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Thursday, February 13, 2020

Aging Curves Revisited: Damn Strikeouts | The Hardball Times

It used to be that once a pitcher could no longer get anyone out with his fastball, he went breaking-ball heavy. Pitchers now understand the advantages of breaking balls and are moving away from their injury-inducing fastballs earlier in their careers. And hitters are paying for this transition.

Hitters are struggling to keep up with both changes. The two changes are the reasons why the major league-wide strikeout rate (K%) has jumped from 16.4% to 23% in the past 14 seasons. Simply, as hitters age and lose their edge, the pitchers are attacking them with pitches they can’t hit..

Several factors (e.g., the juiced ball) are changing the meta-game with trends like more strikeouts and home runs. On the individual pitcher level, the shift away from the fastball has extended the effectiveness of pitchers, especially in relation to an improved strikeout rate. Meanwhile, veteran hitters are struggling against these better arsenals and are being forced into retirement more quickly than they were less than a decade ago.

Jim Furtado Posted: February 13, 2020 at 07:00 AM | 9 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: aging

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: February 13, 2020 at 03:28 PM (#5924263)
Since when are fastballs "injury-inducing"?
   2. Mike Webber Posted: February 13, 2020 at 05:13 PM (#5924302)
Walt I think the current thinking is "max effort" fastballs are injury inducing. Remember when they used to say stuff like "he dialed it up on that one!" that's almost extinct now.
   3. Walt Davis Posted: February 13, 2020 at 07:54 PM (#5924331)
Actually there is a link in the article and the linked study (also by Zimmermann) seems to be about velocity ... then makes the leap to changes in fastball velocity without, near as I could tell in a quick perusal, looking at changes in breaking ball velocity. (It also didn't seem to make any adjustment for the changes in velocity due to changes in where the pitch is measured or other changes in methodology nor am I sure what they did with cutters and they seemed to gloss over any differences between high and low FBs.) I also couldn't make quick sense of the main table so moved on.

Anyway, more pitches (of any type) under max effort would be an obvious thing to investigate for DL trips (which didn't seem to have gone up). But max effort breaking balls at higher velocity and greater spin would seem more likely culprits to me.

Per fg, in 2019 there were (at least) 30 pitchers throwing sliders at velocities of 88-91. The faster curves sit 83-86 (Hector Rondon supposedly at 89). If we go back to 2012, James Shields touched 90 on his slider but the #2 slider is already rated at below 88 and the top 30 drops as low as 84.4. Curves fell in the range of 78-83. In short, we (seem to) have added 3+ MPH to sliders and maybe as much as 5 MPH to curves.

For vFA (I'm too lazy to figure out which fastball #s to look at), we've gone from a top 30 of 92-95.5 in 2012 to 93-98 in 2019 ... or if you prefer, there wre 8 pitchers in 2019 who would (seem to) have topped David Price's 2012 leading velocity.

Purely superficial but there would seem to have been a bigger change in breaking ball velocity than FB velocity. I don't know if 2012 "cutter" data is trustworthy but it looks like there may have been a jump at least at the top there as well.
   4. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: February 13, 2020 at 08:22 PM (#5924334)
Any comparison of velocities across years needs to account for differences in how measurements are taken.
   5. Walt Davis Posted: February 13, 2020 at 09:50 PM (#5924352)
Any comparison of velocities across years needs to account for differences in how measurements are taken.

Ideally ... which I'm not sure the original article did (and I'm not in a position to do). But not necessarily unless you think the change in methodology led to a bigger change in breaking ball velocity measurement than in fastballs:

new velo - old velo = real change + method change

Assuming the method change is the same regardless of type of pitch (possibly as a percentage rather than additive but not likely to make much difference) then when comparing the change in FB velocity with the change in slider and curve velocities, the method change drops out and the resulting difference would be the difference in real changes. That's true whether you know the method change or not -- under the assumption it's equal for FBs and BBs.
   6. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 13, 2020 at 09:56 PM (#5924354)
Any comparison of velocities across years needs to account for differences in how measurements are taken.

Absolutely. Measurement has added something like 5 MPH to high end fastballs since the 1970s. Newsflash, nobody today throws any harder than Nolan Ryan did. The 101-105 MPH pitches are all artifacts of measurement.
   7. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: February 13, 2020 at 10:49 PM (#5924360)
Ideally ... which I'm not sure the original article did (and I'm not in a position to do). But not necessarily unless you think the change in methodology led to a bigger change in breaking ball velocity measurement than in fastballs:

It might. Would a slower pitch lose more or less velocity over a constant distance? It's experiencing less air resistance for a longer time; not sure how the math works out. (Also, the breaking ball would seem likely to take a longer path to cover the same mound-to-plate stretch, which would lead to an additional velocity drop.)
   8. Walt Davis Posted: February 13, 2020 at 11:58 PM (#5924363)
#7 sure, all possible and I'll wait for physicists to chime in. But we are talking about the change in average velocity between a group of pitches starting out at 95 vs one starting out at 87. It seems unlikely the shift in measurement from "release point" to "middle somewhere" would account for a 3 MPH change in one but a relatively whopping 5 MPH change in the other. (assuming those numbers are even accurate and all I did was look at the top 30.) Diffrences out to a few decimal points would seem reasonable but also wouldn't be big enough to make a difference in any analysis.

Measurement has added something like 5 MPH to high end fastballs since the 1970s.

Nobody's comparing to the 1970s.
   9. ReggieThomasLives Posted: February 14, 2020 at 01:03 AM (#5924371)
Higher velocity increases total dynamic loads across pitchers fractious tendons, inverted ligaments, and pitcher’s key skeletal features such as their hohmdinger, inverse weisenheimer, wontoo threeskidew and upper roscoe. You can’t argue against this because science!

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