MLB Innings Pitched By Height

A while back Adam Foster of Project Prospect sent out a tweet wondering how height impacts success and longevity as a pitcher.  Adam is focused on minor league baseball prospects and thus was curious how height impacts a pitchers chances of “making it” and how long they last in the major leagues.

My first instinct was to look at average career innings by height but found the total innings pitched by height to be very interesting.

6’2″ pitchers have combined to throw more innings than pitchers of any other height.  I looked at average career innings pitched by height, but didn’t see any staggering data that would dispute the above graph. Since it can be hard to distinguish relativity in the above graph, I also looked at % of total innings pitched by height.

The percentage chart seems to put things in perspective. 92.2% of the innings pitched since 1960 have come from pitchers 6’0″ or above. 92.2%! It is even more interesting when considering that the average male height is 5 foot 9 1/2 inches. 99.3% of total innings pitched have come from pitchers 5’10” or taller.

What do you think of the results? Why are taller pitchers responsible for more innings in Major League Baseball? Taller pitchers throw with more velocity? Are more physically intimidating on the mound? Let me know what you think in the comments!

8 comments

  • I think at least three factors are in play.

    • A taller pitcher's higher release point creates better down plane to the plate. A fastball angled down in the strike zone is more difficult to hit solidly and lift for power. Does this have an opposite effect on breaking balls and changeups, I wonder?

    • A taller pitcher releases the ball closer to plate, giving batters even less time to react. A pitcher who throws hard and hides the ball well will derive even greater benefit.

    • Teams, perhaps subconsciously, have been trying to recreate the effects of the Year of the Pitcher, seeking taller pitcher to approximate the 15-inch mounds of the 1960-1968 period in your study. In '69, mounds were lowered to the present 10 inches.

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    • Thanks for the comment Matt and interesting questions you raise. I don't have the data to study the affect of height on pitching effectiveness but it would certainly be interesting to look at! In its simplest form I think some of it has to do with physically being taller, delivering closer to the plate, and some psychological in terms of people "thinking" a taller pitcher is better thus getting more opportunities. I'll follow up this piece with on on ERA relative to height but as a preview there was very little ERA difference relative to height.

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  • Just a thought, but I'm curious to know how fast the game has gotten. I don't know if there is data on players 40 yard dash times, but I think it would be interesting to see how fast the game has gotten.

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    • Thanks for the comment Zack. I'll have to look around to see if there are stats on the speed of the game. It would be fairly easy to do in football thanks to the NFL Combine, but can't think of anywhere where speed is documented consistently in baseball.

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  • Pitchers 6’3″ and over comprise less than 5% of the U.S. population but end up throwing as many or more innings as all pitchers 6’2″ and under. So the tall are 20+ times more likely to be able to perform at MLB level. That being said I could be biased!.

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  • That the taller pitchers get more innings would lead one to believe, then , that they must be more productive (more successful on the mound) for the team than shorter pitchers. But, that’s blind assumption based on no hard facts at all, I’m just offering my supposition.

    Again, I’m late to the game on these posts and with my comments. But, your posts are interesting and just couldn’t help but comment.

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