Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Archive for the ‘walter johnson’ tag

TJ Surgery epidemic: upbringing, showcases and mechanics

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Jose Fernandez is (arguably) the biggest name to go down to TJ surgery yet.  Photo via thestar.com

Jose Fernandez is (arguably) the biggest name to go down to TJ surgery yet. Photo via thestar.com

Its the biggest story in baseball so far in 2014.   We’ve had nearly 20 MLB pitchers get diagnosed with torn elbow ligaments so far this calendar year.  All of them have or are set to undergo “Tommy John” surgery (also known as ulnar collateral ligament/UCL replacement surgery).  That’s nearly as many as who got the surgery ALL of 2013 and we’re just 6 weeks into the season.  There’s an alarming trend upwards over just the past few seasons of pitchers getting this surgery.  There’s been plenty more minor leaguers (two Nats farmhands in Erik Davis and Danny Rosenbaum have already gotten it in 2014) and already a couple of very high-profile draft prospects as well (including as discussed in this space potential 1st rounders Jeff Hoffman and Erick Fedde just in the last week).

Lots of people are talking about this story, especially some heavy-weights in the baseball world.  A sampling:

  • Dr. James Andrews, perhaps the most famous sports doctor in the world, attributes the growing trend to the rise in year-round baseball competition in the US.
  • SI.com’s Jay Jaffe reviews Dr. Andrews comments and had other excellent stats about the trend in this April 2014 piece.
  • The Washington Post’s Dave Sheinen did an excellent piece in the paper a few weeks ago about the injury, which he attributes to youth usage.
  • Tom Verducci (he of the “Verducci effect”) proposed a solution in a column this week after the Jose Fernandez announcement.  His idea?  Lowering the mound across all levels of the sport.  He draws this conclusion after hosting a very interesting round-table on MLB Network.
  • Jayson Stark teamed up with ESPN injury analyst Stephania Bell and former player Alex Cora to discuss the rise in arm injuries in this ESPN.com video, and they follow Andrews’ theory of year-round pitching.
  • Chris O’Leary, king of the Inverted-W (whether you believe his theories or not, I’ve included this link here) has his own theories as discussed here.  He doesn’t really have much in the way of explanation, just more whining about how every pitcher’s mechanics has something you can complain about.
  • Jeff Passan basically calls out baseball executives for not having any answers.
  • If you want an index of all of ESPN.com’s stories on the topic, click here.  It will have columns, analysis and press releases for individuals getting the surgery.

Some interesting stats about Tommy John surgery:

So what the heck is going on??  Lets talk about some theories.  I’ll highlight them in Blue.

The new “hot theory” is essentially this: Over-throwing at Showcase events, which have become crucial scouting events for kids raised in the United States, are to blame.  Thanks to the rise in travel leagues and select teams, scouts spend less time sitting at high school games and more time at these all-star events.  To prescribers of this theory, it isn’t so much about the amount of innings or pitches that kids throw … its the nature of the “showcase” events and the high pressure situations that those events put kids under.  Kids are throwing year-round, and they’re ramping up max-effort pitches at national competitions multiple times per year, and in some cases out of “season.”  This leads to serious damage to kids’ arms done as 16 and 17 yr olds, which then manifests itself over the years and results in blown ligaments in pro ball.

Do you buy this explanation?  It certainly makes sense to me, but how do you prove this?  And, it doesn’t explain the similar rise in elbow injuries to non-American pitchers.

Is it less about the showcase events and more about the Larger Increase in Youth pitched innings thanks to the rise in Travel Leagues?   This theory also makes some sense to me: thirty years ago kids played an 18-20 game spring Little League season, at best would pitch half those games and that was it.  Maybe they played in the fall too, but there were specific innings limits in place that protected kids.  Now instead of playing limited spring and fall seasons, kids are playing AAU travel teams that play 40-50 games a summer, plus weekend tournaments, plus (eventually) the above showcase events as they get closer to matriculation.  This theory certainly is supported by a startling rise in youth arm injuries, as noted in this 2010 study by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

But, if its “bad” to play more baseball … then shouldn’t we be seeing even MORE injuries from players who grew up in third-world baseball hot beds like the Dominican Republic or Venezuela, where by all accounts kids play baseball from sun-up to sun-down 12 months out of the year in tropical climates?

Interestingly, of the list of 19 MLB players so far who have been diagnosed with a torn UCL (see next section), there’s 4 non-American developed pitchers (Rondo, Nova, Figueora, Cisnero).  4 of 19 = 21%, whereas about 22% of MLB pitchers are non-American developed (my 22% figure comes from this quick study that I did; I grabbed every active MLB pitcher as of early May 2014 and did a quick-and-dirty player upbringing analysis to determine that about 78% of players “grew up” in the current American system of player development).  It is small sample size … but the percentage of american versus foreign developed players are so far exactly in line with the total percentage of each type of player in the larger pool of MLB pitchers.  This doesn’t seem to support either of the two above theories.

We’ve all heard horror stories about pitch counts and pitcher abuse at  high school events in Japan (this came to light over the winter as we looked at Masahiro Tanaka and learned about these Japanese showcase events; this article here at thebiglead.com talks about one Japanese prospect’s 772 pitches thrown over 9 days, and Jeff Passan talked about Tanaka’s own pitch count abuse stories and his average pitch counts as a Japanese-league pro).   Unfortunately there’s not a ton of data available about this TJ theory and Japanese pitchers.  I can find a couple of instances of Asian pitchers getting the surgery (Kyuji Fujikawa in 2012 being the most recent example), but not enough to establish any trends.

But lets state it this way: you can’t have things both ways.  Both these stereotypes about player upbringing cannot be true:

  • Latin American poor youth plays baseball from sun up to sun down 12 months a year, building arm strength constantly, therefore his arm is “stronger” and he’s less suceptible to injury
  • American little leaguer plays limited schedules (18 games in the spring, perhaps fewer in the fall), has closely monitored pitch counts, therefore does not abuse his arm as a youth and thus his arm is “stronger” later in life as a result.

Here’s a list of the 19 MLB pitchers who have already gone under the TJ knife so far in 2014 (data from baseballheatmaps.com, which has detailed Disabled List data).

Of these 19 pitchers, they are evenly split between being starters (10) and relievers (9).  So that doesn’t seem to lend itself to any Starter vs Reliever usage conclusion.

How about Pitching Mechanics?  We’ve all heard ad-naseum about the “Inverted W” and people talking about pronation and timing and elbow lift and etc etc.  Here’s a quick attempt to analyize the mechanics of each of these 19 guys (all photos grabbed as thumbnails from google images for the purposes of demonstration; no copyright infringement intended).

