Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Debunking the Mitchell Report - Part I

Believe it or not, Major League Baseball's regular season is less than two months from beginning. Sadly, many in the sports media (including many columnists and writers whom I respect) have decided that everything in the Mitchell Report is gospel and that all of the players must be cheats. We've already seen several cases where the information in the report was false - the Roger Clemens article and subsequent retraction by the Los Angeles Times and Jack Cust being singled out in the report as a user and saying he's never used for example.

Also, when you start seeing ridiculous stuff in forums questioning whether closer J.J. Putz of the Seattle Mariners started using PED's after the 2005 season, when the common sense reality of his improvement from 2005 to 2006 was the addition of two pitches - a two-seam fastball and a curveball to an already blazing fastball and splitter. Historically, when a pitcher adds new pitches to his arsenal, they get BETTER! Duh!

While on the topic of the Mitchell Report, I'm all but convinced now that Roger Clemens is innocent and that Brian McNamee is going to spend A LOT of time in prison. Some have questioned how Clemens' numbers have remained pretty good as he's gotten older and how it's impossible for a guy to pitch effectively into his 40's. Do any of you remember a pitcher named Nolan Ryan? "The Express" had an amazing career, but as anyone can see when looking at his career numbers, his stats started to decline in his late 30's. That said, they were still good as Ryan took very good care of himself and put together a legendary workout regimen. Ryan then added a split-fingered fastball to his repetoire and suddenly he experienced a rebirth in his 40's. He led the National League with a 2.70 ERA and 276 strikeouts at age 40 in 1987. He posted a 301 strikeout season at the age of 42 (his first 300 K season in 12 years) in 1989, and threw his seventh career no-hitter at age 44 in 1991 - a season where his ERA was only 2.91. He finally retired in 1993 at the age of 46 after posting a remarkable 5,714 strikeouts.

"The Rocket" is also a power pitcher, and has always had a workout regimen almost as legendary as that of Ryan's. Power pitchers take longer to decline for a very common-sense reason - their 95-100 MPH fastball at age 30 is still usually in the 90-95 MPH range at age 40, which usually is good enough to get hitters out a good percentage of the time. Ryan threw his fastball over 100 MPH at one time. When he retired in 1993, he was still capable of throwing the ball 95 MPH! Why is Randy Johnson still effective today at age 43? His once near 100 MPH fastball is still in the mid-90's and he still has a nasty curveball. The same can be said for Clemens. He doesn't throw as hard as he used to, but his fastball is still topping out in the 90's and he has a large arsenal of pitches. Most pitchers BEGIN with a fastball that will top out in the low 90's if they are lucky. When they get to be in their late 30's, their fastballs are typically running up to the plate in the 80's... That usually makes them very hittable and unless they have pinpoint control like Greg Maddux, it also means they rarely pitch into their 40's. Roger Clemens is simply the latest in a long line of power pitchers who has been able to pitch well into his 40's. Innocent until proven guilty. This is still how things work in this country. I wish people in the sports media would attempt to understand this concept.

For more on this topic, please check out this GREAT article by Gary Armida on the www.fullcountpitch.com site.


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