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Monday, March 11, 2013

Posnanski: What’s Good for the Goose…

There should be a hotline for former star athletes to call. They would use it just for emergencies, just for those moments when they have this interesting thought but are not sure if they should make that thought public. For instance, before doing an interview like this with Newsday, Goose Gossage might call the hotline.

Goose: So, I’m thinking about talking again about how you can’t compare Mariano Rivera to relievers of our time.

Hotline: Don’t do it.

Goose: No, this time I’m going to talk about how great Mariano Rivera is, you know, how he’s a great guy. I mean, I’ll say it over and over again.

Hotline: Don’t do it.

Goose: “No, it’s OK, I’ll keep saying that Mariano Rivera is great, really great, but you can’t say he’s the greatest because he’s used in a different role than guys from our time, you know, like me. But he’s really, really great and all, it’s just that just guys from our time, you know, like me, would have been just as great if we were used the Mariano way. I guess what I’m trying to say is that while he’s super great, he might not be any better than guys from our time, you know, like me, if Rivera had been used the way we pitch. But he’s great.”

Hotline: “Don’t do it.”

There is no such hotline, sadly… The reason I think it was unfortunate is, well, there are actually two reasons, one obvious, the other perhaps less so.

The obvious reason is that it diminishes Goose Gossage to talk this way. Goose Gossage was a great pitcher. A truly great pitcher. Gossage is in the Hall of Fame, he’s widely remembered, he does not need to go around telling people how great he was or how he wasn’t used the way pitchers today are used. I think it cheapens him to do so, especially when he uses the beloved Mariano Rivera for effect. Rivera has been gracious and classy and respectful. Gossage shouldn’t use him as a prop… If Gossage was using the platform to fight for the Hall of Fame causes of other great relievers of his day—Dan Quisenberry, John Hiller, Sparky Lyle, Lee Smith, etc.—that would be one thing. But you don’t get the sense from Goose’s proclamations that he’s all that interested in new people joining him in the Hall. This kind of talk about Rivera is self-serving and should be beneath him.

But the second reason, the less obvious one, is why I wish Gossage would quiet down: When Gossage talks about Rivera like this, it’s only human nature to start making some comparisons. And Gossage won’t look good in the comparisons…

For Rivera to match Gossage in the basic numbers, he would have had to pitch 278 more innings—all those multiple innings that Gossage pitched—and he would have to allow 201 more (a tidy 6.51 ERA). He would have had to walk 350 or so batters in those innings, while allowing 42 home runs. And he would have had to do all that in a much lower scoring run environment. I’m guessing here, of course, but I think he could have managed it.

And as far as the ease of pitching one inning—Gossage has called it easy in the past—the Goose pitched exactly one inning 249 times in his career. His ERA in those outings: 3.75…

Gossage’s greatness stands the test of time. He was part of the bridge that took us from the 1950s and 1960s, when relievers were used sporadically and like pawns on a chess board, to now, when closers are celebrated and paid like kings. He was of his time, and that’s a good thing. If he had been used like a modern closer, sure, he probably would have more saves, but he might not be in the Hall of Fame. He might have been like Jeff Reardon or Billy Wagner or John Wetteland—great pitchers who lit up the sky and then burned out in their mid-to-late 30s.

You know, if you just want to talk saves, Gossage does suffer. He blew 112 of the 432 save opportunities he had. Rivera has blown only 73 of the 681 chances he’s had. It’s not an entirely fair comparison, Gossage’s save opportunities were different from Rivera’s. But it’s a comparison we make because Gossage can’t just say “Mariano Rivera is a great and timeless relief pitcher” and leave it at that.

The District Attorney Posted: March 11, 2013 at 01:33 PM | 72 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: goose gossage, hall of fame, history, joe posnanski, mariano rivera, yankees

