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redsmetz
03-30-2006, 06:43 AM
From this morning's New York Times, an old-timer shares with Murray Chass his advice to today's pitchers:


Old-Timer's Advice to Today's Pitchers: Throw
By MURRAY CHASS
Published: March 28, 2006

FRANK NAVIN taught Elden Auker a simple lesson when Auker was a 22-year-old rookie with the Detroit Tigers.
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FPG-Getty Images, 1935

Elden Auker never threw more than 263 2/3 innings, but he completed 126 of his 261 major league starts.

Navin was the Tigers' owner, and when Auker was promoted to the big-league team in 1933, Auker said the owner told him:

"Elden, we're bringing you up here as a starting pitcher. We think you have an opportunity to be a major league pitcher. I don't have a lot of money. My philosophy for starting pitchers is when they give you the ball, I expect you to pitch nine innings. I can't afford to pay you to start a ballgame and pay three or four others to finish it."

Auker, at 95 one of the oldest living former major leaguers, related the story the other day to make a point during a telephone discussion of pitching practices then and now. He says he doesn't care for current practices and believes they are responsible for the increase in the number of sore arms.

Pitchers, Auker said, don't throw enough and they don't run enough. Throwing often, he asserted, strengthens arms, and running strengthens legs, which are a key to pitching.

"The legs are not in condition today, and that's why these fellas have sore arms," he said.

Later, speaking of pitch counts, he said, "I think this is what's causing a lot of sore arms."

Auker's views are not original; throwing and running were, once upon a time, routine. But in recent decades, the practice has changed. Today, baseball pampers pitchers and teaches them that too much throwing can be hazardous to their health.

Today, pitchers pitch every fifth day instead of every fourth, and they are often removed from games after throwing 100 pitches. If they reach 200 innings in a season, teams become concerned.

The Seattle Mariners have said that their teenage phenomenon, Felix Hernandez, won't pitch more than 200 innings this season.

It has been 25 years since a pitcher threw 300 innings in a season. Steve Carlton was the last to do it, throwing 304 innings in 1980. Last season, Liván Hernández's 246 1/3 innings were the most in the majors.

Consider the careers of the Hall of Fame pitchers Robin Roberts and Ferguson Jenkins.

Jenkins, who pitched from 1965 through 1983, worked at lead 300 innings for four consecutive seasons and five out of seven. In a nine-season stretch, he started 350 games, an average of 39 a year, and pitched 198 complete games, an average of 22 a year.

Roberts pitched from 1948 through 1966. He threw at least 300 innings in six straight seasons, averaging 39 starts (232 over all) and 27 complete games (161) in that period.

Last season, nine pitchers tied for the most starts, 35, and two pitchers — Dontrelle Willis of the Florida Marlins and Chris Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals — tied for the most complete games, with seven.

"Pitchers today are only expected to pitch into the sixth inning," Auker said. "I read where a pitcher pitched deep into the sixth inning. Isn't that something? Deep into the sixth inning."

Complete games became a thing of the past when teams began using relief pitchers regularly. The number of starts was reduced when teams went to five-man rotations from four, a practice that began in the mid-1960's.

Tom Seaver never pitched 300 innings. Neither has Greg Maddux nor Tom Glavine. But Sandy Koufax threw 300 innings in three of his last four seasons, Jim Palmer pitched 300 four times and Juan Marichal three times and missed a fourth by a third of an inning. Carlton, Catfish Hunter and Bob Gibson did it twice each.

In his 10-year career, Auker never threw more than 263 2/3 innings, but, with Navin's words in mind, he completed nearly 50 percent of his starts, 126 of 261.

"I never had a sore arm or sore leg in my life," said Auker, who pitched for the Tigers, the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Browns.

Nor could he recall any pitcher from his playing days who had a sore arm, except one.

"Charlie Gehringer, a few years before he died, would stop, and we played golf," Auker said, referring to visits at his home in Vero Beach, Fla., where he lives today.

"We were sitting on the back porch of our house here. We read that someone had a sore arm. I said, 'Charlie, do you remember in our six years playing together anyone having a sore arm?' Schoolboy Rowe was the only one. He didn't like to run. We couldn't think of anyone with a pulled hamstring."

Auker blamed trainers for pitchers' poor conditioning.

"When I played, we had one trainer, who spent most of his time rubbing Hank Greenberg's feet because they were flat," he said.

"We never had four or five trainers who had us rolling around on the ground and touching our toes. We ran sprints. In spring training, we started off with 50-yard sprints. We did that the first four to six days. Then we ran 100-yard sprints. I see players jogging around talking, but jogging does not get your legs in shape."

