simplicio

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Cole Phillips and Jackson Kowar, aka the full return for Seattle in the Kelenic trade, are both getting TJS and out for the year before the season even starts. (it's Phillips' second one. He's 20.)

You have to wonder how clubs evaluate trading real talent for pitching, given the likelihood of injury. It's been 10 years since Dylan Cease's last TJ, who wants to give away their farm for nothing when it turns out he needs another?
 
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joe dokes

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That was conventional wisdom for the first century plus of baseball. Start out throwing just fastballs and keep the other stuff in your back pocket for later in the game. And that idea has actually been confirmed by modern metrics. The guys who did Stuff+ found that a pitcher's stuff doesn't really drop off the third time through the order. The only thing that explains the lack of success starters have going through the third time is in-game familiarity with the pitcher. Two at bats are enough for a major league hitter to get an advantage if they see all of a starter's pitches. It also explains why a reliever becomes less effective the more times you see him in a series.
This tracks with the old adage about the aces of yesteryear: "Better get to them early." No one ever said it quite the same way, but as with the maybe-Mathewson anecdote higher up in this thread, maybe it wasn't so much that the pitchers were "settling in," as the announcers liked to say. Maybe it was more, "I'm going to go a little bit easier early and not show them everything just yet. because I'm going to be out here all day." To me, the apotheosis of this was Tom Seaver's 19-strikeout complete game in April 1970.

Striking out 19 of the 1970 Padres wasn't the greatest feat ever, but striking out the last 10 hitters of the game to do it ranks right up there.
 
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Max Power

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Yes, pitchers are going to give up more runs if they don't throw max effort. That's why no team is going to err on the side of health. It needs to be a league-wide transition like dropping the number of pitchers on staff to 11 with strict minor-league shuttle rules. I don't think anyone would mind going back to something closer to the steroid era offenses if it wasn't just your team giving up those runs.
 

joe dokes

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Average fastball velocity has increased 2 MPH in just the last 15 seasons. Thats not that long ago. I don’t see a way around it, hitters crush the slow stuff now.
I think it was Warren Spahn who said, "hitting is about timing. Pitching is about throwing off the hitter's timing." The one thing my decidedly amateur scouting abilities look at in a potential starter is the ability (willingness?) to throw slow stuff for strikes when behind in the count. I saw Jon Lester pitch in Portland in 2005. Although it was one of his few not-great games, he consistently threw off-speed stuff for strikes when down in the count.
 

Cassvt2023

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Food for about four seconds of thought, how many pitchers exactly are on this staff? What happens when one of them sucks in their first or second inning of action? The reason this has never been tried is that it makes no sense.
Most staffs have 13 pitchers, as well as several more who have options and bounce from the major league roster to the minors, it happens every day with every team. It's not extremely different than the use of an opener for 1-2 innings. Would you have thought that would've been the norm 10 years ago? And how exactly do you know the reasons why it hasn't been tried? Are you a pitching coordinator for a team? Are you involved in the Player's Union? I do remember reading several years ago that the union would never allow too drastic of a change in how starters were deployed because it would drastically affect their bargaining power in arbitration and contract negotiations even though it may benefit their health/longevity in the long run. And for the life of me i can't remember where i read it and i can't find it, but i didn't just come up with some hair brained scheme out of the blue.
 

jon abbey

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Can't believe you're doubling down on this, but ok...

Most staffs have 13 pitchers, as well as several more who have options and bounce from the major league roster to the minors, it happens every day with every team.
There are limits on how many times you can shuttle guys up and down in the same season now but still it is impossible to plot this out so it makes sense. You can't do it. I'm challenging you, you can't do it, because it makes no sense.

It's not extremely different than the use of an opener for 1-2 innings.
No, it is. All that is is moving a single reliever to the start of the game, from the last few innings, often just moving the 7th inning guy to the 1st instead. That reliever will still be available in the next day or two (sometimes TB has even had the same pitcher close one game and open the next). Your proposal burns 3 pitchers a day, none of whom would be able to pitch again for at least a couple of days afterwards.
 

RS2004foreever

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Average fastball velocity has increased 2 MPH in just the last 15 seasons. Thats not that long ago. I don’t see a way around it, hitters crush the slow stuff now.
Players are getting better. Back to my experience as an AAU coach - by 12 MOST pitchers in AAU had pitching coaches. The rise of AAU and the fundamentals that are being developed is frankly astonishing. My son was a massively better player than I was in every way. Our team had a pitching coach who was in the minors in the Reds organization and a hitting coach who was also the USF hitting coach. All of this is driven by the power of video - a coach would watch a video of a player's game pitching and then would meet with the kid to adjust the fundamentals.