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   1. willcarrolldoesnotsuk Posted: March 11, 2013 at 06:14 PM (#4386569)
There should be a hotline for former star athletes to call. They would use it just for emergencies, just for those moments when they have this interesting thought but are not sure if they should make that thought public.
In what even vaguely plausible situation would Goose Gossage call a hotline that he is supposed to call when he is unsure if he should make one of his thoughts public?
   2. Spectral Posted: March 11, 2013 at 06:17 PM (#4386570)
Gossage is obviously a cranky old crank if there ever was one. Nonetheless, I don't think he's wrong at all about the difficulty in comparing relief aces across eras, since they just obviously pitch in different roles. I think the current usage is something closer to optimal, and Gossage stated that he agrees. I really just don't see any great way to be able to compare Gossage to Mo to Hoyt Wilhelm. I know I'd like any of them in their prime pretty damned well, but I don't know which one is actually the best. I'm a bit of a Rivera fanboy and place a lot of emphasis on his postseason, which makes me lean towards him, but I don't think Gossage is wrong to answer honestly when asked whether he thinks Rivera's the best.
   3. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: March 11, 2013 at 07:34 PM (#4386604)
And as far as the ease of pitching one inning—Gossage has called it easy in the past—the Goose pitched exactly one inning 249 times in his career. His ERA in those outings: 3.75…

We'll there is probably a large part of selection bias going on here. A number of those starts were probably limited to 1 inning, because Gossage was stinking up the joint, and the manager thinking he needed to get somebody else in there.

I'll let somebody else do the grunt work on that. After coming dangerously close to defending Gossage here, I need to go take a 2 hour shower.
   4. Steve Treder Posted: March 11, 2013 at 07:41 PM (#4386608)
We'll there is probably a large part of selection bias going on here. A number of those starts were probably limited to 1 inning, because Gossage was stinking up the joint, and the manager thinking he needed to get somebody else in there.

And/or they were very late in his very long career, when he was hanging on and hanging on as just another guy, long after he had ceased to be the Goose Gossage that's relevant to any such analysis.
   5. Darren Posted: March 11, 2013 at 07:56 PM (#4386614)
I really think some people voted Goose in hopes that he would finally shut up. Nope, just moved on to other topics.
   6. Darren Posted: March 11, 2013 at 07:59 PM (#4386617)
In what even vaguely plausible situation would Goose Gossage call a hotline that he is supposed to call when he is unsure if he should make one of his thoughts public?
You could tell the players that a reporter was on the other end of the line.
   7. Yastrzemski in left. Posted: March 11, 2013 at 08:10 PM (#4386621)
Yes but could Goose do it with just one type of pitch? Mariano's Cutter will retire along with him. Has there ever been an out pitch more dominant? Maddux' Circle Change?
   8. Spectral Posted: March 11, 2013 at 08:44 PM (#4386634)
Has there ever been an out pitch more dominant?


Maybe Wilhelm's knuckleball? I sure wasn't around to see it, but it must have been excellent.

The best strikeout pitch I've ever personally watched is Johnson's slider, but I'm not sure I'd say it was a better out pitch.
   9. Mike Webber Posted: March 11, 2013 at 10:00 PM (#4386656)
Maybe Wilhelm's knuckleball? I sure wasn't around to see it, but it must have been excellent.


I heard Rico Petrocelli talking about Wilhelm on XM radio this weekend, he called it a hard (fast) knuckler. When asked about comparing it to Dickey, he said Dickey throws it much harder, but emphasized that Wilhelm was much faster than Wakefield or Wilbur Wood.
   10. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: March 11, 2013 at 10:12 PM (#4386664)
For Rivera to match Gossage in the basic numbers, he would have had to pitch 278 more innings—all those multiple innings that Gossage pitched—and he would have to allow 201 more (a tidy 6.51 ERA). He would have had to walk 350 or so batters in those innings, while allowing 42 home runs. And he would have had to do all that in a much lower scoring run environment. I’m guessing here, of course, but I think he could have managed it.


Not the most apt comparison by Posnanski. Shouldn't it be some number of 2 and 3 inning appearances Rivera would have not pitch, not just total innings?
   11. Moeball Posted: March 11, 2013 at 10:12 PM (#4386665)
Mariano's Cutter will retire along with him. Has there ever been an out pitch more dominant? Maddux' Circle Change?