CisnerJose landingFernandezJose landingGriffinAJ landingFigueroaPedro landing

 

NovaIvan landingJohnsonJosh landingMooreMatt landingGearrinCory landing

 

ParnellBobby landingDavisErik landingHernandezDavid landingMLB: Spring Training-Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Dodgers

 

RondonBruce landingCorbinPatrick landingParkerJarrod landingBeachyBrandon landing

 

MedlenKris landingHochevarLuke landingLeubkeCory landing2

Quick and Dirty Mechanics analysis (images in same order as list of pitchers above, which is choronological in order of diagnosis in 2014):

  • Inverted W: Griffin, Nova, Gearrin, Beachy, Hochevar
  • Sideways M: Fernandez, Johnson, Davis, Moylan, Rondon, Parker, Medlen
  • Inverted L: Cisnero, Figueroa, Moore, Parnell, Hernandez, Corbin, Luebke

But I’ll immediately add a caveat to these classifications; at various stop-points in a guy’s delivery, he may exhibit “good” or “bad” trends.   Maybe some of these “sideways-M” guys are actually “inverted-W” guys.  Maybe some of these inverted-W guys are ok and the stills make their mechanics seem worse than they are.

Nonetheless; there’s no trend among the 19 guys in terms of their mechanics.  In some cases they’re “bad” (Griffin and Gearrin’s look awful) but in some cases excellent (nobody should look at Moore’s mechanics and say they’re anything but clean, nor with Parnell or Corbin).  These pitchers are overhanders, 3/4-slot guys and even side-armers/submarine guys (Gearrin and Moylan).   These guys include hard throwers (Rondon had the 3rd highest velocity of *any* pitcher in 2013) and softer-throwing guys (Medlen had one of the lowest fastball velocities in the majors in 2013).  There’s starters and relievers almost equally represented in this list.

Conclusion; there’s no conclusions to draw from pitching mechanics analysis.  I think all attempts to look at guys’ mechanics and make judgements are useless.  I think (as does Keith Law and other pundits in the field) that the “Inverted W” is nonesense and that “research” posted online by concerned-fathers-turned-self-appointed-mechanics-experts is not exactly trustworthy.  The fact of the matter is this: throwing a baseball over and over is hard on the body.  Throwing a ball is an unnatural motion, and throwing a ball at max-effort will eventually lead to pitching injuries, no matter what your mechanics.  They can be “good” or “bad” according to someone’s pet theory on bio-mechanics and it has nothing to do about whether a pitcher is going to throw 10 seasons without injury or have two tommy johns before they’re 25.

Some historical context for pitching mechanics arguments: the pitcher who has the 2nd most innings thrown in the non-knuckleballer modern era (behind Nolan Ryan) was Don Sutton.  Sutton displayed absolutely *classic* inverted-W mechanicsnever hit the D/L in his career and threw nearly 5,300 innings over the course of 23 seasons.   Walter Johnson‘s mechanics were awful; he slung the ball sideways as he literally pushed backwards away from the hitter at the end of his delivery.  If someone saw Johnson’s mechanics today they’d talk about how over-compensated he was on his shoulder and how he lost velocity thanks to landing stiff and having zero follow through.  Johnson only threw 5,900 innings in his pro career; yeah those mechanics really held him back.  Nolan Ryan was a freak of nature, throwing at that velocity for as long as he did.  The point?  You just don’t know.


Maybe there’s something to the “showcase abuse” theory for some players.   Maybe there’s something to the travel-ball overuse theory for some kids.  But I think the answer may be a bit more simple.  We all know there’s been a rise in the average MPH of fastballs in the majors, both on starters and especially with relievers.  My theory is simply this: kids who “can” throw upper 90s spend all their time trying to throw upper 90s/max effort fastballs 100% of the time, and human arms just cannot withstand that kind of abuse over and over.  In prior generations, kids who “could” throw that hard wouldn’t, or would rarely try to throw that hard, and thus suffered fewer elbow injuries.

Side note: I also firmly believe that we’re “victims of our own success” to a certain extent with respect to modern medicine; 30 years ago would someone have just “blown out their arm” instead of being diagnosed specifically with a “torn ulnar collateral ligament?”  Would some kid in the low minors who hurt his harm even bother to get an MRI?  How much of the rise in these injuries is simply the fact that we’re better at diagnosing injuries in the modern sports world?

Why are these kids trying to throw so hard these days?  Because velocity is king, and that’s what scouts look for.   A kid who “only” throws mid 80s as a 17-yr old is dismissed, while the kid who can throw mid 90s at the same age is fawned over.   Guys like Greg MaddoxMark Buehrle, and Tom Glavine probably don’t even get drafted in the modern baseball climate thanks to the over-focus on pure velocity.

You can talk about upbringing and showcase events and pitch counts and mechanics all you want, but I think it comes down to Pitcher over-exertion thanks to the rising trend of fastball velocity and the human nature urge of prospects and farm-hands to show more and more velocity so they can advance their careers.

What do you guys think?  Do you dismiss the “inverted-W” arguments like I do?  Do you think its all about showcase events?

Adult/Amateur and College baseball in the DC Area for 2014

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I know its 20 degrees out, but we’re only a month away from opening day for the Nats, colleges started playing two weekends ago in the warmer states, and local amateur leagues can start as early as April 1st.  So lets talk some local baseball.

I thought it’d be of service to readers to summarize information of known local  adult/amateur leagues for anyone who is perhaps interested in getting back to playing, or who knows someone looking for a team.  If you’re looking for a place to play this summer, now is the time to reach out and start making contacts/sign up to play.  I’ve also gone over the Division 1 schools playing in the area and put in some links for those that want to go see some college ball.

I’ll list these leagues in perceived order of talent/skill/intensity from highest to lowest.  Each site also has links for those who may want to look into playing or watching.  I’m not including any youth, AAU, travel, American Legion, Babe Ruth or Cal Ripken (not to be confused with the Cal Ripken collegiate league) baseball here; we’ll start with College-age Adult baseball.  I will have a post coming later on that discusses draft prospects in the area worth following, which will give an overview of what high schools are worth looking up this spring.   Honestly I don’t know a ton about the big DC area travel league other than listening to complaints from my adult baseball buddies about how they get all the good fields :-) .

1. Local College-area Baseball teams.  If you’re looking for some division 1 area baseball, Washington DC has four teams to consider: (ACC), George Mason (A-10), George Washington (A-10) and Georgetown (Big East) all play division 1 schedules of varying strength (in roughly the order I just listed).  Their home fields are:

  • Maryland: on Shipley Field in College Park
  • George Mason: across 123 from campus behind the big Track and Field pavilion
  • Georgetown: on Shirley Povich field in Bethesda
  • George Washington: in Barcroft Park on Four Mile Run in South Arlington

Maryland (being in the ACC for one last season) features several marquee teams visiting this year (2014 schedule here), including UNC, NC State (with consensus 1-1 overall pick Carlos Rodon), and Clemson.   Mason’s best home opponent (2014 schedule here) may be 2013 CWS participant St. Louis.  Georgetown’s 2014 home schedule‘s best visitor may be Seton Hall (the new Big East isn’t that big into baseball), and GW’s home slate for 2014 highlight may be Rhode Island.  These schools are playing each other in mid-week stand-offs here and there, and new A-10 rivals GW and Mason face off more than a few times this year.

