Tuesday, May 13, 2014


During a good part of the off season we and the rest of baseball fans globally were holding their breath as teams, one by one, showed interest in phenom pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.  Frankly, we were all obsessed.

Why?  Because he throws hard.  Because he has a variety of pitches.  Because he has a good track record.  Because he has consistency and accuracy.  Because he throws a lot of strikes.  Because he has good control.  Because he could bring a team a championship, anchor a pitching staff and sell tickets.  This week I have been keeping a close eye on the NFL Draft.  I know it’s baseball season, but it was on and I am a Giants fan and the Yankees  were on the West Coast.  A friend of mine said something very profound as we watched the draft this week.  “The New York Giants need to be careful who they pick.  They can’t just consider talent and history, they also have to consider brand power and fit for a team in a major market like New York.”  I agree.  And the Yankees are no different.  But, I have to also state that we are in a pitcher’s market right now and the market is beating hitters much like they did back in the 1970s. 

According to the recent New York Times article, Pitchers Handling Hitters From Start to Finish,“with few extreme year-to-year differences, the overall batting average of the major leagues has slowly dropped from .270 in 2000 to .249 this season, which would be the lowest mark since 1972 and the 18th worst mark in the sport’s modern era.”  But why?  Why are pitchers so lethal?  Well according to the same article, some baseball analysts say that it is due to the crack down on PEDs.  But others cite the fact that pitchers are striking more and more hitters out, which has nothing to do with PEDs because if you can’t make contact, you can’t do anything.  ESPN calls it “The End of the Steroid Era=The End of Age of Offensive Insanity.”

Besides striking out more batters, “pitchers have also been more efficient as strikeouts have increased, with an average of 2.5 strikeouts for every walk this season, just off last year’s average of 2.51. Before 2013, the last time baseball had such a high ratio was in 1884,” stated the Times. 

According to the ESPN article The Age of the Pitcher,” hitters claim that “pitchers throw harder now. Much harder. And not just some of them. Practically all of them -- other than maybe R.A. Dickey.” The article goes on to list the number of pitchers throwing 95 or more miles per hour.  From 2007-2011 the average has more than tripled. 

  • 2007: 11
  • 2008: 16
  • 2009: 24
  • 2010: 29
  • 2011: 35
There are a number of reasons why guys are throwing harder but the most notable are personal training, early onset of training (as young as Little League), pitching limits preserving young arms and more long tosses building overall arm strength. 

Then there are the specialists.  The guys who come into the came from the bullpen and blow past pitchers must like a hurricane strikes the coastal towns of the Northeast. I get so excited when I hear so and so is warming up in the bullpen.  The only group of people who don’t get excited about a reliever warming up in the pen are hitters.  And I don’t blame them.  “Relievers this season are averaging 8.59 strikeouts per nine innings and have combined for a 3.72 earned run average. Compare that with starting pitchers, who average 7.62 strikeouts per nine innings and have a 3.91 E.R.A., and there seems to be no sense to leave a tired starter in a game in the hopes of fulfilling a romantic notion of “finishing what he started.” And who can argue with a manager who would rather bring in fresh arms than hold out for complete games.  Which also supports the notion of protecting arms with workout limits and managing pitch counts. 

So, we are in a pitcher’s market.  Despite the fact that the number of ballparks being built today give an advantage to hitters, pitchers are reigning supreme. Does that make baseball more interesting or boring?  Pitcher’s duals are so exciting, particularly when the suspense of a possible no-hitter is in the air. 

I think it is more interesting overall, yet I will agree young guys like Yangervis Solarte, Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu are electrifying and other players like our Captain, Derek Jeter, David Ortiz, Jose Bautista and Albert Pujols make the game fun to watch.  But nobody lit up the ballpark more than specialist Mariano Rivera.  Talk about having the whole package- velocity, athleticism, efficiency, consistency and brand power.  Yes, it is a pitcher’s market folks, so hang on for another wild ride at home plate again this season! 

--Suzie Pinstripe, BYB Opinion Columnist
Twitter: @suzieprof

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