I've been trying to search for a batters survey I saw circa 2000 or 2001 but I can't seem to find it now. The intriguing thing is I still remember the highlights of the results:

MLB batters were asked what was the single nastiest pitch to hit - the one that really made you look stupid - like I said, this was around 2000 or 2001 - can't remember if it was ESPN or SI or whomever that ran the survey, but here were the leaders:

1)Single nastiest pitch #1 (2 tied for the most votes from batters) - Mariano Rivera's cutter
1A) Single nastiest pitch #1 also went to Trevor Hoffman's changeup

Interesting that it was two closers who tied for the single nastiest pitch to hit

The pitcher who actually received the most votes overall didn't win for single nastiest pitch - speaking of nasty, Randy Johnson's "Mr. Nasty" (as he referred to his slider) received a lot of votes, as did his fastball. Neither pitch was the individual leader but he just missed leading with both pitches and therefore received the most total votes of any pitcher.

But the really eye-opening number was "3" - as in Pedro Martinez had 3 different pitches receive some votes, although he didn't receive the most total votes overall. Pedro's fastball, slider and changeup all received some votes. When you're a batter and a pitcher has 3 different pitches that can totally befuddle you, you just have no chance at all, which pretty much describes how dominant Pedro was at the time.

If anyone can find a link to this survey it would be appreciated, or if there has been a survey done more recently I would be curious to see the results.
   12. Yastrzemski in left. Posted: March 11, 2013 at 11:00 PM (#4386686)
Yes, I was going to put Pedro's fastball as an example but immediately thought of his devastating change. Maddux sure did get a lot of outs with his, though.
   13. villageidiom Posted: March 11, 2013 at 11:00 PM (#4386687)
If anyone can find a link to this survey it would be appreciated, or if there has been a survey done more recently I would be curious to see the results.
Here you go, Moeball.
   14. ajnrules Posted: March 11, 2013 at 11:53 PM (#4386708)
Randy Johnson's "Mr. Nasty" (as he referred to his slider)

I always thought it was called "Mr. Snappy" </nitpick>
   15. vivaelpujols Posted: March 12, 2013 at 06:36 AM (#4386740)
Yeah this is classic stat abuse by Poznanski. Something he's been quite willing to do in the past. On the other hand I agree that Gossage is a jackass. So we all win!
   16. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: March 12, 2013 at 08:11 AM (#4386762)
Has there ever been an out pitch more dominant

steve carlton slider
bruce sutter's pitch
mario soto's changeup
camilo pascual's curveball
   17. Howie Menckel Posted: March 12, 2013 at 08:34 AM (#4386767)
"this is classic stat abuse by Posnanski."

so true, with several examples here.

Posnanski seems to be following the Eddie Mathews/Ernie Banks route of sportswriting. Great early in his career and then...
   18. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: March 12, 2013 at 09:01 AM (#4386782)
Has there ever been an out pitch more dominant?

Judging by the results? No.

steve carlton slider
bruce sutter's pitch
mario soto's changeup
camilo pascual's curveball
ss

All of those pitches were just as devastating as Rivera's cutter, on the days and the years that those pitchers could control them. And to those you can add plenty of other pitches by plenty of other pitchers. The problem is that none of those pitchers were even close to being as consistent as Mo was over the course of their careers. Probably the best example of an impossible pitch in a long career would be Nolan Ryan's heater, but since his control over that pitch came and went with practically each and every game, on many days batters had the option of simply waiting for a walk. They could almost never do that with Mo.

You can rightly say there are many good reasons for Rivera's dominance, mainly the fact that he usually only had to go through the lineup once, but that's another story. And anyway, it's not as if most batters didn't know exactly what they were going to be getting the next time they faced him.

   19. They paved Misirlou, put up a parking lot Posted: March 12, 2013 at 09:04 AM (#4386783)
Posnanski seems to be following the Eddie Mathews/Ernie Banks route of sportswriting. Great early in his career and then...


So, you're saying he was good at first...?
   20. villageidiom Posted: March 12, 2013 at 09:09 AM (#4386784)
Yeah this is classic stat abuse by Poznanski.
Posnanski's basic point is, "Gossage seems to say the difference between him and Mo is largely on IP, but the difference in quality is probably a greater issue than that of quantity. Sure, quantity affects quality, but for Mo to equalize with Goose he's need to perform about as bad as the Yankees' worst reliever for all those additional innings. IOW it seems easy for Mo to do what Goose did, not the other way around." That seems like a fine back-of-the-envelope use of stats to me.
   21. Howie Menckel Posted: March 12, 2013 at 09:17 AM (#4386789)
Meh, for many reasons. Gossage pitched past one inning many times, and second time thru the lineup would seem more problematic - especially for Rivera, I'd speculate. And Rivera not only rarely pitches more than 1 IP, if he does he's likely to sit out the next day whereas Gossage might have pitched again right away. Rivera was deliberately used to maximize his stat dominance - arguably even to the detriment of his team at times, though that's not a slam-dunk case.

