Results tagged ‘ Fastball velocity ’
It has been a pretty busy month of baseball to this point. There are also plenty of pitchers who may have a leg up on the competition in the month of May. Several standouts in May have presented an interesting question.
How about these dominant names:
Phillip Hughes: 3-0 (5 starts), 1.62 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 33.1 IP, 24:0 K:BB
Tim Hudson: 1-1 (4 starts), 1.46 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 24.2 IP, 13:4 K:BB
Ryan Vogelsong: 3-1 (5 starts), 1.64 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 33 IP, 29:9 K:BB
Bronson Arroyo: 3-1 (5 starts), 1.73 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 36.1 IP, 24:5 K:BB
Wily Peralta: 1-3 (5 starts), 1.69 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 32 IP, 24:9 K:BB
Dallas Keuchel: 4-1 (5 starts), 1.79 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, 40.1 IP, 31:4 K:BB
Mike Leake: 0-2 (5 starts), 1.77 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 35.2 IP, 26:8 K:BB
Pitching is a tricky part of the game. With so many injuries, it is fair to wonder what the wear and tear of long-term success has on a player’s future, and we may be seeing that now with Verlander, specifically. However, for all of the mediocrity that comes with the 85.8 mph average fastball that Bronson Arroyo is throwing this season, perhaps plus-plus velocity continues to be overrated. In fact, as it heats up in May, it is fair to look at pitchers like Hughes (92.1 mph), Hudson (89.0 mph), Vogelsong (90.2 mph), Peralta (95.3 mph), Keuchel (89.3 mph), and Leake (90.8 mph) and wonder if the fastball is really all that important.
Consider the top 20 fastball velocities in baseball since the start of the 2010 season. The numbers range from 95.7 to 93.2 and how many of them have had elbow issues in their careers – 11.
Andrew Cashner (5/2014), Stephen Strasburg (9/2010 and 10/2013), David Price (4/2008), Chris Sale (4/2014), Josh Johnson (7/2007, 10/2013, and 4/2014), Alfredo Simon (5/2009), Jordan Zimmermann (8/2009), Matt Garza (4/2008 and 7/2012), Matt Moore (7/2013 and 4/2014), Edinson Volquez (8/2009), and Luke Hochevar (3/2014), have each spent time on the disabled list due to elbow issues, with Strasburg, Johnson, Simon, Zimmermann, Moore, Volquez, and Hochevar undergoing Tommy John surgeries.
While there are names, like Peralta and Hughes, who are thriving still with 92 to 95 mph fastballs, could it just be another inning before the elbow snaps?
Bronson Arroyo has tossed 2,339.1 innings in his career without a single stint on the disabled list. Greg Maddux tossed over 5,000 innings in his 23-year career with one disabled list stint, missing 10 games in 2002 due to a nerve issue, while changing speeds and utilizing movement to become a four-time Cy Young winner. Mark Buehrle is up to 2,956 innings and 195 wins without a stint on the disabled list without an electric fastball. Yordano Ventura and his 96 mph average fastball lasted all of 72.2 innings before injuring his elbow.
For all of the stuff and electricity that is added to the ballpark experience due to an incredible, triple-digit fastball, the torque and force on the elbow will continue to be a single pitch away from snapping the ulnar collateral ligament. There certainly are some impressive names on the list for top 20 velocities since 2010, but when half of them lose time due to injury, is it really worth it? Scouting speed seems ok with Billy Hamilton or Micah Johnson, but the vulnerability of pitchers due to the focus on fastball velocity is risky business these days in baseball.
Once upon a time, Greg Maddux was winning four straight Cy Young awards (1992-1995) and Tom Glavine was painting the corners and winning 20-games three straight seasons (1991-1993) for the Atlanta Braves. While PITCHf/x wasn’t around back then, it is safe to say that Maddux and Glavine got by more on movement and location than blowing hitters away, as Maddux’s best average fastball over his last seven seasons was in 2002, when it was 85.8.
As strikeouts continue to pileup in abundance around Major League Baseball, are there reasons for the sudden rise? Are pitchers attacking more, throwing more strikes, or throwing harder…or is it the approach of the hitters, looking to hit home runs instead of making solid contact, to blame for the free breezes for fans in stadiums around the league?
So far in 2013, there are 27 pitchers with an average fastball of 92.0 or higher. In 2012, that number was 37. Of course, that was an entire season and some pitchers could be working out some stamina issues early in the season before truly unleashing their heat. There were some interesting trends that I saw when looking at velocity, though:
In 2012, two of the top pitchers in baseball, Price and Verlander, ranked within the top three in velocity. Neither pitcher is ranked in the top five in fastball velocity in 2013, and Verlander’s ERA is lower than it was last season, while his K/9 is slightly up (9.19). Moore’s fastball is down to 92.2 in 2013, 24th in MLB, but his ERA is down to 1.13 and his K/9 is up to 10.69.
Another interesting trend would have to be the average ERA and WHIP of the top five fastballs in MLB over the last two seasons:A big difference between the two seasons above: Richards and Zimmerman have very low K/9 rates, and Strasburg’s strikeouts are surprisingly low, considering that he had an 11.13 K/9 in 2012.In 2013, wins don’t count for much due to how early we are in the season; however, when looking at some of the top names in baseball, Strasburg and Harvey rank near the top in the hype machine right now. Are they dominant because of their repertoire or because of the swings and misses across baseball?
Again, it’s early, but when you consider the results from last season, are the top pitchers in baseball those who throw the hardest? If you consider that Harvey’s early season dominance appears to be the outlier of the statistics, they could be meaningless…BUT, looking at 2012, in particular, you could argue that flamethrowers are going to be successful.
Remember, also, that Matt Moore was one of the best pitchers in baseball down the stretch last season, when he posted a 9-3 record and a 2.90 ERA from June 1 through September 1. So, is his slight drop in velocity what was necessary to dominate or was his velocity a part of his mid-season dominance last season?
At the beginning of the season, there were concerns over the velocity of long-time aces Roy Halladay and C.C. Sabathia. Halladay’s two-seamer has averaged 89.8 mph this season, but two-seam fastballs tend to be a little slower than a pitcher’s four-seam fastball. Halladay has used a cut fastball and a splitter along with his two-seamer since the start of the 2012 season, so, while he did struggle in his first two starts, Halladay is 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA, 0.62 WHIP, and a 16:5 K:BB over his last three starts (21 innings). Sabathia’s fastball is down to 89.7 mph in 2013 from 92.3 in 2012, and he has had a couple of rough outings, including his Opening Day start against Boston and earlier this week against Boston. However, his three starts between those outings included 23 innings with a 1.56 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and a 19:4 K:BB. He also got the win Saturday with eight innings and three earned runs against Toronto.
So…what is the lesson here? Young pitchers with impressive fastballs can become tomorrow’s future stars and the same guys that used to top the charts with velocity can become crafty veterans, adapting to their changing skills to maintain brilliant careers. Unfortunately, there are a lot of pitchers that fall somewhere in between those two extremes, so while there was some interesting data here, the only conclusions that I would recommend are to try to stock up on guys that throw hard so that when they learn how to pitch on top of having stuff, you’ll have a pocket full of aces.