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Marcus Stroman is 69 inches tall. Is this a problem?

I don't know, but I do know this. History is not on his side.

There have been 164 RH pitchers, among those who spent most of their careers working after 1900, who have started at least 325 games in the major leagues. (Because that's how far down the list I'd gone before I got tired.)

And this is how tall they were.

      Pitcher       Height

1    Harang    79
2    Sutcliffe    79

3    Benes    78
4    Carpenter   78
5    Garland    78
6    Gubicza    78
7    Halladay     78
8    Lackey    78
9    Lowe    78

10    Drysdale     77
11    Gross     77
12    Haren    77
13    Jenkins     77
14    Kile    77
15    Krukow    77
16    Lonborg    77
17    Renko    77
18    Sanderson    77
19    Schilling    77
20    Sele    77
21    Torrez    77

22    Brown, K     76
23    Burnett    76
24    Clancy    76
25    Clemens     76
26    Dierker    76
27    Erickson    76
28    Forsch, B   76
29    Garcia, F   76
30    Millwood    76
31    Moore, M    76
32    Perry, G    76
33    Perry, J    76

34    Alexander, D 75
35    Arroyo     75
36    Belcher    75
37    Blyleven     75
38    Bunning    75
39    Candiotti    75
40    Coleman    75
41    Darling    75
42    Darwin    75
43    Derringer    75
44    Ehmke    75
45    Gullickson   75
46    Hershiser    75
47    Lieber    75
48    Morgan    75
49    Morris    75
50    Newsom    75
51    Palmer    75
52    Pappas    75
53    Passeau    75
54    Reuschel      75
55    Rhoden    75
56    Ruthven    75
57    Smoltz    75
58    Stottlemyre, T  75
59    Trachsel     75
60    Welch    75
61    Whitson    75

62    Appier    74
63    Astacio    74
64    Bender     74
65    Buhl    74
66    Burdette     74
67    Burkett    74
68    Dempster    74
69    Eckersley     74
70    Faber    74
71    Gooden    74
72    Hernandez, L    74
73    Hough     74
74    Law    74
75    Loaiza    74
76    Lohse    74
77    Mussina     74
78    Radke    74
79    Rogers    74
80    Ryan    74
81    Stewart, D     74
82    Suppan     74
83    Vance    74
84    Vazquez     74
85    Wakefield     74
86    Warneke    74
87    Willis     74
88    Witt    74
89    Young     74

90    Alexander, P    73
91    Cone    73
92    Dinneen     73
93    Drabek    73
94    Gibson    73
95    Harder    73
96    Hooton     73
97    Hudson    73
98    Jackson, L     73
99    Johnson, W    73
100    Martinez, D    73
101    Mathewson     73
102    Niekro, J     73
103    Niekro, P     73
104    Ruffing    73
105    Saberhagen    73
106    Seaver    73
107    Stottlemyre, M 73
108    Sutton    73
109    Walters    73
110    Wise     73

111    Doak     72
112    Feller     72
113    Friend    72
114    Haines     72
115    Hoyt    72
116    Hudlin     72
117    Hunter    72
118    Jones    72
119    Lemon     72
120    Leonard     72
121    Maddux     72
122    Marichal     72
123    Meadows     72
124    Moore, J     72
125    Orth     72
126    Oswalt     72
127    Quinn     72
128    Roberts     72
129    Slaton     72
130    Stieb     72
131    Tapani     72
132    Tiant     72
133    Uhle     72
134    Williams     72
135    Wynn    72

136    Adams     71
137    Colon     71
138    Coveleski     71
139    Donovan    71
140    Fitzsimmons    71
141    Hadley     71
142    Lyons    71
143    MacFayden     71
144    Martinez, P    71
145    Mays    71
146    McGinnity    71
147    Mullin    71
148    Pascual    71
149    Shawkey    71
150    Trucks    71

151    Ames     70
152    Bridges     70
153    Brown, M    70
154    Dauss    70
155    Dickson    70
156    Fraser, C     70
157    Garver    70
158    Grimes    70
159    Root    70

160    Bush, J    69
161    Chesbro     69
162    Cicotte    69

163    Luque    67

164    Griffith    66

(You'll notice I didn't bother with feet and inches - the distinction between 5-11 and 6-0 shouldn't appear more significant than the distinction between 5-11 and 5-10, or the distinction between 6-0 and 6-1.)