Blown saves also is a weak comparison because Rivera NEVER comes into games with the tying run on base. Well, he did in a very memorable postseason game and got charged with a technical 'blown save' that is very misleading in the closer stat-protective modern era, as his supporters rightly point out. Well, 1970s managers weren't as obsessed with protecting SV pcts as they were, um, winning games. Torre grasped this well in that postseason game, but bubble-wrapped Mariano in regular seasons (not necessarily bad, but it hurts comparisons to other eras).

   22. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: March 12, 2013 at 09:54 AM (#4386815)
I seem to remember seeing a survey in which Pedro's "slider" received votes for most difficult pitch to hit . . . except that Pedro didn't throw one of those.
   23. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 12, 2013 at 10:08 AM (#4386825)
Has there ever been an out pitch more dominant

steve carlton slider
bruce sutter's pitch
mario soto's changeup
camilo pascual's curveball


I'd still have Rivera's cutter over all those. It was just flat out unhittable for a long period of time.

But other good ones would be Glavine's cutter, Mike Scott's splitter, Blyleven's curve, and Randy Johnson's slider.
   24. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: March 12, 2013 at 10:23 AM (#4386830)
i guess folks are tying dominance to duration.

i was thinking only in terms of a pitch that everyone in the ballpark knew was coming and the batter still did not do anything positive

and yet somehow i think that steve carlton's 5000 odd innings hold up pretty well against rivera's innings

given the varying interpretations this could be argued into the ground with no real answer

but peak for peak i put sutter's pitch right there with rivera

career vs career i think carlton has a claim. his slider was 'the' out pitch used in highlights for almost a decade. only guidry came close as for a contemporary
   25. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: March 12, 2013 at 10:26 AM (#4386832)
my weirdo candidate is sid fernandez' fastball. he didn't throw a hard fastball. he just had an odd motion all the way around coupled with the distraction of seeing what looked to be a trained water buffalo throw a baseball. fernandez may not have led the world in swing and miss third strikes but boy it seemed like it
   26. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: March 12, 2013 at 10:32 AM (#4386837)
i thought about listing whitey's (alteration of choice) ball but didn't want to send andy into a frenzy
   27. Randy Jones Posted: March 12, 2013 at 10:36 AM (#4386838)
What's always impressed me about Mo's cutter is that batters know it's coming and even know the general area of the plate it's directed at (middle in) and still can't do anything with it.
   28. BDC Posted: March 12, 2013 at 10:48 AM (#4386842)
I have a somewhat contrarian impression of Rivera, based entirely on my totally Texas-centric view of baseball. Over his career the Rangers have hit .252/.304/.333, which is obviously not very good, but compared to his hilarious career line of .210/.262/.290, not all that bad, relatively speaking. Only the Angels, at .267/.303/.375, have done better – and as a vast generalization, I'd characterize both the Rangers and the Angels of the past 15-20 years as being contact hitters rather than take-and-rakers (numerous individual exceptions apply). It has often seemed to me that one can hit Rivera at a somewhat human level by going with the pitch and not caring much about how hard you'll hit it; the Diamondbacks worked that best on a famous single occasion in '01.

Not to knock Rivera in the slightest; as I say, he's been excellent even against the teams that have hit him best. But I've seen a somewhat toned-down version of him. And that's regular-season only, needless to say. In the postseason, the Rangers have never scored on Rivera, in 14 innings. In that respect he reminds me of Andy Pettitte, who has been completely mortal against Texas in the regular season but has kicked their butts in October. even including his loss in '10.
   29. shoewizard Posted: March 12, 2013 at 10:48 AM (#4386844)
######### or not, what an awesome freakin reliever Gossage was.

From 77-85, as a reliever he had a batting line against of .201/.271/.289 .559 OPS, and a sOPS+ of 59

   30. AROM Posted: March 12, 2013 at 10:49 AM (#4386845)
I heard Rico Petrocelli talking about Wilhelm on XM radio this weekend, he called it a hard (fast) knuckler. When asked about comparing it to Dickey, he said Dickey throws it much harder, but emphasized that Wilhelm was much faster than Wakefield or Wilbur Wood.


