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Friday, October 08, 2010

The Era of the Pitcher

Matthew Futterman's article in today's Wall Street Journal suggests that the past two years points to this.

The numbers all point in this direction. Also, either the use of performance-enhancing drugs is down, thereby taking an edge away from position players, or, alternatively, the perception that this is the case is there and has a placebo-like effect on pitchers. I'd vote for a cocktail that's 85% the former and 15% the latter. Futterman also suggests that better athletes are becoming pitchers, too, and, thus, the results reflect (at least at times) superior athleticism.

All that said, what's compelling about this article is that there's no exact science to project how hard-throwing, athletic young kids will project as Major League starters. There were worries, for example, about CC Sabathia's weight and Tim Lincecum's size. Deep down, though, those who went with those two players (and many teams were interested) didn't question one thing -- the size of their hearts.

Which means, then, that some of the gurus who give you the various Gallup, Kolbe, Myers Briggs and Predict Index testing might want to come up with a test like that to go alongside the numbers that the Baseball Prospectus types crave (and, rightly so, because a track record of achievement is a good predictor of future things, or, at least as good as any). If crafted right, that test should give teams insight as to how the prospects in whom they've investing a lot of time and money approach fitness, preparation and difficult situations. My guess is that if you crafted such a test properly, many Major League stars would have similar profiles, so that you could then match up a prospect's profile with those of #1 starting pitchers and get some sense as to how he'll fare as he climbs the ladder. Then again, it would only be one evaluational tool among many that teams could use to review prospects.

It's a good article, and Futterman is onto something. The slugfests of the steroids era are gone, and, while, we haven't reverted to the days of Bob Gibson and his 1.12 (or so) ERA, we're moving more in that direction than away from it.


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