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Baseball trend: Faster fastballs, and more of them

6:14 PM, Apr 3, 2013   |    comments
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  • Expect to see more fastballs in the majors and minors this season.
  • Expect to see more fastballs in the majors and minors this season.
    

COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. (WZZM) -- The Detroit Tigers had their first game earlier this week in Minnesota, and Thursday the Whitecaps begin their season in West Michigan.  From the majors to the minors, you can expect to see more fast balls because pitchers are throwing harder than ever.

Tigers pitcher Al Albuquerque is one of an increasing group of pitchers who is consistently throwing fast balls more than 95 miles per hour.  Whitecaps pitching coach Mike Henneman says there's plenty of guys in his field, and younger, who are doing the same.

"You see high school kids coming up throwing 93, 94 mph," he said.

"We're starting to see more of them get into minor league baseball and progress into professional ball," said Whitecaps' athletic trainer T.J. Saunders. He says the trend has been on an upward climb for the last decade.

"They're stronger, they're more fit, they're more in shape, and that translates to ball speed," he said.

Baseball fans love stats, so consider these from the Wall Street Journal: 10 years ago, there were 20 major league pitchers who threw more than 700 fast balls more than 95 miles per hour. Last season, there were 62.

Under Saunders' eye, pitchers like first-year Jordan John are also taking better care of their bodies with an arm care program after each practice, and of course, strength training.

"Pitchers are not doing heavy bench press exercises, they're doing shoulder maintenance exercises," he said. "They're finding more and more that leg strength plays just as big of role as arm strength does in velocity and performance.

The other crucial role is consistency.

"At this level, it's the pitchers that can combine the velocity with the control," said Saunders.

For pitchers throwing just under 95 mph like John, it's about proving placement is just as important as speed.

"As long as we can be successful and throw strikes, and be successful in that sense and help our team win, it's all good from there," he said.

Saunders says another reason for increased speed is that more kids are specializing in baseball, and more pitchers are doing the same; they aren't playing as many positions.

"So I think it's the specialization of the role that's also causing some of that to happen," he said.

As for steroids, Saunders and many baseball analysts say they are not a factor. They say home runs, scoring, and batting averages are down in the majors.

"That's what we preach to our guys, you put the work in, you see the rewards," said Saunders.

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