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September 5, 2012

Wezen-Ball

A Guide to Pitchers

by Larry Granillo

In 2004, Rob Neyer and Bill James published a book together called "The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers." In it, the two authors provide a "Pitcher Census" of nearly every pitcher "with a substantial major league career", detailing the pitches that they threw, the speed or power that they had, the tendencies they favored, and more. For Sandy Koufax, for example, Neyer and James tell us that he threw a fastball, changeup and curve. For Warren Spahn, it was a fastball, curve, change and sinker in the first part of his career and a screwball, curve, slider, fastball, palm ball and knuckleball in the later years. For 1880s pitcher toad Phenomenal Smith, it was a "rough pitch". You might say the book is thorough.

Having been published in 2004 (with most of the writing completed before 2003 it seems), the book does include information on some pitchers who are still active today. The young CC Sabathia, for example, is listed with a fastball (92-96), curve (83-86) and changeup (78-82). But many of the pitchers still active today have only a barebones entry - that is, a listing of pitches he throws and nothing else. Many of the older pitchers also include quotes from players, scouts, books, magazines, etc. describing how the pitcher threw what he threw or what he was like on the mound. There are only a few of these more extended entries for players who have pitched sometime in 2012.

Because of this, I thought it might be fun to take a look at some of the quotes found in these extended entries and try to figure out which of today's pitchers it was describing. These quotes are ten years old now and describe pitchers who we see today as grizzled veterans when they were still young and strong. How might things have changed for these players?

Below are seven entries, edited somewhat for length, from "The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers." All seven entries come from the 2002 or 2003 season and describe pitchers who have played at least one game in 2012. Can you figure out who they describe? I'll post the answers later in the comments.

Pitcher A
"I know that physics says there's no way a ball can rise, but with [his four-seamer] you have the perception that it does."

Pitcher B
"You gauge the movement on [his] cutter by counting the number of broken bats. When it's working properly, the pitch approaches like a fastball, then seemingly takes a lefthand turn, sawing off lefty hitter. 'I want ground balls,' he says. 'They're better than strikeouts.'"

Pitcher C
"[The curve] has been my go-to pitch. It's weird... growing up it was, but now it is hittable by big league hitters when they know it is coming. My changeup is actually my go-to pitch right now. But it's nice to know that guys are aware I have that curveball in my backpocket."

Pitcher D
"[His] repertoire consists of three quality pitches, but everything works off his low-90s fastball (he also throws a breaking ball and a changeup). He has dabbled with a split-fingered fastball, which he throws occasionally. ... When [he] needs a strikeout, he has a nasty slider, and he has good control with it - he can throw it for strikes."

Pitcher E
"Normally, guys are throwing in the mid-90s and the changeup is like 85 or 84. That is his fastball. His changeup I saw a couple times at 72. That's more like a double-changeup. You see it and go after it to attack the ball and it's not there yet."

Pitcher F
"...He mainly uses his four-seamer, sinker and cutter during the early innings, breaking balls in the middle innings and fastballs again in innings 6 and 7. He mixes his pitches well. ... He began using the high windup during the 2002 season to work out a kink in his delivery. His beefy trunk is that of a workhorse. He forces hitters to put the ball in play and get themselves out."

Pitcher G
"It's just nasty. He was already nasty enough, but with a cutter he's just that much tougher."

Related Content:  Quotes

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