Wake threw it about 65-68. Dickey averages 77, but sometimes throws it as hard as 80-82. I guess that puts Wilhelm around 71-74.
   31. Depressoteric Posted: March 12, 2013 at 10:53 AM (#4386846)
i thought about listing whitey's (alteration of choice) ball but didn't want to send andy into a frenzy
Why HW, are you casting aspersions upon the Baseball Honor of Hall of Famer Whitey Ford?

(Seriously though, didn't know he was reputed to doctor the ball. Is this a 'known' thing or is it just you pulling Andy's chain?)
   32. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: March 12, 2013 at 10:55 AM (#4386847)
that batters know it's coming and even know the general area of the plate it's directed at (middle in) and still can't do anything with it.

that is the precise definition of carlton and to a lesser extent guidry's slider.
   33. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: March 12, 2013 at 10:59 AM (#4386849)
eso:

it is a known thing. whitey discusses it openly or at least used to. he became a heavy practitioner in either 60 or 62
   34. Randy Jones Posted: March 12, 2013 at 11:04 AM (#4386850)
that is the precise definition of carlton and to a lesser extent guidry's slider.


Both those guys threw other pitches and changed location. Mo throws the same pitch, to the same basic spot, over and over again.
   35. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: March 12, 2013 at 11:16 AM (#4386854)
i thought about listing whitey's (alteration of choice) ball but didn't want to send andy into a frenzy

Are you kidding? I'd have been in much more of a frenzy if Whitey hadn't come up with that scuffer.

Now that dirty cheating Lew Burdette---that's another story!
   36. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: March 12, 2013 at 11:17 AM (#4386855)
andy

do i have the timeframe about right?
   37. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: March 12, 2013 at 11:18 AM (#4386856)
But other good ones would be Glavine's cutter 6 inches off the outside corner for a called strike,

FFY
   38. RJ in TO Posted: March 12, 2013 at 11:18 AM (#4386857)
(Seriously though, didn't know he was reputed to doctor the ball. Is this a 'known' thing or is it just you pulling Andy's chain?)

Among other things, he used a sharpened wedding ring, or had Elston Howard cut it on his shin pads.
   39. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: March 12, 2013 at 11:20 AM (#4386858)
Of course what steams me about that dirty cheating Lew Burdette is that he was in the Yanks' farm system and they let him get away.
   40. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: March 12, 2013 at 11:21 AM (#4386860)
andy

do i have the timeframe about right?


I believe that 1960-62 is right on the money wedding ring.
   41. The Good Face Posted: March 12, 2013 at 11:32 AM (#4386865)
my weirdo candidate is sid fernandez' fastball. he didn't throw a hard fastball. he just had an odd motion all the way around coupled with the distraction of seeing what looked to be a trained water buffalo throw a baseball. fernandez may not have led the world in swing and miss third strikes but boy it seemed like it


When he was young his fastball was lively enough, but his motion made it look like the ball was coming out of his shirt. In his home uniform, it was a small white ball coming at you around ~90 MPH out of a vast field of white. It must have been a nightmare trying to pick it up visually.
   42. Tom Nawrocki Posted: March 12, 2013 at 11:36 AM (#4386868)
Carlton's slider was incredible. I have a distinct memory of Willie McGee - who was a pretty decent hitter - swinging at three straight sliders and missing them all by about a foot. It's hard to make a direct comparison with Rivera's cutter, but I suspect that if all Carlton had been asked to do was come in and throw ten of those sliders in the ninth inning every couple of days, he'd have done all right.

