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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Bill Madden: Nolan Ryan and Tommy John flush notion that babying pitchers staves off elbow surgery

And my crusty old Sparton 842-SX radio works better than that new Serious Radio contraption!

What is clear, as evidenced by so many high profile pitchers today, from Stephen Strasburg and Matt Harvey, to Adam Wainwright, Tim Hudson, Jordan Zimmermann, Joe Nathan and Josh Johnson, all having undergone Tommy John elbow ligament transplant surgery over the last few years, something is very wrong. Now, we’re at a point where pitchers like Medlen, Beachy, Parker, Daniel Hudson, Joakim Soria, Chris Capuano, Brian Wilson are having a second Tommy John surgery. Go back in history, as recently as the late ‘60s and ‘70s, the era of Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, Mickey Lolich, Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan et al, when pitching was dominating baseball, and it was rare for any of the game’s top starters to be shut down for a season with elbow surgery. Rather, they routinely pitched 200 or more innings in a season and in many cases 300 innings. Today, the 200-inning pitcher is fast becoming a dinosaur — there were only 36 last year and just 31 in 2012, which was the fewest since 1958 according to the Elias Sports Bureau. By contrast, in the ‘70s there were routinely 60 or more pitchers hurling over 200 innings each season with a high of 65 in 1974.

Far less innings today and far more blown out elbows, so what gives?

“It’s pretty simple in my opinion,” said Ryan when reached by phone from Houston where he is in the process of settling in as the executive assistant to new Astros owner, Jim Crain. “For one thing, back then they didn’t have MRIs and now that they do, given the success rate of (Tommy John surgery), they’re more inclined to just do it.”

Seemingly almost weekly now, we see the routine. Pitcher leaves the game complaining of pain in his elbow. Immediately gets an MRI, which shows a partial tear in the ligament. Pitcher goes for a second opinion to Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, the foremost orthopedic surgeon for Tommy John surgery since its creator Dr. Frank Jobe (who died on March 6) retired, before ultimately opting to get the surgery. But why, I asked Ryan, are all these elbows blowing out in the first place, when that hardly ever seemed to happen when he was pitching?

“It’s because pitchers simply don’t throw as much as we did,” Ryan replied, matter-of-factly. “That’s the real issue here. When I pitched, we pitched every fourth day and guys would pitch 300 innings and it wasn’t considered a big deal. If you don’t get on the mound and develop stamina, you’re risking injury. This whole thing with the 100-pitch count limit — I have a real problem with that. Pitchers are all different and when you put standard limitations on them, you’re not utilizing their talent.”

Repoz Posted: March 22, 2014 at 04:58 PM | 113 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. The District Attorney Posted: March 22, 2014 at 06:54 PM (#4675477)
It almost seems obvious that throwing 200 IP in 40 starts would be safer than throwing 200 IP in 30 starts. And perhaps you could push that principle further, such that throwing more than 200 IP in 40 starts is still safer than throwing 200 in 30, although I really doubt you could often get that number as high as 300.

Anyway, the number of starts is one thing, but the innings/pitch count per start is quite another. Claiming that 30 120-pitch starts would be safer than 30 100-pitch starts reminds me of claiming that reducing taxes will increase tax revenues. It's a counter-intuitive position that would be awfully convenient if it were true, but I can't imagine that it is. And saying that limiting pitch counts is pointless because it doesn't totally prevent all injuries, is not a serious argument.
   2. cardsfanboy Posted: March 22, 2014 at 07:09 PM (#4675480)
Far less innings today and far more blown out elbows, so what gives?


Where is the evidence of that? Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Roger Clemens, all had pretty good careers in the newer age of pitching. Meanwhile the great careers of young promising pitchers like John Fulgham, Sam McDowell, Bob Veale, Denny McClain, Jon Matlack...etc... I literally could probably find 100+ pitchers in the 60's-80's who had careers cut short and over use could easily be linked to them.

(just grabbing names from pi, and looking for a good season or two and then lack of ability or out of the league in a couple of years after posting a 130 era+ season)
   3. cardsfanboy Posted: March 22, 2014 at 07:10 PM (#4675481)
Note: I think Ryan has a point about the standardized limits on pitchers, but until a system is created that can discover who are your Nolan Ryan(even before the steroid usage) and Randy Johnsons of the world, it's better to be safe than sorry.
   4. Kiko Sakata Posted: March 22, 2014 at 07:43 PM (#4675489)
I literally could probably find 100+ pitchers in the 60's-80's who had careers cut short and over use could easily be linked to them.


Heck, one-sixth of the pitchers cited in TFE as evidence of the healthy days gone by only pitched 5 200-inning seasons in his career and never threw a pitch after the age of 30.
   5. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: March 22, 2014 at 07:45 PM (#4675490)
Bill Monboquette is the Red Sox local curmudgeon on this subject. He loves to talk about how he just pitched and pitched and his arm never gave out.

His career ended at age 30.

I firmly believe that 50% of all pitchers "losing it" is actually injury and I suspect that 50% figure is drastically low.
   6. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 22, 2014 at 07:51 PM (#4675492)
I don't know that I agree that throwing more would prevent injuries, but I also don't think limiting pitching has really done a particularly good job of limiting injuries either. If I were running a team, I'd probably be pretty ruthless and have my pitchers throw as much as I could, to max out their utility while they're under the reserve clause, and if their career is done by 30, well that's not my problem.

Okay, in reality, I probably wouldn't be that big of a dick, but I would probably err on pitching more, not pitching less.
   7. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: March 22, 2014 at 07:55 PM (#4675493)
I don't know that I agree that throwing more would prevent injuries, but I also don't think limiting pitching has really done a particularly good job of limiting injuries either. If I were running a team, I'd probably be pretty ruthless and have my pitchers throw as much as I could, to max out their utility while they're under the reserve clause, and if their career is done by 30, well that's not my problem.


This is the thing that I find so frustrating about the subject. I really think there is a lot of logic in what you say but I hate the idea of being that callous. It just sucks that the options seem to be "try to be nice and not get any benefit" or "be a complete dick."
   8. Walt Davis Posted: March 22, 2014 at 08:17 PM (#4675505)
I'll add the Ryan had injury problems when he was young. He missed pretty much his entire age 20 season (11 IP in the minors), seems to have missed a month of age 21, was very lightly used at 22, missed about a month at 23 and just 152 IP at 24 (although god knows how many pitches).

Through age 24, Ryan had just 510 ML IP preceded by 291 mL IP. Through 24, Felix has over 1100 ML IP and 300 in the minors. CC had 972 and 235. Buehrle had 742 and 217.

Meanwhile, through 24, Gary Nolan threw 1157 ML IP with a 127 ERA+ and rapidly declining K-rate. He'd already missed almost a full season over his age 20-21 seasons. He missed essentially all of 25-26, bounced back pretty well at 27-28 and his last season was 29.

Lolich broke in at 22 racked up a ton of innings on a seasonal basis but he was also done at 35. David Wells didn't debut until 24, didn't become a starter until 27, pitched until he was 44 and ended up with just 200 fewer career IP than Lolich.

Ryan likely benefited from not being worked hard young. And, if there's been any trend, it's towards lighter in-season workloads but longer careers (in terms of seasons).
   9. Jim Wisinski Posted: March 22, 2014 at 08:25 PM (#4675508)
The Rays (two TJ surgeries in the last six years I believe, both in the minors) and a select few other teams are obviously doing something very right with pitcher health. There have been a few significant injuries to relievers (most notably Howell having labrum surgery, Farnsworth missing most of a season) but the starting pitchers have generally been extremely healthy. They even got 544 league average innings out of Jeff Niemann's shredded shoulder which might be their greatest accomplishment. It's highly unlikely that an extended streak of unusually good pitcher health is the result of luck or random chance and I don't think they're the only team that tends to avoid significant injuries to its pitchers. Some people in the game are doing something right though I don't personally know exactly what that is.
   10. ptodd Posted: March 22, 2014 at 08:53 PM (#4675514)
There are a couple of other possibilities.

1. Pitchers today are bigger and stronger and they throw harder. The UCL has its limits which are being exceeded more often.

2. Survivor bias. Pitchers who were predisposed to arm injuries simply flamed out early from the overload leaving pitchers who had the Right Stuff, genetically speaking, Those pitchers who survived the injury nexus just kept going until something gave out or they aged too much, typically at the end of a long career.

I think the hypothesis that arm injuries can be eliminated by throwing more is untested. Might be best to look to Japan for more data on that. What are injury rates there. We see the survivors here in MLB; Tanaka, Daisuke, Nomo, Darvish, etc, but how many simply flamed out at a young age in japan?
   11. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 22, 2014 at 09:09 PM (#4675518)
It's highly unlikely that an extended streak of unusually good pitcher health is the result of luck or random chance and I don't think they're the only team that tends to avoid significant injuries to its pitchers


Why wouldn't it be? Its an extremely small sample size with pretty amorphous definitions of success.
   12. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: March 22, 2014 at 09:17 PM (#4675519)
Meanwhile the great careers of young promising pitchers like John Fulgham, Sam McDowell, Bob Veale, Denny McClain, Jon Matlack

maybe for the others it was overuse--in Sudden Sam's case, it was the inability to metabolize ethanol

2. Survivor bias. Pitchers who were predisposed to arm injuries simply flamed out early from the overload leaving pitchers who had the Right Stuff, genetically speaking, Those pitchers who survived the injury nexus just kept going until something gave out or they aged too much, typically at the end of a long career.

exactly
   13. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: March 22, 2014 at 09:21 PM (#4675520)
This is the thing that I find so frustrating about the subject. I really think there is a lot of logic in what you say but I hate the idea of being that callous. It just sucks that the options seem to be "try to be nice and not get any benefit" or "be a complete dick."


