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Will pitchers bring the most heat ever in 2019? Not so fast

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The background for the question is that velocity has been going up for as long as we’ve had good measurements for it. That’s true of most other athletic skills we can isolate: In the past century, the marathon record has dropped by nearly an hour, the 100-meter record by about one full second, and the 1,500-meter freestyle swim by more than seven minutes. The bench-press record has roughly doubled, and the hour record for bicyclists a century ago has been surpassed by the current record for 60-year-olds. Equipment changes are undeniably part of these new marks, but progress is also pretty intuitive.

So we basically know Walter Johnson was the hardest thrower of his era, or darned near it. And then Bob Feller. And then Nolan Ryan. And then the relievers — Rob Dibble, Mark Wohlers — and in the 2000s Randy Johnson, Joel Zumaya, Justin Verlander, Aroldis Chapman, a lineage you can track from the Big Train through to Jordan Hicks.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale4

We get a little silly trying to put numbers on those early pitchers, though. Similar to supposed tape-measure home runs, these figures are a mix of hype, misunderstandings and creative problem-solving applied to fill the deficit of technology. That and anecdote, of course. The ways these legendary fastballs were measured have always been changing: Johnson’s was measured at a bullet-testing range, Feller’s “on photoelectric devices” by the Army, and both also raced motorcycles with pitches. Ryan made the Guinness World Records book based on readings by “four Rockwell International scientists” at a 1974 game, and after that radar guns became common for scouting — covering the progression from Goose Gossage in the 1970s through Zumaya in the 2000s. But that didn’t guarantee consistency: The type of guns used changed, from guns that measured the ball as it crossed the plate to ones that measured it out of the pitcher’s hand. That required an adjustment of 4-5 mph, according to Kevin Kerrane, who wrote the classic book on scouting, “Dollar Sign on the Muscle.”cheap nfl jerseys china nike

In 2019, we’re spoiled with precision, but for most of baseball history, we’ve got a much rougher understanding of what happened and at what speed. It still gets us pretty close to the truth: We know Willie Mays was an extraordinary center fielder without knowing what his Statcast-derived defensive metrics would have been, and Maury Wills was very fast without us knowing his feet/second speed.

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