Jeff Nelson's slider always looked unhittable to me, too, but I guess he couldn't always keep it in the strike zone.
   43. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: March 12, 2013 at 11:37 AM (#4386869)
good

yup. but i vividly recall sid's average fastball being around 87/88 mph. and everyone being amazed that batters couldn't "catch up"
   44. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: March 12, 2013 at 11:37 AM (#4386870)
my weirdo candidate is sid fernandez' fastball. he didn't throw a hard fastball. he just had an odd motion all the way around coupled with the distraction of seeing what looked to be a trained water buffalo throw a baseball. fernandez may not have led the world in swing and miss third strikes but boy it seemed like it



When he was young his fastball was lively enough, but his motion made it look like the ball was coming out of his shirt. In his home uniform, it was a small white ball coming at you around ~90 MPH out of a vast field of white. It must have been a nightmare trying to pick it up visually.

he's 3rd all-time in fewest hits per 9 innings
   45. The Chronicles of Reddick Posted: March 12, 2013 at 11:39 AM (#4386871)
Has there ever been an out pitch more dominant


Derick Jeter's gift basket?
   46. attaboy Posted: March 12, 2013 at 11:40 AM (#4386872)
my weirdo candidate is sid fernandez' fastball. he just had an odd motion all the way around coupled with the distraction of seeing what looked to be a trained water buffalo throw a baseball.

This made me laugh, thanks! As a Mets fan since the 70's and even today (I am unsure why) Sid was unique...trained water buffalo, LOL!!

And I kept drafting him on my Rotis team and he'd never help me in wins but those H&BB; per 9 were quite nice!
   47. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 12, 2013 at 11:40 AM (#4386873)
As a kid I thought Tom Gordon's curveball was unhittable. Adam Wainwright had a pretty unhittable curve in 2006.


Jeff Nelson's slider always looked unhittable to me, too, but I guess he couldn't always keep it in the strike zone.


Agree with this. Another reliever like that - Mike MacDougal. He made some hitters look ridiculous his rookie year. Just couldn't throw strikes with any regularity.
   48. Moeball Posted: March 12, 2013 at 11:42 AM (#4386875)
#13 Thanks, village, knew it was out there somewhere.

#14 ajn - U R absolutely correct - that was my senile mind misremembering what Johnson's slider was nicknamed.

#22 and here I've done it also, "remembering" Pedro's slider as getting votes when, in reality, it was his curve.

I've heard Mike Schmidt say the most difficult pitch for him to hit was Nolan Ryan's fastball.
#2 on Schmidt's list was Nolan Ryan's curve. Therein lies the problem - on the days Nolan struggled with his control (often, sadly), he was only decent. On the days he could hit the corners with the hook, however, he was just otherworldly and mesmerizing to watch. I think back in the Abstract days Bill James basically described it as follows - if Ryan issues 5 or more walks, you can get to him and beat him. If, on the other hand, he gives up only 3 walks or fewer in a game, you have no chance.
   49. DCA Posted: March 12, 2013 at 11:47 AM (#4386876)
Back when Barry Zito was good, his curve would buckle my knees while I sat on the couch. Even then, he didn't consistently have it, but when he did it was the nastiest pitch I've seen.

I never got to see Blyleven in his prime, but from what I read it was similar.
   50. Tom Nawrocki Posted: March 12, 2013 at 11:48 AM (#4386878)
In his home uniform, it was a small white ball coming at you around ~90 MPH out of a vast field of white.


Fernandez did have a huge home/road split in his career: 67-40 with a 2.73 ERA at home, 47-56 with a 4.05 ERA on the road. A lot of that is Shea Stadium, but he also pitched for other teams, and was always better at home than on the road.
   51. The Good Face Posted: March 12, 2013 at 11:52 AM (#4386879)
he's 3rd all-time in fewest hits per 9 innings


No surprise at all. And now that I've checked, he was indeed much more effective pitching in his home whites. A 2.73 ERA in 979 innings vs. a 4.05 in 887. His K rate was much better at home as well.

I've heard Mike Schmidt say the most difficult pitch for him to hit was Nolan Ryan's fastball.
#2 on Schmidt's list was Nolan Ryan's curve. Therein lies the problem - on the days Nolan struggled with his control (often, sadly), he was only decent. On the days he could hit the corners with the hook, however, he was just otherworldly and mesmerizing to watch. I think back in the Abstract days Bill James basically described it as follows - if Ryan issues 5 or more walks, you can get to him and beat him. If, on the other hand, he gives up only 3 walks or fewer in a game, you have no chance.


Ryan's curve was incredible to watch; just a tiny bit inferior to Blyleven's, but a very similar pitch. Huge, sharp 12 to 6 break.
   52. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 12, 2013 at 12:05 PM (#4386881)
I saw Ryan in Three Rivers 1987 right behind the plate. Filthy.