Yeah, but for the most part the pitchers still want to pitch. Tell your young pitchers "we're going to ride you all the way" and they'll love you, unless they're Boras clients.

There is no evidence at all that modern low pitch and inning counts protect pitchers from injuries, and I don't believe they do. But I do believe that they make pitchers more effective and that they therefore have become a necessary element of pitchers improving over time to keep up with hitters.
   14. Srul Itza Posted: March 22, 2014 at 09:39 PM (#4675523)
Okay, in reality, I probably wouldn't be that big of a dick


Don't sell yourself short.
   15. bobm Posted: March 22, 2014 at 09:44 PM (#4675526)
[9]
In a post-game autopsy of Maddon’s decision to remove his starter, Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times would  reveal that Shields was “surprised” and “disappointed” to be removed from the game. Shields had a point. He had, after all, thrown a mere 68 pitches (a season low). The righty also thought he had the edge against Michael Young and Josh Hamilton, the next two hitters he would have faced. He had struck out each once and hadn’t allowed either to reach base that day. Maddon would offer little explanation for his decision.

Somewhere in the clubhouse sat Josh Kalk, former Hardball Times writer and current Tampa Bay Rays analyst. Kalk had been monitoring every pitch thrown by Shields, and he saw something in the last few pitches that he didn’t like. It was Josh Kalk’s opinion, not Joe Maddon’s, that led to Shields’ removal.

Everything I just wrote is true, except for Kalk’s role in removing Shields—that was wild speculation. I don’t know what was said on the phone to Hickey (or who was on the phone, for that matter), but I would guess that Hickey was merely checking on the status of reliever Chad Qualls.

I bring up this scenario, though, because I recently came across the article that vaulted Josh Kalk out of the blogosphere and into a major league baseball operations department. Way back in 2008, Kalk attempted to create a model that predicted and prevented pitching injuries. It was a tall task for someone with no access to a major league pitching coach, but Kalk thought he had data rich enough to give it a try.

The Injury Zone

When Kalk wrote “The Injury Zone” in early 2009, a new form of baseball data had just been released to the public. Kalk was able to take advantage of data produced by PITCHf/x cameras that have been recording baseball games since 2008, and that now sit in every major league stadium. The information that Sportvision’s system provides essentially allows for the reconstruction of the ball flight and release point of each pitch thrown in a major league ballpark.Kalk assumed that somewhere in this mountain of data there had to be some variable (or combination of variables) that could provide a signal predictive of future arm health. What was really novel about his idea, though, was that it worked in the short-term. Instead of taking on the task of projecting the likelihood of a pitcher succumbing to injury within the next week, month, or season, Kalk wanted to identify situations in which a pitcher might hurt his arm after throwing his next pitch.


http://www.hardballtimes.com/the-injury-zone-revisited/
   16. Matt Welch Posted: March 22, 2014 at 09:56 PM (#4675529)
Walt Davis -- One reason for Nolan Ryan's weird early-career IP numbers was that he was still serving military duty during the season in the National Guard (I believe it was), while also trying to break in with a stacked Mets rotation.

That said, his four-decade-long emphasis on piling up SP endurance will always be associated in my mind with the flagrant child abuse of Frank Tanana, so I am less inclined to give the theory a whirl.
   17. Walt Davis Posted: March 23, 2014 at 12:11 AM (#4675569)
From his Wiki page:

Ryan missed much of the 1967 season due to illness, an arm injury, and service with the Army Reserve, pitching only 7 innings for the Mets' minor league affiliate in Jacksonville. Wiki also mentions blister problems.

He didn't pitch in the minors in 68 ... and he didn't pitch in the majors between July 29 and Sept 3. Possibly he was off doing military service in Aug.

In 69, he didn't appear between May 11 and June 11 nor between Aug 10 and Sept 3.

In 70, he appeared only twice between June 24 and Aug 4.

Regardless of the reasons, he was not heavily used.
   18. Squash Posted: March 23, 2014 at 12:30 AM (#4675573)
Now, we’re at a point where pitchers like Medlen, Beachy, Parker, Daniel Hudson, Joakim Soria, Chris Capuano, Brian Wilson are having a second Tommy John surgery.

I suppose it hardly needs mentioning that there were no repeat victims back in the day because if you blew out your arm once you were done, never to be heard from again.
   19. Zach Posted: March 23, 2014 at 01:08 AM (#4675582)
Predicting when a frayed rope will snap is a difficult job at best. Nobody has yet come up with a model that predicts when a pitcher's arm is going to go, or what you can do to prevent it.
   20. Ron J Posted: March 23, 2014 at 05:00 AM (#4675600)
#2 Nolan Ryan is a particularly strange example for the author to cite. He's more of an outlier in terms of endurance than he is in velocity.

It's also probably interesting to note that his most effective period by rate stats came when his workload was fairly closely monitored.

EDIT: I mean he really did have a start where he could not have thrown less that 240 pitches and really did have injury free, effective seasons when his average pitch count was north of 140. It's safe to say that there's maybe one pitcher per generation who can do that.

   21. Rob_Wood Posted: March 23, 2014 at 05:55 AM (#4675601)

pitch counts are like an alarm clock. you ignore them at your own peril. of course, to strain the analogy, getting out of bed when the alarm clock sounds (with or without hitting snooze bar) is no guarantee that you'll make it to work on time, just as not setting your alarm clock the night before does not ensure that you'll be late to work the next morning.

plus, beyond the obvious huge investments today's teams make in good starting pitchers these days, the decrease in quality when bringing in a reliever for a starter late in the game is very small. in the old days, starters were far higher quality that relievers so there were many factors leading to leaving in starters "too long".

that reminds me, I was surprised when I reviewed historical world series games at how many times managers left starters in to pitch when any modern manager would relieve the starter without question. I think I remember at least one game in which the manager left the starter in to bat in a very close game (maybe tied?) late in the game with people on base (not in a bunt situation). It made no sense to the modern observer. maybe I'll try to find that game in question.
   22. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 23, 2014 at 08:41 AM (#4675606)
2. Survivor bias. Pitchers who were predisposed to arm injuries simply flamed out early from the overload leaving pitchers who had the Right Stuff, genetically speaking, Those pitchers who survived the injury nexus just kept going until something gave out or they aged too much, typically at the end of a long career.

Probably true, but then the question becomes: Why would the system evolve away from developing highly durable thoroughbreds? Why would the system want to pay major league money -- particularly when that money is so much higher now -- to the brittle, rather than let them wash out earlier and cheaper?

That seems like regression, not evolutionary progress.
   23. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: March 23, 2014 at 08:48 AM (#4675607)
It's just further evidence for the decline of western civilization.
   24. cardsfanboy Posted: March 23, 2014 at 09:27 AM (#4675615)
Probably true, but then the question becomes: Why would the system evolve away from developing highly durable thoroughbreds? Why would the system want to pay major league money -- particularly when that money is so much higher now -- to the brittle, rather than let them wash out earlier and cheaper?


Has it evolved away from that? Again people like to point to this and make the assumption that it's true, but I haven't seen many people produce evidence supporting that other than anectdotal.

One quick way of looking at it...number of pitchers per decade with over 1000 ip.

87 1960-1969
102 1970-1979
99 1980-1989
89 1990-1999
105 2000-2009

Obviously you have pitchers straddling the decades and you have more teams, so you have more players nowadays, but it seems the pitchers per decade that can handle a "heavy" workload is pretty consistent.

Up it to 1500 ip and you have
35 1960-1969
50 1970-1979
47 1980-1989
38 1989-1999
33 2000-2009

Not really a huge variation there either. We already knew that 1970's had a little blip on the radar, but it doesn't explain why the 60's were no different than the aughts, as far as pitchers lasting. And we aren't really talking about much of a difference. And we didn't adjust for quality. How about number of pitchers with over 1000 innings and 110 era+/100era+?

28/65 1960-1969
32/68 1970-1979
28/68 1980-1989
33/64 1989-1999
34/65 2000-2009

Not seeing much of a difference in eras. I get the more teams, but that doesn't mean that the number of people who are able to handle large workloads has substantially changed. There are all types of ways to look at it, but until someone goes through each and every team over the past 50 years and find the percentage of flameouts and ineffective pitchers in their second year, there is no real way to determine which is better.

