January 2, 2011

The Strain Of Pitching

The strain of pitching nowadays is much greater than it was years ago, and it gets worse every year. I never saw the old timers pitch but I have looked into the records, and I know. Nowadays if a pitcher weakens to the extent of giving a base on balls the manager is right on his toes and if he pitches a few extra balls it is curtains for him. Pitchers don't get knocked out of the box anymore. They don't get a chance.
Dutch Leonard, Red Sox pitcher, quoted by F.C. Lane in "The Base on Balls: Why Should the Records Ignore This Powerful Factor in Brainy Baseball?" (Baseball Magazine, March 1917)

Lane also quoted Hall of Fame infielder Johnny Evers:
I pay no attention to batting averages and no other sensible person pays much attention to them. They tell little of a player's ability. ... Some lumbering bone head who does make a specialty of hitting and nothing else may forge well across the .300 line and everybody says "what a great batter!" The facts of the case are the bone head may have been playing rotten baseball when he got that average and someone else who didn't look to be in his class, might be the better hitter of the two.

Jimmy Sheckard didn't used to hit so very high, according to averages. But if you remember he used to get to first an awful lot of the time. He did this because he made a habit of waiting them out. He didn't try to hit except when he was in a hole and was forced to do so. His whole system of play was based on another policy. He believed that a good share of the time he would be doing his club a better service by trying to wear down the opposing pitcher and get him in the hole all the time than he would be doing by hitting the ball.
Here is a link to an old discussion between Bill James and Joe Posnanski on the value of walks.

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