Would A Below .500 Team In 2023 Be Better Than The Best Baseball Teams Of 25 Years Ago?

Would A Mediocre MLB Team in 2023 Be Better Than The Best Teams Of The 90s?

  • Yes - Teams Today Have A Huge Advantage Compared To Teams From 25 Years Ago

    Votes: 44 50.0%
  • No - A Great Team From The Nineties Would Easily Defeat A Mediocre Team Today No Matter What

    Votes: 44 50.0%

  • Total voters
    88

Wingack

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Saw this idea kicking around on Twitter the other day. Someone was suggesting that given all the tools that baseball teams have now as far as gaining hitting, pitching and fielding advantages, that even the worst team today would be better than the best teams of 25 years or so ago? I think the A's and Nationals being better than the 97 Yankees or Braves is a bit of a stretch so that is why I am suggesting a team a bit better than that.

It's a good topic for debate I think though and I am curious as to what people would thing. Would baseball teams in the 90's be able to stand a chance against pitching staffs where everyone throws in the high 90s? Could the pitchers of the 90's be able to keep the ball in the ballpark successfully? For the sake of the debate, the baseball teams from the 90's do NOT have access to the same information, strategies, etc. as the teams from today (like the 2023 Twins or Cubs).

I am going to toss up a poll but what does everyone think.
 
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Spelunker

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Every relief pitcher suddenly sitting at 98 and able to dial up to 100 seems pretty insurmountable to me.

It would be closer this year than last, with the rules changes, but still we know from an informational standpoint feels like a massive, massive edge.
 

luckiestman

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People really really overrate athletic progress.

Yes, the 97 Yankees would fuckstart a 2022 bad team’s head.
 

jon abbey

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The 2022/2023 Orioles are far from the worst team anymore but there are some really bad ones (OAK, WAS). I think the more interesting comparison is a mediocre team now, the White Sox were 81-81 last year.
 

Wallball Tingle

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Are we playing by the 2023 rules or the 1998 rules? Does the 1998 team get a chance to at least know about 2023 trends in baseball?

I think the modern strategy of pitching usage (partly in terms of the way the bullpen is stocked, as Spelunker mentioned) might be the difference maker over say 100 games (not sure how many they'd have to play to find out who was better--or if the 1998 team might change tactics after a while). I think it'd be almost an even match-up.

Edited to remove redundant question given OP.
 
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BaseballJones

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The 2004 Red Sox had one guy in the bullpen who could throw 95 mph - Embree - and he could get to 95 *on occasion*. He and Timlin threw like -94.

Every team now has a never ending line of guys who throw 97+. It makes a big difference.

But I do think that lineups were more well rounded back then, a good combination of power and speed and contact that would play very well in todays game.

I don’t think the athletic and technological advancements in baseball are as pronounced as in, say, football. Decades ago the average offensive lineman was like 280 pounds. They’re now well over 300, and they run like linebackers. It’s crazy.
 

Lose Remerswaal

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In a three game series the mediocre current team would win in most simulations.

over 162 games the 1997 team would learn shifting strategy and get accustomed to 98 mph relievers and would beat the mediocre team more often than not
 

Yelling At Clouds

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The 1998 Yankees might have some trouble with this year's As. Jeter played the most recently, and that was nine years ago. Bernie Williams is 54. David Cone is 60!

(I'll show myself out.)
 

Wingack

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People really really overrate athletic progress.

Yes, the 97 Yankees would fuckstart a 2022 bad team’s head.
The 2022/2023 Orioles are far from the worst team anymore but there are some really bad ones (OAK, WAS). I think the more interesting comparison is a mediocre team now, the White Sox were 81-81 last year.
Yeah which is why I switched it to a mediocre team rather than the worst team in baseball like what was floating around.
 

YTF

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The 2004 Red Sox had one guy in the bullpen who could throw 95 mph - Embree - and he could get to 95 *on occasion*. He and Timlin threw like -94.

Every team now has a never ending line of guys who throw 97+. It makes a big difference.

But I do think that lineups were more well rounded back then, a good combination of power and speed and contact that would play very well in todays game.