Sometimes it's just ancient conventional wisdom, preserved and passed on for reasons that no longer make sense. And sometimes it's a fundamental condition of the game. We can't always tell. But if Marcus Stroman has a long and successful career as a major league starter, he'll be the first RH pitcher his size to do so since Bullet Joe Bush and Dolf Luque were in their primes. And that was ninety years ago.
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Richard S.S. - Saturday, May 24 2014 @ 09:22 PM EDT (#286832) #
Stroman's size doesn't matter. How well he pitches does. (One of the ideas at stemming pitching injuries is to raise the mound. That makes being short, moot) If how well he's doing could help bring us an "Ace" or equivalent, then I hope he's great.
Mike Green - Saturday, May 24 2014 @ 09:59 PM EDT (#286834) #
I remember you complaining about the casting of D.B. Sweeney as Joe Jackson in John Sayles' Eight Men Out because he didn't have the right build.  I hadn't realized that Eddie Cicotte was only 5'9" tall; David Straithairn who played him in the movie is 6' tall. 

I wondered how many position players, 5'9" and under, had good to excellent careers in the lively ball era.  I knew, of course, of Ott and Morgan.  There have been 73 players who played 1000 games since 1947- including Tim Raines, Jimmy Rollins, Davey Lopes, Terry Pendleton, Shane Victorino, Phil Rizzuto (I met him and he sure seemed taller than 5'9"), Bip Roberts, Chone Figgins. The answer is lots, and lots have been given the opportunity.

I then wondered how many pitchers 5'9" were given 5 starts in the majors.  The answer from 1947 to the present appears to be 7 and three of them had significant success- Tom Phoebus (5'8"), Connie Marrero (5'5") and Harvey Haddix (5'9").  Lots of 5'10" pitchers have been given the opportunity including Bill Stoneman, Mike Leake, Harry Brecheen, Carl Erskine, Eddie Lopat among quite a number of others.  It is a bit of a fluke that Harvey Haddix is not on your list and lesser pitchers are (Haddix made 286 starts in his career). 

The safest conclusion is that teams have been very reluctant to give 5'9" pitchers an opportunity to start.  It's probably wrong-headed in the same way that teams used to believe that it was a good idea to have a fast ballplayer who didn't get on base much in the leadoff slot.

Richard S.S. - Saturday, May 24 2014 @ 10:08 PM EDT (#286835) #
Stroman's pitching on a mound that was lowered in 1968. He's getting people out now, so how good could he be on a mound 2" (5.08cm) higher.
christaylor - Saturday, May 24 2014 @ 10:48 PM EDT (#286837) #
OK. I'm convinced he won't probably won't be a hall of famer or pitch 325 innings but then without knowing Stroman's height I was just as convinced.

Stroman, like other shorter pitchers (see Lincecum for one) must get every bit out of his body to pitch at major league level. Linceum is the extreme, but if I had to guess I'd bet that if one looked at shorter pitchers they'd tend to have sharper fall-offs in performance as they age.
Magpie - Saturday, May 24 2014 @ 11:34 PM EDT (#286838) #
It is a bit of a fluke that Harvey Haddix is not on your list

Well, this is a list of RH pitchers. I do think baseball has always been fairly willing to give a small LH pitcher a chance - there's a long history of small LH pitchers doing well. It seems to me that the game, by design, gives LH batters an advantage. That very fact, in its turn makes LH pitchers - large or small - more attractive.
Magpie - Saturday, May 24 2014 @ 11:50 PM EDT (#286839) #
One of the ideas at stemming pitching injuries is to raise the mound. That makes being short, moot

Not sure. During the heyday of the enormous mound, the pitchers who benefitted most (besides the hard throwers with iffy control enjoying the larger strike zone of they day) seemed to be the big guys. Koufax and Drysdale. Bob Veale. Jim Maloney. Sam McDowell. Dean Chance.
Mike Green - Sunday, May 25 2014 @ 07:25 AM EDT (#286841) #
Of course, there is Tom Gordon, who did the Eckersley thing at a lower level.  He made 200 starts almost all in his 20s and then morphed into a reliever in his 30s and had some very good seasons.

Mike Green - Sunday, May 25 2014 @ 07:34 AM EDT (#286842) #
I realized that I had put in the wrong input parameters into Play Index.  I did a new search looking for pitchers 5'9" or shorter who made at least 30 appearances in their first two years, at least 20% of which were starts.  This gave me 14 names including the above 7 and also Tom Gordon, Roy Face (score one for the short righties can't start school), and a couple of guys who got starts for the Senators in their late 20s. From the left side, there was Bobby Shantz as well.