Personlly, I’m kind of bummed by Mason’s exit to the A-10; it means no more visits to or from my alma mater JMU, an itinerant baseball power.   JMU does a mid-week visit to Maryland after playing a 3-game set in Towson; that’s about as close as they come to DC this year.

2. DC-Area Summer Collegiate Leagues: Once the NCAA seasons are done, lots of college players debunk for wood-bat leagues.  The local wood-bat Cal Ripken Collegiate League has teams from DC, Maryland and Virginia and is the successor to the long-running Clark Griffith League (one of the first wood-bat leagues in the nation but now defunct: the Clark Griffith league suspended operations in 2010 and has not been able to re-start itself).  The Cal Ripken league has flourished and expanded since its inception, taken some of the former Griffith teams and now has at least 12 teams competing.  The marquee team is the Bethesda Big Train, named after Senator’s great Walter Johnson and whose home games are at the fantastic Shirley Povich field in Bethesda (also the home-stadium of Georgetown University).  If you havn’t seen games at Povich, you should take a drive up there one night this summer and take in a game.  The quality of play is good (the players are either Division-1 college players or elite HS prospects) and the field is great.

The Cal Ripken league is a step down from the famed Cape Code League in terms of summer college talent … but then again nearly every other wood bat summer league is a step down as well.  Of the dozens of summer leagues out there, most pundits would rank the Cal Ripken league as a 3rd tier quality league (2nd tiers being leagues like the Valley League, the Northwest league, the Alaska league or the Coastal Plains leagues).  But the Cal Ripken league definitely has its share of pro alumni.

Eligibility: you must have college eligibility left to play in this league.  High Schoolers are eligible but rare.  Teams are competitively assembled and hand selected.  Most players are contacted through their college coaches, but some are placed via relationships with GMs.  The Cal Ripken teams are always looking for host families; if you are interested in hosting a player definitely reach out to the league to volunteer.

3. The Industrial League: The Industrial League is the most elite level of adult amateur baseball in the area, filled with ex-Collegiate players and ex-Pros to serve as close to a “semi pro” league as we have in the area.  The current incarnation of the Industrial league plays wood bat and is the combination of two long-standing leagues (the “Industrial League” and the “Credit Union” league).   The old Credit Union used to play with aluminum, but went to Wood fully upon its dissolvement.  There’s only a handful of teams; this league used to be much healthier.  The “history” page on the website is informative and gives some great background on the league itself and its origins.  A quick check on 2013′s season showed that they played just a partial slate of games compared to the 40-50 game schedules they used to play.

By way of talent comparison; recent industrial teams used to scrimmage the Griffith/Ripken teams and would get wiped out.  Not so much because of talent, but because of depth.  These college summer league teams have full rosters and massive bullpens.  However, many years ago the tables were turned when these industrial teams featured significantly more talent and would dominate the Clark Griffith teams of the time.

Personal connection: I played in the predecessor league (Credit Union) for a brief time while in college, and can attest to the quality of play at the time.

Eligibility: no restrictions; anyone can play at any age.  No restrictions on time sitting out if you are an ex-pro.

4.  DCMSBL/MABLDC Mens Senior Baseball League: a large adult baseball league (the 2nd largest Adult league in the Nation according to MSBL’s records) with divisions ranging from 19 and up to 55 and up.   DCMSBL started in 1991 with just a 30+ division and now has dozens of teams split amongst 19+, 25+, 35+,45+,55+ and a wood-bat only league that crosses age divisions.  In 2012 the league had no less than 75 teams among all these divisions (each team has to have a minimum of 15 registered players, meaning there’s more than 1100-1200 players in the league).  Note: MABL stands for Mens Adult Baseball League, which was formerly the under 30 adult league now rolled into one organization).

The DCMSBL amateur league is pretty decent baseball.  The 19-and up is essentially a low-end collegiate summer league (though not nearly as talented as Cal Ripken).  There is some overlap with teams in the Industrial league and the Cross-age group woodbat leagues.  The 25 and up division has a large number of ex-college players and ex-pros, and the 35-and up teams have more than their fare share of ex-major leaguers as well.  Its not uncommon to face a guy in the upper 25+ division who was a starter for his Division-1 college team for 4 years and is just a few years removed from that level of competition.  There’s enough teams so that there are “upper” and “lower” divisions of play within each age group.  From an intensity standpoint, the “upper” divisions are quite competitive each year while the “lower” divisions are less intense but certainly not a “beer drinking” division like you’d see if you were playing softball.

Teams are organizing right now for play that starts in the first week of April.  There’s a player waiting list that you can sign up for at the website www.dcmsbl.com.

Note: there is also the Chesapeake MSBL that covers the Annapolis, Southern Maryland and Howard county areas with similar rules and talent levels to DCMSBL.  The two leagues play an all-star game at season’s end in one of the local minor league stadiums (this year in Frederick).

Personal Connection: I played in this league for more than a decade, finally “retiring” temporarily (?) to rehab injuries and get our kid out of infancy.  We played two seasons in the “upper” 25+ league and the rest in one of the lower leagues; the upper leagues are pretty good baseball, though not nearly as good as the Credit Union of old.

Eligibility: ex-professionals must sit out a year before being eligible to play.

5. DC Wood Bat League, formerly associated with NABA and which absorbed teams from the old WARBL.  It had 12 teams for 2012 and expanded to two divisions and 14 teams in Spring/Summer 2013 (in prior years they had as many as 20 teams; its good to see them growing).  There seems to be some overlap between DCWood and DCMSBL teams, and this league definitely has had some talented teams in the past.

Eligibility: 19+, no known pro restrictions.

6. Ponce de Leon league, owned and operated by Bob Duff, serves as an excellent low-key competitive league for players to play.   There are a slew of very specific competition rules that control the flow of games, prevent blowouts and limit the ability of pitchers to dominate the league.  But this league also guarantees participation and is a great option for guys who havn’t played in years or who are nervous about the intensity of the above leagues.

It is now affiliated with the DC Wood bat league somehow; this is a new affiliation and I don’t know all the details other than what’s on the websites.

Ponce has two age divisions; 30+ and 48+.  You have to be at least 30 and cannot pitch unless you’re at least 36 in the younger division.  There are no pitching restrictions in the older division.