This is KILLING baseball in an important way. The increased velocity (which you can see even at the 9-year-old level) has made the game (which is hard to begin with) really hard. Striking out is humiliating and kids just quit. As a result baseball fields all over the country are empty. Who wants to strike out when you could play soccer?

Kids are throwing curves in Little League - way before they should be throwing them.

All of this is filtering up to the major leagues. But it is also a problem for the sport in terms of fan interest. Most fans I know where at least somewhat successful in kid ball. There are going to be far fewer of those kids in the future - which means fewer fans.
 
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Cassvt2023

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Can't believe you're doubling down on this, but ok...



There are limits on how many times you can shuttle guys up and down in the same season now but still it is impossible to plot this out so it makes sense. You can't do it. I'm challenging you, you can't do it, because it makes no sense.



No, it is. All that is is moving a single reliever to the start of the game, from the last few innings, often just moving the 7th inning guy to the 1st instead. That reliever will still be available in the next day or two (sometimes TB has even had the same pitcher close one game and open the next). Your proposal burns 3 pitchers a day, none of whom would be able to pitch again for at least a couple of days afterwards.
I'm not trying to argue with you, its an interesting outside the box idea. Maybe its impossible the way i simplified it in my original post but some variation of it could be? You bring a lot to this forum so I respect your thoughts a lot more than many who put little thought into what they spew. I'd be curious to hear some of the other intelligent folks on here give their thoughts. (It'd also be a fun question to e-mail in to Pete Abe or Alex Speier to hear an insider's perspective.)
 

joe dokes

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Players are getting better. Back to my experience as an AAU coach - by 12 MOST pitchers in AAU had pitching coaches. The rise of AAU and the fundamentals that are being developed is frankly astonishing. My son was a massively better player than I was in every way. Our team had a pitching coach who was in the minors in the Reds organization and a hitting coach who was also the USF hitting coach. All of this is driven by the power of video - a coach would watch a video of a player's game pitching and then would meet with the kid to adjust the fundamentals.

This is KILLING baseball in an important way. The increased velocity (which you can see even at the 9-year-old level) has made the game (which is hard to begin with) really hard. Striking out is humiliating and kids just quit. As a result baseball fields all over the country are empty. Who wants to strike out when you could play soccer?

Kids are throwing curves in Little League - way before they should be throwing them.

All of this is filtering up to the major leagues.
Serious question....Does what follows after you say "Players are getting better" support the idea that players are getting better--at baseball? Would a quick and dirty comparison be "if a golf coach could teach a guy to hit it 400 yards *every* time, but that all he has, is he 'better'?" Or maybe only *pitchers* are getting better? Or, has velocity become a proxy for "better"?
It probably didn't start with Billy Beane, but it's almost as though "measurables," like velocity have totally crowded out all other forms of evaluation to the point where pitchers who don't have the physique to throw 98, but still have the skill to get guys out, are still trying to (or being coached to) throw 98.

There was debate here about Pivetta. Some would say, "30 starts at league average is valuable." Others would say, "but he's not even league average." I'm starting to think that 30 starts at 80-90% of league average is the new "30 starts at league average" in terms of value.
 

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Yes, pitchers are going to give up more runs if they don't throw max effort. That's why no team is going to err on the side of health. It needs to be a league-wide transition like dropping the number of pitchers on staff to 11 with strict minor-league shuttle rules. I don't think anyone would mind going back to something closer to the steroid era offenses if it wasn't just your team giving up those runs.
The counterpoint to this is who gets inevitably injured while team figure out how to manage new limits and asking pitchers to throw more.
 

simplicio

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I'm not trying to argue with you, its an interesting outside the box idea. Maybe its impossible the way i simplified it in my original post but some variation of it could be? You bring a lot to this forum so I respect your thoughts a lot more than many who put little thought into what they spew. I'd be curious to hear some of the other intelligent folks on here give their thoughts. (It'd also be a fun question to e-mail in to Pete Abe or Alex Speier to hear an insider's perspective.)
Banking on multiple long relievers as a regular feature of a pitching staff compromises the elasticity of that staff. You're losing spots from your 13, and the shuttling you need to do to compensate is neither free nor trivial (remember, once optioned, pitchers have to stay down for 15 days except in case of injury). Every team ends up with suboptimal innings pitched by low quality pitchers; a strategy that's actively going to give you more of that is a bad one. Think of the Sox in late August last year, where after a month with a 3 starter rotation the whole pen was on fumes. We all saw those Sudoku boards of reliever availability pointing to the fact that our only option in a critical inning was some scrap heap guy who was inevitably blow the game.
 

jon abbey

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From that Athletic article, anecdotally: "the average major-league career is now under three years for all players and just under 2.7 for pitchers."
Some of this is because of the compensation system, I don't think it's a coincidence that guys start making real money after 3 seasons (first arb year). Unless someone is clearly better than the next guy up from the minors, it makes sense under the current system for teams to just bring in the next guy, who makes less and has all three options remaining.
 

