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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Ringolsby: Is it time to lower the mound again?

Don’t lower the mound, raise the batter’s box.  LAAYYYDEEE!

With an increasing number of serious arm injuries—particularly those requiring Tommy John surgeries—the suggestion has been made that Major League Baseball consider lowering the pitcher’s mound again.

...Some in the medical field contend that the raised elevation creates an extra stress on the pitcher’s arm. Supporters of lowering the mound point out that the longevity of a pitching career has extended since dropping the mound from 15 inches to 10 inches, and that could be enhanced by an ever bigger drop in the elevation.

There have been 29 pitchers who have pitched in at least 22 big league seasons since 1901, and 24 of them spent the bulk of their career in the big leagues after 1969, including all 10 pitchers who had careers of 24 seasons or longer.

Nolan Ryan is the ironman among pitchers with a 27-year career. Tommy John rebounded from the elbow surgery since named after him so well that he pitched 26 seasons in the big leagues - including 14 after the procedure. Jamie Moyer, Jim Kaat and Charlie Hough each pitched in 25 big league seasons. Jesse Orosco, Steve Carlton, Dennis Eckersley, Roger Clemens and Phil Niekro all pitched 24 seasons.

Pitchers may have longer careers now, but the workload is more spread out than in the past.

...What can’t be disputed is that the lower mound does favor offenses.

Since the mound was lowered in 1969, the composite ERA for Major League pitchers has been 4.06. The composite ERA from ‘47-‘68 was 3.79, and from ‘61-68 it was 3.53.

Six of the eight lowest season ERAs in the expansion era (since 1961) came in the eight years prior to 1969, led by the 2.98 MLB-wide mark in 1968.

Repoz Posted: March 23, 2014 at 09:14 AM | 21 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. cardsfanboy Posted: March 23, 2014 at 09:33 AM (#4675617)
Stupidest idea ever.
   2. BDC Posted: March 23, 2014 at 09:48 AM (#4675619)
Scoring in 2013 was about a run per game lower than in 2000, but it's still more than half a run higher than 1968. So, no.

As to the impact on pitcher injuries, pitchers have been having arm trouble since the 1830s {source needed}. Whether they pitch from a higher or lower mound or a box or run up or underhand or whatever, they'll pitch to the limits of their ability and continue to have arm trouble.
   3. Joey B.: posting for the kids of northeast Ohio Posted: March 23, 2014 at 12:54 PM (#4675657)
Yeah, the mound is the problem, that's it. That's why pitchers are getting injured today more than ever before, even though the mound was higher in the past. Great story, bro.
   4. bfan Posted: March 23, 2014 at 01:19 PM (#4675669)
Then move the mound back 2 feet. Offense is being sucked out of the game, making the game less interesting, as average fast balls increase in speed. Why not take the reaction time for the hitter back to what it was 10 years ago, by giving the batters an extra 2 feet. This also gives the pitchers 2 feet more to react to balls hit yp the middle at them.
   5. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 23, 2014 at 01:30 PM (#4675673)
Hell, let's do it even better - let's replace the mound with a small pit and make them lob the ball up out of it. After all, they are called PITchers, right?
   6. Flynn Posted: March 23, 2014 at 01:33 PM (#4675674)
Offense is being sucked out of the game, making the game less interesting, as average fast balls increase in speed.


It's also being sucked out of the game because we've decided that strikeouts aren't important.
   7. Chris Fluit Posted: March 23, 2014 at 01:35 PM (#4675676)
The idea in #4 is interesting. Baseball hasn't moved the mound back since, what, 1894?
   8. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: March 23, 2014 at 02:29 PM (#4675712)
I imagine that even a two-foot increase in distance to the plate would noticeably increase walks, which are even more boring than strikeouts.

It's also probably entirely impractical, as pitchers have spent their entire lives developing breaking pitches that would now bounce on the dirt in front of the plate.
   9. cardsfanboy Posted: March 23, 2014 at 02:44 PM (#4675721)
Offense is being sucked out of the game, making the game less interesting, as average fast balls increase in speed.


Speak for yourself. Last year the average team scored 4.17 runs per game, that means the average game is roughly 8 runs per game, that is plenty of offense. I can see arguing against the high strike out totals, but scoring is still arguably in the sweet spot.... 3-4/4-5 games is good enough offense and good enough defense that it makes the game enjoyable.

As to injuries, who are these "Some in the medical field contend that the raised elevation creates an extra stress on the pitcher's arm."

Intuitively, doesn't that seem counter productive? It's easier to throw down.... and considering that the force of gravity makes it drop about a 1'7"(or more) I don't really see how the mound makes any difference.
   10. Jim (jimmuscomp) Posted: March 23, 2014 at 02:45 PM (#4675723)
It's also probably entirely impractical, as pitchers have spent their entire lives developing breaking pitches that would now bounce on the dirt in front of the plate.


Yeah, that idea is full of problems.

And.....

The folks clamoring for change in baseball because of "OMG OFFENZE & INJUREEZ!" are like the managers ######## and moaning because Cano and Puig are difficult to handle. Why fix what clearly isn't broken and quit blaming your better players for your problems.

   11. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: March 23, 2014 at 02:46 PM (#4675724)
I imagine that even a two-foot increase in distance to the plate would noticeably increase walks, which are even more boring than strikeouts.

