A couple of days ago a baseball fan friend of mine asked a simple question. Are players – hitters and pitchers better today than they were twenty years ago?
The simple answer is “yes”. Some might argue that no one will ever compete with Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle or Bob Gibson.
Those who state this are true but Willie Mays and Bob Gibson are the outliers. An outlier is defined a person or thing situated away or detached from the main body or system. A person differing from all other members. Mickey Mantle was simply in the .001%. He would’ve been great 100 years ago and he would be great 100 years into the future.
But in general, for the other 99.9% of us – we are better than we were twenty years ago. We have statistics on our side. Our training has improved. Our knowledge of the game has improved and we can effectively improve at a higher level.
We know more about our bodies and we know more about other’s weaknesses. If we go to a 12-year-old baseball game today – we will see a level of play that was non-existent twenty years ago. High School baseball competition has improved to the point where many young athletes are competing at a college level of twenty years ago.
Now there will always be outliers and the game has changed. People might remark that pitchers used to throw all nine innings and that young players today are soft. But each level and situation in a game demands different elements.
Just because a young pitchers throws five innings and not nine does not mean that a player from twenty years ago was better, it just means strategy has changed and thus training has changed.
Some might also state that too many young hitters strike out too much. This might be true but that could be due to an increased focus on OBP and less focus on batting average. More importantly, pitchers are getting better to the point where MPH has increased while increasing the movement on each pitch.
Because of this improvement in the game and athletes, it is often tougher for a young ballplayer to rise above. There are so many young athletes spending so many hours developing their game that now everyone is good. I don’t believe this is an overstatement. Baseball has improved and players today at every level are better than what we were. This trend will continue and it is one of the true beauties of this game; we can always get better and we are getting better.