Yesterday I analyzed the ultra small sample size of one outing when discussing four starting pitchers. But that’s kinda okay because fastball velocity stabilizes quickly and instantly provides useful information. Since I don’t know what else one writes about a week and a half into the season, let’s talk about a couple of more names with regards to fastball velocity.
In the preseason, I was teetering on whether Carlos Martinez was the next Carlos Carrasco and on the verge of a major breakout or a deceiving choice for such a label. He seemingly has all the underlying skills, with the strikeout and ground ball rates, along with the mid-90s fastball and devastating curve/slider. But his serious struggles versus lefties left me thinking that he wasn’t there just yet.
Fast forward to a relief outing last week, his 2015 debut, and his fastball velocity was way down. His four-seamer, which sat at 96.7 mph last year, averaged just 92.8 mph. That’s down nearly four miles per hour! And since it was in relief, we couldn’t even use the reliever to starter velocity decline excuse. He made his first start on Sunday and his velocity was somewhat better. His four-seamer was up marginally, but his two-seamer rose from 91.9 mph to 94.4 mph. That’s still down from last year’s 95.5 mph though.
This is concerning of course. And already lefties have posted a .470 wOBA against him. It’s come in just 18 plate appearances, so this is the tiniest of samples. But when the knock against him coming into the year was his inability to get lefties out, and already lefties have battered him, we have a problem. I don’t know what to think anymore, because it seems like at any point, the light bulb could go on and he could dominate. He has such vast upside, I just can’t recommend moving on, even in shallower leagues.
Hahn was a favorite sleeper of many after his strong debut with the Padres last season. I was rather optimistic in my projection as well, forecasting him for much greater success than Steamer did. But he was basically a two-pitch pitcher, with mediocre fastball velocity and just that killer curve ball. Now, however, both his two-seam and four-seam velocities are up, with the former jumping by about a mile and a half and the latter about two. It hasn’t actually led to strikeouts though, as two starts in, he has posted just a 10.2% strikeout rate.
The two-seamer, up nearly two miles per hour, has induced swinging strikes at less than half the rate it did last year! And out of 26 four-seamers has has thrown, he has generated exactly zero swings and misses. Perhaps a less effective curve ball is also affecting his fastball. And vice versa. They likely work in tandem. The risk here is that he relied on that curve and if hitters adjusted, he could be in trouble. With just two walks issued and a 50% ground ball rate, he has still managed to post a good ERA so far. But there is real risk here, and since he threw just 115 innings last season, it’s hard to imagine him exceeding the 150 plateau.
Peavy made his 2015 debut on Sunday after back issues and allowed four runs in just four innings. His fastball, which has steadily declined since peaking in the 92 to 93 mph range, fell below the 90 mph mark for the first time last year. In his first start, he averaged just 88.8 with his four-seamer. As a fly baller, he’s lucky he now calls AT&T Park home, as the home run isn’t going to absolutely kill him. But with down velocity, his strikeout rate could follow, which is going to increase his balls in play, and nearly guarantee he allows more than a homer per nine once again.
His control remains sterling though so he’s not completely useless. And it’s reasonable to believe that if he is fully recovered from his back issues, his velocity rebounds, at least somewhat. I drafted him in the reserve round of my shallow 12-team mixed league and am wondering if he’ll earn any value in this format. He may prove to be merely an NL-Only asset at this point.
No one still owns Lincecum in a fantasy league, right? I included him here because I wanted to just remind you all of what a sad, sad story things have become. Once an absolute delight to watch with excellent velocity and killer secondary pitches, Lincecum has transformed into a completely unrecognizable alternative being. Check out this unfortunate velocity trend:
Yes, his velocity during his first outing barely averaged above 87 mph. EIGHTY SEVEN MILES PER HOUR. TIM LINCECUM! What. The. Heck. Happened. To. You? Seriously, I want to know what happened to him. How did he lose velocity so quickly? It doesn’t seem like normal velocity decline.
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.