It's still true that short righties haven't been given the opportunity. It's also true that only 4 pitchers, 6'8" and taller, have been given an opportunity to start.   One of them was Randy Johnson.

Chuck - Sunday, May 25 2014 @ 07:35 AM EDT (#286843) #
Tom Gordon was the first comp I had in mind. Stroman could do worse than to have Gordon's career.
Magpie - Sunday, May 25 2014 @ 09:00 AM EDT (#286844) #
Tom Gordon was the first comp I had in mind.

He was the first guy to come to my mind as well - both 5-9, RH, African-American. Stroman's much more solidly built than Gordon, who looked slight by comparison (when he was young, anyway.) Unlike Stroman, Gordon featured an especially outstanding curveball. It was his real claim to fame when he came up with the Royals, and the great hook was something Gordon had in common with many of the other vertically-challenged RHs on this list - Red Ames, Tommy Bridges, Camilo Pascual, Dolf Luque, and (naturally!) Hooks Dauss.
Magpie - Sunday, May 25 2014 @ 09:16 AM EDT (#286846) #
Roy Face (score one for the short righties can't start school)

Although in this case, the fact that Face was essentially a one-pitch guy may have been at least as important. Face threw a forkball, and it's possible that in the 1950s the forkball was unusual enough to be a trick pitch, one that none of the hitters had seen or knew how to deal with. Curiously, the pitcher some believe invented the forkball was one of the short righties from this list - Bullet Joe Bush.
Mike Green - Sunday, May 25 2014 @ 09:17 AM EDT (#286847) #
Now, we're getting to the meat of it.  Gordon's hook was an equal opportunity weapon against RHH and LHH.  Pedro Martinez had the fabulous change. The real question, I think, is whether Stroman can get out LHH consistently in the majors.  He was able to do so in the high minors, with essentially no platoon split.  Stroman seems to have excellent control of a good fastball, and he may not need the superb secondary pitch to be effective, but time will tell about that.  Give me a pitcher with a good fastball and excellent control and command, along with aggressiveness, and I'll take my chances. 
Magpie - Sunday, May 25 2014 @ 09:26 AM EDT (#286848) #
Well, worst case scenario (he doesn't develop a really good off-speed pitch, a curve or a change or a split) - he's the new Jason Frasor, likely better.
Chuck - Sunday, May 25 2014 @ 09:31 AM EDT (#286849) #
When I mention to casual baseball fans that pitchers tend to be quite large (by regular, societal standards and even by baseball player standards), they are often surprised. And it's an easy thing for we more serious fans to overlook. You see a pitcher standing out there by himself and there's nothing to compare him to. Occasionally a squat catcher or manager (or a squat ex-catcher manager) will come out and serve as a visual contrast. But usually, you just see the pitcher on an island.

Several years ago, I saw a photograph that included Jose Calderon and Roy Halladay. The basketball player was not the tallest man in the photo. I remember my reaction being "oh yeah, Halladay is a beast". And at 6'6" he wouldn't look out of place playing the 2 or 3 on an NBA team.

All of this is to say that it is easy to overlook that pitchers are typically tall and it is easy to take for granted whatever advantage it is they get from their size. But those advantages must exist (surely they must, mustn't they?), even if we're not sure how much of it is due to leverage, stamina or whatever else. Stroman won't have much of whatever those magic ingredients are, so he'll have to be the exception to the rule, particularly as a SP. Which is not to say he can't, just that there is not much precedence, as Magpie's chart illustrates.

Mike Green - Sunday, May 25 2014 @ 10:31 AM EDT (#286850) #
There is definitely an advantage to being tall.  But, how many short RH pitchers succeed at the level that Stroman has in the high minors?  I am pretty sure that the number is very small. Scouts have a bias against short pitchers, and so relatively few get the opportunity.  Tim Collins is probably a good illustration of that. 

