I don’t really want to be the voice of doom and gloom in the middle of everybody’s good time here, but this afternoon Chris Toman alerted us to something maybe a little concerning in Drew Hutchison’s velocity, which is the fact that it’s sinking.

I’m in no position to suggest we have any clue what this means, but we can see a visual representation of his game-by-game average velocity in this chart from his page at Brooks Baseball.


The downward trend is evident, obviously, but it maybe doesn’t look quite as alarming above as it does when you see the actual numbers written out. Here are his last five starts:

94.3 (@PHI, 5/6/14)
94.1 (vs. ANA, 5/11/14)
94.0 (@TEX, 5/16/14)
92.5 (@BOS, 5/21/14)
91.9 (vs. TAM, 5/26/14)

As you’d expect, his maximum velocity matches the trend, having dipped below 95 just once, in mid-April against Baltimore, prior to his last two starts. He topped out at 94.6 in Boston, and then 93.3 last night. So… yeah. He certainly didn’t look like himself last night, but there really isn’t a whole lot more for me to say than just that. There can be many reasons for a dip in velocity like this, and to jump to conclusions about any one of them would not just be irresponsible, it would be kind of silly.

It’s understandable that so soon after Tommy John surgery people would be worried about the health of his arm, or him taking on too much too soon, but there are reasons that even us fans — who aren’t privy to the medicals — can pretty easily rationalize why something gloomy might not at all be the case. Hutchison tossed 149.1 innings across multiple levels in 2011, for example. Plus, though the surgery he had in 2012 occurred in early August, meaning he’s well past the 18 month anniversary of the procedure, it may still take time to build up the muscles he needs in his throwing arm. Although, including his stint in the Arizona Fall League, in 2013 he threw 57 innings — not a tonne, but exactly not a small amount either. He’s fairly well beyond the surgery in other words, and has shown himself capable of logging a lot of innings in the past.

Those two facts don’t necessarily mean anything, of course, but neither does this little dip. Maybe it’s something to be worried about, maybe it’s something he’ll push through and be fine with. Maybe, as commenter Ernie Whitt suggests, he was simply trying to be more fine with his wonky command on account of how squeezed he was getting by home plate umpire Corey Blaser, and took a little something off. It’s at least something to keep our eyes on. Especially if he keeps serving meatballs like he did last night.


Up for some more quelling of your fears? Here you go: the data at FanGraphs certainly looks rosier. To wit:


The data isn’t yet available on his game log at FanGraphs, but as you can see from the above chart, which includes all eleven starts Hutchison has made this year, his velocity last night was low, but not nearly as out of line with the rest of his season as the Brooks data shows. And note the lack of sinkers for only last night’s start in the Brooks data above. Is it just a classification issue, where the sinkers are included among the fastballs, and are dragging the whole average down? I can assure you that I don’t know, but this all seemed worth pointing out, in case anyone was getting too panicked.

[Note: an earlier version of this post had Hutchison's FanGraphs game log data in it, unfortunately I was reading it backwards (because his first start of the year was also against Tampa, FYI, and also because sometimes I'm awesome like that).]

Comments (53)

  1. My initial reaction is that he was being squeezed a bit last night which *could* lead to trying to take velocity off in order to locate. Just a thought though the Jays should certainly monitor this. He’s already coming up on the maximum innings he’s pitched since somewhere around 2010 so the wear and tear could become an issue.

    • oops should *of* read the post instead of reacting to the graph..

    • This is a good point.

    • Both Bedard and Hutchison were being squeezed by the Ump last night and it hurt both of their performances. A few strike out pitches on both sides were called balls last night. The ump was brutal last night, but at least he was consistently brutal to both sides.

  2. I think it was the ugly hats that did him in.

  3. Lets hope its nothing.
    They may have to have a “spot starter”
    here and there so that there are a few occasions
    when they can push him back or skip him.
    Sort of like the White Sox did with Chis Sale last year.