As to how it changed, the era of free agency has made a difference, players want longer careers, babying the arm, logically seems to be the best option to have any career after your 7th season in the bigs.
   25. VCar Posted: March 23, 2014 at 10:31 AM (#4675628)
that reminds me, I was surprised when I reviewed historical world series games at how many times managers left starters in to pitch when any modern manager would relieve the starter without question. I think I remember at least one game in which the manager left the starter in to bat in a very close game (maybe tied?) late in the game with people on base (not in a bunt situation).


This reminds me of the only WS game I've ever attended, which was game 1 in 79. Weaver left Flanagan in for a complete game 5-4 win, even after Stargell's complete bomb of a homer in the 8th. (Still seems like the longest homer I've ever seen live, though I was 14 at the time so maybe my judgment is clouded all these years later...) This would never happen today. It would look more like what Weaver did in game 7, when he used a million relievers to try to keep a 2-1 game that the O's were losing close.
   26. Jim Wisinski Posted: March 23, 2014 at 11:09 AM (#4675635)
I think the hypothesis that arm injuries can be eliminated by throwing more is untested. Might be best to look to Japan for more data on that. What are injury rates there. We see the survivors here in MLB; Tanaka, Daisuke, Nomo, Darvish, etc, but how many simply flamed out at a young age in japan?


I've wondered that about Japan since we get a pretty limited selection of news and background about baseball over there outside of the big stars who might come to MLB. We hear stuff about the huge pitch counts, starts on little rest, throwing all the time etc. and some people accept it as gospel that what they're doing is working and their pitchers are fine. But then there's that article that was posted here a year or two ago about that massive high school tournament in Japan with quotes from pitchers who played in it and can no long lift their arm above their head and stuff like that.
   27. Golfing Great Mitch Cumstein Posted: March 23, 2014 at 01:02 PM (#4675664)
This issue was probably hashed out on Usenet, but in the mid-90's Sports Illustrated had an article about pitcher's careers. The theory was that pitchers who didn't throw much around 20 or so had longer careers than pitchers who threw a ton of innings at the same age. The example I remember was Nolan Ryan because of his military service and injuries. Also, the article spotted Clemens as somebody who could last because he lost a season at 21 or so because of a shoulder injury. I think the article presented some data and was not just anecdotal. What is the status of this theory?
   28. bjhanke Posted: March 23, 2014 at 02:41 PM (#4675717)
Something I've thought for years, but never figured out a way to measure - There were a lot of big-inning years in the early 1970s; everyone knows that. But most of those huge-IP years were posted by pitchers who had their "young years" in the 1960s, when the conditions of the game were such that you didn't pitch to as many hitters to get through an inning as you would have before or later. The reason I've never been able to figure out how to measure this is that the sample size is too small. Did Ryan's arm age well because he missed time due to the military and the fact that his team didn't need pitching, or because his young years were in the 1960s? A bit earlier, did Bob Gibson have a "light" workload when young because he went to Creighton on a basketball scholarship and then spent a year with the Harlem Globetrotters, and then was shunted to the mop-up man role by Solly Hemus? It's just hard to say, but as a consequence of it, I don't tend to take the words of the early 1970s big-IP guys at face value. There is something odd about that time period, and it might well be that the prime pitchers of the early 1970s had had light workloads when young, not in terms of IP, but in terms of batters faced, and therefore, in terms of pitches thrown. - Brock Hanke
   29. Golfing Great Mitch Cumstein Posted: March 23, 2014 at 02:51 PM (#4675726)
How well established is the projection of pitch count before it was actually tracked?
   30. cardsfanboy Posted: March 23, 2014 at 02:52 PM (#4675729)
I don't tend to take the words of the early 1970s big-IP guys at face value. There is something odd about that time period, and it might well be that the prime pitchers of the early 1970s had had light workloads when young, not in terms of IP, but in terms of batters faced, and therefore, in terms of pitches thrown.


As some people around here like to point out, is that in that time frame, teams frequently had "easy" outs on the roster. If you think about it, you have expansion in 1961/1962 of four teams, then another expansion of 4 more teams in 1969...it's likely that by 1970-1972 the average talent per team in the league was probably lower than it had been at anytime post 1920. Yes on both offense and defense, but the good pitchers would have a little easier time at the bottom of the order against most teams. Add in that with the dearth of talent, there is a good chance that the managers of the good pitchers wouldn't have been comfortable going to relievers when their good pitchers were struggling.

   31. cardsfanboy Posted: March 23, 2014 at 02:54 PM (#4675732)
How well established is the projection of pitch count before it was actually tracked?


The Dodgers were one of the few(if not only) team doing pitch counts in the 1960s, and the estimated pitch counts track pretty well with the limited data that we have seen. Personally I don't trust estimated pitch counts too much, but there is a formula out there for that.
   32. bobm Posted: March 23, 2014 at 03:16 PM (#4675762)
First season, From 1901 to 2014, For players in the saved report : (Spanning Multiple Seasons or entire Careers, From 1901 to 2014, (requiring At least 3000 Innings Pitched))

Note that seasons with zero are NOT shown

                                                                                                           
Year                                                                                              #Matching
1901           2                                                                    Eddie Plank / Doc White
1902           1                                                                              George Mullin
1903           3                                                   Red Ames / Chief Bender / Mordecai Brown
1905           1                                                                              Eddie Cicotte
1907           1                                                                             Walter Johnson
1908           1                                                                              Rube Marquard
1909           1                                                                                 Jack Quinn

1911           1                                                                             Pete Alexander
1912           6 Bullet Joe Bush / Wilbur Cooper / Stan Coveleski / Hooks Dauss / Herb Pennock / Eppa Rixey
1914           3                                                     Red Faber / Sad Sam Jones / Dolf Luque
1915           2                                                                    Carl Mays / Lee Meadows
1916           1                                                                            Burleigh Grimes
1918           3                                                    Jesse Haines / Waite Hoyt / Tom Zachary
1919           1                                                                                George Uhle

1923           3                                                  Ted Lyons / Charlie Root / Earl Whitehill
1924           1                                                                                Red Ruffing
1925           2                                                          Freddie Fitzsimmons / Lefty Grove
1928           2                                                                  Mel Harder / Carl Hubbell
1929           2                                                                 Larry French / Bobo Newsom

1931           1                                                                             Paul Derringer
1933           1                                                                              Dutch Leonard
1934           1                                                                              Bucky Walters
1936           1                                                                                 Bob Feller
1939           2                                                                 Murry Dickson / Early Wynn

1942           1                                                                               Warren Spahn
1945           1                                                                               Billy Pierce
1947           1                                                                               Curt Simmons
1948           1                                                                              Robin Roberts

1950           2                                                                 Lew Burdette / Whitey Ford
1951           1                                                                                 Bob Friend
1955           2                                                                Jim Bunning / Larry Jackson
1956           1                                                                               Don Drysdale
1957           2                                                                Claude Osteen / Milt Pappas
1959           3                                                          Bob Gibson / Jim Kaat / Jim Perry

1960           1                                                                              Juan Marichal
1962           1                                                                              Gaylord Perry
1963           2                                                                 Tommy John / Mickey Lolich
1964           3                                                       Phil Niekro / Luis Tiant / Rick Wise
1965           4                               Steve Carlton / Catfish Hunter / Fergie Jenkins / Jim Palmer
1966           2                                                                    Nolan Ryan / Don Sutton
1967           4                                      Jerry Koosman / Joe Niekro / Tom Seaver / Mike Torrez
1969           2                                                                    Vida Blue / Jerry Reuss

1970           2                                                              Bert Blyleven / Charlie Hough
1971           1                                                                            Doyle Alexander
1972           1                                                                              Rick Reuschel
1973           1                                                                               Frank Tanana
1975           1                                                                           Dennis Eckersley
1976           1                                                                            Dennis Martinez
1977           1                                                                                Jack Morris
1978           2                                                                   Danny Darwin / Bob Welch

1983           1                                                                             Orel Hershiser
1984           1                                                                              Roger Clemens
1986           4                                     Kevin Brown / Chuck Finley / Greg Maddux / Jamie Moyer
1987           2                                                                  Tom Glavine / David Wells
1988           3                                               Randy Johnson / Curt Schilling / John Smoltz
1989           1                                                                               Kenny Rogers

1991           1                                                                               Mike Mussina
1992           1                                                                              Tim Wakefield
1995           1                                                                              Andy Pettitte
1996           1                                                                            Livan Hernandez


   33. Walt Davis Posted: March 23, 2014 at 05:40 PM (#4675854)
Why "evolve" away from "thoroughbreds".

Actually, it's an evolution away from "workhorses" to "thoroughbreds".

Pitch counts are really nothing more than a formalization of what had been going on for a decade or more. The 5-man rotation has been with us for, what, 20 years now? And that was just a move away from the 5-day rotation (4.5 man) that had held sway for 20 years before that. Nobody has started 37 games in a season since 1991, no non-knuckler has started 40 in a season since 1978. Only once has a pitcher made it to 270 IP since 1991 (Unit) and none has made it to 300 since 1980.

Old baseball men decided a long time ago that 34-36 starts from your top pitchers was better than 37-40. Were they correct in thinking that? Who knows but it had nothing to do with the tyranny of pitch counts.