To show how much inter-linking and cooperation there is between the leagues mentioned here, we met Ponce league owner Duff when he ran a fantastic DCMSBL 28+ team back in the late 90s (they’re now a dominant 35+ team), he owns and operations the Ponce league, which has an affiliation with the Wood bat league, and Duff used to own/sponsor one of the Clark Griffith teams.  That’s some serious participation in the local DC baseball scene.  Just to add one more note about Duff; he started and runs the Diamond Dream Foundation, which runs baseball programming for youths, has an association with the Nationals and runs a charity golf event every August that features many current and former pros with connections to the Orioles, the Nationals and baseball in general.  If you’re interested in playing in this golf event, I’ll be sure to put an announcement out when he starts organizing.

Eligibilty:  30+ with restrictions as noted above.  No known pro restrictions.

[Editor's note: after the 2013 publication of this, I noticed an advertisement in a local publication for new adult baseball league, discussed here.]

7. Legends Sports Leagues: Has two divisions (19+ and 30+) and advertises itself as a “less pressure” league.  Has been in operation for a while based on the pictures from their website.  I can’t believe i’ve never heard of it; anyone know anything about this league?

8. Eastern Women’s Baseball Conference: the EWBC is an Adult Womens baseball league with teams from DC to Baltimore that plays competitively.  I must admit; I had not heard about them until prompted by suggestions in the comments from last year’s post.


I’d love to hear from you if you’re familiar with any other area leagues that I may have missed, or if you have some thoughts on the post here.  I know there were lots of corrections and clarifications from this post last year; apologies if I didn’t get them all in for this year.

Editor’s note: some of this is reposted from last year’s PSA informational blog about area baseball leagues.

Written by Todd Boss

February 28th, 2014 at 9:16 am

2013 Pre-season Rotation Rankings revisited

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Scherzer's dominant Cy Young season brings the Tigers to the top.  Photo AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Scherzer’s dominant Cy Young season brings the Tigers to the top. Photo AP Photo/Paul Sancya

In January, after most of marquee FA signings had shaken out, I ranked the 2013 rotations of teams 1-30.  I was excited about the Nats rotation, speculated more than once that we had the best rotation in the league, and wanted to make a case for it by stacking up the teams 1-30.

I thought it’d be an interesting exercise to revisit my rankings now that the season is over with a hindsight view, doing some post-mortem analysis and tacking on some advanced metrics to try to quantify who really performed the best this season.  For advanced metrics I’m leaning heavily on Fangraphs team starter stats page, whose Dashboard view quickly gives the team ERA, FIP, xFIP, WAR, SIERA, K/9 and other key stats that I’ll use in this posting.