Not quite at the level of Carlton's slider or Sutter's split-finger but still top-top-grade (in person from good seat witnessing required):

Fernando's screwball.
Jim Kern's straight over the top 1979 gas.
Ron Davis's between 3/4 and sidearm 1981 fastball that must have looked to a right-hander like it was coming from behind his back. (The Yankees' 1-2 bullpen punch of Gossage and Davis was ridiculous that year.)
   53. depletion Posted: March 12, 2013 at 12:57 PM (#4386899)
Dwight Gooden in his (brief) prime had a great fastball and that big-breaking hard curve. It was really hard for the hitters to recalibrate launch back from the fastball speed to hit the curve.
I watched the Sid Fernandez game that had no assists: every out was a K or a pop-out.
   54. Perry Posted: March 12, 2013 at 01:30 PM (#4386922)
(Seriously though, didn't know he was reputed to doctor the ball. Is this a 'known' thing or is it just you pulling Andy's chain?)


Very much known. Bouton has some funny stuff on it in Ball Four, about how Ford could make a scuffed ball "sail, drop, break in, break out, and sing 'When Irish Eyes Are Smiling'." And when Elston Howard cut the ball on his shinguard buckle, "The buckle ball sang two arias from 'Aida'."

   55. vortex of dissipation Posted: March 12, 2013 at 01:57 PM (#4386954)
Koufax relied on two pitches - his fastball and curve (he used a change, but it wasn't an "out" pitch), but both of them were exceptional. The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers ranks Koufax's curve as #1 all-time, which is a nice weapon to have when you also have a fastball approaching three digits. But he'd use either the curve or fastball as an "out" pitch, and both were devastating.

Surprised that no-one has mentioned Christy Mathewson's fadeaway (screwball).
   56. Squash Posted: March 12, 2013 at 02:05 PM (#4386961)
Very much known. Bouton has some funny stuff on it in Ball Four, about how Ford could make a scuffed ball "sail, drop, break in, break out, and sing 'When Irish Eyes Are Smiling'." And when Elston Howard cut the ball on his shinguard buckle, "The buckle ball sang two arias from 'Aida'."

Ford also wrote about it extensively in his biography - he started throwing a mudball in the early 60s, then had the wedding ring/rasp made shortly after by a jeweler he was tight with to get a more controllable break. And the shinguards thing, and he tried to throw pitches in the dirt during between-innings warmups in the hopes of getting a scuff he could use.
   57. Mayor Blomberg Posted: March 12, 2013 at 02:31 PM (#4386980)
From 77-85, as a reliever he had a batting line against of .201/.271/.289 .559 OPS, and a sOPS+ of 59


From 97-05 Mo had a batting line of .210/.262/.283 .545 OPS in the sillyball era. Add his post-season and the numbers go down while he closes to within ~12 innings/year of Gossage.
   58. Ziggy Posted: March 12, 2013 at 02:37 PM (#4386986)
It may only have been for one day, but I'd like to nominate Kerry Wood's fastball.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOYME2Q4nAg
   59. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: March 12, 2013 at 02:51 PM (#4386997)
And when Elston Howard cut the ball on his shinguard buckle, "The buckle ball sang two arias from 'Aida'.

Geez. I mean talk about tipping your pitches...
   60. alilisd Posted: March 12, 2013 at 03:20 PM (#4387027)
coupled with the distraction of seeing what looked to be a trained water buffalo throw a baseball.


Bravo, Sir!
   61. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili(Teddy F. Ballgame) Posted: March 12, 2013 at 03:20 PM (#4387028)
Randy Johnson's "Mr. Nasty" (as he referred to his slider)


I always thought it was called "Mr. Snappy" </nitpick>


Nobody called it anything until some copywriter put that line into his mouth for a commercial.
   62. alilisd Posted: March 12, 2013 at 03:26 PM (#4387037)
From 77-85, as a reliever he had a batting line against of .201/.271/.289 .559 OPS, and a sOPS+ of 59

From 97-05 Mo had a batting line of .210/.262/.283 .545 OPS in the sillyball era. Add his post-season and the numbers go down while he closes to within ~12 innings/year of Gossage.


