Bucs GM looks for height in new pitchers
For the Pirates, acquired starting pitchers remains a tall order.
"We found some pitchers that have size," general manager Neal Huntington said, "which is a nice point to start."
The new right-handed pitchers in the system are 6-foot-7 Brett Lorin, 6-6 Tim Alderson, 6-5 Nathan Adcock and, the shortest of the group, 6-4 Aaron Pribanic. Another big pitcher, 6-4 Kevin Hart, came from the Cubs the next day.
The collection of skyscrapers advances Huntington's plan to stock the organization with high-altitude hurlers.
• The Pirates tabbed four right-handers in the opening seven rounds of the 2009 draft, all at least 6-4 in height.
• Of the 16 pitchers acquired in trades since Huntington was hired in late 2007, all but three stand at least 6-foot-3 (Daniel McCutchen and Jeff Locke are 6-2, Jose Ascanio 6-0).
"We have a certain list of traits that we are looking for in all pitchers that we believe can be starters at the major league level," Huntington said. "One of the points is size."
The trend toward tall pitchers has been spreading across the majors for years. Of the 16 pitchers selected in the first round of the 2009 draft, only three were shorter than 6-3.
The Marlins, for instance, average about 6-5 for their starting rotation.
"It definitely creates angles," 6-foot-7 All-Star Josh Johnson of the Marlins told MLB.com this month, "but if you don't use it to your advantage, then it'll go away."
Marlins left-hander Andrew Miller, who stands 6-6, added, "All of us try to use it to an advantage. If you watch (Johnson) or (6-8 Chris) Volstad throw the ball, they really work downhill. It's certainly something we recognize and try to use. Any time you can show a hitter something they're not used to seeing, it's advantageous."
Taller pitchers are believed to have an advantage over shorter pitchers for a number of reasons. Their release point is as much as a foot closer to the plate; they throw with a downward motion, which, thanks to gravity, causes increased ball movement; and, the strike zone, at least in the perception of the umpire, can be slightly bigger for tall pitchers.
The Pirates' scouts don't ignore vertically-challenged pitchers. Jason Erickson, a 6-foot-1, right-hander and 24th-round pick, and 5-11 right-hander Marc Bana, a 42nd round pick, are pitching well for short-season Single-A State College. But bigger is better when it comes to major-league prospects.
"You look about baseball, there are exceptions," Huntington said. "(But) we don't want to scout to the exception. If we find one, we better have really strong logical, rational reasons why we believe in the exception."
The Hall of Fame has more pitchers 5-11 or shorter (14) than 6-foot-3 or taller (11), although most of the diminutive pitchers in Cooperstown were around in the early 1900s or before.
By far, most of the 62 pitchers in the Hall of Fame stand between 6-foot and 6-2 (37). The tallest Hall of Fame pitcher is 6-foot-6 Don Drysdale (at least until 6-10 Randy Johnson gets enshrined).
This year's All-Star Game starter, Tim Lincecum, is 5-11, and half of the starters on the NL staff were 6-1 or shorter.
"As a whole, we look around major league baseball, we study what's been successful," Huntington said. "One of the starting points is size."
Tall and Short of it
Great pitchers come in all shapes and sizes. Here are some of the top pitchers, both tall in stature and big in heart, past and present.
Randy Johnson — The 6-foot-10 left-hander, who earlier this year became the 24th pitcher to win 300 games, is the second-tallest pitcher in MLB history and one of the most intimidating as his career winds down. Some of his counterparts include 6-foot-11 Jon Rauch, 6-10 Chris Young and 6-9 Jeff Niemann.
C.C. Sabathia — He's not quite as big as Johnson, but at 6-7 Sabathia is about the size of your typical NBA power forward. Roy Halladay, another former Cy Young winner, isn't far behind at 6-6.
Don Drysdale — The 6-foot-6 Drysdale is the tallest pitcher in the Hall of Fame, and one of only 11 in Cooperstown taller than 6-foot-2. Drysdale won 209 games, but hit 154 batters in his career. It wasn't easy to get out of the way. Some other high-altitude Hall of Famers include 6-5 Fergie Jenkins and 6-4 Steve Carlton.
Pedro Martinez — A total of 16 major-league pitchers have reached the 3,000 strikeout plateau, and none of them are shorter than the 5-foot-11 righty, making a comeback with the Phillies.
Tim Lincecum — The reigning Cy Young Award winner and All-Star game starter stands a smidge below 5-foot-11 — without counting his hair. The right-hander fanned a career-high 15 Pirates last week and uses his unorthodox deliver to gain maximum torque from his diminutive frame. He falls in the same category as Billy Wagner and Ron Guidry.
Greg Maddux — The future Hall of Famer is the poster child for undersized players who just know how to pitch. The memory of Maddux's masterpieces will ensure that general managers — no matter how enthralled with a monster frame of a tall pitcher — will never completely dismiss the sub 6-foot-2 pitching prospects.
Burleigh Grimes — The 5-foot-10 right-hander started his career with the Pirates in 1916 and ended up winning more games (270) than any sub-6-foot player in MLB history.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.