  1. (#2 pre-season) DetroitVerlander, Fister, Sanchez, Scherzer, Porcello (with Alvarez providing some cover).  Scherzer likely wins the Cy Young.  Three guys with 200+ strikeouts.  The league leader in ERA.  And we havn’t even mentioned Justin Verlander yet.  A team starting pitching fWAR of 25.3, which dwarfed the next closest competitor.  There’s no question; we knew Detroit’s rotation was going to be good, but not this good.  Here’s a scary fact; their rotation BABIP was .307, so in reality this group should have done even better than they actually did.  Detroit’s rotation was *easily* the best rotation in the league and all 6 of these guys return for 2014.
  2. (#3 Preseason): Los Angeles DodgersKershaw, Greinke, Ryu, Nolasco, and Capuano (with Fife, BeckettLilly, Billingsley and a few others helping out); The 1-2 punch of Kershaw (the NL’s clear Cy Young favorite) and Greinke (who quietly went 15-4) was augmented by the stand-out rookie performance of Ryu, the surprisingly good half-season worth of starts from Nolasco, and then the all-hands-on deck approach for the rest of the starts.  This team used 11 different starters on the year thanks to injury and ineffectiveness, but still posted the 2nd best team FIP and 5th best fWAR in the league.
  3. (#8 pre-season): St. LouisWainwright, Lynn, Miller, Wacha and Kelly (with Garcia, Westbrook, and a few others pitching in).  Team leader Chris Carpenter missed the whole season and this team still was one of the best rotations in the league.  Westbrook missed time, Garcia only gave them 9 starts.  That’s the team’s planned #1, #3 and #4 starters.  What happened?  They call up Miller and he’s fantastic.  They call up Wacha and he nearly pitches back to back no-hitters at the end of the season.  They give Kelly a starting nod out of the bullpen and he delivers with a better ERA+ than any of them from the #5 spot.  St. Louis remains the bearer-standard of pitching development (along with Tampa and Oakland to an extent) in the game.
  4. (#22 pre-season): Pittsburgh:  Liriano, Burnett, Locke, Cole, Morton (with Rodriguez and a slew of call-ups helping out).  How did this team, which I thought was so low pre-season, turn out to have the 4th best starter FIP in the game?  Francisco Liriano had a renessaince season, Burnett continued to make Yankees fans shake their heads, and their top 6 starters (by number of starts) all maintained sub 4.00 ERAs.  Gerrit Cole has turned out to be the real deal and will be a force in this league.
  5. (#1 pre-season) WashingtonStrasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Haren, Detwiler with Jordan, Roark and other starts thrown to Karns and Ohlendorf).   Despite Haren’s continued attempts to sabotage this rotation’s mojo, they still finished 3rd in xFIP and 5th in FIP.  Haren’s 11-19 team record and substandard ERA/FIP values drug this group down, but there wasn’t much further up they could have gone on this list.   If  you had replaced Haren with a full season of Jordan’s production, maybe this team jumps up a little bit, but the teams above them are tough to beat.
  6. (#11 pre-season) Atlanta: Hudson, Medlen, Minor, Teheran and Maholm, (with rookie Alex Wood contributing towards the end of the season).  Brandon Beachy only gave them 5 starts; had he replaced Maholm this rotation could have done better.  Hudson went down with an awful looking injury but was ably covered for by Wood.  They head into 2014 with a relatively formidable  and cheap potential rotation of  Medlen, Minor, Teheran, Beachy and Wood, assuming they don’t resign Hudson.  How did they over-perform?  Teheran finally figured it out, Maholm was more than servicable the first couple months, Wood was great and came out of nowhere.
  7. (#26 pre-season) ClevelandJimenez, Masterson, McAllister, Kluber, Kazmir.  Too high for this group?  7th in rotation fWAR, 8th in FIP, and 6th in xFIP.  This group, which I thought was going to be among the worst in the league, turned out to be one of the best.  Jimenez and Masterson both had rebound years with a ton of Ks, and the rest of this crew pitches well enough to remain around league average.  They were 2nd best in the league in K/9.  You can make the argument that they benefitted from the weakened AL Central, but they still made the playoffs with a relative rag-tag bunch.
  8. (#9 pre-season) CincinnatiCueto, Latos, Bailey, Arroyo, Leake (with Tony Cingrani).  Cueto was good … but he was never healthy, hitting the D/L three separate times.  Luckily Cingrani came up from setting strikeout records in AAA and kept mowing them down in the majors.  Latos was dominant,  Leake took a step forward, and Bailey/Arroyo gave what they normally do.  If anything you would have thought this group would have been better.  6th in Wins, 7th in xFIP, 9th in FIP.  Next year Arroyo leaves, Cingrani gets 32 starts, Cueto stays healthy (cross your fingers, cross your fingers, cross your fingers) and this team is dominant again despite their FA hitting losses.
  9. (#25 pre-season) New York MetsHarvey, WheelerNiese, Gee, Hefner and a bunch of effective call-ups turned the Mets into a halfway-decent rotation all in all.  7th in xFIP, 11th in FIP.  Most of this is on the backs of Matt Harvey, who pitched like the second coming of Walter Johnson for most of the season.  Wheeler was more than effective, and rotation workhorses Niese and Gee may not be sexy names, but they were hovering right around the 100 ERA+ mark all year.  One superstar plus 4 league average guys was good enough for the 9th best rotation.
  10. (#12 pre-season) TexasDarvish, Holland, Ogando, Perez, Garza at the end.  Texas’ fWAR was the 2nd best in the league … but their accompanying stats drag them down this far.  Despite having four starters with ERA+s ranging from 114 to Darvish’ 145, the 34 starts given to Tepesch and Grimm drag this rotation down.  Ogando couldn’t stay healthy and Perez only gave them 20 starts.  Garza was mostly a bust.  And presumed #2 starter Matt Harrison gave them just 2 starts.  But look out for this group in 2014; Darvish, a healthy Harrison, and Holland all locked up long term, Ogando in his first arbitration year, and Perez is just 22.  That’s a formidable group if they can stay on the field together.
  11. (pre-season #6) Tampa BayPrice, Moore, Hellickson, Cobb, Archer and Roberto Hernandez.   Jeff Niemann didn’t give them a 2013 start, but no matter, the Tampa Bay gravy train of power pitchers kept on producing.  Cobb was unhittable, Archer was effective and Moore regained his 2011 playoff mojo to finish 17-4 on the year.  An odd regression from Price, which was fixed by a quick D/L trip, and a complete collapse of Hellickson drug down this rotation from where it should have been.  They still finished 12th in FIP and xFIP for the year.
  12. (pre-season #21) SeattleHernandez, Iwakuma, Saunders, Harang, Maurer, and Ramirez.  Seattle featured two excellent, ace-leve performers and a bunch of guys who pitched worse than Dan Haren all year.  But combined together and you have about the 12th best rotation, believe it or not.
  13. (pre-season #7) PhiladelphiaHalladay, Hamels, Lee, Kendrick, Lannan (with Cloyd and Pettibone as backups).  The phillies were 13th in xFIP, 10th in FIP on the year and regressed slightly thanks to the significant demise to their #1 guy Halladay.  Lee pitched like his typical Ace but Hamels self-destructed as well.  The strength of one excellent starter makes this a mid-ranked rotation.  Had Halladay and Hamels pitched like expected, they’d have finished closer to my pre-season ranking.
  14. (pre-season #17) BostonLester, Buchholz, Dempster, Lackey, Doubront, and Peavy: Boston got a surprise bounce back season out of Lackey, a fantastic if oft-injured performance from Buchholz, a mid-season trade for the effective Peavy.  Why aren’t they higher?  Because their home stadium contributes to their high ERAs in general.  Despite being 3rd in rotation fWAR and 4th in wins, this group was 17th in FIP and 18th in xFIP.  Perhaps you could argue they belong a couple places higher, but everyone knows its Boston’s offense that is driving their success this year.
