Mining the Box Scores

Read first before freaking out

I started digging into pitch velocities and documented everyone who has changed. Two trends immediately appeared. The overall velocities were down and a few pitchers experienced major drops.

Normally in Spring Training, teams build a pitcher up to their maximum velocity and then start increasing the innings. At this point, all starters should have been ramped up to a full workload with their next start being in the regular season. Many don’t seem ready.

First off, I’m a little suspect of the velocity reading. Back in 2017, MLB installed new pitch-tracking systems and the velocities were high. A new system has been installed (Hawkeye) so something will likely be off. It is the MLB who can’t find a home for a team and decides to expand the playoffs with the season starting … that day. MLB going to MLB.

A second possible cause could the unique ramp up to the 2020 season. Teams have implemented different approaches to keeping their pitchers ready. Some of the velocities are down 5 mph from two separate parks. Maybe the pitchers are still worn down from the long postseason and four-month quarantine. Of the cameras are off. Or both.

Fastball velocities are down for a reason, but the cause(s) remains unknown. Fantasy owners need to remain calm and hopefully, in a few days, the truth will be known.

American League

Angels

• If there was any pitcher who can be compared to the Lucas Giolito’s 2019 transformation, it’s Hansel Robles. He added velocity, maximized his pitch mix, and threw more strikes. The velocity gains and then some more could be gone.

In his appearances, he lost so much velocity that the computer algorithm or intern determining pitch classifications broke with misclassification everywhere.

7/20/20

7/22/20

First, there was a 92.8 mph “slider”, then an 84.9 slider, and finally a 93 mph fastball. Something is off with his fastball pitch coming in at 94.6 mph. I did my best to classify all the pitches and his average fastball velocity dropped to 93.6 mph. Of the 295 regular-season games he’s appeared in, he’s averaged that low of velocity just nine times with all but one coming in the first half of 2016.

He’s been able to maintain a constant strikeout rate with lower velocities but I wonder if he’s hurt or just not ready for the season. While he did get all three outs via the strikeout, he walked a batter, threw a wild pitch, and allow a hit in the appearance throwing 14 strikes compared to 11 balls.

I’m not throwing the red flag yet, but the yellow flag is waiving.

• With Anthony Rendon out, David Fletcher has led off with Tommy La Stella batting fifth.

Astros

• On the 21st, Carlos Correa hit sixth without Yordan Alvarez in the lineup.

Athletics

Mark Canha is batting sixth.

Indians

Brad Hand has been slowly adding velocity but not near his 2019 levels. Last season, he averaged 92.7 mph on his fastball. A few days ago he could barely get over 90 mph.

Yesterday, he was around 91 mph.

Continuously monitor.

Rangers

Royals

• On the 21st, my 2020 heartthrob, Ryan McBroom, hit third.

Tigers

• In two innings of work, Michael Fulmer averaged 93.0 mph on his fastball. He missed all of last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery but in 2018 his fastball averaged 95.8 mph. His fantasy impact is minimal since Fulmer is expected to be an opener this season.

Twins

• Yesterday, Max Kepler hit eighth against a lefty.

White Sox

Carlos Rodón’s fastball velocity was all over the place.

He only averaged 91.5 mph last season and 93 mph the season before, so several 95’s popping up is interesting.

National League

Brewers

• With Ryan Braun in the lineup, Avisaíl García is batting 5th and Justin Smoak 6th.

Cardinals

• Yesterday, Tommy Edman led off with Matt Carpenter batting second.

Harrison Bader is batting ninth and will head to the bench once Dylan Carlson is promoted.

Cubs

• Yesterday, Ian Happ led off with Kris Bryant out (back).

Giants

Wilmer Flores has hit second in the last two games.

Marlins

Corey Dickerson hit third in the final two games. A cheap accumulator in deeper leagues.

Nationals

Stephen Strasburg’s average fastball velocity over the first three innings was 91.6 mph and would be his third yearly drop in a row (95.6 to 94.5 to 93.9 to 91.6). Despite the drop, he’s been able to maintain his overall effectiveness by not throwing his fastball as much (57% to 52% to 52% to 48%). His fastball swinging-strike rate has hovered around 8% to 10% but in a limited sample of 92 mph fastballs, the rate gets cut in half.

Padres

• In the last two games, Jurickson Profar has hit fifth. He did improve in the second half of last season with improved plate discipline and hitting the ball hard in the air.

Pirates

Adam Frazier has been batting third. Frazier is an under-appreciated accumulator whose talent I find comparable to several hitters going before him in drafts.

Kevin Newman is leading off with Jarrod Dyson batting ninth.

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Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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Jim
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Jim

More great work, Jeff.