Paul Kuharsky: MLB Pitchers Have Gotten Too Good, Hitters Must Learn To Keep Pace

Every day, I watch the nasty pitches chronicled on Twitter by Rob Friedman, aka @PitchingNinja, and I am more amazed by the fact that Major League hitters can do anything at all in the batter’s box.

Is it simply that we are getting a better look than ever at the nasty stuff coming from 60-feet, 6-inches? Or are we seeing the best, hardest-to-hit pitching there has ever been?Nick Swisher thinks it’s the latter.“Abso-fucking-lootly!” said the outfielder who won a World Series with the Yankees and is now an FS1 analyst.

“I think pitching is better,” Friedman said. “Much better training, both mechanics and pitch design. We used to hear that (velocity) couldn’t be taught. It can be. We used to say strength and conditioning would make a pitcher not flexible. Instead, it adds velocity.“Pitchers used to guess at how their pitches worked. Now we can measure everything, we have slow-mo Edgertronic cameras to see everything in 1,000 frames per second so you can adjust your release. So much has changed. Also, we have much better ideas of hitters’ weaknesses, etc.”Because spring training was shortened this year, teams are allowed to carry 14 pitchers until May 29 when regular rules will go into effect. Then, 26-man rosters will include only 13 pitchers. Those arguing for more offense say that’s still too many, as starters are often pulled after two trips through the lineup, and pitchers don’t have to learn how to deal with a hitter a third time.Hitting has gotten really bad.Through Tuesday, MLB was slashing .235/.307/.377 – that’s batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage. You’d typically look to marks over .300/.400/.500 from a really good player.Those numbers usually heat up as spring turns to summer, but right now, we are in a four-year trend where pitching is winning by more and more. If you think it’s been a straight power-for-average trade, home runs per game have also move downward during that time.I’m not anti great pitching. I marvel at Friedman’s overlays. I’m incredibly impressed by the guys hitting that stuff or able to sort through it. My 12-year-old is trying to craft some himself, and my Yankees are winning because they have one of the league’s best staffs.

People like offense though.And I’ve read pieces recently with graphs showing there are more fouls balls than fair balls these days, and that we see more pitchers in a game than position players. In Baltimore at delightful Oriole Park at Camden Yards, they moved the left field wall back and made it higher. It cut into the charm and the home runs.None of that is good.Yes, beyond some excellent pitching, other factors contribute to the overall offensive downturn, including defensive shifts, too many pitchers on staff, a preference for home runs, and strikeout acceptance.But just a year ago, taking away sticky substances that helped pitchers gain grip and spin the ball better was supposed to hurt them badly. They adjusted and have continued to dominate.Vernon Wells slashed .270/.319/.459 in 15 years, mostly with the Blue Jays. He also hit 270 home runs and drove in 958 runs before wrapping up his career in 2013.He points out Pitching Ninja is showing us the best stuff thrown in the most favorable pitching counts.“Our job as hitters is to get ourselves into the counts that we want to be in,” said Wells, now an agent for Vayner Sports. “And hit the pitches that don’t make you want to die watching them on Pitching Ninja.”When Wells made it to the majors in 1999, he said lefties were throwing 88-90 MPH and at the end of his career in they were up to 95-97.Launch angles became big, and players were asked to create things in their swing.“With the verbiage and the teaching that has been going around at the same time you see these velocities go up, it’s now put hitters behind the 8-ball,” he said. “Hitters as a whole have to get back to allowing the pitching and the velocity to do the damage. Just square the ball up put the barrel on the ball…. Simplify your approach.”Does Friedman feel sorry for hitters facing some of this ridiculous stuff coming out of labs from pitchers?“Sometimes… but not really,” he said. “The game has definitely shifted in favor of the pitchers. That being said, hitters will be OK. It’s a cat and mouse game. They’re catching up technology-wise, they have advanced video on pitchers to pick up tipping or to figure out sequences.”Hurry up, boys. We need more hits.Paul Kuharsky co-hosts OutKick 360. You can read more of him at PaulKuharsky.com.

Written by Paul Kuharsky

Paul Kuharsky is an award-winning writer who has covered the NFL for over 22 years in California, Texas, and Tennessee, and also is a selector for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. After ESPN, PK came to join the longest running trio in Nashville Sports Talk in 2012.

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  1. There are so many variables to factor it’s really difficult to just narrow it down to one or two things. The general theme is “the game has changed”. It’s played differently today than it was even 20-30 years ago. Different approaches to hitting, pitching, scouting, player development, contracts, summer ball, colleges ball, weight training and nutrition, I could list 20 more. Someone could write War and Peace on all the ways the game has changed in the last 20 years.

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