  15. (pre-season #16) New York YankeesSabathia, Kuroda, Pettitte, Nova, Hughes/Phelps Hughes and Phelps pitched as predictably bad as you would have expected … but Sabathia’s downturn was unexpected.  Are  his years of being a workhorse catching up to him?  The rotation was buoyed by unexpectedly good seasons from Nova and Kuroda.  Pettitte’s swang song was pretty great, considering his age.  Enough for them to slightly beat expectations, but the signs of trouble are here for this rotation in the future.   Pettitee retired, Kuroda a FA, Hughes a FA, a lost season for prospect Michael Pineda and other Yankees prospects stalled.  Are we in for a dark period in the Bronx?
  16. (pre-season #29) Miami: FernandezNolasco, Eovaldi, Turner, Alvarez, Koehler and a few other starts given to either re-treads or MLFAs.  For Miami’s rotation of kids to rise this far up is amazing; looking at their stellar stats you would think they should have been higher ranked still.  Fernandez’s amazing 176 ERA+ should win him the Rookie of the Year.  Eovaldi improved, rookie Turner pitched pretty well for a 22 year old.  The team dumped its opening day starter Nolasco and kept on … losing frankly, because the offense was so durn bad.  Begrudgingly it looks like Jeffry Loria has found himself another slew of great arms to build on.
  17. (pre-season #5) San FranciscoCain, Lincecum, Bumgarner, Vogelsong, Zito, Gaudin.  What the heck happened here?  Cain went from an Ace to pitching like a 5th starter, Lincecum continued to completely forget what it was like to pitch like a Cy Young winner, Vogelsong completely fell off his fairy-tale cliff, and Zito completed his $126M journey in typical 5+ ERA fashion.  I’m surprised these guys are ranked this high (14th in FIP, 16th in xFIP but just 27th in fWAR thanks to just horrible performances all year).  What the heck are they going to do in 2014?
  18. (pre-season #10) Arizona: CorbinKennedy, McCarthy, Cahill, Miley and Delgado.  Corbin was 2013′s version of Miley; a rookie that came out of nowhere to lead the staff.  Miley struggled at times but righted the ship and pitched decently enough.  The rest of the staff really struggled.  I thought this was a solid bunch but they ended up ranked 23rd in FIP and 14th in xFIP, indicating that they were a bit unlucky as a group.
  19. (pre-season #15) Chicago White SoxSale, Peavy, Danks, QuintanaSantiago and Axelrod.  Floyd went down early, Peavy was traded.  Sale pitched well but had a losing record.  The team looked good on paper (16th in ERA) but were 26th in FIP and 17th in xFIP.
  20. (pre-season #14) Oakland: ColonAnderson, Griffen, Parker, Straily, Milone, with Sonny Gray giving 10 good starts down the stretch.  This rotation is the story of one amazing 40-yr old and a bunch of kids who I thought were going to be better.   Oakland is bashing their way to success this season and this group has been just good enough to keep them going.  I thought the likes of Griffen and Parker would have been better this  year, hence their falling from #14 to #19.
  21. (pre-season #19) Chicago CubsGarza, Samardzija, JacksonWood, and FeldmanFeldman and Garza were flipped once they showed they could be good this year.  Samardzija took an uncharacteristic step backwards.  Jackson was awful.  The Cubs ended up right about where we thought they’d be.  However in 2014 they look to be much lower unless some big-armed prospects make the team.
  22. (pre-season #20) Kansas CityShields, Guthrie, Santana, Davis, Chen, Mendoza: despite trading the best prospect in the game to acquire Shields and Davis, the Royals a) did not make the playoffs and b) really didn’t have that impressive a rotation.  12th in team ERA but 20th in FIP and 25th in xFIP.   Compare that to their rankings of 25th in FIP and 26th in xFIP in 2012.   But the results on the field are inarguable; the team improved 14 games in the Win column and should be a good bet to make the playoffs next year if they can replace the possibly-departing Santana and the ineffective Davis.
  23. (pre-season #23) Milwaukee: LohseGallardo, Estrada, Peralta, and dozens of starts given to long-men and call-ups.  I ranked this squad #23 pre-season before they acquired Lohse; in reality despite his pay and the lost draft pick, Lohse’s addition ended up … having almost no impact on this team in 2013.  They finished ranked 23rd on my list, and the team was 74-88.
  24. (pre-season #13): Los Angeles AngelsWeaver, Wilson, Vargas, Hanson, Blanton, Williams: The Angels are in a predicament; their two “aces” Weaver and Wilson both pitched well enough.  But nobody in baseball was really that surprised by the god-awful performances from Hanson or Blanton (2-14, 6.04 ERA … and the Angels gave him a two year deal!).  So in some ways the team brought this on themselves.  You spend half a billion dollars on aging offensive FAs, have the best player in the game languishing in left field because your manager stubbornly thinks that someone else is better in center than one of the best defenders in the game … not fun times in Anaheim.  To make matters worse, your bigtime Ace Weaver missed a bunch of starts, looked mortal, and lost velocity.
  25. (#28 pre-season) San DiegoVolquez, Richards, Marquis, Stults, Ross, Cashner: have you ever seen an opening day starter post a 6+ ERA in a cave of a field and get relased before the season was over?  That happened to SAn Diego this year.  Another case where ERA+ values are deceiving; Stults posted a sub 4.00 ERA but his ERA+ was just 87, thanks to his home ballpark.  In fact its almost impossible to tell just how good or bad San Diego pitchers are.   I could be talked in to putting them this high or all the way down to about #28 in the rankings.
  26. (pre-season #27) Colorado: ChatwoodDe La Rosa, Chacin, Nicaso, Francis and a few starts for Garland and Oswalt for good measure.  Another staff who shows how deceptive the ERA+ value can be.  Their top guys posted 125 ERA+ figures but as a whole their staff performed badly.  26th in ERA, 19th in FIP, 26th in xFIP.  Colorado is like Minnesota; they just don’t have guys who can throw it by you (29th in K/9 just ahead of the Twins), and in their ridiculous hitter’s park, that spells trouble.
  27. (pre-season #4) TorontoDickeyMorrowJohnson, Buehrle, Happ, Rogers, and a line of other guys.  What happened here?  This was supposed to be one of the best rotations in the majors.  Instead they fell on their face, suffered a ton of injuries (only Dickey and Buehrle pitched full seasons: RomeroDrabeck were hurt.  Johnson, Happ, Redmond only 14-16 starts each.  This team even gave starts to Chien-Ming Wang and Ramon Ortiz.  Why not call up Fernando Valenzuela out of retirement?  It just goes to show; the best teams on paper sometimes don’t come together.  The Nats disappointed in 2013, but probably not as much as the Blue Jays.
  28. (pre-season #18) BaltimoreHammel, Chen, Tillman, Gonzalez, FeldmanGarcia with a few starts given to Gausman and Britton.  I’m not sure why I thought this group would be better than this; they were in the bottom four of the league in ERA, FIP, xFIP and SIERA.  It just goes to show how the ERA+ value can be misleading.  In their defense, they do pitch in a hitter’s park.  Tillman wasn’t bad, Chen took a step back.  The big concern here is the health of Dylan Bundy, who I thought could have pitched in the majors starting in June.
  29. (pre-season #30) Houston: BedardNorris, Humber, Peacock, Harrell to start, then a parade of youngsters from there.  We knew Houston was going to be bad.  But amazingly their rotation wasn’t the worst in the league, thanks to Jarred Cosart and Brett Olberholtzer coming up and pitching lights-out for 10 starts a piece later in the year.  There’s some potential talent here.
  30. (pre-season #24) MinnesotaDiamond, Pelfrey, Correia, Denudo, Worley and a whole slew of guys who were equally as bad.  Minnesota had the worst rotation in the league, and it wasn’t close.  They were dead last in rotational ERA, FIP, and xFIP, and it wasn’t close.  They were last in K/9 … by more than a strikeout per game.  They got a total fWAR of 4.6 from every pitcher who started a game for them this year.  Matt Harvey had a 6.1 fWAR in just 26 starts before he got hurt.  Someone needs to call the Twins GM and tell him that its not the year 1920, that power-pitching is the wave of the future, that you need swing-and-miss guys to win games in this league.