Combine the absence of running with a lack of throwing, and today's pitchers are looking for trouble. "It's like anything else," Auker said. "If you don't use it, you're going to lose it. Excessive throwing never hurts a pitcher's arm; it's the lack of throwing that hurts the arm."

Auker said he saw a newspaper article this spring that reported a starting pitcher left an exhibition game after throwing 33 pitches in the first inning.

"He said he was tired," Auker said. "The idea of a pitcher wearing out is ridiculous. He weakens because he's not in condition. I was never taken out of a game because I was weak. I was taken out because I was getting hit."

SirFelixCat
03-30-2006, 07:46 AM
Great read...I do not know about the validity of the article, but who knows...nonetheless, a good read.


Hey, probably a dumb question, but "back-in-the-day", how hard did pitchers throw?

Guys ranging from Walter Johnson to Cy Young to Sandy Koufax...granted they didn't have radar guns, but at least some intelligent guesses? Always wondered if pitchers nowadays throw noticeable harder or is it close?

remdog
03-30-2006, 07:56 AM
I seem to remember that early in Feller's career someone rigged a movie camera (I believe) and filmed a number of his pitches. Then, working with the film they timed him. He was estimated to be throwing over 100 mph.

Rem

redsmetz
03-30-2006, 08:14 AM
Great read...I do not know about the validity of the article, but who knows...nonetheless, a good read.


Hey, probably a dumb question, but "back-in-the-day", how hard did pitchers throw?

Guys ranging from Walter Johnson to Cy Young to Sandy Koufax...granted they didn't have radar guns, but at least some intelligent guesses? Always wondered if pitchers nowadays throw noticeable harder or is it close?

I'm not entirely sure of the overall premise, although the leg thing is something I've heard time and again. I remember Seaver always said that the legs were his important element, even to the point that if his one knee wasn't dirty, he knew he wasn't coming off right.

Regarding Feller, who the other poster mentioned, he once said of Satchel Paige, that Satchel's fastball made his looking like a "change of pace".

One thing that occurred to me is that in those days, you were at the mercy of your ownership. If they said "Pitch", you pitched and guys like Dizzy Dean, who injured himself in the All Star game (leg?) tried to pitch through it and shortened his career. And I once emailed Marty during a game and asked him to comment about Reds great Jim Maloney and what he would have been on the Reds in the early 70's if the surgery known as Tommy John surgery was known as "Jim Maloney surgery" - he was about two years to early.

But I think stamina is huge problem and its why we see so few complete games.

remdog
03-30-2006, 09:05 AM
"....Dizzy Dean, who injured himself in the All Star game (leg?)....."

I believe he was hit by a line drive and suffered a broken toe.

Rem

redsmetz
03-30-2006, 09:21 AM
"....Dizzy Dean, who injured himself in the All Star game (leg?)....."

I believe he was hit by a line drive and suffered a broken toe.

Rem

From baseball-almanac.com


However, the biggest story was an innocuous-looking play resulting in an infield out that ended the bottom of the third inning. It was a spectacular play that stole the show and it marked the beginning of the end of Dizzy Dean's spectacular career. Dean had become, with the retirement of Babe Ruth, baseball's most magnetic performer and its new biggest drawing card. With two out, Earl Averill cracked a low line drive that hit Dean directly on the foot. Averill was thrown out and Dean headed for the clubhouse, his three-inning stint over. In the clubhouse, it was discovered that Dean's toe was broken. Although it was considered a minor injury, Dean and the Cardinals management decided he would return to the mound before the toe was healed. The injury affected his delivery, eventually injured his arm and ended his glory days at the tender age of twenty-six.

westofyou
03-30-2006, 10:46 AM
But I think stamina is huge problem and its why we see so few complete games.The batting order from top to bottom is a harder bird to kill then "back in the day" less deadweight MI and Catchers and a DH cause an attrition that can't be hurdled by most pitchers, add that to an increase in walks and strikeouts and you'll see another part of attrition in that most pitchers need more pitches to get an out than they used to.

Then add in the smaller parks with tiny OF's and you'll see the picther trying harder to do it himself.

Bob Feller had the pleasure of throwing in a GIANT park, and he took advantageous of it big time after the war, his K/9 dropped from first for guys who played 37-47 (7.44) to 36th (4.10) over the next 10 years, as he became the AL Robin Roberts

Cyclone792
03-30-2006, 12:49 PM
Great read...I do not know about the validity of the article, but who knows...nonetheless, a good read.