Walks are not more boring than strikeouts. Having a runner on base makes things more interesting.
   12. Sunday silence Posted: March 23, 2014 at 02:56 PM (#4675738)
how do we know that the average fastball is increasing in speed? Is that like common knowledge? I was not aware of that.
   13. cardsfanboy Posted: March 23, 2014 at 02:56 PM (#4675739)
Walks are not more boring than strikeouts. Having a runner on base makes things more interesting.


Strikeouts aren't inherently boring either, it's excessive strikeouts that is boring....when every pitcher is throwing a 10 strikeout game, then that is boring, but a Carlos Beltran vs Adam Wainwright strikeout in a game 7 playoff was quite exciting.

   14. cardsfanboy Posted: March 23, 2014 at 03:00 PM (#4675741)
how do we know that the average fastball is increasing in speed? Is that like common knowledge? I was not aware of that.


Mostly anectdotal, but the number of pitchers reportedly who are hitting 95+ mph over the past decade has increased. 10 years ago, there was maybe a Kyle Farnsworth who was blowing away guys with the high mph fastball.... nowadays the Cardinals have at least 3 pitchers on their roster doing what Farnsworth was doing, and they aren't the only team with Farnsworth style fastball pitchers. (Chapman being the most famous today)


Just because I just found this...nice fastest fastball ever chart.
   15. Rough Carrigan Posted: March 23, 2014 at 03:48 PM (#4675786)
I thought they sort of re-calibrated where the speed reading was being taken a few years back. IIRC, it's now closer to the pitcher where it used to be closer to the middle of the path from the mound to the plate, with the upshot being that the same pitch reads something like 4 mph faster now than it did with the old radar gun reading.

No?
   16. cardsfanboy Posted: March 23, 2014 at 04:05 PM (#4675791)
I thought they sort of re-calibrated where the speed reading was being taken a few years back. IIRC, it's now closer to the pitcher where it used to be closer to the middle of the path from the mound to the plate, with the upshot being that the same pitch reads something like 4 mph faster now than it did with the old radar gun reading.


As of 2006 everything I read says they are taking the readings from release point. Prior to that, I haven't found any information.

It just seems there are more power pitchers today than there were even a decade ago. Sure you had a Zumaya, Farnsworth or Wagner for a while there, but nothing like what we are seeing today. (in my opinion)
   17. ptodd Posted: March 23, 2014 at 08:09 PM (#4675919)
As of 2006 everything I read says they are taking the readings from release point. Prior to that, I haven't found any information.


They measure at 50 ft from the plate and then use an algorithm to calculate it at the release point. Depending on park, a pitchers velocity can deviate as much as 1.5 mph (from the extreme ends)

The radar guns are probably a couple of mph lower since they tend to measure at the middle between home and the mound as the velocity of a ball as it reaches the plate is lower than at the release point.

http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2013/9/13/4720852/basic-2013-pitchfx-velocity-park-effects-error-sabermetrics
   18. cardsfanboy Posted: March 23, 2014 at 08:19 PM (#4675922)
They measure at 50 ft from the plate and then use an algorithm to calculate it at the release point. Depending on park, a pitchers velocity can deviate as much as 1.5 mph (from the extreme ends)


I thought that was the pitchfx info.. everything I was reading was saying that the guns that the teams provide(scoreboard readings) measure from the release point.
   19. Cblau Posted: March 23, 2014 at 09:07 PM (#4675932)
...What can’t be disputed is that the lower mound does favor offenses.


I dispute it. Most teams started using mounds in 1899 and 1900, and scoring went up both years. Before 1950, many parks had mounds that were lower than 15", and when it was standardized in 1950, scoring went up. When it was lowered to 10" in 1969, scoring was lower than it was in 1962, the last previous season with the same size strike zone.
   20. boteman is not here 'til October Posted: March 23, 2014 at 11:27 PM (#4675975)
A RADAR gun measures the reflected energy from whatever is reflecting it, whether it be the pitcher's hand, the ball, or a bird flying in front of a Randy Johnson pitch.

If the operator triggers the gun to start measuring just as the pitcher releases the ball, then it will most likely measure the ball's speed at the release point. If he waits until later in the pitch sequence to trigger the RADAR gun, it will measure the lower speed after the ball has left the pitcher's hand.

It's all a matter of the technique of the operator. (This knowledge might also work in your favor when defending yourself in court against a speeding ticket.)

Then, you get into the trigonometry of the angle of the beam from the level of the first or second seating row where the RADAR guy sits usually looking at a slight downward angle onto the path of the pitched ball, which will result in a slightly lower reading than the actual speed of the pitch.

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   21. The Yankee Clapper Posted: March 23, 2014 at 11:32 PM (#4675976)
There have been 29 pitchers who have pitched in at least 22 big league seasons since 1901, and 24 of them spent the bulk of their career in the big leagues after 1969, including all 10 pitchers who had careers of 24 seasons or longer.

Lowering the mound happened not long after the start of the Expansion Era, which created many more employment opportunities. There used to be 16 teams with mostly 10-man pitching staffs; now there are 30 teams with mostly 12-man staffs, doubling the jobs. There are also greater economic incentives to hang around longer, even if "only" to pick up another couple of million. There was a time when hanging around for a fringe player salary might not have been as smart as getting started on that second career that you were going to eventually need anyway.

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