Pitch speed isn’t everything
Over the weekend I had the opportunity to watch a game (on TV) between the University of Tennessee and LSU. It was an excellent matchup of two very good SEC teams — who were rated #1 and #5 respectively at the time.
While it had all the usual drama and some great plays, I noticed something kind of unusual that seemed to go against the conventional wisdom. When Monica Abbott threw a pitch, it generally registered in the 65-67 mph range. No surprise there. That’s what everyone expects a D1 pitcher at a top-rated program to throw.
But then when Dani Hofer was in the circle for LSU, the numbers were “shocking.” I never saw a pitch speed above 58 mph, and frequently she was below that number. LSU did lose that game 2-1, but Hofer was only charged with 1.08 earned runs. Interestingly, their other pitcher (Emily Turner) got two wins, but received a little more offensive support from her team. Had Hofer gotten the same number of runs she’d have had a win.
I thought it was pretty amazing, especially in this era when people claim to have seen 10 year olds who throw 65+ with eight different pitches. Hofer was obviously moving the ball well, hitting her locations, pitching to weaknesses, and getting hitters to swing at pitches they didn’t like. She only struck out five, but it didn’t matter that much.
The reason I point it out is there are a lot of pitchers out there who may never crack the 60 mph mark, much less throw consistently in the mid-60s. Their DNA, size, number of fast twitch muscles, or other factors simply may not allow it. But it doesn’t mean they can’t be effective.
Hofer is definitely a testament to the saying I used on the back of my T-shirts this year: it’s not how good you are, it’s how bad you want it. I’ll bet most D1 teams wouldn’t even give her a first glance, much less a second. But with a record of 21-2 I’ll bet some of them wish they had.