Max Power

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The counterpoint to this is who gets inevitably injured while team figure out how to manage new limits and asking pitchers to throw more.
Sure, there probably has to be a transition year or two when you go from 13 to 12, then to 11. But I think it's clear now that the current system is resulting in TJS at an unsustainable rate.
 

Manramsclan

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Players are getting better. Back to my experience as an AAU coach - by 12 MOST pitchers in AAU had pitching coaches. The rise of AAU and the fundamentals that are being developed is frankly astonishing. My son was a massively better player than I was in every way. Our team had a pitching coach who was in the minors in the Reds organization and a hitting coach who was also the USF hitting coach. All of this is driven by the power of video - a coach would watch a video of a player's game pitching and then would meet with the kid to adjust the fundamentals.

This is KILLING baseball in an important way. The increased velocity (which you can see even at the 9-year-old level) has made the game (which is hard to begin with) really hard. Striking out is humiliating and kids just quit. As a result baseball fields all over the country are empty. Who wants to strike out when you could play soccer?

Kids are throwing curves in Little League - way before they should be throwing them.

All of this is filtering up to the major leagues. But it is also a problem for the sport in terms of fan interest. Most fans I know where at least somewhat successful in kid ball. There are going to be far fewer of those kids in the future - which means fewer fans.
View: https://twitter.com/jonmorosi/status/1767561982880739577?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw
 

HfxBob

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Sadly, this seems like a situation where it's impossible to put the toothpaste back in the tube.
 

SirPsychoSquints

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Some of this is because of the compensation system, I don't think it's a coincidence that guys start making real money after 3 seasons (first arb year). Unless someone is clearly better than the next guy up from the minors, it makes sense under the current system for teams to just bring in the next guy, who makes less and has all three options remaining.
The article doesn't say whether this is higher or lower than in the past, or by how much.
 

chrisfont9

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Average fastball velocity has increased 2 MPH in just the last 15 seasons. Thats not that long ago. I don’t see a way around it, hitters crush the slow stuff now.
Yeah, echoing this now. It's not that pitchers are going max effort out of vanity. The skillset out there now is through the roof compared to what we (graybeards) grew up on. I've always loved watching good pitching over all else and I love the evolution of the sport... except where elbows start to break down. And this is where the real internal conflict is, with very few choices available for the game.

I wouldn't call the elbow injuries an epidemic like concussions in football before the NFL was shamed into doing something, but it does seem to be common or hanging over a lot of pitchers, to the point where I am accepting of all the stats above and the drop-off in innings pitched. There isn't much of a choice besides limiting reps. They are probably maxed out on coaching mechanics. I suspect the influence of the time clock (which is definitely not going away) so the pitchers have to get used to the tempo of the game, and within that tempo perfect the repetition of their mechanics. Maybe a few years down the road we will see the elbow injuries drop off some, or at least not get worse. But the game is never going to slow back down again, and hitters will never not be able to hit 90-94 all the time.
 

The Gray Eagle

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I can't remember who said it, but one HoF pitcher (I want to say Christy Mathewson, but my gut says that is totally wrong) said for most games, we would throw a decent amount of low speed junk in early innings to "let the defense do something" or a similar sentiment, then would ratchet it up a bit towards the end of the outing when he had been through the lineup. The way the anecdote was presented, it was more about why this pitcher could effectively pitch the second/third time through the lineup (throwing more heat when hitters was expecting him to get tired), but it also says something about saving your arm. If this story sounds familiar to anyone, please feel free to let me know; it's bugging me that I can't remember who said it.
From Christy Mathewson's "Pitching in a Pinch", e-version available on the internet for free here:
https://www.gutenberg.org/files/33291/33291-h/33291-h.htm

I have always been against a twirler pitching himself out, when there is no necessity for it, as so many youngsters do. They burn them through for eight innings and then, when the pinch comes, something is lacking. A pitcher must remember that there are eight other men in the game, drawing more or less salary to stop balls hit at them, and he must have confidence in them. Some pitchers will put all that they have on each ball. This is foolish for two reasons.
In the first place, it exhausts the man physically and, when the pinch comes, he has not the strength to last it out.
But second and more important, it shows the batters everything that he has, which is senseless. A man should always hold something in reserve, a surprise to spring when things get tight. If a pitcher has displayed his whole assortment to the batters in the early part of the game and has used all his speed and his fastest breaking curve, then, when the crisis comes, he “hasn’t anything” to fall back on.
Now the "twirlers" burn them through for more like 4 innings, and then something is lacking.

