Outfielder Arms: the good, the bad and the ugly

crow216

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Maybe people here with a lot more historical knowledge could help me out with this one. Are there more outfielders today with garbage arms than there were, say, 30-60 years ago?
 

terrynever

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crow216 said:
Maybe people here with a lot more historical knowledge could help me out with this one. Are there more outfielders today with garbage arms than there were, say, 30-60 years ago?
Not really. You only had 16 teams in the old days. Off the top of my head, I can remember Richie Ashburn with a candy arm in CF for the Phillies. Mantle's throwing was ordinary after a shoulder injury in 1958. Ted Williams had an average arm at best. Wes Covington couldn't throw after he got to Philly. Vada Pinson had an average arm.
 
There were some cannons, too. Clemente, Kaline and Maris stand out for me. Aaron had a good arm. Mays, of course.
 

Brickowski

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Frank Robinson had a weak arm.  Also Musial, when he played the outfield.
The two best arms I can remember are Dwight Evans and Ichiro when he first came into the league.
 

glennhoffmania

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Winfield had a pretty ridiculous arm also.  I once saw him live during pre-game and he was throwing darts from RF to 3B on a fly.
 

jon abbey

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glennhoffmania said:
Winfield had a pretty ridiculous arm also.  I once saw him live during pre-game and he was throwing darts from RF to 3B on a fly.
 
My favorite player growing up, man I loved that dude. 
 

Brickowski

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glennhoffmania said:
Winfield had a pretty ridiculous arm also.  I once saw him live during pre-game and he was throwing darts from RF to 3B on a fly.
 Winfield was pretty good.  But I'm not sure he was as accurate as some of the others.  Same goes for Clemente.
 

terrynever

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One of my most vivid childhood memories is sitting in Forbes Field two hours before a game in 1956, watching Clemente unleash throws from RF to third base. Just like Glenn recalls Winfield doing same.

Brick is right. Clemente was erratic. He averaged around 10 errors a season until he got old. Had 13 in 1956. (I looked it up.) people stopped running on him in the 1960s.

As a kid, the thing that is most impressive is watching those long throws from the outfield in warm ups, mostly because you know how far you can throw it on a line, and these guys are tripling that distance.

Screw Ellsbury and his candy-ass arm. Damon, too. You telling me I have to sit thru this shit again?
 

Rough Carrigan

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Bill Lee told a story about a bunch of players sitting in the Sox dugout in the early 70's before a game and arguing about throwing arms.  Yaz bounds up the steps onto the dirt in front of the dugout, picks up a ball and throws it off the base of the monster.  Quality quality peg.  Reggie Smith jogs up the steps, picks up a ball on the dirt in front of the dugout and throws it over the monster.
 

Doctor G

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Rough Carrigan said:
Bill Lee told a story about a bunch of players sitting in the Sox dugout in the early 70's before a game and arguing about throwing arms.  Yaz bounds up the steps onto the dirt in front of the dugout, picks up a ball and throws it off the base of the monster.  Quality quality peg.  Reggie Smith jogs up the steps, picks up a ball on the dirt in front of the dugout and throws it over the monster. 
I believe it. He routinely threw from center field to third on the fly in warm-ups.
 

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terrynever said:
Screw Ellsbury and his candy-ass arm. Damon, too. You telling me I have to sit thru this shit again?
 
Hey, why pick on ex-Red Sox, Bernie Williams had a candy-ass arm too, didn't seem to bother them
 

Ferm Sheller

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Brickowski said:
Frank Robinson had a weak arm.  Also Musial, when he played the outfield.
The two best arms I can remember are Dwight Evans and Ichiro when he first came into the league.
 
I think Hard Hittin' Mark Whiten's arm rivaled the arms of those guys. 
 

Brickowski

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The thing about Evans is that his throws to third arrived on one bounce in perfect position for the third baseman to catch the ball and make the tag.   And he never threw balls over the cutoff man's head.  Textbook.
 
Let me add Jay Buhner to the list of guys I've seen with very good arms.
 