I don’t think the athletic and technological advancements in baseball are as pronounced as in, say, football. Decades ago the average offensive lineman was like 280 pounds. They’re now well over 300, and they run like linebackers. It’s crazy.
To piggy back on this a bit, roster construction is different as well. I can't pinpoint the exact change in the usage of pitchers (or as Bob Ryan refers to it "The Tony LaRussafication of Baseball"), but even then starters were expected (and more often than not) able to go more deeper into games. The bench makeup of a team might be a little different as the team may not need 13 pitchers. Of course today's roster size has changed so which rules are we using? Yesteryear's team might only require 11 pitchers. Six bench spots would surely be an advantage at times.
 
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wiffleballhero

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In the simulacrum
In a three game series the mediocre current team would win in most simulations.

over 162 games the 1997 team would learn shifting strategy and get accustomed to 98 mph relievers and would beat the mediocre team more often than not
This seems to me like the correct answer. But I also I think any team before about the 94 strike would lose badly over the 162. And if you jump back another 25 to 1973 it would be more heartbreaking than anything else. They'd get demolished.
 

Wingack

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This seems to me like the correct answer. But I also I think any team before about the 94 strike would lose badly over the 162. And if you jump back another 25 to 1973 it would be more heartbreaking than anything else. They'd get demolished.
There were talking during the ESPN broadcast of the HOU game about how hard Nolan Ryan would have thrown if he played today. Would have been something to see.
 

InstaFace

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This seems to me like the correct answer. But I also I think any team before about the 94 strike would lose badly over the 162. And if you jump back another 25 to 1973 it would be more heartbreaking than anything else. They'd get demolished.
At some point pre-expansion, the talent pool in MLB gets more concentrated from fewer teams, and also greater relative popularity of baseball as a sport / larger minors and youth participation, etc.

But they also have to contend with a lack of modern approaches to nutrition, fitness, "not smoking like a chimney", and so on.
 

nvalvo

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I think as Wingack has redefined the question — i.e. do the 2023 Chicago White Sox (probably a pretty good team) beat the 1998 Yankees in a 7-game series — I think White Sox would be pretty strongly favored.

On the one hand, the 1998 Yankees were incredible; almost certainly the best single team year of their decade (a decade that had a bunch of really notable teams!). On the other hand, I like Eloy Jimenez' or Louis Robert's or Andrew Benintendi's chances of hitting well against Pettitte or Wells or El Duque than I do Tino Martinez' or Darryl Strawberry's chances of hitting Dylan Cease or Michael Kopech.

There was a guy back in the 1990s who sat high 90s (touched 100) on the fastball from the left side while working in a devastating slider around 90 mph, and that guy was Randy Johnson. He won five Cy Young awards. That basically describes the repertoire of another tall lefty, Garrett Crochet, and he's, what? — the fourth best reliever on the White Sox when everybody's healthy?
 

Wingack

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I think as Wingack has redefined the question — i.e. do the 2023 Chicago White Sox (probably a pretty good team) beat the 1998 Yankees in a 7-game series — I think White Sox would be pretty strongly favored.

On the one hand, the 1998 Yankees were incredible; almost certainly the best single team year of their decade (a decade that had a bunch of really notable teams!). On the other hand, I like Eloy Jimenez' or Louis Robert's or Andrew Benintendi's chances of hitting well against Pettitte or Wells or El Duque than I do Tino Martinez' or Darryl Strawberry's chances of hitting Dylan Cease or Michael Kopech.

There was a guy back in the 1990s who sat high 90s (touched 100) on the fastball from the left side while working in a devastating slider around 90 mph, and that guy was Randy Johnson. He won five Cy Young awards. That basically describes the repertoire of another tall lefty, Garrett Crochet, and he's, what? — the fourth best reliever on the White Sox when everybody's healthy?
The White Sox are a great choice. Solid lineup, some solid starters, a good bullpen (with Hendricks). I think they would mess some of the great 90’s teams up probably.
 

Mantush

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I simulated 10,000 games between the 22 White Sox and 98 Yankees in OOTP24. I can't upload images so I've just posted the results below in tables. It actually came out closer than I thought it would be. I thought the Yankees would have won more games.