Impressive!
   63. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: March 12, 2013 at 03:55 PM (#4387061)
Wake threw it about 65-68. Dickey averages 77, but sometimes throws it as hard as 80-82. I guess that puts Wilhelm around 71-74.

There's a good clip of Wilhelm on Youtube now, where he talks about it & throws it some. More of a sidearmer than I'd imagined, and that speed estimate looks about right.
   64. Srul Itza Posted: March 12, 2013 at 04:07 PM (#4387079)
Dwight Gooden in his (brief) prime had a great fastball and that big-breaking hard curve. It was really hard for the hitters to recalibrate launch back from the fastball speed to hit the curve.
I watched the Sid Fernandez game that had no assists: every out was a K or a pop-out.


God, this breaks my heart. Back then, the Mets were so much fun to watch.
   65. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: March 12, 2013 at 04:18 PM (#4387086)
I watched the Sid Fernandez game that had no assists: every out was a K or a pop-out.

this game. To be nitpicky, there was one outfield assist when Joe Orsulak threw out someone trying to stretch a single into a double
   66. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: March 12, 2013 at 05:08 PM (#4387121)
And Rivera not only rarely pitches more than 1 IP, if he does he's likely to sit out the next day whereas Gossage might have pitched again right away.

For someone who's accusing Poz of misusing stats... you know you can actually look up things like this, right? 28% of Rivera's career relief appearances came on 0 days' rest, to 18% for Gossage.
   67. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 12, 2013 at 05:19 PM (#4387137)
For someone who's accusing Poz of misusing stats... you know you can actually look up things like this, right? 28% of Rivera's career relief appearances came on 0 days' rest, to 18% for Gossage.

I didn't interpret the statement you're responding to as having said what you think it said. It's not who pitched on 0 days rest more frequently, it's who was more likely to have pitched on 0 days rest having pitched more than 1 inning the day before.
   68. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: March 12, 2013 at 05:38 PM (#4387163)
I didn't interpret the statement you're responding to as having said what you think it said. It's not who pitched on 0 days rest more frequently, it's who was more likely to have pitched on 0 days rest having pitched more than 1 inning the day before.

Ah, fair enough. That would either be a laborious examination of gamelogs, or a PI search... regardless, excessive nastiness retracted.

Still, it's probably worth pointing out that Rivera pitched more relief innings on no rest than Gossage, despite the fact that Gossage pitched more innings overall. The lengths of their appearances declined by similar amounts when pitching on no rest as compared to their other outings.
   69. toratoratora Posted: March 12, 2013 at 08:10 PM (#4387280)
Koufax relied on two pitches - his fastball and curve (he used a change, but it wasn't an "out" pitch), but both of them were exceptional. The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers ranks Koufax's curve as #1 all-time, which is a nice weapon to have when you also have a fastball approaching three digits. But he'd use either the curve or fastball as an "out" pitch, and both were devastating.

And he tipped every pitch he threw and they still couldn't hit it.
That's pretty impressive. I remember reading an article with Pete Rose during the mid eighties and the interviewer asked him who had the best curveball. Pete didn't hesitate, "Koufax."


Meanwhile, I wasn't going to mention it until I saw a poster above mention Matty's fadeaway, but the best pitch in baseball history has to be Walter Johnson's fastball. One pitch made that man arguably the greatest pitcher ever.
He's Mariano, but throwing complete games.
   70. Howie Menckel Posted: March 12, 2013 at 10:26 PM (#4387383)

"regardless, excessive nastiness retracted."

there goes the BBTF neighborhood!

:)
   71. Mayor Blomberg Posted: March 12, 2013 at 10:29 PM (#4387385)
Enough already for the myth of Gossage back to back 3 inning saves.

Ages 26-37 IP/year:

Gossage 77 (ERA+ 148)
Rivera 74 (ERA+ 217) -- not including postseason.

the myth of the goose is ####### crazy.
   72. Howie Menckel Posted: March 13, 2013 at 06:59 AM (#4387457)

The "myth" of Gossage is a spectacular peak, which is no myth at all. Then he hung around forever and was pretty good a lot and mediocre, too. Writers touting stats that are obviously disingenuous distract from real arguments, as do exaggerations like "myth of Gossage back to back 3 inning saves."

The funny part is that Mariano doesn't need parlor tricks and exaggerations - his numbers are great. Not sure why that isn't enough for his backers....

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