IMO to fix this MLB is going to have to deaden the baseballs a bit so that pitchers don't have to go all-out on every single pitch.
 

Yo La Tengo

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Average fastball velocity has increased 2 MPH in just the last 15 seasons. Thats not that long ago. I don’t see a way around it, hitters crush the slow stuff now.
Hitters crush POORLY LOCATED slow stuff now.

As a parent of baseball playing teens, and as a former college pitcher and recent coach, here's a thought experiment I've been playing with: is teaching increased control as feasible as teaching increased velocity? We have a new, massive industry around ramping up velocity for teen pitchers. Even in my rural state, there are multiple businesses where I could bring my teenage son and pay for sessions to increase velocity and spin rates. The tools needed to measure these objectives are also available everywhere (for a cost). You've likely seen the drills- heaving weighted balls at maximum effort, lifting weights like an offensive lineman, and referring to a screen after every pitch to see the numbers. And there is definitely money to be made in this travel ball/personalized coaching world. Billions of dollars according to some recent reporting. Velocity and spin rates are easy to measure and easy to sell. And there is incredible hype behind that industry, to the point that it can seem there is no other way of being a successful pitcher.

I'd love to see a program that focuses on improving location, flexibility, and sustainable mechanics and increasing velocity/spin without requiring maximum effort. The problem is those metrics are harder to measure and harder to sell. And the upside of throwing 100 mph will continue to land scholarships and contracts.


EDIT: regarding the throw more/throw less question, I think the answer is both. Kids, teens (and likely pro players) need to throw maximum effort less but throw generally more. This is why travel ball is such a scourge since it amplifies games while reducing practice time. So kids are throwing high intensity more often but without inter-game workouts. I think the Japanese model of pitching one game a week along with heavy workout days is likely the better approach (fully recognizing that pitchers from Japan also need TJ surgery frequently).
 
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Green Monster

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@Yo La Tengo: My father once told me when I was a youngster and wanted to learn how to throw a curve ball...."The first thing you need to learn how to throw is a STRIKE"
 

Rovin Romine

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Hitters crush POORLY LOCATED slow stuff now.

As a parent of baseball playing teens, and as a former college pitcher and recent coach, here's a thought experiment I've been playing with: is teaching increased control as feasible as teaching increased velocity? We have a new, massive industry around ramping up velocity for teen pitchers. Even in my rural state, there are multiple businesses where I could bring my teenage son and pay for sessions to increase velocity and spin rates. The tools needed to measure these objectives are also available everywhere (for a cost). You've likely seen the drills- heaving weighted balls at maximum effort, lifting weights like an offensive lineman, and referring to a screen after every pitch to see the numbers. And there is definitely money to be made in this travel ball/personalized coaching world. Billions of dollars according to some recent reporting. Velocity and spin rates are easy to measure and easy to sell. And there is incredible hype behind that industry, to the point that it can seem there is no other way of being a successful pitcher.

I'd love to see a program that focuses on improving location, flexibility, and sustainable mechanics and increasing velocity/spin without requiring maximum effort. The problem is those metrics are harder to measure and harder to sell. And the upside of throwing 100 mph will continue to land scholarships and contracts.


EDIT: regarding the throw more/throw less question, I think the answer is both. Kids, teens (and likely pro players) need to throw maximum effort less but throw generally more. This is why travel ball is such a scourge since it amplifies games while reducing practice time. So kids are throwing high intensity more often but without inter-game workouts. I think the Japanese model of pitching one game a week along with heavy workout days is likely the better approach (fully recognizing that pitchers from Japan also need TJ surgery frequently).
So the question is: is there a way to incentive pitchers to pitch slower (or with more control?) It would ideally be a bonus that accrues to slow pitchers that fast pitchers wouldn't be able to take advantage of.

Tinkering with the strike zone?
 

Yo La Tengo

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So the question is: is there a way to incentive pitchers to pitch slower (or with more control?) It would ideally be a bonus that accrues to slow pitchers that fast pitchers wouldn't be able to take advantage of.

Tinkering with the strike zone?
My question is whether a focus on improving a pitcher's location could be as effective as current efforts to improve velocity/spin. The current model for developing pitching is dedicated to increasing certain metrics (mph and rpm). Achieving these metrics results in scholarship offers and draft picks so a huge industry has been created to pursue those goals. This approach is manifested in the article posted above about Snyder and the Rays approach to pitching, which is to throw a pitch with maximum movement/velocity aimed at the middle of the plate. This is short term effective but appears to be increasing injury, which makes sense since it requires maximum effort.

