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).]