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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Yes, The Pitching Is Good This Season

I've been having this argument with my dad over the past couple of days. He's dead set on the pitching resurgence being a product of the new "clean era" of baseball. Now that hitters are off the juice, they just don't hit for power like they used to. I feel like I've been on a crusade against steroids on baseball performance ever since Bonds wrecked the home run record in 2001. And I'm sure most of you will disagree with me too. The only, for sure, advantage we can say steroids gives a player is the ability to recover quicker from injuries. Same with HGH. Obviously, steroids will help increase strength and build muscle mass. I'm not a complete idiot. I just play one on this blog.

But Bonds and McGwire were crushing home runs long before they put up record numbers. How can we measure the extra power steroids might have given them? Five feet? Ten? Does it matter? How do we know that Selig wasn't juicing the balls from 1998 to 2002? Baseball history is full of statistical outliers. Brady Anderson hit 50 home runs in 1996. But McGwire hit 52 (dirty) and Griffey hit 49 (clean?). In 2006, Chris Shelton hit 10 home runs in April. Corey Hart has 17 home runs to lead the NL this year.

Alright, the reason this post left my brain for print was a nice article by Paul Hoynes at Cleveland.com. Get ready for block quotes...
"The game has gotten cleaned up," said Perez. "I didn't play during the [steroid] era, but I remember watching games when I was growing up. Every year there would be four or five guys hitting 40 or 50 homers. It's just not there now.

"Pitchers were using it too, but I think it's more of an advantage to a hitter than a pitcher."
Pitchers felt the wrath of the new suspension policy. Most of the initial players that tested positive for PEDs were pitchers, both in the majors and minors. How can we blindly discount that while giving all of the power credit to hitters?
Said a big league scout, "All you have to do is look at the hitters. They're just not as physical as they used to be. I don't see a wave of young pitchers coming. If there's one thing you can point to [for the rise in pitching], it's the testing they do."
I guess that's how. If you pay attention to the draft, like I pretend to, teams are drafting super athletic, toolsy players regardless of how raw their skills are. That takes time to develop. For most prospects, power is the last thing to develop. Get my back, Chris Perez...
Perez said another reason for better pitching is the natural attrition of the game.

"A lot of veteran hitters have left the game in the last five or six years," he said.

"Now it's a younger group of hitters coming in. They're inexperienced and haven't seen the kind of pitching that's up here. It all adds up."
Indeed. The power is coming back, people. Stanton and Heyward are 20-years-old and they are going to crush the ball. Bryce Harper might be the best power hitting prospect in the history of baseball. Sure, the pitching has been phenomenal this year. Baseball is a cyclical game though. Power hitting will come back. Let's give it a minute before we all point our fingers at steroids. I'm looking at you, dad.

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