Teams replaced those innings with 5th starters and relievers. The latter is the primary explanation of the decline of the complete game. Rather than have your starter capable of running a 1.5 mile race it was realized it was better (efficiency, performance level) to have him run balls out for the first mile then let fresh horses take over. Contributing to this is that pitchers have generally always done worse their 4th time through the order. As far as I know that was only documented fairly recently but the drop in CGs precedes that specific knowledge so it's likely real-live old baseball men had picked up on that.

As to pitch counts, it will be necessary to look at these matters before/after 2000 (or so). There was a substantial shift around then such that almost no pitcher is allowed to pile up high pitch counts, especially not consistently (Wood/Prior Sept 2003 excepted of course!)

This shift probably has made it "impossible" for starters to have the kinds of careers starters of the past did. Pitchers also seem more likely to go to college than they did before -- or maybe ML teams are more willing to let colleges take on more of the young injury risk. Even somebody like Verlander is barely 1/3 of the way to Maddux's IP total through his age 30 season (so about 400 IP behind and he'll have to pitch until he's about 45-46). A healthy Felix will blow Maddux away though.

Not that there's anything wrong with 3000-3500 IP and the occasional 4000-4500. It's not like those were ever common. It's just that the stud pitchers of the modern era are more likely to put up Schilling/Smoltz career totals and more Halladay/Stieb like totals seem likely while a Mussina will be a "workhorse".
   34. Squash Posted: March 23, 2014 at 10:21 PM (#4675956)
I don't tend to take the words of the early 1970s big-IP guys at face value. There is something odd about that time period, and it might well be that the prime pitchers of the early 1970s had had light workloads when young, not in terms of IP, but in terms of batters faced, and therefore, in terms of pitches thrown.

There's also the question of drugs in all this - if you asked me what time period (hell, I guess I'm asking me) I would guess the most amps per capita were consumed in MLB I'd say, hands-down, no-questions-asked, the 1970s.
   35. Walt Davis Posted: March 24, 2014 at 12:41 AM (#4675990)
There's also the question of drugs in all this - if you asked me what time period (hell, I guess I'm asking me) I would guess the most amps per capita were consumed in MLB I'd say, hands-down, no-questions-asked, the 1970s.

Also painkillers although I assume the modern guys have the advantage there.
   36. Born1951 Posted: March 24, 2014 at 12:51 AM (#4675994)
Ryan: "This whole thing with the 100-pitch count limit — I have a real problem with that. Pitchers are all different and when you put standard limitations on them, you’re not utilizing their talent."

His team appears to be following that philosophy. In the last 4 years, Rangers starters have exceeded 110 pitches 21.0% of the time compared to 13.5% for other teams.
   37. vortex of dissipation Posted: March 24, 2014 at 04:11 AM (#4676001)
We see the survivors here in MLB; Tanaka, Daisuke, Nomo, Darvish, etc, but how many simply flamed out at a young age in japan?


This is going way back, but there's no better example of a wasted career through overwork than Hiroshi Gondo.

The stats are amazing. In 1961, he won 35 games and pitched 429 innings as a 22-year-old rookie. The next year he won 30 in 362 innings. Then it all went downhill - 220 innings of mediocre ball the next year, 105 of even more mediocre the next, and he was done. Hung on for three more years as an infielder with a .206 lifetime BA, but he was toast, and has been the poster boy ever since for overworking a pitcher early and ruining a career.

   38. Jeltzandini Posted: March 24, 2014 at 09:43 AM (#4676049)
In 1961, he won 35 games and pitched 429 innings as a 22-year-old rookie.


Wow. Started 44, completed 32. And hey kid, we're not paying you not to pitch, so please also make 25 relief appearances.
   39. GuyM Posted: March 24, 2014 at 09:46 AM (#4676051)
If you think about it, you have expansion in 1961/1962 of four teams, then another expansion of 4 more teams in 1969...it's likely that by 1970-1972 the average talent per team in the league was probably lower than it had been at anytime post 1920.

There is no conceivable way this is true. You are overestimating the dilution effect of expansion (and perhaps underestimating the positive impact of integration and/or the general tendency for competitiveness to rise). Just a simple comparison is to look at player size. In 1920, only 22% of the position players were 6' tall or taller -- in 1970 it was 65%. In 1970 only 8% of players were under 5-10, but in 1920 it was 38%. The players of 1970 were much bigger and stronger (though small by today's standards), and were undoubtedly much faster as well.
   40. AROM Posted: March 24, 2014 at 10:25 AM (#4676072)
If you think about it, you have expansion in 1961/1962 of four teams, then another expansion of 4 more teams in 1969...it's likely that by 1970-1972 the average talent per team in the league was probably lower than it had been at anytime post 1920.


I'll take the talent level split among 24 teams, with the population levels of the early 70's, and most importantly the inclusion of blacks and darker skinned Hispanics over the talent levels of 1920-1940 split among 14 teams.

1942-1945 though was the real nadir of talent, for obvious reasons.
   41. AROM Posted: March 24, 2014 at 10:29 AM (#4676074)
WW2 does have some implications to the talent level of the 1970's, the lower birth rates during the depression and war years means a lower talent pool for much of the 1960's and early 70's. But I think the effects of desegregation are greater in the opposite direction.
   42. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 24, 2014 at 10:29 AM (#4676075)
There is no conceivable way this is true. You are overestimating the dilution effect of expansion (and perhaps underestimating the positive impact of integration and/or the general tendency for competitiveness to rise). Just a simple comparison is to look at player size. In 1920, only 22% of the position players were 6' tall or taller -- in 1970 it was 65%. In 1970 only 8% of players were under 5-10, but in 1920 it was 38%. The players of 1970 were much bigger and stronger (though small by today's standards), and were undoubtedly much faster as well.

I doubt the general societal increase in height/weight has any impact on the talent distribution. No reason improved diet and healthcare wouldn't have helped Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson as much as they did the average guys. It's not like most elite players grew up in privileged circumstances.

A Babe Ruth who grows up in 1950's suburban Baltimore is likely several inches taller than the Babe Ruth who grew up in a saloon and an orphanage.
   43. GuyM Posted: March 24, 2014 at 10:38 AM (#4676081)
I doubt the general societal increase in height/weight has any impact on the talent distribution. No reason improved diet and healthcare wouldn't have helped Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson as much as they did the average guys. It's not like most elite players grew up in privileged circumstances. A Babe Ruth who grows up in 1950's suburban Baltimore is likely several inches taller than the Babe Ruth who grew up in a saloon and an orphanage.

This is almost certainly wrong. But even if it were correct, it wouldn't change the fact that the actual players of 1970 were much, much better than the actual players of 1920.
   44. AROM Posted: March 24, 2014 at 10:38 AM (#4676082)
One pitcher who probably would have had TJ surgery pitching today was Ernie Broglio. After the Brock trade they didn't have anything more specific to call his situation that a sore arm. Excellent pitcher for STL from ages 24-27, pitched briefly and ineffectively for 3 years after the trade, done at age 30. Broglio has said that his injury probably was the type that would be handled with TJ surgery.

It would be quite a task, to identify the pitchers who suffered this injury before anyone had an idea how to fix it.
   45. cardsfanboy Posted: March 24, 2014 at 10:41 AM (#4676083)
There is no conceivable way this is true. You are overestimating the dilution effect of expansion (and perhaps underestimating the positive impact of integration and/or the general tendency for competitiveness to rise). Just a simple comparison is to look at player size. In 1920, only 22% of the position players were 6' tall or taller -- in 1970 it was 65%. In 1970 only 8% of players were under 5-10, but in 1920 it was 38%. The players of 1970 were much bigger and stronger (though small by today's standards), and were undoubtedly much faster as well.


I have no clue why that means anything. There are plenty of tall crappy players with a ton of physical tools that can't hack it in baseball today. And to clarify, I'm not talking about "true" talent in comparison to a theoretical time machine concept where you take people out of one era and drop them all into a pool which would make Honus Wagner an AA player. I'm talking about talent/ability disparity, between the stars and the everyday player and the bench players.

   46. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: March 24, 2014 at 10:44 AM (#4676086)
This issue was probably hashed out on Usenet, but in the mid-90's Sports Illustrated had an article about pitcher's careers. The theory was that pitchers who didn't throw much around 20 or so had longer careers than pitchers who threw a ton of innings at the same age.

IIRC, the idea was first floated in Craig Wright's The Diamond Appraised.
   47. GuyM Posted: March 24, 2014 at 11:36 AM (#4676109)
I have no clue why that means anything. There are plenty of tall crappy players with a ton of physical tools that can't hack it in baseball today.

