6 Starting Pitcher Velocity Decliners

A week ago, I listed and discussed eight starting pitchers who have enjoyed the biggest jumps in fastball velocity. As the weather warms, velocity rises on average, so we would expect the typical starter to post an average velocity higher in June than May. But that isn’t the case for everyone, of course. So let’s discuss six whose fastball velocity is actually down from May. It’s not an automatic red flag or sign of injury, but it’s something to monitor as it could lead to performance decline.

June Velocity Decliners
Name June FBv (mph) May FBv (mph) Diff
Mike Foltynewicz 96.3 97.1 -0.8
Dylan Covey 93.6 94.1 -0.5
Jon Gray 94.7 95.2 -0.5
Clayton Richard 89.9 90.4 -0.5
Sean Newcomb 92.8 93.2 -0.4
Cole Hamels 91.4 91.8 -0.4

Mike Foltynewicz easily tops our list and he may have an excuse, as he hit the DL with right triceps tightness. Who knows how long that affected him and whatever it robbed him of some velocity. What’s interesting if you look at his velocity game log, he sat in the 95 to low-96 mph range in his first five starts, then his average velocity bumped up to 97 to 98 and he maintained that for six straight starts. As soon as the calendar flipped to June, his velocity dipped back to the low-96 range. Aside from the injury concern, I’m worried about the sustainability of his underlying skills. How does a pitcher manage a 28.4% strikeout rate with a below average SwStk% mark?! He’s been super BABIP lucky and stranding runners at an unsustainable rate. His SIERA suggests some major ERA downside, and that is based on a strikeout rate that there’s little chance he could maintain. Sell sell sell.

I discussed Dylan Covey in Tuesday’s Cold Potato article, as he was the most dropped player in CBS leagues. Aside from running a SIERA nearly a run higher than his actual ERA, his velocity is down a bit, and that velocity spike was one of the reasons for optimism. I’d rather a middle reliever in AL-Only leagues.

In all my years of playing fantasy baseball, I have rarely owned a Rockies starting pitcher. But man, this is some craziness in Jon Gray’s performance! The good includes a career best strikeout rate and SwStk%, but he has also allowed an inflated LD%. You can’t even blame his disappointing season on Coors, as his LD% is significantly higher away and his ERA is in the mid-5.00 range both home and away. The velocity loss is a concern, as he was already down from last year’s 96 mph average, so sitting below 95 brings him to his lowest mark since his 2015 debut. Given his home park, he’s expecting to underperform his expected ERA metrics, but obviously not by this much. Still, it’s hard to recommend a buy here in shallow leagues. I’d take a shot in NL-Only leagues though.

Did you know that Clayton Richard is currently sporting a career best strikeout rate and SwStk%?! That comes with his typical near-60% ground ball rate, pushing his SIERA below 4.00 for the first time, outside his shortened 2015 season. He has never been a big velocity guy, but once you get below 90, your margin for error really decreases. It’s hard to believe he can sustain that strikeout rate surge, though ratcheting up his slider usage certainly explains it.

I’m none too pleased to find my man Sean Newcomb on this list, especially as he continues to walk the tight rope with a suppressed BABIP and HR/FB rate. I feel like this might end up being the opportune time to shop him around.

Cole Hamels‘ velocity is down yet again, but his strikeout rate has fully rebounded from last year’s collapse. His SwStk% is also more of less back to normal. I’d still worry though if I were an owner given a continued velocity loss in June.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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3 years ago

Thank you for the excellent article, Mike. I see lots of value in undertaking such an exercise with relievers, too. Do you agree?