White Sox Stat Yankees
4953-5047 Record 5047-4953
41489 Runs Scored 41884
41884 Runs Allowed 41489
.286 AVG .251
8081 HR 11424
2010 SB 5389
3.98 ERA 3.96
11424 HR Allowed 8081
2.87 BB/9 1.69
9.72 K/9 8.90
3.38 K/BB 5.25
.685 Defensive Efficiency .642



CHICAGO 2022 WHITE SOX BATTING STATS
Name G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI TB BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS
José Abreu 1B 9729 39064 4663 12298 2477 59 692 4947 16969 2539 8842 6 8 0.315 0.367 0.434 0.802
Tim Anderson SS 9333 41136 5306 12826 1664 60 524 3432 16182 1361 8295 1084 465 0.312 0.343 0.393 0.737
Danny Mendick SS 4613 13356 1440 3986 500 104 296 1712 5582 612 3341 2 8 0.298 0.336 0.418 0.753
Luis Robert CF 9486 39374 4888 11658 1783 68 905 3955 16292 1157 9408 715 453 0.296 0.321 0.414 0.735
Seby Zavala C 1298 770 76 225 58 0 9 91 310 53 284 0 2 0.292 0.352 0.403 0.755
Eloy Jimenez LF 9888 39431 5077 11353 1456 49 1649 6054 17854 3038 11062 10 9 0.288 0.344 0.453 0.797
Andrew Vaughn RF 9372 36229 3898 10333 1888 63 930 4211 15137 1580 7913 6 7 0.285 0.327 0.418 0.745
AJ Pollock LF 9364 32824 3677 8993 1716 55 738 3755 13033 1501 7334 89 97 0.274 0.307 0.397 0.704
Reese McGuire C 7882 26837 2593 7349 1402 91 226 2307 9611 950 6796 3 18 0.274 0.308 0.358 0.666
Josh Harrison 2B 9321 35158 3857 9561 1754 148 481 3243 13054 1351 7921 87 112 0.272 0.322 0.371 0.693
Gavin Sheets RF 6800 11348 1238 3061 533 16 362 1616 4712 617 2718 0 1 0.27 0.311 0.415 0.726
Jake Burger 3B 9221 36150 4093 9418 1777 136 1180 4511 15007 1348 12727 4 7 0.261 0.299 0.415 0.714
Yasmani Grandal C 2597 7276 683 1577 173 4 89 533 2025 802 2175 4 2 0.217 0.297 0.278 0.575
NEW YORK 1998 YANKEES BATTING STATS
Name G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI TB BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS
Homer Bush 2B 4355 5773 572 1671 199 5 78 464 2114 292 1848 196 137 0.289 0.327 0.366 0.693
Derek Jeter SS 9370 38747 4921 10593 1343 236 937 3898 15219 2435 11385 1183 676 0.273 0.323 0.393 0.716
Bernie Williams CF 9678 37299 4848 9732 1647 186 1326 4800 15729 3771 11684 774 536 0.261 0.328 0.422 0.75
Paul O'Neill RF 9632 34491 3911 8889 1779 52 1097 3842 14063 2978 9751 338 199 0.258 0.318 0.408 0.726
Shane Spencer 1B 9699 38497 5088 9634 1872 66 2242 6508 18364 2427 11296 210 389 0.25 0.296 0.477 0.773
Scott Brosius 3B 9362 33951 3926 8424 1766 52 909 3472 13021 2454 9848 525 483 0.248 0.314 0.384 0.698
Joe Girardi C 7772 24426 2243 5998 942 192 248 2124 8068 918 5870 161 271 0.246 0.28 0.33 0.61
Tino Martinez 1B 9930 37471 4942 9199 1826 33 1994 5542 17073 3618 9357 9 39 0.245 0.319 0.456 0.775
Chuck Knoblauch 2B 9331 37815 5014 9228 1362 126 921 3464 13605 3210 7851 1535 935 0.244 0.325 0.36 0.685
Tim Raines LF 9579 31759 3555 7725 1183 58 464 2928 10416 4345 9117 257 250 0.243 0.34 0.328 0.668
Luis Sojo SS 1845 4274 308 1011 126 21 22 326 1245 70 668 6 15 0.237 0.247 0.291 0.538
Jorge Posada C 4011 8801 1015 2055 419 12 419 1357 3755 798 3292 5 4 0.233 0.295 0.427 0.722