  4. maybe it’s something he’ll push through and be fine with
    maybe it’s something he’ll push through and be fine with
    maybe it’s something he’ll push through and be fine with

  5. When I watched the Texas start, I thought it was more about hitting his spots than overpowering anyone – especially with that fastball. He located it everywhere.

    I didn’t even realize the zip he had on it, as well.

  6. Delabar’s average fastball velocity is also down over 1 mph compared to 2013 (94.1 to 93) and 2.5 mph off its peak (97.8 to 95.3).

  7. Interesting observations.
    However, I refuse to entertain any scary thoughts during this ride!

  8. SwStr% down 2% from 2013 and 3.5% from 2012, but still above average.

    Getting fewer swings outside the zone and allowing the most contact since 2011.

  9. I thought there was a period after TJ where the arm is stronger than ever. Maybe he’s just past that now and the velocity is returning to normal.

    • Pretty sure that’s a myth. My understanding is that the reason the velocity “picks up” post TJ is only because the arm falling apart before the TJ surgery causes the MPH to drop severely.

      • My understanding is that, that it is partly that, and partly the fact that the pitcher has just gone through over a year of rigorous rehab, which is not otherwise common. The myth is the idea that the ligament itself is somehow stronger than before, which simply isn’t true.

        • Well, the ulnar collateral ligament is replaced with a tendon, often the patellar tendon, which is stronger than the original ligament. So it’s not necessarily a myth.

  10. let’s see how he does next start. his velocities seem pretty normal so far this year. he could jump back up another 1-2 mph next start and then this is nothing.

    • That definitely paints a different picture. Maybe the lack of sinkers in the Brooks data means that sinkers were being classified as fastballs and bringing the average down? *shrugs*

  11. I didnt get a chance to see the first part of the game but I wondered if he was injured when I saw his line. No K’s 3 dingers and 4? Walks. Looking at the velocity drop makes me wonder now. Saw similar things with Fernanedez and Ventura’s last starts. Obviously I have no clue if he is but I’m kinda worried now.

    • Your first sentence is literally insane.

    • I’m curious how a pitcher’s line would indicate an injury. Pitchers do have bad games simply because they were bad that day.

      • Really? It’s that hard to figure out? No strikeouts, poor control and 3 dingers from a pitcher that has been a strikeout pitcher with pretty good to excellent control all season long. It’s an outlier without question. Throw in the reduced velocity and it’s not a big leap to wonder if something is up. I definitely hope not.

        • It is difficult and you’d know that if you actually watched the game you’re panicking about. On Loney’s HR, he should have struck out the pitch before on a check swing. There were a ton of close pitches called balls. He couldn’t locate his fastball so absolutely nobody was offering at his slider. It was a bad game, relax.

          • Also I didn’t mean that to sound as snarky as it comes across, I get how it’s worrisome but in this case it really seems like just a case of a bad game.

  12. Hutch cannot be expected to throw anywhere near 200 innings given where he’s been the last two seasons.

    I like the idea of skipping him every now and then. Certainly doable after July 1 for 3 reasons:

    1. Morrow “could” be healthy and ready to resume starting by August (not likely);

    2. The Jays could make a trade mid-season to add a proven arm (yes please);

    3. One of Drabek (possible), Nolin (big maybe), Romero (are you fucking kidding me?), McGuire ( if he can put everything together in Buffalo) or Jenkins ( often the forgotten man) could be called up to spot start for Hutch.

    Regardless of the above scenarios, the Jays really need to add a proven arm, even if it’s a rental situation. I wouldn’t wince if Colby is traded to a team that would be willing to send us a proven arm in return.

    No way the Jays can re-sign both Melky and Colby. Hopefully, there will be enough incentive for Melky to sign a 2 or 3 year deal to stay in Toronto. Colby will be looking to ” get paid” and that scenario won’t happen in Toronto.

    So, we need to hope that Hutch can stay healthy well into late July and that the Jays find a way to add a proven arm.

    Velo drop is a concern though.

    • He threw 150 in 2011. He can certainly get close to 200.

      • I hope you are right. I would be overjoyed if he gets past 180.

        • If he stays healthy he will absolutely get past 180.