Biggest Surprises: Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Miami and New York Mets to a certain extent.

Biggest Disappointments: Toronto, the Angels, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Baltimore to some extent.

Disagree with these rankings?  Feel free to pipe up.  I’ll use this ranking list as the spring board post-FA market for 2014′s pre-season rankings.

Written by Todd Boss

October 10th, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Posted in Majors Pitching

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Adult Baseball in the DC Area

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We’ve mentioned local area baseball leagues a lot lately in posts here.  I talked about my own experiences playing youth and adult baseball in my “All Virginia post” and many of the readers here have shared experiences playing in the local leagues in the comment sections of that post and in the comments section of a late December post.

I thought it’d be of service to readers to summarize information of known adult leagues for anyone who is perhaps interested in getting back to playing, or who knows someone looking for a team.  If you’re looking for a place to play this summer, now is the time to reach out and start making contacts/sign up to play.

I’ll list these leagues in perceived order of talent/skill/intensity from highest to lowest.  Each site also has links for those who may want to look into playing or watching.  I’m not including any youth, AAU, travel, American Legion, Babe Ruth or Cal Ripken (not to be confused with the Cal Ripken collegiate league) baseball here; we’ll start with College-age Adult baseball.

1. DC-Area Summer Collegiate Leagues: The wood-bat Cal Ripken Collegiate League has teams from DC, Maryland and Virginia and is the successor to the long-running Clark Griffith League, which formerly was one of the longest running wood-bat leagues in the nation.  The Clark Griffith league suspended operations in 2010 and has not been able to re-start itself.  Meanwhile the Cal Ripken league has flourished and expanded, taken some of the former Griffith teams and now has 10 teams competing.  The marquee team is the Bethesda Big Train, named after Walter Johnson and whose home games are at the fantastic Shirley Povich field in Bethesda (also the home-stadium of Georgetown University).  If you havn’t seen games at Povich, you should take a drive up there one night this summer and take in a game.  The quality of play is good (the players are either Division-1 college players or elite HS prospects) and the field is great.

The Cal Ripken league is a step down from the famed Cape Code League in terms of summer college talent … but then again nearly every other wood bat summer league is a step down as well.  Of the dozens of summer leagues out there, most pundits would rank the Cal Ripken league as a 3rd tier quality league (2nd tiers being leagues like the Valley League, the Northwest league, the Alaska league or the Coastal Plains leagues).  But the Cal Ripken league definitely has its share of pro alumni.

Eligibility: you must have college eligibility left to play in this league.  High Schoolers are eligible but rare.  Teams are competitively assembled and hand selected.

2. The Industrial League: The Industrial League is the most elite level of adult baseball in the area, filled with ex-Collegiate players and ex-Pros to serve as close to a “semi pro” league as we have in the area.  The current incarnation of the Industrial league plays Wood Bat and is the combination of two long-standing leagues (the “Industrial League” and the “Credit Union” league).   The old Credit Union used to play with Aluminum, but went to Wood fully upon its dissolvement.  There’s only a handful of teams; this league used to be much healthier.  The “history” page on the website is informative and gives some great background on the league itself and its origins.

By way of comparison; industrial teams used to scrimmage the Clark Griffith teams and would get wiped out.  Not so much because of talent, but because of depth.  These college summer league teams have full rosters and massive bullpens.

Eligibility: no restrictions; anyone can play at any age.  No restrictions on time sitting out if you are an ex-pro.

3.  DCMSBL/MABLDC Mens Senior Baseball League: a large adult baseball league (the 2nd largest Adult league in the Nation according to MSBL’s records) with divisions ranging from 19 and up to 55 and up.   DCMSBL started in 1991 (this year is its 25th anniversary) with just a 30+ division and now has dozens of teams split amongst 19+, 25+, 35+,45+,55+ and a wood-bat only league that crosses age divisions.  In 2012 the league had no less than 75 teams among all these divisions (each team has to have a minimum of 15 registered players, meaning there’s more than 1100-1200 players in the league).  Note: MABL stands for Mens Adult Baseball League, which was formerly the under 30 adult league now rolled into one organization).

The DCMSBL amateur league is pretty decent baseball.  The 19-and up is essentially a low-end collegiate summer league (though not nearly as talented as Cal Ripken).  There is some overlap with teams in the Industrial league and the Cross-age group woodbat leagues.  The 25 and up division has a large number of ex-college players and ex-pros, and the 35-and up teams have more than their fare share of ex-major leaguers as well.  Its not uncommon to face a guy in the 25+ division who was a starter for his Division-1 college team for 4 years and is just a few years removed from that level of competition.  There’s enough teams so that there are “upper” and “lower” divisions of play within each age group.  From an intensity standpoint, the “upper” divisions are quite competitive each year while the “lower” divisions are less intense but certainly not a “beer drinking” division like you’d see if you were playing softball.

Teams are organizing right now for play that starts in the first week of April.  There’s a player waiting list that you can sign up for at the website www.dcmsbl.com.

Note: there is also the Chesapeake MSBL that covers the Annapolis, Southern Maryland and Howard county areas with similar rules and talent levels to DCMSBL.  The two leagues play an all-star game at season’s end in one of the local minor league stadiums (this year in Frederick).

Eligibility: ex-professionals must sit out a year (I believe) before being eligible to play.

4. DC Wood Bat League, formerly associated with NABA and which absorbed teams from the old WARBL.  It had 12 teams for 2012 but in prior years had as many as 20 teams.  There seems to be some overlap between DCWood and DCMSBL teams, and this league definitely has had some talented teams in the past.   They play longer schedules than the DCMSBL guys.

Readers who know this league: how does it fare competition wise to DCMSBL?  I have suspected it is slightly lower in skill level but have no direct experience one way or the other.

Eligibility: 19+, no known pro restrictions.

5. Ponce de Leon league, owned and operated by Bob Duff, serves as an excellent low-key competitive league for players to play.   There are a slew of very specific competition rules that control the flow of games, prevent blowouts and limit the ability of pitchers to dominate the league.  But this league also guarantees participation and is a great option for guys who havn’t played in years or who are nervous about the intensity of the above leagues.

It is now affiliated with the DC Wood bat league somehow; this is a new affiliation and I don’t know all the details other than what’s on the websites.

Ponce has two age divisions; 30+ and 48+.  You have to be at least 30 and cannot pitch unless you’re at least 36 in the younger division.

Eligibilty:  30+ with restrictions as noted above.  No known pro restrictions.

6. Eastern Women’s Baseball Conference: the EWBC is an Adult Womens baseball league with teams from DC to Baltimore that plays competitively.  I must admit; I had not heard about them until prompted by suggestions.

7.  Other leagues that I’ve heard of that may or may not still be around:  I know there’s a small league in Southern Maryland called the Charles St. Mary’s League. It plays wood bat and has been around since the 1940s.  I can’t tell if this is what remains of the old “Chesapeake Independent Baseball League” or not.  The CIBL was also colloquially known as the Chicken Leagues and was truly semi-pro baseball; guys would get paid to come out and play.  As mentioned, the old Credit Union got rolled into the Industrial league a few years back.  WARBL got rolled into NABA.

Some of these links come courtesy of Bob Schnebly‘s website.  Schnebly has been involved in DC area amateur baseball for years; we ran into him in the Credit Union/Industrial league in the early 1990s.  His website is an interesting read for those familar with him or baseball in the area.


I’d love to hear from you if you’re familiar with any other area leagues that I may have missed, or if you have some thoughts on the post here.

Written by Todd Boss

January 22nd, 2013 at 8:49 am

What one game would you travel back in time to see?

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Bill Mazeroski rounding third after hitting his 1960 Walk off Homer. Photo Getty Images

This is a great topic and a great article from ESPN’s Jim Caple yesterday.  What single baseball game would you want to travel back in time to see?

Caple surveyed a variety of people, from movie stars to current players to fellow baseball columnists, and listed their choices.  His article makes for a great read.  Some of the choices were great.  I won’t spoil all of them here; you have to read the article.

