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.