I don't think a shift from maximum effort to improved control would be effective in changing the way current MLB players pitch (and there could be ways of adjusting the ball and strike zone to encourage a different style of pitching). But I'm more interested in how we as a culture have shifted to this approach of developing pitchers with a focus on maximum effort/velocity/spin, to the point that we have a billion dollar industry set up around it at a youth level, which becomes self-replicating at a certain point.

At the same time, Aaron Nola landed a 7 year/$172 million contract after throwing 92 mph fastballs last year.
 

Awesome Fossum

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Jul 20, 2005
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Austin, TX
The way to fix this is to limit substitutions/active roster size. Just as an exercise, imagine that you weren't allowed any substitutions. When your starting pitcher gets tired, he has to go play the field and your right fielder or whatever has to pitch. What do we think the average velocity would be in that world?
 

NeckDownAllStar

New Member
Jan 15, 2024
11
In 2003, there were 44 pitchers that threw at least 200 innings, 61 at least 190, 79 at least 180
In 2013, there were 34 pitchers that threw at least 200 innings, 49 at least 190, 64 at least 180
In 2023, there were 5 pitchers that threw at least 200 innings, 14 at least 190, 24 at least 180

So it was trending, but it's fallen off of a cliff.

Between 1988 and 2008, Greg Maddux threw at least 194 innings, each year, for 21 consecutive seasons. Would Maddux not be allowed to pitch now the way he pitched then because pitching philosophy has changed so much? It make no sense to me.
I played with some numbers to look a little farther back:

In 1993, there were 49 pitchers that threw at least 200 innings, 56 at least 190, 65 at least 180. That was little changed from 10 years earlier.

In 1983, there were 49 pitchers that threw at least 200 innings, 57 at least 190, 65 at least 180.

In 1973, there were 61 pitchers that threw at least 200 innings, 67 at least 190, 74 at least 180.

Also in 1973, there were 32 pitchers that threw at least 250 innings and 7 pitchers that threw at least 300 innings (Steve Carlton in 1980 was the last pitcher to throw 300 innings).

Between 1973 and 1980, there were 28 pitchers that threw 300 innings. None of them had a career less than 9 years and only 2 were under 10 years.

Workhorse pitchers:

1973,Minnesota Twins,Bert Blyleven,20 wins,325.00 Innings Pitched,22.33 Year-Career

1973,Milwaukee Brewers,Jim Colborn,20 wins,314.33 Innings Pitched,9.22 Year-Career

1973,Detroit Tigers,Mickey Lolich,16 wins,308.67 Innings Pitched,16.37 Year-Career

1973,Cleveland Indians,Gaylord Perry,19 wins,344.00 Innings Pitched,21.44 Year-Career

1973,California Angels,Nolan Ryan,21 wins,326.00 Innings Pitched,27.03 Year-Career

1973,California Angels,Bill Singer,20 wins,315.67 Innings Pitched,12.81 Year-Career

1973,Chicago White Sox,Wilbur Wood,24 wins,359.33 Innings Pitched,17.14 Year-Career

1974,Oakland Athletics,Catfish Hunter,25 wins,318.33 Innings Pitched,14.35 Year-Career

1974,Texas Rangers,Fergie Jenkins,25 wins,328.33 Innings Pitched,18.04 Year-Career

1974,Detroit Tigers,Mickey Lolich,16 wins,308.00 Innings Pitched,16.37 Year-Career

1974,Atlanta Braves,Phil Niekro,20 wins,302.33 Innings Pitched,23.45 Year-Career

1974,Cleveland Indians,Gaylord Perry,21 wins,322.33 Innings Pitched,21.44 Year-Career

1974,California Angels,Nolan Ryan,22 wins,332.67 Innings Pitched,27.03 Year-Career

1974,Boston Red Sox,Luis Tiant,22 wins,311.33 Innings Pitched,18.13 Year-Career

1974,Chicago White Sox,Wilbur Wood,20 wins,320.33 Innings Pitched,17.14 Year-Career

1975,New York Yankees,Catfish Hunter,23 wins,328.00 Innings Pitched,14.35 Year-Career

1975,Chicago White Sox,Jim Kaat,20 wins,303.67 Innings Pitched,23.91 Year-Career

1975,Los Angeles Dodgers,Andy Messersmith,19 wins,321.67 Innings Pitched,10.91 Year-Career