Sprowl

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And back during the Horace Clarke Era, there was Roy White in left. He had great range, but his arm... oy.
 

Dick Drago

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Dave Parker....I can remember him gunning out Rice at third base during an all star game. Great all around player, probably would have been even better without cocaine.
 

jon abbey

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Bo Jackson, of course, and I don't ever remember a single throw like the one Ichiro made to get someone at third near the start of his 'rookie' year. 
 
Also, I should split this off but I am lazy. 
 

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jon abbey said:
Bo Jackson, of course, and I don't ever remember a single throw like the one Ichiro made to get someone at third near the start of his 'rookie' year. 
 
Also, I should split this off but I am lazy. 
 
Terrance Long. In Oakland. Never bounced. Never got more than six feet off the ground.
 
And it's right here with Hendu doing the analysis.
 
(Why'd you put "rookie" in quotes? Jackie Robinson got the first ROY award, and he played in the Negro Leagues, which were on par with the talent in NPB of Ichiro's day.)
 
--
Edit: fixed link
 

jon abbey

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HriniakPosterChild said:
 
(Why'd you put "rookie" in quotes? Jackie Robinson got the first ROY award, and he played in the Negro Leagues, which were on par with the talent in NPB of Ichiro's day.)
 
Two wrongs don't make a right, not a fan of calling established pros from other leagues rookies. He was 27 with almost 1300 hits in Japan, I'm sticking with my quotation marks. :)
 

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mt8thsw9th said:
What do any of these guys have to do with Ellsbury?
They all throw much better than Taco/Ells/Jake/Dreamboat/Turncoat/Jack.  Pay attention.  
 
Seriously, though, while we are off topic, I second Vlad Guererro for the most impressive arm I have ever seen.  He could throw lasers from the outfield.  If we are talking best, though, which should mean both strength and accuracy, Larry Walker deserves consideration.  I am probably biased since I spent much of my high school/college summers watching him throw from the spacious right field at Coors, but he threw out baserunners at all bases with regularity.  
 

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Raul Mondesi and Jose Guillen also deserve mention.
 
Guillen:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFAbXnlzZGQ
 
 
Mondesi:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=266_bkRG7c8
 
 
edit: Mondesi video came up wrong
 

terrynever

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So how does one quantify throwing arms? To me, this is more of a visual judgment because stats do not reveal the arms that don't get run on anymore. There is just a knowledge that you don't run on certain outfielders.
 
The Puig kid from LA has a cannon, too.
 

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terrynever said:
So how does one quantify throwing arms? To me, this is more of a visual judgment because stats do not reveal the arms that don't get run on anymore. There is just a knowledge that you don't run on certain outfielders.
 
The Puig kid from LA has a cannon, too.
 
Outfield assists with a larger sample size over league-leading seasons, maybe? If someone demonstrates consistency. Yaz and Clemente for the AL and NL respectively have the most seasons as league leaders in the stat according to Baseball Almanac
 
Of course looking at the top 10's by season (Baseball Reference) is a mixed bag because of what you mention; guys with good arms are probably not nailing as many baserunners if their reputations keep baserunners station to station. Some guys are tracking solid assist numbers: Alex Gordon (who would have more maybe if he started in the OF and wasn't moved from the IF); Hunter Pence are two that jumped out at me. 
 
But yeah, pretty unreliable since Hall of Never Robert Fick led the league in 2002 with 21. 
 
Park factors also have to figure into it. Knowing one's home field's bounces and caroms and sod. Outfield positioning per the manager/coaches. The all-time active list sees Beltran leading with 132, and Manny Ramirez at 2nd with 129. Stats skewed by longer careers seeing more chances. Ballpark factors too I suspect. Specifically Manny, who played the LF Monster at Fenway very adeptly.
 

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terrynever said:
So how does one quantify throwing arms? To me, this is more of a visual judgment because stats do not reveal the arms that don't get run on anymore. There is just a knowledge that you don't run on certain outfielders.
 