Darryl Strawberry LF 4429 10766 1541 2253 286 27 767 1832 4894 1348 5003 190 145 0.209 0.303 0.455 0.758
CHICAGO 2022 WHITE SOX PITCHING STATS
Name W L SV ERA G GS IP HA R ER HR BB K WHIP OAVG BABIP
Yasmani Grandal C 0 0 0 0 3 0 2.1 0 0 0 0 3 2 1.29 0 0
Reynaldo Lopez CL 376 438 1771 3.25 3975 0 4752 4666 1818 1716 336 1460 4641 1.29 0.254 0.321
Davis Martin RP 372 158 150 3.59 4555 0 6731.2 6443 2833 2687 789 1751 6996 1.22 0.25 0.311
Aaron Bummer RP 275 141 168 3.8 4512 0 4354.2 4352 1987 1837 436 1582 4283 1.36 0.26 0.323
Dylan Cease SP 611 788 6 3.83 2193 2157 11984.1 10846 5384 5100 1400 4286 15031 1.26 0.24 0.324
Vince Velasquez RP 311 294 196 3.92 4429 0 5017 4763 2277 2186 682 1709 6028 1.29 0.248 0.323
Michael Kopech SP 612 763 3 4 2167 2141 11536.1 9521 5403 5127 1706 4806 11705 1.24 0.223 0.264
Liam Hendriks RP 240 253 194 4 4528 0 4520.1 4272 2092 2010 663 1348 5552 1.24 0.246 0.32
Kendall Graveman RP 147 82 126 4 3430 0 4067 4305 1915 1809 419 1387 3806 1.4 0.271 0.329
Lucas Giolito SP 652 610 1 4.12 2000 1985 10347.2 9927 4974 4742 1588 3157 13001 1.26 0.25 0.33
Johnny Cueto SP 499 565 4 4.13 1654 1619 8561.1 9344 4194 3927 904 1815 6772 1.3 0.276 0.32
Joe Kelly RP 171 108 103 4.15 3712 0 3873 3580 1892 1788 355 2059 4601 1.46 0.245 0.33
Lance Lynn SP 600 766 2 4.3 2137 2098 11223 11626 5661 5358 1776 1911 11919 1.21 0.265 0.323
Jimmy Lambert RP 87 81 80 4.39 2069 0 2763 2738 1427 1349 368 1374 2621 1.49 0.256 0.304
Seby Zavala C 0 0 0 18 4 0 5 11 10 10 1 7 6 3.6 0.44 0.556
Gavin Sheets RF 0 0 0 24.16 7 0 6.1 18 17 17 1 9 6 4.26 0.486 0.567
NEW YORK 1998 YANKEES PITCHING STATS
Name W L SV ERA G GS IP HA R ER HR BB K WHIP OAVG BABIP
Homer Bush 2B 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
Mariano Rivera CL 419 481 1991 3.23 4140 0 4864.1 5654 1833 1746 210 955 3819 1.36 0.291 0.35
David Cone SP 840 716 0 3.34 2170 2160 13936 13989 5442 5172 1131 2071 16008 1.15 0.259 0.346
Orlando Hernandez SP 840 681 1 3.54 2150 2142 13517 13935 5557 5310 1015 2792 15223 1.24 0.264 0.351
Ramiro Mendoza RP 298 311 405 3.66 4564 0 4726.1 5585 2035 1924 310 566 3468 1.3 0.295 0.344
David Wells SP 805 731 1 3.95 2113 2106 12877.1 14982 5918 5648 1573 1223 12517 1.26 0.288 0.352
Hideki Irabu SP 525 562 1 4.04 1616 1613 9023 9402 4249 4048 1096 2109 9252 1.28 0.266 0.33
Darren Holmes RP 255 290 183 4.21 3248 0 3743.1 4923 1857 1750 282 501 2971 1.45 0.318 0.375
Mike Stanton RP 89 74 67 4.31 2765 0 3606 4212 1802 1725 474 785 3515 1.39 0.291 0.352
Graeme Lloyd RP 158 140 92 4.34 3405 0 3887.1 5124 1998 1876 350 470 2749 1.44 0.318 0.363
Jeff Nelson RP 160 89 49 4.39 3399 0 3989.1 5306 2055 1946 123 1017 4126 1.58 0.32 0.415
Ryan Bradley RP 35 25 19 4.54 1307 0 1941.2 2039 1009 979 217 791 2248 1.46 0.268 0.35
Andy Pettitte SP 545 799 2 4.83 1981 1979 10421.2 13102 5864 5595 988 2779 10450 1.52 0.308 0.386
Joe Borowski RP 78 54 45 4.92 2526 0 3267.1 4384 1869 1787 312 849 2469 1.6 0.322 0.372
Luis Sojo SS 0 0 0 27 1 0 0.1 1 1 1 0 1 0 6 0.5 0.5
 