1975,Baltimore Orioles,Jim Palmer,23 wins,323.00 Innings Pitched,19.07 Year-Career

1976,San Diego Padres,Randy Jones,22 wins,315.33 Innings Pitched,9.23 Year-Career

1976,Baltimore Orioles,Jim Palmer,22 wins,315.00 Innings Pitched,19.07 Year-Career

1977,Minnesota Twins,Dave Goltz,20 wins,303.00 Innings Pitched,10.93 Year-Career

1977,Atlanta Braves,Phil Niekro,16 wins,330.33 Innings Pitched,23.45 Year-Career

1977,Baltimore Orioles,Jim Palmer,20 wins,319.00 Innings Pitched,19.07 Year-Career

1977,Montreal Expos,Steve Rogers,17 wins,301.67 Innings Pitched,11.84 Year-Career

1978,Atlanta Braves,Phil Niekro,19 wins,334.33 Innings Pitched,23.45 Year-Career

1979,Atlanta Braves,Phil Niekro,21 wins,342.00 Innings Pitched,23.45 Year-Career

1980,Philadelphia Phillies,Steve Carlton,24 wins,304.00 Innings Pitched,23.03 Year-Career
 

BaseballJones

ivanvamp
SoSH Member
Oct 1, 2015
24,577
Yeah, echoing this now. It's not that pitchers are going max effort out of vanity. The skillset out there now is through the roof compared to what we (graybeards) grew up on. I've always loved watching good pitching over all else and I love the evolution of the sport... except where elbows start to break down. And this is where the real internal conflict is, with very few choices available for the game.

I wouldn't call the elbow injuries an epidemic like concussions in football before the NFL was shamed into doing something, but it does seem to be common or hanging over a lot of pitchers, to the point where I am accepting of all the stats above and the drop-off in innings pitched. There isn't much of a choice besides limiting reps. They are probably maxed out on coaching mechanics. I suspect the influence of the time clock (which is definitely not going away) so the pitchers have to get used to the tempo of the game, and within that tempo perfect the repetition of their mechanics. Maybe a few years down the road we will see the elbow injuries drop off some, or at least not get worse. But the game is never going to slow back down again, and hitters will never not be able to hit 90-94 all the time.
They could let teams shift again. That puts a crimp in offense.
 

bosox188

Member
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Jan 11, 2008
3,012
Marlborough, MA
The way to fix this is to limit substitutions/active roster size. Just as an exercise, imagine that you weren't allowed any substitutions. When your starting pitcher gets tired, he has to go play the field and your right fielder or whatever has to pitch. What do we think the average velocity would be in that world?
Well, the average exit velocity in that experiment would be around 275 mph.

I remember reading somewhere in the last year or so, the idea of a team losing the DH once their starter came out of the game. I'm not sure that I love it, and I could see there being an issue with a team putting unnecessary risk on their starter's arm in an attempt to squeeze another inning when the DH is due up next. But it's definitely one that's been discussed.

In the Athletic article with Dr. Meister that was referenced earlier, one of things discussed was pitchers gripping the ball tighter, particularly for sweepers and harder changeups. And I recall shortly before Glasnow's TJ in 2021, he was complaining after the sticky stuff crackdown that he had to grip the ball harder. Has the MLB or anyone published conclusions on the tacked ball experiment that was done in the Southern League last year? A quick search only shows me articles from last year about the experiment happening. But I wonder if a tacked ball could alleviate some of those problems.
 

teddywingman

Looks like Zach Galifianakis
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Jul 31, 2009
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The most interesting idea in this thread, imo, is to alter the mound height and strike zone back closer to 1968 dimensions.

I wonder if that would also affect the launch angle stuff (another development that hasn't been good for the game.)
 

8slim

has trust issues
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Nov 6, 2001
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Unreal America
I played with some numbers to look a little farther back:

In 1993, there were 49 pitchers that threw at least 200 innings, 56 at least 190, 65 at least 180. That was little changed from 10 years earlier.

In 1983, there were 49 pitchers that threw at least 200 innings, 57 at least 190, 65 at least 180.

In 1973, there were 61 pitchers that threw at least 200 innings, 67 at least 190, 74 at least 180.

Also in 1973, there were 32 pitchers that threw at least 250 innings and 7 pitchers that threw at least 300 innings (Steve Carlton in 1980 was the last pitcher to throw 300 innings).

Between 1973 and 1980, there were 28 pitchers that threw 300 innings. None of them had a career less than 9 years and only 2 were under 10 years.