How many RH starting pitchers under 6' tall have been drafted in the first round since 1990?  So far, I have found Mike Leake, Ian Kennedy and that's it back to 2004.  There are have been about 20 pitchers per year drafted in the first round. .  A 6'7" starting pitcher with much more modest talent (think Trystan Magnuson) has a greater chance of being drafted high than someone 5'11".  What is interesting is that the two short pitchers drafted in the first round have succeeded- the dropout rate from the first round is well over 70%. 
Mike Green - Sunday, May 25 2014 @ 10:42 AM EDT (#286852) #
I missed one in 2004- Gio Gonzalez.  Three drafts under 6' and three successes.
Mike Green - Sunday, May 25 2014 @ 11:01 AM EDT (#286855) #
he's the new Jason Frasor, likely better

Certainly faster.  I really like Stroman's makeup, and so chafe maybe more than most at the extension from a realistic look at the disadvantages of being a short pitcher to what Bill James would have termed "thinking in images", or less kindly prejudices. The Randy Newman song captures it nicely actually...
Chuck - Sunday, May 25 2014 @ 11:12 AM EDT (#286856) #
I wonder if the height bias hasn't grown over time because of its correlation to pitch speed. Teams seem to gravitate more and more to harder throwers, and those hard throwers tend to be tall. This makes height a concomitant characteristic of pitch speed and thus a quick and dirty marker to gauge suitability.

What short pitchers there are getting through the net are just the really hard throwers. I wonder how many serviceable 5'11" pitchers just never even get their foot in the door.

uglyone - Sunday, May 25 2014 @ 11:22 AM EDT (#286857) #
I'm not overly concerned about a secondary issue like his height.....but at the same there's one worrying stat that does fit into the "too short to get downward plane" narrative, and that's his babip:

MLB: .444babip
AAA: .338babip
AA: .301babip

fairly high babip for a good pitcher...and rising significantly at every level so far...which might indicate that his stuff is pretty hittable when he's not missing bats.

not a huge concern yet but something I'm keeping an eye on.
Richard S.S. - Sunday, May 25 2014 @ 12:05 PM EDT (#286863) #
I don't think lack of a downward plane is as much of an issue as lack of subsequent movement on some of his pitches. If he's putting as good a downward plane on his pitches as he can, he's still going to get hit. Adding additional movement (breaks left, breaks right, skips up, darts down) will make that harder.

His Changeup could do that, but his slider might not be that much of a difference from his fastball to be effective. Would a splitter be more effective? If he's throwing a four-seamer, wouldn't it better/more effective to teach him a two-seamer? His stuff is good to very good and his control is very good. His stuff just doesn't move enough.
Magpie - Sunday, May 25 2014 @ 12:08 PM EDT (#286864) #
pitchers tend to be quite large (by regular, societal standards and even by baseball player standards)

There are, at this very moment, 375 players on the active rosters of the 15 AL teams; 180 of them are pitchers, 195 of them are hitters. Pitchers are significantly taller on average. The average height of the pitchers is 74.5 inches, the average height of the hitters is 72.7 inches.

The 123 RH pitchers are on average almost an inch taller than the 57 LH pitchers (74.8 inches to 74.0); starting pitchers on average are a little taller than relievers (74.8 to 74.4 inches.)
Wildrose - Sunday, May 25 2014 @ 12:20 PM EDT (#286866) #
Two observations;

What is Stroman's wingspan? I come from a basketball scouting background. Case in point, Bramptonian Tyler Ennis, who will likely be taken in round one of this years NBA draft. The ratio of height to wingspan , which basically measures if you have long arms, is generally 1:1 in average humans. Top athletes often however, fall outside the norm. Ennis stands 6'1" in bare feet, but in basketball parlance is long, he has a wingspan of 6''7.5" which allows him to play taller. I wonder how long are Stroman's arms?

The other issue is his release point. BPro just did an article on this the other day. Does Stroman's come over the top or more 3 quarters? This has quite an influence on downwards plane ( he appears to come mainly over the top to me).

From the article.

Downhill plane carries substantial weight in the pitcher evaluation game. Poor marks in that area carry repercussions ranging from diminished prospect status to bullpen assignments conceived in order to limit the exposure of a perceived weakness. The driver of downhill plane is the height of the baseball at the pitcher’s release point, an element influenced by various mechanical techniques and tendencies. On the surface, it seems obvious that a player's height would be a major determinant of his vertical release, and while there’s something to that relationship, multiple variables are at play, and physical height is merely a piece of the equation.