Seriously? The link between height (and weight) and offensive performance is well established. Here's a simple example: over the past 5 seasons, among players over 6 ft tall (min. 1000 PA) 66% posted an OPS+ of at least 100, and 27% had an OPS+ of 120 or more. Among players less than 6 feet tall, just 35% had OPS+ of 100/more, and just 8% were 120+. So tall players were about twice as likely to be at least average hitters, and 3x as likely to perform at an elite level -- that's a huge difference in performance. Not to mention that there were more than twice as many players in the over 6' category, while that is not true of the male population overall -- meaning that height is itself a strong predictor of succeeding in MLB.
   48. cardsfanboy Posted: March 24, 2014 at 11:51 AM (#4676116)
Seriously? The link between height (and weight) and offensive performance is well established. Here's a simple example: over the past 5 seasons, among players over 6 ft tall (min. 1000 PA) 66% posted an OPS+ of at least 100, and 27% had an OPS+ of 120 or more. Among players less than 6 feet tall, just 35% had OPS+ of 100/more, and just 8% were 120+. So tall players were about twice as likely to be at least average hitters, and 3x as likely to perform at an elite level -- that's a huge difference in performance. Not to mention that there were more than twice as many players in the over 6' category, while that is not true of the male population overall -- meaning that height is itself a strong predictor of succeeding in MLB.


Selection bias. Teams are selecting taller players, whether it's in high school, college or the pros. Add in that 70% of the height listings are outright lies(Have you ever met 5'11" Ozzie Smith?) and add in... AGAIN, I wasn't talking about relative to time travel pulling players out, but relative to the disparity between the good players and the average players and the bench players. (and of course the silliness, in that there have been almost no offensive players of worth over 6'6" tall) So if teams are selecting for height, and players are lying about their height because teams are selecting for it, isn't it really ridiculous to use that as a proxy for default talent level assumption?

My point was that the good pitchers in the 70's were significantly better than the average/bottom of the order players and in comparison that disparity was greater than it would have been in the 20's and 30's.... Especially when you considered the bench size(yes teams have almost always had 25 players, but bench players did not play nearly as much in the 20's/30's as they do in the 70's/80's)

   49. Ron J2 Posted: March 24, 2014 at 11:56 AM (#4676120)
#28 I'm sure you're familiar with Craig Wright's study in Diamond Appraised. Basically what he found is that most pitchers who had long, successful careers were handled fairly gently before age 25.

Seems likely that the offensive conditions of the 60s would help with this, reducing pitch count (larger strike zone among other things) and fewer batter faced.
   50. GuyM Posted: March 24, 2014 at 12:16 PM (#4676132)
My point was that the good pitchers in the 70's were significantly better than the average/bottom of the order players and in comparison that disparity was greater than it would have been in the 20's and 30's.

This is extremely unlikely. The variance in player performance tends to shrink over time, not increase. That is true in all sports. Dan Fox showed this was true for hitters. I doubt very much that the reverse is true for pitchers.

Selection bias.

I do not think these words mean what you think they mean...

   51. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 24, 2014 at 12:22 PM (#4676137)
This is extremely unlikely. The variance in player performance tends to shrink over time, not increase. That is true in all sports. Dan Fox showed this was true for hitters. I doubt very much that the reverse is true for pitchers.

Yet the silly ball era saw more outliers in terms of adjusted performance than pretty much any other era. Just look at the seasonal leader boards for ERA+ and OPS+.
   52. cardsfanboy Posted: March 24, 2014 at 12:39 PM (#4676148)
This is extremely unlikely. The variance in player performance tends to shrink over time, not increase. That is true in all sports. Dan Fox showed this was true for hitters. I doubt very much that the reverse is true for pitchers.


In a static environment, I would agree... when you add 4 more teams inside of a decade, I think it's arguable that that case doesn't remain.

Again, we are talking about a specific time period (early 70's) in which a few well known changes happened to the game, and in regards to possible reasons why that particular decade produced an unusual number of pitchers with long careers.

Come up with other options for why that happened without resorting to the typical Tango/MGL bs laziness of "random variation" and I'll be willing to listen.
   53. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 24, 2014 at 12:44 PM (#4676155)
In a static environment, I would agree... when you add 4 more teams inside of a decade, I think it's arguable that that case doesn't remain.

8 teams were added. There were 16 teams in 1960, 24 in 1969.
   54. cardsfanboy Posted: March 24, 2014 at 12:52 PM (#4676162)
8 teams were added. There were 16 teams in 1960, 24 in 1969.


oops wrote that wrong. Obviously I referred to 8 teams earlier in the thread and not sure why I just typed four....
   55. Lance Reddick! Lance him! Posted: March 24, 2014 at 01:16 PM (#4676177)
the actual players of 1970 were much, much better than the actual players of 1920.

Why is it that so many people are completely incapable of seeing the difference between absolute level of play and level of competition?
   56. AROM Posted: March 24, 2014 at 01:45 PM (#4676194)
Players are bigger today, but the magnitude is greatly exaggerated by the fact that those reporting player weights have started updating them.

If you go by baseball reference, the singles hitting 3B on the Angels for the last few seasons, Alberto Callaspo, weighs 225 pounds. That's 30 pounds more than their top power hitter of 30 years ago, Reggie Jackson (195).

Callaspo is still listed at 175 (probably his signing weight or minor league weight) on retrosheet. Now Reggie on draft day in the mid 1960's might have weighed 195. I'm not sure what his weight was when he joined the Angels in 1982 but I'll bet it was quite a bit more than 195, and probably more than Callaspo.

It would be nice if the websites that update player weight when given new information would include a timeline of revisions.
   57. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 24, 2014 at 02:00 PM (#4676202)
This is extremely unlikely. The variance in player performance tends to shrink over time, not increase. That is true in all sports. Dan Fox showed this was true for hitters. I doubt very much that the reverse is true for pitchers.

The variance has shrunk in large measure because coaching and training have become systematized and so everyone plays the game virtually the same way. The sports-industrial complex gets hold of kids when they're 9 or 10 and trains them the same way, so you get a bunch of automotons with smaller variances in output.

You no longer see any George McGinnis-type jump shots, Rick Barry underhand free throws, or Rusty Staub/Carlos May choking up 6 inches on the bat, and few if any Rod Carew-esque crouches. Tennis players all play practically the same style. Etc., etc., etc.

The variance shrinkage between 1970 and today has next to nothing to do with players in aggregate getting "better."
   58. GuyM Posted: March 24, 2014 at 02:06 PM (#4676210)
Why is it that so many people are completely incapable of seeing the difference between absolute level of play and level of competition?

Please explain....

Again, we are talking about a specific time period (early 70's) in which a few well known changes happened to the game, and in regards to possible reasons why that particular decade produced an unusual number of pitchers with long careers. Come up with other options for why that happened without resorting to the typical Tango/MGL bs laziness of "random variation" and I'll be willing to listen

I'll probably regret asking, but: 1) what well-known changes?, and 2) what's the evidence for "an unusual number of long careers?" (doesn't look that way in #32 above)

   59. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: March 24, 2014 at 02:11 PM (#4676215)
You no longer see any George McGinnis-type jump shots, Rick Barry underhand free throws, or Rusty Staub/Carlos May choking up 6 inches on the bat, and few if any Rod Carew-esque crouches. Tennis players all play practically the same style. Etc., etc., etc.


This seems quite correct in my estimation. There's a homogenization associated with successful techniques in most sports, as well as many arts.
   60. base ball chick Posted: March 24, 2014 at 02:12 PM (#4676217)
AROM

updating would be a waste of time because a LOT of those heights and weights are flat out lies. why YOU of all people, believe them at ALL, i do not get.

and one of these days i need to not get blood pressure over nolan ryan and his obsession with having modern pitchers throw more like that will PREVENT elbow injuries

you CAN'T do any comparisons between the after the first tommy john surgery era and the era that went before because there is no available information on who dropped out of/was cut from MLB specifically because of ELBOW INJURIES.

and looks to me like nolie poo's throwing program didn't prevent arm or elbow injuries to the rangers pitchers, neither
   61. bjhanke Posted: March 24, 2014 at 02:14 PM (#4676221)
Walt estimates that it's been 20 years since the 5-man rotation happened. Walt is being kind. The actual number is about 45 years. 2014-45=1969. That's when pretty much everyone had a five-arm rotation, although the #5 starter pitched fewer games than the others, because if there was an off-day, that counts as the #5 starter's contribution for this trip through the rotation.