Hey, probably a dumb question, but "back-in-the-day", how hard did pitchers throw?

Guys ranging from Walter Johnson to Cy Young to Sandy Koufax...granted they didn't have radar guns, but at least some intelligent guesses? Always wondered if pitchers nowadays throw noticeable harder or is it close?

In my understanding, some pitchers could "top out" at speeds into the mid to upper 90s, but there were fewer pitches in the game with the ability to do this and almost all of them paced themselves. For instance, if it was the third inning with a weak hitter at the plate and nobody on base, a pitcher wouldn't throw as hard since it wasn't a crucial situation. If runners were on base, however, the pitcher would ramp up the velocity and really bear down. There were exceptions, of course, Walter Johnson was known to just throw fast all the time, no matter the situation, and all the evidence I've seen suggests he could get it up there with similar velocity that today's pitchers too. Bob Feller was also recorded at 98.6mph with a US military device, and I believe that was circa 1948.

This is very, very interesting, especially the column of "Sandy Koufax actual count" ... Koufax apparently only averaged about 110 pitches per start, yet he completed so many more games than pitchers today do ...

http://www.tangotiger.net/pitchCounts.html

You also might enjoy reading through this thread regarding velocity:

http://baseball-fever.com/showthread.php?t=20992

RedsManRick
03-30-2006, 01:06 PM
There seems to be a failure to distinguish between throwing and pitching. Old timers never say that you should pitch everday. They say you should throw -- that's playing catch. I've read numerous articles where some pitchers swear by playing long toss on a quite regular basis. Same idea. I'm surpised this distinction is rarely, if ever, made.

dfs
03-30-2006, 01:15 PM
But Sandy Koufax threw 300 innings in three of his last four seasons....

And then his arm fell off and the game lost a hall of famer in the middle of his career. 30 years old and he couldn't lift his arm high enough to comb his hair and that's seen as a good thing? why didn't they have a proofreader? I mean, if they want to spew garbage, they're welcome to do that, but at least spew accurate garbage that makes their point.

Pitchers are pampared today, simply because they are seen as a more valuable property than they were seen as back in the day. Sure..there were guys like Carlton who could throw 300+ innings. How many Wayne Simpsons were there?

IslandRed
03-30-2006, 04:30 PM
Good points in this thread. It's just a different environment. For one reason or another, it takes more pitches to get through a game today. (Of course, the pitcher controls some of that; it never took Greg Maddux more than 100-110 to go nine on his good days.)

It's also true that in the really-old days, teams could get pitchers from all over the place; the minors weren't tightly controlled by MLB clubs, there were more minor-league teams, there was no draft, and the money wasn't big. A team could afford to practice Darwinism with its pitchers because there were more where they came from. Not so today.

Finally, the rise in status of relievers has something to do with it. In many cases, it's not that a starter couldn't go a little deeper into the game, it's that the manager chooses to pull him because he has a good bullpen.

I think there's something to the notion of throwing more being good. Mazzone's always been big on throwing twice between starts. One of the BP guys, in an article wishing for the return of the four-man rotation, said it's not pitching that causes injuries, it's pitching while fatigued.

redsmetz
03-30-2006, 05:04 PM
And then his arm fell off and the game lost a hall of famer in the middle of his career. 30 years old and he couldn't lift his arm high enough to comb his hair and that's seen as a good thing? why didn't they have a proofreader? I mean, if they want to spew garbage, they're welcome to do that, but at least spew accurate garbage that makes their point.

Pitchers are pampared today, simply because they are seen as a more valuable property than they were seen as back in the day. Sure..there were guys like Carlton who could throw 300+ innings. How many Wayne Simpsons were there?

Essentially the same thing happened to Jim Maloney, who probably would have been a Hall of Famer with 4-5 more decent years and if his final years could have been more like this typical. Injured, torn rotator cuff (I think) - 2 20 win seasons, 74 complete games, 24 shut outs. Of course, his was an era of some of the best pitching ever.

westofyou
03-30-2006, 05:08 PM
Essentially the same thing happened to Jim Maloney,

And Joe Coleman and Mickey Lolich and Steve Busby and Denny McLain and Bill Singer and....

Heath
03-30-2006, 05:18 PM
Ironically, Jim Maloney tore his Achilles' Tendon in 1970 at the prime of his career. Ironically #2 the best pitcher of 60's for the Reds was replaced by the future pitching star of the '70's - Don Gullett.

There are reasons abound why games used to last a little under or over 2 hours and now they last 3 and over. The first item is pitching. Its the way of thinking that fresh pitching beats fresh pitching. Blame Sparky if you will.