SumnerH

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The 2004 Red Sox had one guy in the bullpen who could throw 95 mph - Embree - and he could get to 95 *on occasion*. He and Timlin threw like -94.

Every team now has a never ending line of guys who throw 97+. It makes a big difference.
But that speed difference is in significant part because how we measure pitch speed has changed. PITCHf/x added a couple of mph to a typical fastball compared to earlier radar gun measurements, and TrackMan/Statcast bumped speeds up even more. They've even retroactively made corrections to PITCHf/x pitch records: Aroldis Chapman's 105.1mph fastball is now considered a 105.8mph fastball, because there's enough data overlap between the PITCHf/x and TrackMan systems to calibrate a reasonable adjustment.

Embree was throwing 94mph on a Stalker Pro II radar gun measuring near the midpoint of the pitch; measuring the exact same pitch with TrackMan (which takes the speed very near the release point) might have him around 98–99mph.

https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories/the-measure-of-a-fastball-has-changed-over-the-years/ discusses in more detail:

[A] pitch could be measured at 100 mph (at the pitcher’s hand), 99 mph (at 50 feet from home plate), 94 mph (midway on its journey) or 91 mph (as it crosses home plate)...The first radar guns that began appearing at ballparks in the late 1970s and early 1980s measured pitches much closer to the plate. The Speedgun, developed by Decatur Technologies (a long-time maker of police radar guns) measured closer to the plate than the JUGS gun....Then Stalker came out with its Pro Sports radar gun in the early 1990s. It measured velocity closer to the pitcher’s release point than the JUGS gun...The Pitch/FX system that MLB used in 2010 measured pitches at roughly 50 feet from home plate, which is where the 105.1 mph of Chapman’s fastball was measured. The current MLB Statcast system measures velocity as the pitch leaves the pitcher’s hand.

There were talking during the ESPN broadcast of the HOU game about how hard Nolan Ryan would have thrown if he played today. Would have been something to see.
Yep. The article ends with:

And that makes the 100 mph pitches Nolan Ryan threw in 1974 (as measured by Rockwell laser/radar instruments relatively close to the plate) even more remarkable today.
 

Max Power

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There was a guy back in the 1990s who sat high 90s (touched 100) on the fastball from the left side while working in a devastating slider around 90 mph, and that guy was Randy Johnson. He won five Cy Young awards. That basically describes the repertoire of another tall lefty, Garrett Crochet, and he's, what? — the fourth best reliever on the White Sox when everybody's healthy?
You know who can't hit today's pitchers? Today's hitters. The league average OPS last year was .706. In 1998 it was .755 and pitchers hit in the NL. Derek Jeter was the best player on the 1998 Yankees and he had a career OPS over .800 against Justin Verlander, who won the Cy Young Award last year. I get that players today have way more access to data and video, but if you gave that to the roid monsters of the late 90s, they'd still be some of the best hitters in the league.
 

moondog80

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Every relief pitcher suddenly sitting at 98 and able to dial up to 100 seems pretty insurmountable to me.

It would be closer this year than last, with the rules changes, but still we know from an informational standpoint feels like a massive, massive edge.
The graphic yesterday that Bautista (the O's closer) had 200+ pitches last year of 100 MPH, and this was good for only 7th in MLB, was mind blowing.
 

