Why the Red Sox don't give radar gun readings at JetBlue Park

Rob Bradford
February 28, 2020 - 10:47 am

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It was certainly notable when Nathan Eovaldi led to "99" flashing on the Hammond Stadium scoreboard this week. It was the same early-spring training interest that came with Daniel Bard's fastball dropping to the low 90's in 2012, or a newcomer named Allen Webster popping near triple-digits in early March.

But if you're headed to JetBlue Park for any games in the next week or so don't expect to get a read-out on velocity. The Red Sox are purposely trying to make their pitchers forget such things exist.

"We don’t," said Roenicke when asked about the Red Sox not publicizing radar gun readings at home games. "You guys all see what pitchers do later on. They throw a pitch, then it’s rub here and the eye is right on the radar. Right now that’s not a good thing. So I think as much as we can stay, and I realize the fans want that radar up there, we’ll get it up there when Bushy feels like, ok, they’re beyond the point, we can start putting it up there. But yeah, it’s there. It’s real. You see it in every big league game. A pitcher comes into the game, he throws that first pitch, and those eyes are right up on the radar. When they don’t see what they are used to seeing, maybe if a guy is 95 and all of a sudden he looks up there and sees 92, he’s like, ‘Whoa.’ Whether he’s going to throw harder on that next pitch or what, it makes a difference."

The topic came up during Roenicke's morning session with the media because of a conversation regarding increased velocity in the game.

As the interim manager points out, there is a very real obsession with velocity at all levels these days. In 2013 there were 63 pitchers who hit 99 mph or better at least once. Last season the number came in at 87.

"We’re selecting more velocity, more, whether it’s high school, college, we’re projecting where the velocity is going to end up, which is a hard thing to do sometimes, especially out of high school," he noted. "You’re able to get away with more mistakes. Bigger velocity, you don’t have to be on the edge. You don’t have to be Greg Maddux now, who pitches just black to black. Now you get away sometimes with the thigh-high fastball and it’s 98 and has got some life to it, now you get away with it. And then the other thing is, guys are training for it. So, unfortunately, the radar gun at young ages I think is a bad thing, because I think it’s leading to some injuries. When I was young, I didn’t even know what a radar gun was. I just tried to pitch to get guys out, pitch to the corners where guys didn’t seem to hit the baseball. Now they’re pitching to velocity. You’re seeing it in Little League. You’re seeing it in radar guns all the way through. A kid, if in his mind he’s thinking about playing professionally, it’s max. It’s max effort to throw the baseball. Max effort doesn’t last if you do this all the way up through. You just can’t last. It scares me. I’m obviously concerned about the youth and what happens. If we’re going to continue to max effort, our arms just aren’t made to do this motion at that type of velocity. We’re training with heavy balls now, which for sure increases velocity if you’re doing it right. If you’re doing it all right with the heavy balls, it increases velocity. All of these things lead to more velocity but also more injuries."

This continues to be a path that could lead to sub-optimal long-term results, as Roenicke points out.

"The biggest thing for me is the injury factor,' he noted. "Obviously, we love to see guys coming in out of our bullpen throwing 96 and above, they’ve got movement, they’re spinning the ball. It gives you a lot of comfort when those guys are coming in the game because you know they’re getting away with the mistakes. But it’s all about the injury with me. As we move forward in years, is this injury thing going to get worse as we learn how to increase velocities, increase the muscle mass that whatever strength your tendons and ligaments can hold up to, is this going to get worse? If it gets worse, it’s bad. I know we’re smarter than we’ve ever been medically, but yet we’re seeing more injuries than we’ve ever seen.

"The technology is great, but at the youth level it concerns me a lot. I wish there weren't any radar guns around. Try and take care of them more when they’re younger and when they’re a little bit older they will see where they are and they can use it. It does help at times. I think when you get older and you’re trying to exercise and work different muscles it probably helps to know, ‘Hey, am I really increasing my velocity or am I just guessing I’m increasing it."