For me, the knee jerk answer was immediately one of two games:

  1. Babe Ruth‘s “Called Shot” game from the 1932 World Series (Game 3), or
  2. Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, which may have been the greatest game in the history of Baseball, featuring Bill Mazeroski‘s walk off home run.

The Called shot game is kind of a baseball cliche; it is one of those lasting legends of the game.  But the only reason to go see that game would be to answer this question; the game itself wasn’t that great.  The box-score reveals a game where the Yankees jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead on the called shot, the Cubs fought back but then back-to-back homers from Ruth and Lou Gehrig put the game away and it was never close after that.  I’d want to go back for the first INNING of that game, see the homer, then go to the 1960 game :-) .

As it turns out, I’m not really that interested in finding out whether Ruth really called his shot for this reason: the Boss family happens to have a bit of inside information, believe it or not, on the game itself and whether or not it really occurred.  You see, we’re family friends with none other than the son (and grandson, who is my age and who i’ve known since childhood) of former baseball commissioner Kinesaw Mountain Landis, and he was actually AT THE GAME as a child guest of his father.  And I’m pretty sure he’ll tell you that Ruth did call the shot.

So, for me, I’d want to see the 1960 game.  Check out the box score from Game 7 of the 1960 world series.  Here’s the Recap:

  • Pittsburgh jumps to a 4-0 lead early.
  • Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle help spark a 4-run rally in the 6th to take a 5-4 lead.
  • The  Yankees extend their lead to 7-5 in the top of the 8th.
  • The Pirates rally for FIVE runs in the bottom of the 8th for a 9-7 lead.
  • The Yankees’ two hall of famers Berra and Mantle manage to drive in the tying runs in the top of the 9th to make it 9-9.
  • Mazeroski blasts a walk-off homer on a 1-0 count to lead off the bottom of the 9th and win the world series.

What a game!!  For all of us who thought last year’s Game 6 was amazing, this game looked even more amazing.  Plus you’d get to see two legends in Mantle and Berra.

Read the article and tell me in the comments what game you’d want to travel back for.  Disco Night?  1975 Game 6?  Don Larsen‘s perfect game?  Jackie Robinson‘s debut?  How about Game 7 of the 1924 series, a 12-inning affair featuring a slew of Hall of Famers and was also the last time Washington won a World Series?

Did Chapman really throw a ball 105mph?

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If you believe twitter and these published reports, Cincinnati’s Cuban prospect Aroldis Chapman “sat” at 103 and hit 105mph in his final AAA appearance before getting called up for the 9/1/2010 roster expansion.  I have a hard time believing it; the picture in the Yahoo looks doctored frankly, and stadium guns are notoriously “jacked up” to get the crowds excited and to spark interest in hard throwers.

There are two kinds of radar guns used by stadiums and scouts today.  A “fast” gun measures the speed of the pitch as it leaves the hand of the hurler while a “slow” gun measures its speed by the time the pitch crosses the plate.  For obvious reasons you’ll take the “fast” reading if you’re trying to hype the player, and you take the “slow” reading if you’re trying to evaluate the pitcher.  Oh, and you take readings over and again, compare first inning to last inning, etc.  My thoughts were that Chapman was on a fast gun that was over-exaggerated to add a couple MPHs (case in point; Jordan Zimmermann‘s radar readings on the telecast two nights ago put him at 96mph when his pitch f/x maximum was 94).

Now, that being said, check out the Pitch F/X data from Chapman’s first appearance in the majors on 8/31/2010, and his second appearance on 9/1/10. In his major league debut he threw 6 fastballs with an average of 100.65 and a max of 102.7mph.  This in and among itself would have been amazing and would have tied the fastest ever recorded pitch f/x data (that of Joel Zumaya hitting 102.7 in a game in June 2009)

However, look at the data from 9/1/10. He threw 7 fastballs that AVERAGED 102.11 mph with a peak of 103.9mph.  103.9!!  Now, I know there’s a ton of links out there talking about what the fastest ever reported pitch is on record (see links here or here at HardBalltimes or this google cache’d document as well as wikipedia or Guiness Book of World records links).  Nolan Ryan‘s “record” of 100.9mph has stood as some sort of alter to the speed ratings for years and years.  You’ll see radar gun readings as evidence that various players have thrown the ball 102, 104, whatever.  Steve Dalkowski and Bob Feller being “recorded” using primitive measures in the 107 or 110 range.   Walter Johnson was renound for his power in the early part of the century; his fastball was estimated to be in the upper 90s.  Its a shame that modern technology didn’t exist back then.

Other rumors and records for fast pitches suffer from perhaps hype and estimates, not science.  Zumaya reportedly hit 104.8 in the first game of the 2006 ALCS, but it was on the stadium gun, not Pitch F/X.  Ryan and Goose Gossage both reportedly hit 103mph in the 1978 All-Star game.  Stephen Strasburg reportedly could hit 102 as an amateur but rarely goes about 97 post-arm injury.  Justin Verlander may not have the triple-digit records but amazingly maintains his upper-90s throughout games, often hitting 100mph in his last inning of work.

I think Chapman’s speed last night is the new standard.  And a pretty amazing accomplishment.

(Editors note: Chapman apparently set a new MLB record on 9/24/10, after this article’s initial posting, throwing a documented 105.1mph).

Written by Todd Boss

September 2nd, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Nats history vis-a-vis Expos

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I don’t always necessarily agree with Chris Needham, who runs the Capitol Punishment blog and can be, well, “acerbic” at times with issues about the Nationals franchise.

But on this issue I kinda agree.  The Nats are honoring Andre Dawson tonight as a cherished former member of the franchise.  Which I think is fine.

But our history as a city hosting baseball goes beyond the Expos.  We claim Frank Howard and remember his great homers in RFK (despite the fact that they moved to Texas).  We remember Walter Johnson as probably the greatest player in our history (despite that version of the team now playing in Minnesota).

What do you guys think?  I thought about it from a football perspective and used a couple of recent relocations:
- Do Baltimore fans claim old Baltimore Colts as part their history, or the Cleveland Browns?  Maybe not the greatest example since Cleveland immediately got their team back via an expansion gift to the city.
- Do St. Louis fans remember the old St. Louis Cardinals and claim them?

I dunno.  I’ve read complaints from former Expos fans that the Washington ownership has almost systematically tried to forget that this team came from Montreal.  And I guess for good reason; the franchise was so  undersupported and badly run that they were closer to contracting it than giving it to DC.

But for me, DC baseball means the team playing here at the time.  We all know why the first two iterations of the Washington Senators moved away (primarily that the city just couldn’t support a team).  But this team is here to stay.

boss

Written by Todd Boss

August 10th, 2010 at 10:07 am