The Gray Eagle

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No one should be talking about pitch velocity without reading the link Sumner posted. The pitches aren't being measured the same way as they were 25 years ago. The pitches back then would be measured as much faster if the current technology was used.
 

Ale Xander

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Ryan would have 400 k a year, Roger 350
Both would have games where they struck out 23
In 8 innings
 

Sad Sam Jones

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The one thing I'm certain of is that a lineup with Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga, Albert Belle, Eddie Murray, Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez would still beat the ever-living shit out of Garrett Crochet.
 

Pitt the Elder

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It's interesting to look at individual sports where success is objective and quantifiable and see how much better athletes are in 2023 than they were in 1998. In swimming, the 100 fr world record was 48.21 and now it's 46.86, which is probably equivalent to winning by 1.5 body lengths. In other words, absolutely a curb stomping. More starkly, 21 swimmers in total went faster than that swim in 2022 and 26 in 2021 during an Olympic year. In other words, the world record holder in 1998 would barely be relevant at the international level 25 years later.

Trying to apply this to baseball is much harder, since athletes are competing against each other rather than a clock, but I think a logical premise is that the median MLB player in 2023 would be as good or better than a very good to great player in 1998, with the all-time greats being the only players who would be meaningfully better. The average fastball speed is a really good indicator of this but you have to imagine there have been similar aggregate gains across the broader skill sets of the league over the last 25 years. Given the intense upward pressure on the talent pool (MILB, international, etc) skill inflation is likely very real.
 

snowmanny

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Do the changing demographics of baseball have an impact on the answer? In the 1990's up to 18% of MLB players were Black (and over 40% of outfielders). Last year Black players composed around 7% of all MLB players, and as of less than ten years ago the % of outfielders who were Black had dropped to about 20%. .

If elite athletes are choosing to play other sports then maybe the difference in eras is less than we'd expect.


https://sabr.org/bioproj/topic/baseball-demographics-1947-2016/


https://www.newsweek.com/mlb-has-lowest-percentage-black-baseball-players-3-decades-report-1708382
 

Marciano490

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How are so many guys throwing so much harder? Is it just more guys strength training for longer?
 

Max Power

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Do the changing demographics of baseball have an impact on the answer? In the 1990's up to 18% of MLB players were Black (and over 40% of outfielders). Last year Black players composed around 7% of all MLB players, and as of less than ten years ago the % of outfielders who were Black had dropped to about 20%. .

If elite athletes are choosing to play other sports then maybe the difference in eras is less than we'd expect.


https://sabr.org/bioproj/topic/baseball-demographics-1947-2016/


https://www.newsweek.com/mlb-has-lowest-percentage-black-baseball-players-3-decades-report-1708382
I was thinking something similar. The pipeline of players from Japan and Latin America has picked up the slack some, but the best American athletes today are mostly playing football and basketball. There's an argument to be made that talent in MLB was at its peak in the 1960s. There were only 20 teams, so talent wasn't as diluted, and most of the best American athletes were playing baseball.
 

SumnerH

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How are so many guys throwing so much harder? Is it just more guys strength training for longer?
See my post #19 above. Some guys are throwing harder for sure, but the current means of measurement says everything is about 4–5mph faster than the exact same pitch would've been measured in 2005 because they measure closer to the release point nowadays. Most of that jump came with the switch to PITCHf/x, and then another chunk came when they went from that to TrackMan.

The older readings were patchwork (different guns measured things differently) so there's no precise correction that can be made to those. But with the PITCHf/x to TrackMan switch both systems were uniform enough and there's enough overlapping data that they actually retroactively applied a correction factor: per that article, they bumped up the speed of e.g. Aroldis Chapman's pitches.
 

j44thor

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I think the elephant in the room in this discussion, as others have mentioned, is if the pharmacological advantages of players in the 90s continue to exist. Do we still have roided up Bonds/Sosa/MacGuire types or do we level the playing field? I assume if we are giving the current day athletes all the technological advantages then we have to give the 90s players their advantages. It would be a good debate to determine if players today with their improved training but much less access to PEDs would be at an advantage or disadvantage vs. the PED generation of players.