8 Starting Pitcher Velocity Gainers

We know that the average pitcher gains velocity as the season wears on, typically adding around a mile an hour by the end of the year versus where he began. But, obviously, not every pitcher follows that pattern. So it would be beneficial to learn which pitchers have gained significant velocity month-to-month, as it might portend improved results. Let’s discuss eight starting pitchers who have gained the most velocity from May to June.

To make it easier for me, I used the Pitch Type velocities, since use percentage and velocity is in the same table. I then threw out all the off-speed pitches, keeping only the fastball, cutter, and splitter. Last, I determined which was the most thrown pitch and used that velocity to compare each month. No one used the splitter most frequently, so it was mostly the fastball with some cutter heavy pitchers sprinkled in. Sadly, no cutter throwers made the top eight.

June Velocity Gainers
Name Jun FBv (mph) May FBv (mph) Diff
Kevin Gausman 95.2 93.4 1.8
Eric Lauer 91.5 89.9 1.6
Michael Fulmer 96.8 95.6 1.2
Zack Wheeler 96.3 95.2 1.1
Ian Kennedy 92.7 91.7 1.0
David Price 93.4 92.5 0.9
Gio Gonzalez 89.8 88.9 0.9
Luis Castillo 95.9 95.1 0.8

After posting a 3.41 second half ERA, Kevin Gausman was a popular sleeper in drafts this season. Instead, his ERA has risen each month, despite the lowest SIERA of his career. And this increased velocity hasn’t even helped him, as his June ERA stands at 5.09! However, it does show in his strikeout rate, which has surged from its typical low-20% range to 28.2% in the month, while he has been as stingier as ever with the base on balls. Crazily, his ERA has skyrocketed as his xFIP has declined. I’m buying.

I would say that Eric Lauer needed this velocity bump just to stick around in the Majors. He’s posted strong SwStk% and strikeout rates in the minors, but that hasn’t translated to the Majors. Soft-tossers typically have a tougher time translating those lofty minor league strikeout rates. Unlike Gausman, Lauer’s ERA has dipped below 3.00 in June on the heels of the velocity bump, those his strikeout rate sits between his April (just eight innings) and May. I probably wouldn’t even take the ratio risk in an NL-Only league.

How does a guy who throws in the mid-to-high 90s like Michael Fulmer post such pedestrian strikeout rates? His underlying skills remain soft and his ERA has finally almost caught up to his SIERA, as his BABIP slowly increases toward the league average. There’s gotta be a strikeout rate spike in here at some point, but only then would I be interested in fantasy.

Zack Wheeler’s velocity bump is nice to see as you just never know how healthy he is. He’s another guy you’d expect his velocity to translate to a better strikeout rate. His June ERA sits below 4.00 for the first time, but his strikeout rate has tumbled below 20%, also for the first time. What an enigma.

Well, gosh, if there’s anything whatsoever to make me optimistic that Ian Kennedy won’t finish with an ERA over 5.00 again, maybe it’s this velocity jump. His velocity actually looks great and 92.7 is higher than he has ever averaged in a season. Of course, it hasn’t helped his strikeout rate, nor his ERA, but at least there’s some glimmer of hope. It can’t get worse, right?! Somehow, some way, I’m still holding in AL Tout Wars.

It’s good to see David Price here after returning from injury, as he has been excellent in June, posting a sub-3.00 ERA, supported by his best monthly strikeout rate. If healthy, he should easily return to top 20 starter status.

Gio Gonzalez’s velocity was way down earlier in the year, so this is him merely getting back to where he should have been. He has once again made a mockery of the various expected ERA metrics, maintaining a better than average HR/FB rate and stranding every baserunner in sight. The luck could turn at any time, so I’m not a fan.

Remember when Luis Castillo was drafted as if he was an established veteran who has been a strong fantasy performer for years? Now he sits with an ERA nearing 6.00, and a 4.17 SIERA confirms that it’s not all bad luck, but weaker skills versus last year. Oddly, his SwStk% has spiked to an elite 14%, yet his strikeout rate has tumbled. Although the velocity jump is good, it’s still a mile and a half less than what he averaged last year. I like him long-term and at this point, he probably makes an excellent buy low in keeper leagues. You simply cannot ignore a 14% SwStk%.

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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5 years ago

Pods, cool article. But, you’ll notice Orioles starters as a whole have the largest discrepancy between SIERA and ERA. Why? Terrible defense and terrible bullpen. Until those change I would steer clear of Os.