A week or two ago Tom Seaver talked about how pitchers are babied now and how back in his day they threw more and thus were less-injury prone. At the time I and others talked about how Seaver was deluded by survivorship bias (i.e. he remembers those who didn’t get hurt and forgot the many more who did).
This dynamic happens everywhere, not just in baseball. Think about furniture. You look at pieces of antique furniture and you might think that furniture was built so much better back in the day, but the truth is that only the good stuff survived. Same with houses. Art. You name it.
Today Joe Sheehan expands on that phenomenon in epic style, talking about some of the furniture that didn’t survive:
“‘Take a look at all of them, Marichal, Jenkins, Spahn, what do you think made them successful?’ asked Seaver. ‘They conditioned their arms by pitching more, not less, starting from when they signed their first contract.’ Oddly, that didn’t work for Wally Bunker. Bunker made his pro debut in 1963 with Stockton in the Cal League. He threw 99 innings in 14 starts, and while we don’t have strikeout totals, we do know he walked 53 men, indicating he wasn’t breezing through those starts. At 19, Bunker threw 214 innings, with 12 complete games, for the Orioles. By 22, he was back in the minors; by 26, his MLB career was over …
Joe cites many more examples and talks about why Seaver and others who lament today’s relative babying of pitchers, to use their term, have it all wrong. Joe’s best point is about risk-assessment and who now is in trouble if pitchers get hurt. As with so many things, it’s driven by money.
One caveat: you can’t read all of that without subscribing to Joe’s newsletter (you can do that here). But if you pay for any baseball content at all, you should pay for the newsletter. It’s fantastic and enlightening and it just shows up in your inbox with this kind of stuff all the time.
Even better: when Joe ticks you off on Twitter about other stuff, remembering that he wrote those 11 cool things in the past week helps calm you down.
Just saw this from last night’s Tigers-Rangers game. It was pretty wild.
Rougned Odor walked in the seventh inning. He broke for second on a steal and was safe due to the throw going wild, allowing him to reach third base. The Tigers called on reliever Daniel Stumpf and he was effective in retiring the next two batters, leaving Odor on third with two out.
Stumpf, a lefty, was paying no attention whatsoever to Odor, so Odor just took off for home, attempting a straight steal. Stumpf was so surprised that he tried to throw home to nail Odor, and in so doing, he balked. That technically means that Odor scored on the balk, but I think it’s safe to say he would’ve scored on the strait steal regardless. Watch:
He definitely gets points for style.
Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman looked shaky again last night, coming in to the game with a three-run lead before allowing a two-run homer to the Mets’ Amed Rosario. He would nail down the save eventually, giving Sonny Gray his first win as a Yankee, but Chapman’s struggles were the talk of the game afterward.
It was the third appearance in a row in which Chapman has given up at least one run, allowing five runs on three hits — two of them homers — and walking four in his last three and a third innings pitched. He’s also hit a batter. That’s just the most acute portion of a long slide, however. He posted a 0.79 ERA in his first 12 appearances this year, before getting shelled twice and then going on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation, missing over a month. Since returning he’s allowed 12 runs — ten earned — in 23 appearances, breaking out to a 4.09 ERA. He’s also walked ten batters in that time. At present, his strikeout rate is the worst he’s featured since 2010. His walk rate is up and he’s allowing more hits per nine innings than he ever has.
It’s possible that he’s still suffering from shoulder problems. Whether or not that’s an issue, he looks to have a new health concern as he appeared to tweak his hamstring on the game’s final play last night when he ran over to cover first base. Chapman told reporters after the game that “it’s nothing to worry about,” and Joe Girardi said that Chapman would not undergo an MRI or anything, but he was clearly grimacing as he came off the mound and it’s something worth watching.
Also worth watching: Dellin Betances and David Robertson, Chapman’s setup men who have each shined as Yankees closers in the past and who may very soon find themselves closing once again if Chapman can’t figure it out. And Chapman seems to know it. He was asked if he still deserves to be the closer after the game. His answer:
“My job is to be ready to pitch everyday. As far as where I pitch, that’s not up to me. If at some point they need to remove me from the closer’s position, I’m always going to be ready to pitch.”
That’s a team-first answer, and for that Chapman should be lauded. But it’s also one that suggests Chapman himself knows he’s going to be out of a closer’s job soon if he doesn’t turn things around.