Thinking from that, the big question to me, starting in about 1995, was why MLB hasn't long-since switched to a 6-man rotation. 45 years is the longest wait for MLB teams to add another pitcher to the rotation. IMO, a lot of the need to have a hoard of middle inning guys is that you're having to bring your starters out too soon. If you had a six-man rotation, the starters could pitch more innings per game, and you wouldn't need as many middlemen, just a solidly thought-through idea as to how many innings in what size clusters will overload a starting pitcher's arm. My guess is that, if you went to a 6-man, you'd end up being able to cut two middle relievers, gaining a position player. Also IMO, the refusal of MLB to go to 6-man rotations is the biggest cause of all the middle relievers teams have to come up with. You go to a 6-man and the game speeds up because there will be fewer pitching changes, and you can gain a position player on your bench without hurting yourself in any other way. You also now have dead arm backup: If one of your 6 starters arm falls off during the season, you can always go back to the five-man to finish up the year, if you don't have a MLB-ready starting pitcher in your farm system. That's a good deal, as I see it. - Brock Hanke
   62. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 24, 2014 at 02:23 PM (#4676228)
Thinking from that, the big question to me, starting in about 1995, was why MLB hasn't long-since switched to a 6-man rotation. 45 years is the longest wait for MLB teams to add another pitcher to the rotation. IMO, a lot of the need to have a hoard of middle inning guys is that you're having to bring your starters out too soon. If you had a six-man rotation, the starters could pitch more innings per game, and you wouldn't need as many middlemen, just a solidly thought-through idea as to how many innings in what size clusters will overload a starting pitcher's arm. My guess is that, if you went to a 6-man, you'd end up being able to cut two middle relievers, gaining a position player. Also IMO, the refusal of MLB to go to 6-man rotations is the biggest cause of all the middle relievers teams have to come up with. You go to a 6-man and the game speeds up because there will be fewer pitching changes, and you can gain a position player on your bench without hurting yourself in any other way. You also now have dead arm backup: If one of your 6 starters arm falls off during the season, you can always go back to the five-man to finish up the year, if you don't have a MLB-ready starting pitcher in your farm system. That's a good deal, as I see it. - Brock Hanke

But this doesn't work with the idea of pitch counts. If your pitchers can't give you any more innings per start, why reduce their number of starts? You're just getting less and less usage from your best arms.

It would make more sense to go to a 4.5 man rotation, to get more starts from your top-SPs, and strictly enforce a lower pitch/BF count. Basically pull everyone after they've gone through the lineup 3 times, unless they've had a very easy go.
   63. AROM Posted: March 24, 2014 at 02:36 PM (#4676240)
updating would be a waste of time because a LOT of those heights and weights are flat out lies. why YOU of all people, believe them at ALL, i do not get.


Not sure where you get the idea I believe them. I believe them, for the players I mentioned, to this extent:

A) Reggie Jackson's listed weight of 195 was accurate for at least one point in his life. I'm 100% positive that Baby Reggie was less than 195, and Reggie with the Angels was quite a bit bigger than that. At some point though, it had to be right.

B) Alberto Callaspo weighs more than he did when signed. And his weight gain is not the of the good sort.

I do spend a decent amount of time going over and updating player weights, I'll start with the listed one but if it's not believable then I'll make a guess based on what my eyes tell me.
   64. Sunday silence Posted: March 24, 2014 at 02:42 PM (#4676247)
Even if weights and heights are exaggerated (in football they certainly are they even did it high school) but what difference does that make:

1) you'd have to prove that exaggerated wt/ht only started in the 1960s or whatever time period you are trying to debate. I know of know studies like this.

2) even if wt/ht exagerrated is there any doubt that the population in general is getting bigger? It seems obvious that ball players are getting bigger. And clearly being stronger and having a larger base does help to do certain things.
   65. base ball chick Posted: March 24, 2014 at 02:44 PM (#4676250)
AROM

do you go by their actual height or their listed height? are you good at judging mens' REAL height/weight?

my husband's allergist has a scale and a special accurate height measuring wall thingy like in a pediatricians' office. he told me that men really have a fit about their height being measured accurately and that almost all men under 6-2 lie and add a minimum of 1" to their height even if they are honest about their weight
   66. Sunday silence Posted: March 24, 2014 at 02:48 PM (#4676255)
The expansion leads to dilution seems make sense but I have my doubts.

Has anyone tried to make any study of the changes in roster size in the 1930s? In 1932 the roster shrank to 23 and in '39 expanded back to 25 (this is based on quick google). I dont see much difference in the overall standings to reflect this, but then again these are bench players . Still there should be a way to measure the effect of 8% +/- in rosters.

Personally I think there are so many other variables in play that it would be very hard to separate this effect out. GMs make idiosyncratic choices, players perform better or worse then expected, rule changes etc
   67. Srul Itza Posted: March 24, 2014 at 02:53 PM (#4676259)
Thinking from that, the big question to me, starting in about 1995, was why MLB hasn't long-since switched to a 6-man rotation


Because for almost every team the No. 4 starter is already pretty bad (average ERA above 5), and the No. 5 starter tends to rotate throughout the year as they are so execrable (average ERA above 6). How far into games do guys with that kind of ERA go, and how horrendous would a No. 6 starter be?

You need the middle relievers to come in for those back of the rotation guys much earlier in the game than for your 1-3, and to sub in for those back of the rotation guys when you get tired of watching them fail.
   68. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: March 24, 2014 at 03:05 PM (#4676274)
Looked at the top 10 in IP ages 20-25 from 1961-1970, 8 of the 10 were done by 30-32, the outliers were Seaver and Sutton.

1971-80: very different group, Blyleven, Eckersley, Tanana, Reuss, guys like Matlack and Candeleria who pitched well into their 30s with sporadic effectiveness, whereas the 1961-70 cohort largely hit a wall and stopped playing at all, most guys in the 1971-80 cohort continued to pitch- but PT became very erratic - my take on that is sports medicine- several of these guys would have been done at 30-32 if they'd come along earlier, but they'd get hurt/breakdown and some MD was able to put them back together enough to play. Don Gullet, who would have fit in comfortably with the 8 guys from 1961-70 becomes the outlier of his cohort.

1980-1990: - look more like the 1961-70 pattern, you have Maddux and Clemens in place of Seaver/Sutton, but the other 8 guys: Valenzuela/Gooden/Saberhagen/Mike Witt/Gubicza/Petry/Storm Davis/Gullickson are pretty much done at 30-32, with 1-2 following a Candelaria type path (pitching reasonably well for 100 or so ip every other year in their 30s)

1991-2000: 1: you see a steep drop-off from the other co-horts in terms of IP, these 10 pitched far fewer Innings than the others- was the reduced workload helping? Hard to see-
Ismael Valdez
Alex Fernandez
Steve Avery
Pedro Martinez
Brad Radke
Mike Hampton
Livan Hernandez
Jose Rosado
Jamey Wright
Wilson Alvarez

These guys with one exception (Livan) all broke down by 30-32 (OK Pedro's and Radke's last good years were at age 33- but they were pitching hurt already)


   69. GuyM Posted: March 24, 2014 at 03:16 PM (#4676283)
Because for almost every team the No. 4 starter is already pretty bad (average ERA above 5), and the No. 5 starter tends to rotate throughout the year as they are so execrable (average ERA above 6). How far into games do guys with that kind of ERA go, and how horrendous would a No. 6 starter be?

Those estimates seem very high. What's your source? (I'm not arguing in favor of 6 starters, just skeptical that current #4s and #5s are this bad.)
   70. Sunday silence Posted: March 24, 2014 at 03:22 PM (#4676293)
Selection bias. Teams are selecting taller players, whether it's in high school, college or the pros.


CFB: I dont understand your argument here. Teams are selecting for baseball talent, presumably. They are not selecting them for height. The fact (perhaps disputed) that players are taller and bigger than average citizens should suggest, or strongly suggest there is a connection between size and success in baseball.

If you mean to say that teams are selecting larger players out of some sort of default choice and that they happen to succeed because of of the law of averages, well I guess you'd have to show that there are some amateur players out there or ordinary size and outstanding talent who never got drafted.

Maybe there are but not sure your argument here.
   71. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: March 24, 2014 at 03:22 PM (#4676294)
he told me that men really have a fit about their height being measured accurately and that almost all men under 6-2 lie and add a minimum of 1" to their height even if they are honest about their weight

that's not the only measurement that men lie about, Lisa
   72. base ball chick Posted: March 24, 2014 at 03:25 PM (#4676298)
sunday

like mah mama told me, men are men are men and i seriously doubt that men didn't lie about height and weight BITGOD

the population in GENERAL may be getting bigger but we are talking specifically about BASEDBALL PLAYERS and i don't know if the increase is the same

it sure as heck is not when you look at weight of the general population
   73. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 24, 2014 at 03:42 PM (#4676310)
I fear the sports gods are going to strike me down with lightning tonight if I don't add the most pronounced example of the phenomenon described in 57 ... which is of course Kareem's sky hook.
   74. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 24, 2014 at 03:52 PM (#4676319)
Those estimates seem very high. What's your source? (I'm not arguing in favor of 6 starters, just skeptical that current #4s and #5s are this bad.)

The Opening Day #4/#5 may not be that bad, but the guys that actually take up those spots in the rotation over the course of the year, most certainly are pretty putrid.
   75. Srul Itza Posted: March 24, 2014 at 03:55 PM (#4676326)
Those estimates seem very high. What's your source?


Here is one that is slightly old: I will see if I can find anything newer.
   76. cardsfanboy Posted: March 24, 2014 at 03:56 PM (#4676327)
I'll probably regret asking, but: 1) what well-known changes?, and 2) what's the evidence for "an unusual number of long careers?" (doesn't look that way in #32 above)


1. Lowering of the mound
2. Expansion.
You know, the things that we have been talking about in this thread.

If you are looking at post 32.... players from the 1950's that made that list = 11. From the 1960's 19, from the 1970's 10....Looks to me like there is a pretty unusual number of players premiering in the 60's that had long careers, while no other post 1920 decade had more than 11.