FYI: that Ankiel highlight reel includes a throw he makes from shallow-middle no man's land in CF to the plate where the runner at third doesn't even feign tagging and going home, getting him a Natstown ovation. 
 
But per my previous post, like tracking fielding in general there's a lot of rasslin' between the subjective and the objective metrics.
 

bankshot1

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Rocky Colavito had a cannon.
 
In '73  Yaz was mostly a 1st baseman, but still played LF, and along with Reggie Smith in CF, and Dwight Evans in RF, there were some pretty good arms out there.
 

Rough Carrigan

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StupendousMan said:
How does one quantify outfield arms?   Well, one way to do it is measure the speed with which an outfielder can throw the ball accurately.
 
For example, in the document below, I deduce that Rich Ankiel's throw on May 6, 2008, travelled at 112 mph, give or take 5 mph.
 
http://spiff.rit.edu/richmond/baseball/ankiel/ankiel.html
Someone should let him try pitching!
 

ronlt40

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Trlicek's Whip said:
 
 
But yeah, pretty unreliable since Hall of Never Robert Fick led the league in 2002 with 21. 
 
 
   Off Topic: I ran into this guy at a bar in Philly in 2006 when he was with the Nats. He asked me if i had any weed.  :blink:
 

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ronlt40 said:
   Off Topic: I ran into this guy at a bar in Philly in 2006 when he was with the Nats. He asked me if i had any weed.  :blink:
It'd be a whole lot cooler if you did.
 
That Ankiel throw is crazy.  i don't think noodle arms are anything new.  People knew not to run on Jay Buhner, Raul Mondesi, Mark Whitten and Ichiro
 

OttoC

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Brickowski said:
Frank Robinson had a weak arm.  Also Musial, when he played the outfield.
...
 
Musial started his minor-league career as a pitcher. His first two years he pitched. Since he hit well in his second year, they started playing him in the outfield between starts and in late season he suffered a shoulder injury in the outfield. That weakened his arm considerably, so he was converted to a full-time outfielder during the next season
 

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garlan5

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Jim Ed Rice in HOF said:
I was surprised it took that long to mention Vlad. Watching him warm up during the '04 ALDS, throwing ropes from the bullpen wall to 3B, was truly impressive. 
Yeah, Vlad was the first person that came to mind.  Also where does Victorino fall into this category.  He seems to have a very strong arm for his size.  Maybe it's because he positions himself well but it seems that he had a very good arm.  Obviously not like others mentioned but hey I'm a homer. 
 
Also there's this: 
http://bleacherreport.com/articles/590862-mlb-power-rankings-the-25-best-outfield-arms-in-mlb-history/page/26
 

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terrynever said:
So how does one quantify throwing arms? To me, this is more of a visual judgment because stats do not reveal the arms that don't get run on anymore. There is just a knowledge that you don't run on certain outfielders.
 
The Puig kid from LA has a cannon, too.
 
Fielding Bible looks at the percentage of times a runner successfully takes an extra base against each OF. If they don't try, then the OF gets credit for them not taking that base. (Of course situations vary a bunch, with the speed of the runner, the type and placement of the hit, etc. so you need to look at a few seasons for things like that to start to even out a little.)
 
From a 2011 article on Ankiel's arm:
 
"To demonstrate the impact Ankiel had on the Nationals, take this premise: Runners score from second on a single to center 78 percent of the time. On the other hand, center fielders throw out a runner trying to score from second on average two percent of the time.
There were 34 times that Ankiel was in center when a batter hit a single to center and there was a man on second. Ankiel allowed only 21 runners to score and threw out two at the plate.
The publication quoted that Ankiel "still possesses the arm strength of a pitcher, and he has no problem throwing strikes from the outfield. Baserunners rarely test what is arguably the best outfield arm in baseball."
They compared those numbers to Minnesota Twins outfielder Ben Revere. Revere had 33 such chances in center and allowed 29 runners to score, throwing out none.
Under those parameters, Ankiel was ranked as a better than average, saving the Nationals' four runs compared to what an average center fielder would have accomplished."