What is the Deal With Pitching?
What can you blame the change on? Is it steroid testing? You still had to hit the ball with all of those muscles. Is it expansion? There hasn’t been a team added to Major League Baseball since 1998, when the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays made 30 teams.
From 1900-1919, baseball went through what was called “The Dead-ball Era”. Christy Mathewson, Cy Young, and Walter Johnson dominated during this time period where home runs were scarce, and balls to play with were even more scarce. Are we starting a second “Dead-ball Era” right now?
Pitchers seem to be throwing harder than ever. Aroldis Chapman’s 105.1 mph at PETCO Park in September of 2010 is the fastest fastball ever recorded. Of the fastest fastballs ever observed, listed at www.baseball-almanac.com here, 7 of 48 (15 percent) have occurred since the start of the 2010 season and 29 of 48 (60 percent) have occurred since the start of the 2005 season.
Pitchers are throwing harder. While we’ll never see another pitcher toss 300-innings in a season, as Nolan Ryan did twice and Walter Johnson did for nine consecutive years (1910-1918), will pitchers fail to reach 200-innings to maximize speed in coming seasons, possibly increasing rotations from five to seven to make it happen?
Gone are the days where relief pitchers are the only hurlers who can throw the ball 100 miles per hour. Justin Verlander and Stephen Strasburg hit 100 miles per hour consistently as starting pitchers, with Verlander hitting 100 miles per hour on his 130-pitch of the game on August 6, 2012. In fact, of the top 30 average fastballs since 2002, 13 of those pitchers are starting pitchers (43 percent).
With more torque on the body like Tim Lincecum, crazy training and warm-ups like Trevor Bauer, or totally babying prospects like the Orioles have done to Dylan Bundy in 2012, the human body and sports science continue to do impressive things.
With Phillip Humber, Matt Cain, and Felix Hernandez now throwing perfect games in 2012, it makes you wonder what was going on from May 8, 1968 until May 15, 1981. That would make 4,752 days between Catfish Hunter’s and Len Barker’s perfect games. What about April 30, 1922 until October 8, 1956. That was over 12,570 days between Charlie Robertson’s and Don Larsen’s perfect games.
Pitchers are dominating in 2012 and while players lose the supplemental bulk and giant heads that came with performance-enhancing drugs, it could only get more lop-sided, especially with talent young arms continuing to develop within systems around baseball.