Before making any broad generalizations, I'd like to have these data points before me.
Magpie - Sunday, May 25 2014 @ 12:35 PM EDT (#286868) #
While I've got the data in front of me, here are the average heights for the hitters's positions (figures are inches). Catcher is the largest data group (31 players), centre field the smallest (18 players):
First Base:      74.6
Catcher:         73.2
Right Field:     73.0
Third Base:      72.9
Centre Field:    72.8
Shortstop:       72.3
Third Base:      72.2
Second Base:     70.7
It's not even a little bit surprising that second basemen are the midgets of the group. It is somewhat surprising to me to see just how much contemporary taste in catchers runs to the big fellows. I have to believe that the larger the body, the more playing that position would wear on it - the squat Berra-Rodriguez always seemed a better fit for the position. But what the hell... Carlton Fisk and Bob Boone were big guys who lasted forever.
Magpie - Sunday, May 25 2014 @ 12:38 PM EDT (#286871) #
A typo - the second entry for Third Base in the above post should read Left Field. Home of the little outfielders, guys who can run but can not throw.
dan gordon - Sunday, May 25 2014 @ 04:08 PM EDT (#286885) #
Kris Medlen and Mike Leake have had some success recently as right-handed starters at 5'10". There are a few short pitchers around mlb who used to be Blue Jays, but they are relievers - Frasor, Farquhar, Collins. KC has one of the best relievers in baseball, Greg Holland, who is right handed and 5'10", in addition to Collins at 5'7".

That's an interesting question about the length of a pitcher's arms. I was thinking the same thing. In boxing, they always tell you the boxers' "reach" before a fight, and sometimes the shorter guy has longer arms. It would be interesting to see how guys like Stroman, Collins, etc. measure up in that department.
greenfrog - Sunday, May 25 2014 @ 06:58 PM EDT (#286896) #
Stroman is off to a good start for Buffalo tonight: 3 0 0 0 0 3
Michael - Monday, May 26 2014 @ 05:33 AM EDT (#286910) #
With all the reported heights of the pitchers I wonder how often the height in the past was rounded up an inch or two, especially for short guys.
John Northey - Monday, May 26 2014 @ 07:54 AM EDT (#286912) #
Greenfrog - you cursed him. Stroman gave up 2 in the 4th and 2 in the 5th leaving with 4 IP (+ 3 batters) 5 H 1 BB 4 SO and 83 pitches.  I suspect he really needed a re-stretch out.  The pen might be his final destination though.
Magpie - Monday, May 26 2014 @ 09:14 AM EDT (#286914) #
I wonder how often the height in the past was rounded up an inch or two

It's always been my understanding that it's basketball players who lie about their height. Baseball players lie about their weight.
uglyone - Monday, May 26 2014 @ 11:38 AM EDT (#286920) #
I think Wildrose makes a great point about wingspan. And i'm not sure why this isn't a more commonly used number in baseball, since it can easily make a 2-3 inch difference from a player's head height. It's become pretty common to hear about it in the NBA, and imo is probably even more important in baseball. A short armed 6'1" pitcher might not have much advantage over a long armed 5'9" pitcher in some cases.

And come to think about, it applies to more than just arm angle or plane.....but arm length (sorta like lever-length) might have a significant effect on velocity and movement, and maybe even injuries....though i've never seen anyone even attempt to analyze it. Weird that afaik nobody has investigated this very much.
Gerry - Monday, May 26 2014 @ 12:01 PM EDT (#286922) #

It's always been my understanding that it's basketball players who lie about their height. Baseball players lie about their weight.

My impression from standing beside a lot of minor leaguers is that baseball players who are listed at 6 feet rarely are. I think that if a baseball player is listed at 6 feet or less, he is probably an inch or two shorter than that.

greenfrog - Monday, May 26 2014 @ 12:14 PM EDT (#286925) #
John: I know, I should have left well enough alone. I have to stop writing those "player X sure is having a great start" posts. Usually some sort of implosion occurs shortly thereafter.

If Stroman ends up being a very good reliever, I would still be pretty happy.

AWeb - Monday, May 26 2014 @ 12:15 PM EDT (#286927) #

From what I've read the past few years, it appears that basketball player heights are generally given in their shoes (so 1-1.5 inches high). Some players will get the barefoot measurement instead, though (being labeled a "7 footer" will encourage some coaches to use you only in particular ways - which is why Durant is just as tall as some players listed at 7', but prefers his 6'10'' listing).

I have no idea if baseball players are measured in cleats or not, or if they monkey around with it when the player asks. Stroman appears to be quite little, but I think the Jays should try and get everything out of him they can. Pre-free agency you get 200 starts at most (6 full-time years). There's little purpose to holding back in case Stroman can't make it. I think he'll be very good, barring injury (maturally), in either role. I wouldn't worry at all about his chances of a HoF career - how about try a single full season, and go from there.

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