When you look around Major League Baseball, you see a number of pitchers throwing in the high 90’s and at times, even hitting triple digits. While many fans may think the increased pitching velocity brings more excitement to the game, Hall of Famer pitcher John Smoltz told The Jim Rome Show that he actually sees it as a sign of discouragement.
“We’ve evolved into a time frame in Major League Baseball where I believe long-term, this is not good,” Smoltz said of pitchers’ focus to throwing hard. “We’ve developed these guys to throw max effort and high velocity, and it’s intriguing, it’s eye popping, we’re in awe by it, but it’s not producing better pitchers, and it’s not producing healthier pitchers.
“We are training great athletes for sprints when some of them should be doing marathons. We’re asking them at an early age, while they’re not making a lot of money by the way, to give me what you got, and all the way, by the way, not even admitting we got somebody else coming behind you if you get hurt and you can’t do it for five years. It’s a flawed system that is going to show itself, unless I will be wrong, unless we can keep this factory of great arms coming, but even that is not even sustainable.”
Smoltz believes today’s players aren’t being groomed for longevity.
“We’re training guys to look like they’re on a beach, to show up in a magazine. These are the greatest looking guys I’ve ever seen but what is it producing?” Smoltz said. “I’d rather have the guys that had body fat, never pull a side muscle, never pull a lat muscle, or never spend time on the DL and provide that pitching staff with innings. So from a youth sport over used product, it’s starting to show itself in an era now that the guys are great, greater than they’ve ever been, talented beyond belief, almost prodigy-like, but aren’t playing as long as they need to be playing, and to me that’s concerning.”
The 49-year-old former Cy Young Award winner said in order for this to change, a team will have to alter its philosophy away from the calculator mindset of today.
“I think it’s going to be an organization to go ok, everyone is catching up to 97 now, we need somebody else to trip them. Or we need to go back to look at what [Greg] Maddux and [Tom] Glavine did,” Smoltz said. “It’s going to take an organization to not be so consumed with what analytics and sabermetrics been shouting down the pipe. I’ve given you the keys to the test, this is how you win today, but this is not how you win long term. So like in a vacuum, analytics and sabermetrics work, but these are people that don’t understand how to play the game of baseball. They just understand how to create an equation that works, but long-term it doesn’t.
“The questions they keep asking shows why they don’t know anything about baseball, per say, when they say why can’t a guy do this. We are on an average nine to eleven pitchers per game, and we’re moving the needle north. And we’re having 30 to 32 pitchers per team is getting to the number of getting through a season, that can’t keep going on. What the Dodgers are doing is miraculous in itself, but it’s not sustainable. You can’t keep having that many injuries and be in first place it just has a life expectancy.”
Smoltz stressed to the parents of young kids playing travel ball to take a stance.
“It’s up to the parents. I hate to put it on them, they’re doing what they feel is best,” Smoltz said about how to prevent this at a young age. “You separate the emotion, you just sit there and say why is a little leaguer, a 12-year-old, playing a minor league schedule. The doctors have said it’s not sustainable. So if we take a broke system, and we don’t try to fix it from the top down, and then we get to the big leagues and go it’s broke, anyways so here’s the next best way to deal with a broke system, this is how we will handle it. I think that’s flawed long-term, and that’s why the commissioner is going to do some things, in some people’s views, that’s pretty drastic, but his charge, his commission, is to look out for the game long-term, and I applaud him for that.
“But at the youth level, you need another brave coach and an organization to say we’re going to stand up, we’re not going to play a hundred games, we’re not going to throw sliders and curveballs when we are 10, 11, and 12 and just think about how dominating this is.”