NL Starting Pitcher Velocity Changes

On Thursday, I discussed the American League starting pitchers who have experienced the largest changes in their fastball velocity since last season. Although still extremely early, and at a time where velocities are at their lowest points of the season, the data stabilizes rather quickly and still provides a ton of insight. Today we’ll check in on the National Leaguers.

Name 2014 FBv 2013 FBv Diff
Brandon McCarthy 93.0 90.8 2.2
Jorge de la Rosa 93.0 91.1 1.9
Ryan Vogelsong 90.4 89.0 1.4
Aaron Harang 90.9 89.8 1.1
Johnny Cueto 93.5 92.5 1.0
Ian Kennedy 91.3 90.3 1.0
Jose Fernandez 95.7 94.9 0.8
Josh Beckett 92.8 92.0 0.8

Even with the best velocity of his career, Brandon McCarthy has been unable to generate additional swinging strikes. Actually, his sinker’s SwStk% has doubled over the past two seasons, but his cutter and curve ball are weak enough offerings, that his strikeout rate hasn’t benefited. There is a lot to like here though, including a sky high ground ball rate and elite control. The added velocity at least offers hope of some strikeout upside, so buy low in NL-Only leagues while his HR/FB rate stands at a ridiculous 41.7% and his LOB% sits below 50%.

I have been asked several times over the past couple of days as to whether Aaron Harang is worth a pick up. My knee-jerk reaction was to respond in a snark way with “are you kidding me??”. But his velocity is up, he enjoyed another good start and now he’s back in the National League. Before last year’s disaster that was really just marred by a low LOB%, he posted back-to-back sub-4.00 ERAs. I guess he becomes a streamer option in 12-team mixed leagues if you’re really craving the possibility of a couple of extra strikeouts or a win. Other than that, I’d still leave him for NL-Only leaguers.

I decided to go more than five deep on this list, primarily to discuss how unfair it was that Jose Fernandez is throwing even harder than last year. It’s absurd to think that a 21-year-old could be the best pitcher in the National League…heck, perhaps even in all of baseball. But that may actually be the case.

It’s excellent news that Josh Beckett’s velocity was at its highest mark since 2011 in his first start returning from surgery to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome. Amazingly, he’s posted an ERA of at least 4.65 in three of his last four seasons. But most of that appears to be bad luck. I think he could deliver value in 12-team mixed leagues and would scoop him up if available.

Tyson Ross 91.6 94.3 -2.7
Taylor Jordan 90.0 92.0 -2.0
Wandy Rodriguez 87.5 89.4 -1.9
Charlie Morton 91.1 92.8 -1.7
Jenrry Mejia 90.5 92.1 -1.6

Depending on the competitiveness of your leaguemates, Tyson Ross was one of my favorite sleepers this season. His velocity and SwStk% jumped last year and he’s an extreme ground ball pitcher who calls a pitcher’s park home. But now three starts in, and his velocity is down. That velocity surge was one of the main reasons I liked him so much as it made his slider better and could compensate for his so-so control. If he’s back to averaging 92-93 mph again for good, I’m not as optimistic.

Taylor Jordan is no longer a sleeper deluxe if he’s only throwing 90 mph. It’s still too early to figure who is going to lose their rotation spot between he and Tanner Roark when Doug Fister returns, but at this point, it would be Jordan.

It’s a good thing the Mets organization used their brains for a change and decided to name Jenrry Mejia their fifth starter, rather than Daisuke Matsuzaka. But coming off surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow, Mejia’s velocity is down on the season on the whole. The good news is that his fastball was up 1.8 mph in his second start over his first, so it looks like it was just a first start thing. His stuff has been fantastic and he induces tons of grounders. The only concern is with his walk rate, but his overall strike percentage is well above the league average, so his high walk rate looks like a short-term fluke.

We hoped you liked reading NL Starting Pitcher Velocity Changes by Mike Podhorzer!

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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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K men
Guest
K men

Tyson Ross was at 93 yesterday which is in line with last year’s April and may velo. You think he’ll turn it up again in th summer or unlikely?

RaiseJolly
Guest
RaiseJolly

It was actually at 94.3 with a max of 96.7 via pitch fx

phillipsmc
Member
phillipsmc

And his slowest game was at Cleveland, which appears to be reporting low velocities across the board — check Masterson, Kluber, & Carrasco’s data.

randplaty
Guest
randplaty

The issue with Ross is inconsistent mechanics. He’s always had inconsistent mechanics. If he can get his mechanics back to where they were last year, he’ll pitch with the same velo.