Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays

April is cold. We have rainouts and snowouts to prove it. Velocity and temperature are related. We have Mike Fast pointing to August as the velocity peak to prove it.

That said, April velocity loss is interesting to us. Velocity stabilizes very quickly, and the difference between April and August is on the order of a half mile per hour — some hurlers have lost more than that delta and aren’t getting it all back.

And now Bill Petti is adding two asterisks to April velocity loss that makes it even worse. Here they are:

Pitchers who are down at least 1 mph compared to April of the previous year will go on to finish the season down at least 1 mph about 38% of the time.

Pitchers that were down at least 1 mph in April had an arm injury rate of 11%. Compared to 4% for non-velocity decliners, that’s an increased likelihood of 2.6.

So, to recap: pitchers with April velocity loss are very likely to continue showing velocity that’s lower than they showed the year before, slightly likely to have the same or worse velocity loss all year, and slightly more likely to get injured. All of this sounds very relevant to fantasy owners.

Let’s look at the velocity losers, then, shan’t we? All of the pitchers that have lost at least a mile per hour on their fastballs:

Name IP 12 vFA 13 vFA Diff
CC Sabathia 43 92.4 90 -2.4
David Price 38 95.5 93.2 -2.3
Cliff Lee 35.2 91.7 89.6 -2.1
Max Scherzer 31.1 94.2 92.5 -1.7
Matt Moore 32 94.1 92.5 -1.6
Justin Verlander 39.1 94.7 93.2 -1.5
Mat Latos 39.1 92.7 91.2 -1.5
Jeremy Hellickson 31.1 91.3 89.8 -1.5
James McDonald 29.2 91.8 90.4 -1.4
Edinson Volquez 31 93.4 92.1 -1.3
Jon Niese 32.2 90.5 89.3 -1.2
Yovani Gallardo 36 91.7 90.6 -1.1
Ryan Vogelsong 30.1 90.7 89.6 -1.1
Lance Lynn 29 92.8 91.7 -1.1
Hiroki Kuroda 36 91.3 90.2 -1.1
Jake Peavy 32 90.7 89.7 -1
Joe Blanton 26.2 90.2 89.2 -1
Tommy Milone 32 87.4 86.4 -1

We’ve been talking about CC Sabathia’s velocity loss all year, so let’s just say you’ve probably made your mind up about it. We’re dealing in likelihoods here, and there’s a possibility that Sabathia is just a freak of nature, and there’s also a chance he’s improving his velocity slightly with every start. So let’s leave CC alone.

There’s some evidence that there’s little difference – at least in terms of home runs and swinging strikes – between fastballs that go 89 and fastballs that go 93, so let’s give David Price and Justin Verlander the pass, at least when it comes to reduced performance. Maybe they’re slightly more likely to get injured, but their perfomance shouldn’t suffer much.

Max Scherzer and Matt Moore are a rounding error away. But Scherzer is older (turning 29 in July), had some injury concerns coming up, and has mechanics that some don’t like. It might be a good time for a rebuilding dynasty team to cash in on him. Mat Latos dropped from slightly above the fastball velocity fray right into the middle of it, but he really doesn’t seem to be feeling any ill effects.

At the bottom end of the ideal fastball range you’ll find Joe Blanton and Tommy Milone, two pitchers that are are performing at different ends of the spectrum even if they both didn’t have great fastball velocity to begin with. With Joe Blanton struggling to put up the worst swinging strike rate of his career, this seems like too many asterisks. He’s no sleeper if all those asterisks are weighing him down. Tommy Milone, on the other hand, is doing well, but you have to keep an eye on that velocity. 86.4 mph is marginal velocity, and will keep him from being productive away from home. His changeup is only six miles per hour slower!

Being on this list can’t be great news for anyone. Some will survive, of course, some may even thrive. And velocity declines from the moment you enter the league, so this isn’t huge news in general.

But the odds are also that this group will get hurt at higher rate than the rest of the population. And that their velocity will stay lower than they showed last year, and that their production will suffer, on some level.

Comments (6)

  1. Eno, I wonder based on seeing three Rays starters near the top of the list if the Tropicana Field PITCHf/x system is measuring velocity slower than is actually present. I showed clearly last season that the horizontal movement (and vertical for that matter) are systematically shifted there, and given how PITCHf/x works, any calibration error can manifest itself in multiple outputs being off. I need to go download the 2013 PITCHf/x database and see if I can find anything out.

    May be nothing, but could be something, ya know?

  2. I believe at least 2 or 3 of scherzers starts were in sub optimal weather environments.

  3. The pitchers on the chart are mostly quite good, much better than the average pitcher. Not sure why this would be, just an observation.

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