Workhorse pitchers:

1973,Minnesota Twins,Bert Blyleven,20 wins,325.00 Innings Pitched,22.33 Year-Career

1973,Milwaukee Brewers,Jim Colborn,20 wins,314.33 Innings Pitched,9.22 Year-Career

1973,Detroit Tigers,Mickey Lolich,16 wins,308.67 Innings Pitched,16.37 Year-Career

1973,Cleveland Indians,Gaylord Perry,19 wins,344.00 Innings Pitched,21.44 Year-Career

1973,California Angels,Nolan Ryan,21 wins,326.00 Innings Pitched,27.03 Year-Career

1973,California Angels,Bill Singer,20 wins,315.67 Innings Pitched,12.81 Year-Career

1973,Chicago White Sox,Wilbur Wood,24 wins,359.33 Innings Pitched,17.14 Year-Career

1974,Oakland Athletics,Catfish Hunter,25 wins,318.33 Innings Pitched,14.35 Year-Career

1974,Texas Rangers,Fergie Jenkins,25 wins,328.33 Innings Pitched,18.04 Year-Career

1974,Detroit Tigers,Mickey Lolich,16 wins,308.00 Innings Pitched,16.37 Year-Career

1974,Atlanta Braves,Phil Niekro,20 wins,302.33 Innings Pitched,23.45 Year-Career

1974,Cleveland Indians,Gaylord Perry,21 wins,322.33 Innings Pitched,21.44 Year-Career

1974,California Angels,Nolan Ryan,22 wins,332.67 Innings Pitched,27.03 Year-Career

1974,Boston Red Sox,Luis Tiant,22 wins,311.33 Innings Pitched,18.13 Year-Career

1974,Chicago White Sox,Wilbur Wood,20 wins,320.33 Innings Pitched,17.14 Year-Career

1975,New York Yankees,Catfish Hunter,23 wins,328.00 Innings Pitched,14.35 Year-Career

1975,Chicago White Sox,Jim Kaat,20 wins,303.67 Innings Pitched,23.91 Year-Career

1975,Los Angeles Dodgers,Andy Messersmith,19 wins,321.67 Innings Pitched,10.91 Year-Career

1975,Baltimore Orioles,Jim Palmer,23 wins,323.00 Innings Pitched,19.07 Year-Career

1976,San Diego Padres,Randy Jones,22 wins,315.33 Innings Pitched,9.23 Year-Career

1976,Baltimore Orioles,Jim Palmer,22 wins,315.00 Innings Pitched,19.07 Year-Career

1977,Minnesota Twins,Dave Goltz,20 wins,303.00 Innings Pitched,10.93 Year-Career

1977,Atlanta Braves,Phil Niekro,16 wins,330.33 Innings Pitched,23.45 Year-Career

1977,Baltimore Orioles,Jim Palmer,20 wins,319.00 Innings Pitched,19.07 Year-Career

1977,Montreal Expos,Steve Rogers,17 wins,301.67 Innings Pitched,11.84 Year-Career

1978,Atlanta Braves,Phil Niekro,19 wins,334.33 Innings Pitched,23.45 Year-Career

1979,Atlanta Braves,Phil Niekro,21 wins,342.00 Innings Pitched,23.45 Year-Career

1980,Philadelphia Phillies,Steve Carlton,24 wins,304.00 Innings Pitched,23.03 Year-Career
Great data.

It’s so striking that starting pitcher workload was largely consistent from the early 70s to the mid 2000s. And then things changed, a little at first, and then rapidly a lot.

I hate it. I want to see a team’s best pitchers throw the most innings. Generally speaking, that means the top 3 starters, the closer, and the set up man.

Just a random look at that…

In 1988, the Sox top 3 starters (Clemens, Boddicker and Boyd) threw 42% of all innings that season. Add in their closer (Lee Smith) and set up man (Bob Stanley) and that jumps to 56%.

Meanwhile in 2021, the top 3 SPs threw 35% of team innings, while adding the closer and set up man got us to 42%. Meh.
 

Bergs

funky and cold
SoSH Member
Jul 22, 2005
21,680
Has anyone run the numbers on bifurcated salary caps: pitchers vs non. I don't have this fleshed out,but it seems to be a huge opportunity for all parties involved.
 

Apisith

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Oct 19, 2007
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Bangkok
The launch angle revolution was in response to the 2012-2015 years where base hits and doubles didn't produce enough runs as pitchers continued to increase their fastball velocity.

The source of the problem is the ever increasing fastball velocities, I know Theo said they might move the mound back but that would only improve hitters' odds against pitchers, it wouldn't reduce pitching injuries. In fact, it might increase pitching injuries. Whatever change comes next needs to deal with the fact that pitchers are throwing at max effort. Whatever can force pitchers to not throw at max effort would reduce pitching injuries and also allow them to go deeper into games, and that would increase fan interest.