Walt estimates that it's been 20 years since the 5-man rotation happened. Walt is being kind. The actual number is about 45 years. 2014-45=1969. That's when pretty much everyone had a five-arm rotation, although the #5 starter pitched fewer games than the others, because if there was an off-day, that counts as the #5 starter's contribution for this trip through the rotation.


Walt said five man rotation preceded by the five day rotation, which basically is what you are referring too.


1) you'd have to prove that exaggerated wt/ht only started in the 1960s or whatever time period you are trying to debate. I know of know studies like this.


You'll never prove it factually, but it seems reasonable to assume that when teams started scouting and drafting and the information they were given was a little more organized than in the past, and that players/scouts/coaches knew that teams were leaning towards bigger players, that you'll get some exaggeration going on. Before the draft players were getting signed/scouted by the same person, so it wasn't as necessary to fudge the numbers.

2) even if wt/ht exagerrated is there any doubt that the population in general is getting bigger? It seems obvious that ball players are getting bigger. And clearly being stronger and having a larger base does help to do certain things.


Correct, but it's still as a group. Again we aren't talking about time machining players into one era to another era, we are talking about the variance between the good/elite and the average/replacement player at that particular time. Just because the bottom 1/4th of the league in 1970 is better than the bottom 1/4 of the league in 1925, doesn't mean the gap between the bottom 1/4th and top 1/4th is larger in the 70's than the 20's.

Those estimates seem very high. What's your source? (I'm not arguing in favor of 6 starters, just skeptical that current #4s and #5s are this bad.)


Jaffe did a study a few years back using era+ for pitchers and found that the era+ for number four starters was 90 and number 5 was around 80


CFB: I dont understand your argument here. Teams are selecting for baseball talent, presumably. They are not selecting them for height. The fact (perhaps disputed) that players are taller and bigger than average citizens should suggest, or strongly suggest there is a connection between size and success in baseball.


Not entirely, a point of moneyball was scouts talking about how they look in jeans, the argument goes that teams don't seriously consider a prospect unless he fits a preconceived notion. Guys like Billy Wagner weren't taken seriously because they don't even look at pitchers who are listed below 6' tall. (until they knock the socks off of you...but how many players are being passed up, who could have been developed into a Wagner type of player, just because of their size?)
   77. Srul Itza Posted: March 24, 2014 at 03:58 PM (#4676330)
Hereis another link, more recent, with similar numbers -- #4 slightly better, # 5 worse
   78. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: March 24, 2014 at 04:02 PM (#4676333)
I'll probably regret asking, but: 1) what well-known changes?, and 2) what's the evidence for "an unusual number of long careers?" (doesn't look that way in #32 above)


1. Lowering of the mound
2. Expansion.
You know, the things that we have been talking about in this thread.

If you are looking at post 32.... players from the 1950's that made that list = 11. From the 1960's 19, from the 1970's 10....Looks to me like there is a pretty unusual number of players premiering in the 60's that had long careers, while no other post 1920 decade had more than 11.


There's another possibility giving the small numbers (10 to 19) of guys per decade with "long" careers- it's possibly just random variation.
   79. GuyM Posted: March 24, 2014 at 04:03 PM (#4676335)
Here is one that is slightly old: I will see if I can find anything newer.

Srul: You can't use performance data after the fact to identify the "#4 starter." That will hugely overstate the actual gap in ability between a team's pitchers. First, it equates current performance with true talent, which will capture a lot of luck and define it as ability. Second, it obscures the difficulty in identifying real talent, because a #3 starter who has a terrible year is now called the "#5 starter," and vice-versa.

You have to identify the positions in advance, and then compare performance. And if you do that, the differences between starters 3, 4, and 5 will be much, much smaller. I would doubt the average gap between #4 and #5 is even as much as 0.25 in ERA.
   80. Srul Itza Posted: March 24, 2014 at 04:07 PM (#4676338)
I don't agree with any of this, Guy. The labels are competely irrelevant. The simple fact is that you have 162 starts, roughly divided up between 5 starters. For almost every team, there simply aren't 5 or even 4 quality starters around. The fact remains that for a two fifths of starts, teams are throwing bad and worse on the mound. If you divide it up into sixths and find somebody to take up those starts, he is not very likely to be better than 1-5.

And you should know better. You have been over this ground before. See, e.g, http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/primate_studies/discussion/starting_rotation_analysis

   81. Srul Itza Posted: March 24, 2014 at 04:09 PM (#4676343)
If anything, with the effort to find bull pen arms, I would not be surprised if the No. 5 starters are getting worse, as more people who could do a half-way decent job are being slotted as middle relief or set-up men, where the shorter outings make them more effective over all.
   82. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 24, 2014 at 04:10 PM (#4676345)
You have to identify the positions in advance, and then compare performance. And if you do that, the differences between starters 3, 4, and 5 will be much, much smaller. I would doubt the average gap between #4 and #5 is even as much as 0.25 in ERA.

That doesn't make any sense. Why would you care who was the preconceived #1, #2, etc.? Rotation spot isn't an actual position. Your top 4 guys are basically going to get a full 30+ GS unless they get hurt or really suck. Your 6th-8th guys can't really even be said to be ranked at all, pre-season. Promotion/demotion largely depends on current season performance, not what you thought of the guy in March.
   83. cardsfanboy Posted: March 24, 2014 at 04:11 PM (#4676347)
Srul: You can't use performance data after the fact to identify the "#4 starter." That will hugely overstate the actual gap in ability between a team's pitchers. First, it equates current performance with true talent, which will capture a lot of luck and define it as ability. Second, it obscures the difficulty in identifying real talent, because a #3 starter who has a terrible year is now called the "#5 starter," and vice-versa.

You have to identify the positions in advance, and then compare performance. And if you do that, the differences between starters 3, 4, and 5 will be much, much smaller. I would doubt the average gap between #4 and #5 is even as much as 0.25 in ERA.


No.. When the goal is to see what performance a typical number 3, 4 and 5 starter get, it's not about pre-identifying, it's about identifying actual performance.


edit: or what Snapper and Srul Itza said.
   84. cardsfanboy Posted: March 24, 2014 at 04:12 PM (#4676348)
There's another possibility giving the small numbers (10 to 19) of guys per decade with "long" careers- it's possibly just random variation.


It's a possibility, but as I mentioned upthread that is the haven of the lazy. Let's eliminate all the possibilities before we go and MGL/Tango the debate.
   85. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 24, 2014 at 04:13 PM (#4676350)
I don't agree with any of this, Guy. The labels are competely irrelevant. The simple fact is that you have 162 starts, roughly divided up between 5 starters. For almost every team, there simply aren't 5 or even 4 quality starters around. The fact remains that for a two fifths of starts, teams are throwing bad and worse on the mound. If you divide it up into sixths and find somebody to take up those starts, he is not very likely to be better than 1-5.

Exactly right, but it's even more extreme. Those 162 GS are, in actuality almost always divided among 7 or 8, or even 9 guys. Your 6th SP is already pitching close to a full season if he is any good. Going to a 6 man rotation doesn't mean that many more starts for your 6th best SP, but it means a ton more starts for your 8th and 9th best SP, who all pretty much suck eggs.
   86. base ball chick Posted: March 24, 2014 at 04:15 PM (#4676352)
Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: March 24, 2014 at 02:22 PM (#4676294)

he told me that men really have a fit about their height being measured accurately and that almost all men under 6-2 lie and add a minimum of 1" to their height even if they are honest about their weight


that's not the only measurement that men lie about, Lisa


- grinning
so ah bin told
the old joke about rain is, apparently, only too accurate
   87. GuyM Posted: March 24, 2014 at 04:31 PM (#4676357)
Srul: the fact that Snapper and CFB both agree with you should pretty well settle the issue, don't you think? I mean, from a Bayesian perspective, what's the probability that you are right? :>)

I think a good, quick way to estimate the talent difference would be to use projections (Zip, Marcel, whatever). Rank the 5 top-projected starters on each time, and then compare the average #3, #4, and #5 starters. That should give us at least a rough sense of the talent differences we're talking about.

Again, I'm not arguing for a 6th starter. If I were going to make a change in the standard rotation, I'd ditch the #5 starter in favor of 4 starters and then a bullpen game as needed. I was only disagreeing with your estimates of how bad the average #5 is (ERA above 6).
   88. GuyM Posted: March 24, 2014 at 04:37 PM (#4676362)
If you are looking at post 32.... players from the 1950's that made that list = 11. From the 1960's 19, from the 1970's 10....Looks to me like there is a pretty unusual number of players premiering in the 60's that had long careers, while no other post 1920 decade had more than 11.

That seems pretty dramatic. But let's lower the bar to 2500 IP:
1930s 15
1940s 28
1950s 25
1960s 25
Now the 1960s don't look exceptional at all.

Or raise the bar to 3300 IP:
1930s 9
1940s 16
1950s 5
1960s 9
Now the 1940s appear to be the exceptional decade. I suppose one could invent a story about how the special treatment of pitchers in the 1950s and early 1960s was best for longevity.