          • I wouldn’t push him. He’s an investment and another TJ would be a disaster for him and a team that needs starting pitching. Also if they can give RAD an extra day between starts once in a while why not the kid who had TJ.

    • Can we stop with this notion of trading Colby for a good pitcher? The only teams that will be interested in trading for Rasmus are contenders, and no contender is giving up a good starting pitcher.

  13. I know having more experienced pitchers isn’t anything close to a guarantee either, but one of the things that worried me the most about the Jays rotation is that outside of Buerhle and Dickey, you were hoping on 3/5 of the rotation doing what they had never/rarely done in their ML careers.

    Makes me wonder what the most prudent course is for AA and the brain trust. Go for it by taking aim for one of the top tier available pitchers; try and get a lower profile guy to fill the 3/4 spot; or cross your fingers and hope what we have in house will work. I really don’t know what the best way to go would be.

  14. I agree with Erie Whitts comments too. When you get squeezed, you certainly are not going to reel back and throw harder. Good analysis.

    Hope is arm is alright, command was the real problem, and maybe too that was a by product of being pinched in the strike zone too.

    • You don’t necessarily ease back and try to aim your pitches either. If getting squeezed, best recourse is to trust your instincts/abilities and throw as normally as possible.

      • When I pitched I absolutely would back off if I thought it would help me to get the ball over the plate. You’re right that the best thing to do is to throw like normal, but when that isn’t working its human nature to start tinkering a little.

        Clearly not comparing myself to an MLB pitcher – just relaying my experience.

  15. Not to get way ahead of things here but skipping the odd start or two, or even a 3 week DL stint at some point could be really helpful if the jays make the playoffs. Don’t think we wanna be shutting him down in September, now do we want him going 220+ innings this year (playoffs included, and not counting the 60 or so he threw in winter ball).

  16. Looks more like the last 2 starts are the prominent drop. Maybe he just wasn’t feeling so hot. Wasn’t it 3 starts ago he went CG?

  17. Good news for baseball – Ventura is only going to miss one start after a clean MRI.
    Good news for Jays – That one start will be against Toronto.

  18. Not worried yet. We do have some depth and the depth we do have has been doing well. You gotta think Kyle or stro will be ready to start this year.

  19. Remember a few weeks ago when we were blasting Gibbons over pulling starters too early, overworking the bullpen, and causing the bullpen to implode?

    Then remember when Gibbons responded by riding his starters hard, and we started seeing many 100+ pitch counts?

    Well maybe Hutchison is one of our starters that needs to be babied a little, given how he is just coming back from Tommy John Surgery.

  20. Hutch had a similar declining velocity trend in his 2nd, 3rd and 4th starts of the season and came back with his highest average velocity in his 5th start (per Fangraphs). It’s too early to draw any conclusions from this.

  21. Can we consider the humidex as a potential factor here? Air surely isn’t as dense in Texas as it is in Boston or Toronto… Was a pretty humid night last night in Toronto. Could have been a factor?

  22. So, all-star ballots are a joke and such, but:

    The only two Blue Jays who are in the top 5 of their positions so far are Jose Bautista and Melky Cabrera.

    That’s right: Edwin Encarnacion is not in the top 5 of a very weak DH position. Alfonso Soriano is above him–hello, ballot-stuffing Yankees fans. Getting past David Ortiz might be a bit of a challenge. And who knows who else is above Edwin, since we don’t actually know where he slots since they only listed the top 5. But surely we can start a drive to get Edwin Encarnacion into the All-Star Game as a starter.

    • don’t you want them to have some time off, heal minor injuries and relax? I’d be happy with no Jays in the ASG

  23. This thread is probably dead, but the update brings up a very interesting point. Those of us who use numbers to analyze baseball make a critical assumption about the validity of the collected data. I had never thought of this in the context of baseball, but clearly who or what ever judges, for instance, which pitch has been thrown, plays a huge role in the resulting statistics derived from that data. This is something I have to bear in mind from now on — are the data based on hard observations, or judgements, such as what will we name the pitch that was just thrown?

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