Year of the pitcher stuff

“You ask hitters, they hate whoever came up with the cutter,” said Pettitte, who learned it years ago from the instructor Billy Connors. “They hate that.”

Count the Cincinnati Reds’ Scott Rolen, 35, among the haters. Rolen, a 15-year veteran, said the cutter had never been as prevalent as it is now. Sitting at a table in a hotel ballroom Monday, Rolen nodded toward his All-Star teammates and marveled.

“You look around at the guys in this room, and you’re not going to get anything below 95,” Rolen said. “Guys are throwing 95 with movement. Everybody’s sinking the ball, everybody’s cutting the ball. I remember coming up — just really my years in Philly — a select few guys were throwing a cutter. I don’t remember guys throwing 93-, 94-mile-an-hour cutters, and that seems to be a pitch that guys are throwing.

Tyler Kepner, New York Times.

I investigated the so-called Year of the Pitcher a couple weeks back and decided that the offensive downturn in baseball doesn’t appear all that massive or striking. Plus we’re still only halfway through the season and it’s silly to make sweeping judgments without comprehensive evidence.

But everyone has basically decided that it’s the Year of the Pitcher, and often in sports — at least the way they’re remembered historically — perception means more than reality.

Looking back at the chart I made for that last post, it’s understandable that so many people would associate the offensive outburst around the turn of the millenium with steroids. But look at where it took off: 1993 and 1994. Why so sudden? Did steroids sweep through the league those years like an epidemic? Did no one think to use steroids before 1993?

Or could it have something to do with the 1993 expansion watering down the talent level of the entire league? The biggest offensive years were 1999 and 2000. Were those the years with the most steroid abuse, or was there some hangover affect from the 1998 expansion?

I’d guess both. And I’d guess the offensive downturn this season — assuming it proves to exist — has as much to do with the talent level in the league catching up to the number of teams as it does with the cleanliness of the players.

I bet the popularity of the cutter is part of it too. I never heard that suggestion before, but it seems to make sense. And maybe recent emphasis on pitch limits and biomechanics have produced pitchers that throw harder in general.

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