I don't see anything magical about the 3,000 IP benchmark....
   89. cardsfanboy Posted: March 24, 2014 at 04:39 PM (#4676363)
Srul: the fact that Snapper and CFB both agree with you should pretty well settle the issue, don't you think? I mean, from a Bayesian perspective, what's the probability that you are right? :>)


f-off.

It's simple. When you look at all the starts in a year. You list the 30 best performances as a number one. next 30 as number two, next thirty as number 3, next 30 as number four, next 30 as number five. This establishes what the realistic expectations you should get out of pitchers in that role. Not some mythical projection that looks and assumes people are healthy.
   90. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 24, 2014 at 04:39 PM (#4676364)
that's not the only measurement that men lie about, Lisa

- grinning
so ah bin told
the old joke about rain is, apparently, only too accurate


OK, honest question. Who do men discuss this measurement with? Doesn't make any sense to lie to a woman you're interested in; if things go well, she's going to find out the truth. This conversation has literally never come up in my 43 years on earth.
   91. cardsfanboy Posted: March 24, 2014 at 04:46 PM (#4676374)
Post 1920 pitchers... Innings pitched.
Rk Player IP From To

1 Phil Niekro 5404.0 1964 1987
2 Nolan Ryan 5386.0 1966 1993
3 Gaylord Perry 5350.0 1962 1983
4 Don Sutton 5282.1 1966 1988

5 Warren Spahn 5243.2 1942 1965
6 Steve Carlton 5217.2 1965 1988
7 Greg Maddux 5008.1 1986 2008
8 Bert Blyleven 4970.0 1970 1992
9 Roger Clemens 4916.2 1984 2007
10 Tom Seaver 4783.0 1967 1986
11 Tommy John 4710.1 1963 1989
12 Robin Roberts 4688.2 1948 1966
13 Early Wynn 4564.0 1939 1963
14 Jim Kaat 4530.1 1959 1983
15 Fergie Jenkins 4500.2 1965 1983


Nothing out of the ordinary there.

I absolutely do not believe that the average pitcher were healthier in the 60's or any other era, and think the myth that Nolan Ryans and others of the world put out there about how pitchers in their day stood up to abuse is because....(whatever excuse they give), but it's utterly ridiculous to ignore the fact that there was a larger than normal group of pitchers with significant career endurance in comparison to other eras. Just like the 90s produced significant larger than normal extreme excellent performances (career era+) pitchers.
   92. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 24, 2014 at 04:56 PM (#4676378)
Just like the 90s produced significant larger than normal extreme excellent performances (career era+) pitchers.

Which clearly refutes the idea that talent levels are on some constantly converging path.
   93. base ball chick Posted: March 24, 2014 at 04:58 PM (#4676380)
snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 24, 2014 at 03:39 PM (#4676364)
that's not the only measurement that men lie about, Lisa

- grinning
so ah bin told
the old joke about rain is, apparently, only too accurate


OK, honest question. Who do men discuss this measurement with? Doesn't make any sense to lie to a woman you're interested in; if things go well, she's going to find out the truth. This conversation has literally never come up in my 43 years on earth


- i see that you are not a player kind of guy. lots of my gf have all kinds of stories about brothas who told them the, uh, expected forecast. i hear tell that teenage boys do actual measuring contests
   94. vortex of dissipation Posted: March 24, 2014 at 05:02 PM (#4676388)
- i see that you are not a player kind of guy. lots of my gf have all kinds of stories about brothas who told them the, uh, expected forecast. i hear tell that teenage boys do actual measuring contests


I'd have to think snapper's experience is much more common. The subject has never come up in my 56 years on earth, either...
   95. cardsfanboy Posted: March 24, 2014 at 05:12 PM (#4676397)
Which clearly refutes the idea that talent levels are on some constantly converging path.


Agree, although I still think that a portion of that extreme has to do with the high offensive environment, added to health advantages created by working out, and medicine. But ultimately it doesn't matter the cause, the simple truth is that we had a few of the all time great career performances in the past 20 years.
   96. Lance Reddick! Lance him! Posted: March 24, 2014 at 05:36 PM (#4676431)
Why is it that so many people are completely incapable of seeing the difference between absolute level of play and level of competition?

Please explain....

I invent a new sport and start playing it in my yard. I'm nobody, so the only people privy to this sport's existence are from my neighborhood, making that our entire talent pool. It continues being played for a generation, and younger players eventually succeed us. They're bigger, on average, and the technique for...doing whatever this sport involves...has probably been refined over the years, so the absolute level of play has improved, and the new generation would beat the old if sent back in a time machine.

Improvements in medicine, nutrition, equipment, technique, etc. have lifted all ships, but it's still the same one-neighborhood pool. There's no reason to think the people living here in 2038 have more native ability than the people of 2014. It's drawing from a larger population, which will include people with more innate talent than the lowest rung of neighborhood schlub, that raises the competitive level, not the stuff that can be applied to any member of the playing population to improve his game.


Clay Davenport has chained every league season in history to determine relative league strength, and the slope just isn't that steep since about the '30s. Competition from other sports, having twice as many jobs to fill and there no longer being such an enormous network of minor leagues cultivating every last bit of American talent goes a long way toward counteracting the influx from previously-untapped sources.
   97. TDF, situational idiot Posted: March 24, 2014 at 06:33 PM (#4676483)
It's simple. When you look at all the starts in a year. You list the 30 best performances as a number one. next 30 as number two, next thirty as number 3, next 30 as number four, next 30 as number five. This establishes what the realistic expectations you should get out of pitchers in that role. Not some mythical projection that looks and assumes people are healthy.
I'm sorry, but I think this is completely wrong.

Bronson Arroyo is listed in Srul's link as one of the "bad" 4/5 starters for his '11 season - a season that was by far the worst of his career (he had mono during spring training, and may have never fully recovered). That one season doesn't make Arroyo a #4 or #5 starter - he's still a 2 who happened to have a bad year. Similarly, I would hesitate to say Max Scherzer is a #1 starter just because he had the great year last year.

For the Reds this year, Mike Leake and Tony Cingrani are the #4/5 pitchers, no matter how well they or anyone else on the staff pitches. I won't argue that the Reds are luckier than most teams in that they have 5 decent starters, but their roles are clear. If a start gets skipped, it won't be Cueto/Latos/Bailey unless they're injured.
   98. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 24, 2014 at 06:39 PM (#4676488)
- i see that you are not a player kind of guy. lots of my gf have all kinds of stories about brothas who told them the, uh, expected forecast. i hear tell that teenage boys do actual measuring contests

No, I'm no player.

Does this "telling them the expected forecast" ever lead to anything besides the women laughing themselves silly, and walking out of the room?

I just don't see how that ever goes well. If she was going to sleep with you, you have now maybe skeeved her out that you're some kind of creep at best, or sex offender at worst, and she probably won't. If she wasn't going to sleep with you, is that ever going to change her mind?
   99. toratoratora Posted: March 24, 2014 at 06:42 PM (#4676489)
A few points
-Someone upthread mentioned Ryan pitching better as he aged and pitch counts were applied to him. Ryan got better not only because his innings went down, but mostly because he developed a beastly change up that made it almost unfair to face him. He already had a terrific curve to go with the Ryan Express, then mix in the change and he was brutally effective. The other big difference was that he stopped trying to throw smoke by everyone on every pitch and started trying to control where the ball went. In other words, he became a pitcher.
-I think one point not really being mentioned re the 60's/70's discussion is the rise of other pro sports, especially football. Before then, players who preferred other sports (i.e. Willie Mays who supposedly liked football much better than baseball and was a brilliant HB) had no real alternative to baseball. The growth of the NFL as a national entity, especially once the salary wars with the AFL started, made football a much more glamorous opportunity than MLB to many kids. Not to mention that we all know who gets the prom queen.
By the seventies, football was king in American sports in a way it had never been. Monday night football, national TV market, great dynasties-the NFL just slaughtered MLB (strikes, endless labor discord, declining revenues, poor television strategy, Bowie Freaking Kuhn)and took center stage as the American sport of choice.
Think of the Elway's and Wilson's who could have played MLB. Think about Rickey Henderson, who played RB and wanted to play for the Raiders until his grandmother refused to allow it (And mighty thankful to her I am for giving us the joy of !Rickey!)
Toss in the growth of the NBA as an alternative, especially for young African Americans (There were lots of horror stories circulating from 60's vets who came up in the minors in Southern towns that were far from receptive to colored ballplayers), and MLB lost a lot of talent for a decade or so before the really opened up the international gates.
Sure, there's a different skill set involved and not all pro athletes would be able to make the transition to MLB, but you can bet at least one or two of those lost players would have been HOVG/HoF'ers and a bunch more would have been darn good players.
   100. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: March 24, 2014 at 06:50 PM (#4676492)
The Pirates are sending Jameson Taillon (who they notoriously babied after drafting him out of high school) for a second opinion on what they're calling "elbow discomfort" (which translates to "it's a question of how long he can tolerate the escalating pain before he lies down on Dr. Andrews' operating table").
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