Starting Pitcher Fastball Velocity Decliners – 7/30/20

On Tuesday, I shared and discussed the starting pitchers that have suffered the largest declines in their fastball velocity compared with 2019. A significant drop in fastball velocity could be a warning sign of injury, and already one decliner, Reynaldo Lopez, has hit the IL. Today, I’m going to update the list again with starters who have pitched since my last post. Once again, these are the starters whose “Pitch Type” fastball velocity has decreased by at least one mile per hour versus last year.

Velocity Decliners
Name 2019 FBv 2020 FBv Diff
Mike Foltynewicz 94.9 90.5 -4.4
Mike Montgomery 91.7 89.1 -2.6
Homer Bailey 93.0 91.1 -1.9
Jeff Samardzija 91.9 90.0 -1.9
Wade Miley 90.5 88.6 -1.9
Tanner Roark 92.1 90.5 -1.6
Griffin Canning 93.9 92.4 -1.5
Chris Bassitt 93.5 92.0 -1.5
Austin Voth 92.8 91.4 -1.4
Kyle Gibson 93.3 92.1 -1.2
Justus Sheffield 92.9 91.7 -1.2
Aaron Civale 92.6 91.4 -1.2
Anibal Sanchez 90.5 89.5 -1.0
Jon Lester 90.3 89.3 -1.0

I’m not sure what’s more shocking, that the Braves DFA’d Mike Foltynewicz or that his velocity was down 4.4 MPH. We haven’t heard any word of his health status amid the velocity decline, but the Braves decision suggests he can’t be right. Even if he latches on with another team, I couldn’t imagine starting him in his next start.

Mike Montgomery was never much of a strikeout pitcher, with his best skill coming from inducing grounders. But now failing to average even 90 MPH, there’s simply no room for error. If you took a chance in an AL-Only league, I’d opt for a middle reliever instead, unless you want to wait one more start to see if his velocity rebounds.

This velocity would tie Homer Bailey for the lowest of his career. He hasn’t been a fantasy asset since 2014, and I don’t expect that to change in a hitter friendly home venue at age 34 with down velocity.

There was a time when I was holding out hope that Jeff Samardzija velocity would rebound and his electric stuff would return. Yeah, that’s clearly not happening. His only saving grace was his home park, but that was made a bit less pitcher friendly in the offseason and now he’s fighting to keep his velocity above 90 MPH. Also, his run support figures to be horrid. Not even an NL West-only league option.

It’s going to be much more difficult for Wade Miley to significantly outperform his SIERA and underlying skills again with his velocity down below 90 MPH for the first time. I thought he was overvalued to begin with given his good fortune last year, and now he should be nowhere near your team. He hasn’t posted a SIERA below 4.66 since 2016.

Early on in his career, Tanner Roark was one of those “soft contact” guys that kept posting below average BABIP marks that everyone rushed to validate as a maintainable skill. Welp, whether he ever owned the skill or not, it’s clearly gone, as his BABIP has been league average or worse from 2017-2019 and his ERAs have surged above 4.00. Give me a middle reliever, even in an AL-Only league.

I’m disappointed to find Griffin Canning’s name on this list as he was one of my favorite buys this year. In fact, I own him on three of four teams. The late state to the season gave him more time to recover from his elbow injury, but perhaps he still hasn’t fully recovered. Or, he’s just dealing with the same issues many of the pitchers on the down velocity are in that the shortened training period didn’t give them enough time to build that velocity up. Even with the down velocity, he induced tons of swings and misses, primarily coming on his slider and curveball.

You would never guess that Chris Bassitt’s velocity was down as he was dominant in his first start. However, his velocity situation isn’t so bad, as last year it spiked, so this season he’s merely back to where he had been. He should earn some AL-Only value.

Austin Voth was a popular deeper league sleeper, but he did almost the impossible in his first start. Even though the results (two runs over five innings) were fine, he only generated one swinging strike out of 70 pitches! That’s brutal.

In 2018, Kyle Gibson enjoyed a velocity spike, and he bumped it up again last year. It’s no surprise that a strikeout rate surge resulted from the increased velocity. This year, his velocity is back to his pre-2018 days. If it stays that way, it’s bad news for his strikeout rate.

Noooooo, not Justus Sheffield! He’s on all four of my teams. Not only was his velocity down, but he also couldn’t find the strike zone. I might only give him one more start to see if his velocity rebounds and his control returns or he’ll likely get jettisoned from my teams. Though I can’t be sure what I will do in my two AL-Only leagues, as it’ll likely be a decision between him and a middle reliever.

Even with down velocity, Aaron Civale dominated in his first start. He decided to throw the entire kitchen sink, showcasing five different pitches. He mightily outperformed his poor SIERA last year, so he’ll need to significantly improve his underlying skills just to keep a sub-4.00 ERA.

Anibal Sanchez also didn’t need velocity to generate tons of whiffs. Unfortunately, with awful skills last year, he’ll once again need serious BABIP luck to post another sub-4.00 ERA without a massive improvement in those skills. Down velocity doesn’t seem like a great way to improve those skills, so I’m not very optimistic.

Gosh, I thought Austin Voth’s 1.4% SwStk% in his first start was bad, Jon Lester is actually jealous! He only generated one swing and miss, but threw 76 pitches. I think this is the end for Lester and I wouldn’t even want to own him in an NL-Only league.

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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these FB velocities are for four seams only? No decreases due to greater percentage of cutters or sinkers?