Morning report: Lining up the 'Tall Boys'

February, 21, 2014
Feb 21
9:49
AM ET
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Good morning from the Fort, where the Boys of Spring will have a shorter day than normal because they’ll be playing in the 21st annual Red Sox Children’s Hospital Golf Classic, or the Jim Rice Invitational, as it is more informally known. The money raised this year at the event, which is being held at the Forest Country Club, goes to the expansion of the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.

Golf Digest in recent years did a story on some of the bigger golfers on the tour, referring to them as “Tall Boys.” Examples they cited included 6-foot-4 Dustin Johnson, 6-foot-3 Bubba Watson, 6-foot-2 Nick (cousin of Heidi) Watney and 6-foot-2 Bill Haas.

If you want some “Tall Boys,” other than the kind you take out of your refrigerator, look no further than the pitchers in Sox camp this spring. The Sox have no fewer than 10 pitchers in big-league camp who are 6-foot-4 or taller, which would give them a fighting chance to match up against a good NCAA Division 2 team.

Mike Donnelly’s Southern Connecticut Owls, for example, are 22-2, have won 11 in a row, are dominating the Northeast-10 Conference and are ranked No. 9 in the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Division 2 poll.

Donnelly’s starters in the Owls’ big win over Pace this week were 6-2 Tylon Smith, 6-3 Greg Langston, 5-11 Luke Houston, 6-4 Deshawn Murphy and 6-7 Stefon Williams. It helps, of course, that Langston, Mallory and Murphy are all shooting 40 percent from behind the arc, but the Sox would have the height advantage.

In the chart to the right, you’ll find a rundown of Boston’s Tall Boys.

When 5-foot-9 catcher Christian Vazquez goes to the mound to visit Andrew Miller or Anthony Ranaudo, he’ll be giving away nearly a foot.

“Could you make a basketball team out of here? I’m certain on one side of the argument,’’ said Jake Peavy, who at 6-1 said he’d be the guy distributing the ball.

Using the great tools provided by Baseball-reference.com, we learn that 222 of the 679 pitchers who appeared in a big-league game last season were 6-4 or taller, 32.7 percent. The general population has been growing taller, and so are pitchers: In 1993, the percentage was 27.4 percent (139 of 507), in 1973, 18.4 percent (61 of 330) and in 1953, just 7.3 percent (16 of 218).

The tallest of the Tall Boys -- 6-7 and above -- once were a rare sight in the game. From 1901 through 1973, only a dozen pitchers qualified, including former Sox pitcher (and Celtics forward), 6-8 Gene Conley.

Now the all-time total is 117 entering this season, the tallest of whom is 6-11 Jon Rauch, who last season pitched for the Marlins, one of seven teams for whom the current free agent has pitched. The 6-10 Randy Johnson, a 303-game winner, remains the gold standard of tall pitchers, while the current top of the Tall Boys Class (6-7 and above division) is comprised of 6-8 Doug Fister of the Nationals, CC Sabathia of the Yankees, Jered Weaver of the Angels, and Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals.

But Peavy says don’t go overboard on this height thing.

“I was told I was too small,’’ he said. “But I played with some guys. Mark Buehrle was my size. Greg Maddux was smaller than I was. The best guys I’ve played with or seen have been small. Pedro [Martinez]. Look at [Tom] Glavine. [John] Smoltzie. Nolan Ryan wasn’t some crazy big guy. I think the size thing is overrated.

“Still, it can be a good thing to have. You look at the [Michael] Wacha kid and some of these big kids who create such a good down angle and pitch up in the zone off that angle, I think that’s an advantage.

“Chris Young. You remember Chris Young?’’

Young was the 6-10 righthander who also starred in basketball for Princeton. Peavy and Young played together on the Padres.

“He threw 88 miles an hour, the ball coming out of his hand. But with the ground he was covering -- think about it, he’s turning the ball loose, about a foot or two in front -- that 88 is now, it was unbelievable. It was hard for me to chart.’’

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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