I can’t throw… 95!
July 19th, 2007 by czar

Interesting story from Kansas City.  The Royals are not using radar guns on their players in A-ball.

(Royals director of player development J.J. Picollo) approached Moore with an idea — what if the Royals, in the lowest rungs of the minor leagues, did away with radar guns? He suggested the Royals not clock their pitchers during the rookie league seasons. Piccolo explained that this way those young pitchers would not even think about how hard they were throwing and might, instead, think about more important things like commanding their fastball and developing good change-ups.

Another advantage: coaches and scouts might judge their pitchers on effectiveness rather than looking to see whether their fastball was up or down 1 or 2 mph.

Moore loved the idea. The Royals are trying it. There are no Royals radar guns now in Burlington, Iowa, or Idaho Falls, Idaho. This is not to say the Royals are going away from radar readings — they still plan to clock their rookie league pitchers at the end of the season to see where they stand. But it’s at least one step away from radar-gun dependence.

“Look, in the end, pitchers with stuff will be more successful than pitchers without,� Moore says. “It’s very useful to know how hard a pitcher throws, how long he can maintain his stuff through a game, how fast his change-up is compared to his fastball and all that. But the radar gun is just a tool.�

He then said that baseball teams are supposed to use their tools. The tools are not supposed to use baseball teams.

As a former pitcher who was obsessed with radar gun readings throughout high school and college (and likely blew out my elbow because of it), I am a rather big fan of this move. I know firsthand that any given level, a guy throwing softer, but with better command of the strike zone, better offspeed pitches, and better pitch selection can easily dominate relative to a flame-thrower. While velocity seems to be important when comparing pitchers across levels (i.e. I was an above-average pitcher in high school with a low-mid 80′s 4-seam fastball, but at average or below at a D-I school in college, even though my stuff stayed the same and command actually improved), at the developmental stage in the low minors it makes sense to focus on the (however cliched they might be) aspects of “pitching” as opposed to “throwing.”

I don’t undervalue pure velocity as much as some proponents of the above argument might believe (after all, a 10% decrease in reaction time to a fastball is not necessarily a linear relationship (but rather more exponential) to actually making contact with the pitch). However, at low-A ball, most pitchers are already beginning to plateau in regards to fastball velocity, and it’s not uncommon for many players to peak with their fastballs (at least speed-wise) around the age of 20-24. Therefore, at this point, far more vital to advancement through the low minors into the realm of AA and AAA (as well as increase in the prospects for have a big league career– even a brief one) is the ability to mix and spot pitches well.  While reaction time is lower as previously stated, players at higher levels are more adept at adjusting to the timing (compared to high schoolers, college ballplayers, and rookie leaguers) to improve their chances of catching up to a 97 mph heater, and without sufficient offspeed pitches to complicate this timing, success is hard to achieve.

It has been noted that the Royals have been burned by guys in the past who have lit up the guns out of high school and college, but never made it to AAA.  It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out, and if other teams pick up on it. 

Posted in In the news

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  • Traversing the land that is known as Red Sox Nation, The Czar Who Wears Red Sox is an attempt at compiling a repertoire of my ever-so-sexy forum posts (when I'm too lazy to write my own damn entry) and other random baseball thoughts that strike. For those whose posts serve as the inspiration of my epiphanies and rants, do not be angry, but merely, be honored that you have achieved such status. Names will never be revealed. Feedback appreciated, as this is a work in progress.

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