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Whether you see it or not, it must be there. Because we can observe that hitters are not trading Ks for more BBs and HRs -- they are simply striking out more.
Personally, I don't find it that surprising. As pitchers get bigger and stronger, it seems quite plausible that pitch velocity is increasing faster than hitters' reflexes and eye-hand coordination improve. But since hitters are also getting bigger and stronger, they can hit with more power.
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Refused to take walks. Never struck out.
In fact, it's hard to hit .342 without being selective."
Try telling that to George Sisler.
Are pitch velocities up significantly in the last 20/40/60 years?
Don't get me wrong. I fully suspect pitcher ability has some effect here. But I firmly believe that the attitude/approach of hitters has also played a significant role in the rising strikeout rate.
I can tell you do, and I think a lot of people agree. But as best I can tell, there is zero evidence to support the idea that strikeouts are rising because hitters are changing their approach. Strike outs are increasing for both power hitters and non-power hitters. Hitters with little/no power today strike out more than Ruth did. Mike Schmidt was considered a big strikeout guy (led the NL 4 times), but he struck out less often than the average hitter today. This desire to blame the victim here is quite curious.....
There was a time in the 1930s, not very long all told, where quite a few of the best hitters walked quite a bit, and a lot more than they struck out, sometimes with at least extra-base power: Mickey Cochrane, Charlie Gehringer, Paul Waner, Arky Vaughan, Luke Appling, Buddy Myer were all in that mode. (Later on, Ted Williams and Stan Musial would continue that legacy, and improve on it.)
In general, high contact hitters don't hit for much power; only a few of the greatest players in history do both. Since there's not much threat of them hitting home runs, pitchers are much more willing to throw them strikes.
Oh for Christ's sake, don't be dramatic.
The recent surge dates only from about 2006, and over that period there has been no increase in HR (or BB) at all. I think it's been all pitchers.
You were able to play shortstop when you were the oldest player on your team? I don't know what level of play is involved, but that's a hell of a resume.
Strikeouts are unequivocally good for pitchers; in fact they're the only unequivocally good result for pitchers, and so pitchers are constantly trying to strike hitters out. For hitters strikeouts are bad on their own, but hitters have discovered, starting with Babe Ruth and continuing on through Adam Dunn, that trading the negative effects of more strikeouts for the positive effects of more home runs is a beneficial transaction for them. There is no such transaction for pitchers; pitchers can't trade fewer strikeouts for anything good. That is why strikeouts rates have steadily risen throughout all of baseball history.
This theory would imply that right now, there are a bunch of MLB hitters -- and a bunch of AAA hitters -- who could become much better hitters if only they were willing to strike out some more. And apparently, this has always been true, and -- I'm not sure about this part -- always will be?
A player that strikes out 140 times a year but hits 25 home runs will have a job in the major leagues today and likely would not have in 1970, and definitely would not have in 1930.
Strikeouts are unequivocally good for pitchers; in fact they're the only unequivocally good result for pitchers, and so pitchers are constantly trying to strike hitters out.
Mike Schmidt was considered a big strikeout guy (led the NL 4 times), but he struck out less often than the average hitter today.
I don't buy that at all. If we're talking about that kind of ability in the big leagues, then it would show up as more like 110 strikeouts, 35 homeruns in AAA, give or take a bit depending on the league context.
I have a book with 1984 scouting reports. The entries on each pitcher usually mention fastball speed, or at least a range. My rough estimate from looking through that was that average FB in 1984 was around 85 MPH, so we're looking at 2 MPH per decade. Whether that can be extended back further in time, I don't have any idea. I don't want to suggest that average FB in 1924 was only 73.
I definitely believe velocities have increased, substantially. But we do have to be careful about comparing data from the guns over time. I believe that in the early days of using radar guns, the ball was measured as it crossed the plate, while today it's measured out of the pitcher's hand. This is a vague recollection, and could definitely be wrong. But if so, the data would exaggerate the velocity increase.
As to which came first way back when -- pitchers K'ing more or batters showing more power -- and who was reacting to whose strategy shift ... I don't know and I don't think anyone will.
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