The goal should be to increase starting pitching innings so we get more ace v ace games that both end up going deep instead of these 5.1IP, 1ER, 8K, 90 pitch games.
 

teddywingman

Looks like Zach Galifianakis
SoSH Member
Jul 31, 2009
11,204
a basement on the hill
The launch angle revolution was in response to the 2012-2015 years where base hits and doubles didn't produce enough runs as pitchers continued to increase their fastball velocity.

The source of the problem is the ever increasing fastball velocities, I know Theo said they might move the mound back but that would only improve hitters' odds against pitchers, it wouldn't reduce pitching injuries. In fact, it might increase pitching injuries. Whatever change comes next needs to deal with the fact that pitchers are throwing at max effort. Whatever can force pitchers to not throw at max effort would reduce pitching injuries and also allow them to go deeper into games, and that would increase fan interest.

The goal should be to increase starting pitching innings so we get more ace v ace games that both end up going deep instead of these 5.1IP, 1ER, 8K, 90 pitch games.
Moving the rubber back would certainly increase pitcher injuries. That idea is bananas.
 

6-5 Sadler

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SoSH Member
Jul 18, 2005
210
Moving the rubber back would certainly increase pitcher injuries. That idea is bananas.
Ok I’ll throw out a half baked idea. What about removing the pitching rubber entirely? At first blush you might think this is crazy (and it might be!) because that would force pitchers to use their arms more to generate velocity vs their legs. But, in theory, it would limit the maximum velocity that could be achieved by these pitchers, thereby reducing strain on their elbows which seems to be the weak link in the kinetic chain.

Now I realize this is a pretty radical change and I’m sure there would be some downstream impacts. Would this increase other arm-related injuries (e.g. shoulders)? Would velo drop too much and you would have to make other changes to even the playing the field with hitters (e.g. increasing mound height, widening strike zone)?
 

8slim

has trust issues
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Wouldn't simply limiting a roster to, say, 11 pitchers get the job done here? I don't recall teams carrying more than that back in the 80s and 90s.

Pitchers would need to refrain from going all-out-all-the-time if there were only so many arms in the pen available to come to their rescue before the 6th inning.

For some reason I always think of Al Nipper when these conversations come up. Prototypical 1980s 4th/5th starter. Looking over his stats at a glance, in 1987 he made 30 starts and threw 174 innings. 6 complete games where he gave up 4+ runs in 4 of them. 11 starts where he pitched into the 8th inning, and 15 where he threw 7+. That's half of the starts of a #5 SP going 7+! And it's not like he was good, he had an ERA+ of 84 that season. But he ate innings the way a backend of the rotation guy used to do.

I mean when Al Nipper could throw nearly 6 innings a start, it's depressing that all but literally a handful of the best starters in the 2020s can't even approach that.
 

lexrageorge

Member
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Jul 31, 2007
18,146
Wouldn't simply limiting a roster to, say, 11 pitchers get the job done here? I don't recall teams carrying more than that back in the 80s and 90s.

Pitchers would need to refrain from going all-out-all-the-time if there were only so many arms in the pen available to come to their rescue before the 6th inning.

For some reason I always think of Al Nipper when these conversations come up. Prototypical 1980s 4th/5th starter. Looking over his stats at a glance, in 1987 he made 30 starts and threw 174 innings. 6 complete games where he gave up 4+ runs in 4 of them. 11 starts where he pitched into the 8th inning, and 15 where he threw 7+. That's half of the starts of a #5 SP going 7+! And it's not like he was good, he had an ERA+ of 84 that season. But he ate innings the way a backend of the rotation guy used to do.

I mean when Al Nipper could throw nearly 6 innings a start, it's depressing that all but literally a handful of the best starters in the 2020s can't even approach that.
The problem is that getting pitchers, who have been trained to throw max effort all the time since their pre-teen years, to change their approach on a dime seems unrealistic. Especially when the "reward" would be to see balls thrown at half effort leave the yard.
 

jim_vh

Member
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Dec 11, 2005
20
If you put 1980s Al Nipper out on the mound he wouldn't be able to get anyone out in today's game.
 

8slim

has trust issues
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The problem is that getting pitchers, who have been trained to throw max effort all the time since their pre-teen years, to change their approach on a dime seems unrealistic. Especially when the "reward" would be to see balls thrown at half effort leave the yard.
Sadly, I know my idea is DOA. Nothing is going to chnage and we'll see fewer and fewer innings from starters. Coupled with more injuries. And my boredom with the modern game will get worse. Yay.