Starting Pitcher Fastball Velocity Increasers — Apr 4, 2023

While it’s far, far too early to evaluate the majority of statistics generated during the season so far, there are a few that already provide meaningful information. One of those data points is pitcher velocity. All else being equal, a faster fastball could work wonders for a pitcher’s performance, while a slower fastball could either signal an injury or a decline in results. It’s never too early to check in on starting pitcher fastball velocities, even after just one start. So let’s identify the starting pitchers with the biggest jumps in fastball velocity versus 2022.

Fastball Velocity Increasers
Player 2022 Velocity* 2023 Velocity* Diff
Mike Clevinger 92.0 94.3 2.3
Pablo López 92.7 95.0 2.3
Dean Kremer 90.9 93.1 2.2
Shohei Ohtani 95.8 97.8 2.0
Framber Valdez 92.1 93.8 1.7
Hunter Greene 98.9 100.4 1.5
Jesús Luzardo 96.1 97.3 1.2
*Aggregate of Fastball (4-Seam), Sinker (2-Seam), and Cutter from Statcast to account for pitchers with different primary fastballs and make for easier comparisons

Remember that velocity tends to increase as the season progresses, so April velocity will generally be the lowest average for a pitcher. That makes it even more impressive that these pitchers have already seen significant increases versus last year, which includes all games, and not just a potentially lower April mark.

Mike Clevinger missed all of the 2021 season after recovering from TJ surgery, and returned in 2022, but disappointed with his worst ERA since his 2016 debut. His strikeout rate collapsed and his fastball velocity was back to levels he posted before enjoying a spike back in 2019 that lasted for two seasons. This year, his velocity has partially rebounded closer to his peak, which is a very good sign. He came extremely cheap in the leagues I participate in, so the profit potential here is big.

Pablo López was one of the starters whose velocity was up during spring training and it’s carried over to the regular season. This mark represents a career high average and reverse the downtrend he had been experiencing over the last couple of seasons. He was already very solid before this spike, but perhaps this gets him to an even higher level if he could sustain the surge. With an already strong changeup, the increased velocity could possible make it even better. It also appears he may be throwing a new slider now at the expense of a little used cutter, and his changeup. That slider generated a whopping 40% SwStk% in 20 pitches. Man, I wish I owned shares here.

Even though he posted a sterling 3.23 ERA last year (something I didn’t even realize!), he didn’t any draft day love, as he wasn’t even rostered in AL Tout Wars! I think everyone automatically just fades Orioles pitchers, even though their ballpark is now much friendlier for pitchers. Kremer’s underlying skills weren’t very good last year though as he vastly overperformed his SIERA. However, the velocity on both his four-seamer and cutter (he actually throws a four-seamer, sinker, and cutter!) were up meaningfully so far in his first start, which could transform him into a pitcher we actually all want to own. The increased velocity didn’t show up his strikeout rate of run prevention in his short first start, but he did induce a 12.5% SwStk%, so it looks like just bad sequencing and luck that he only struck out 20% of batters faced. If he could maintain the increased velocity in his next start, I’m now very interested.

C’mon Shohei Ohtani, you’re already unfairly good, do you really need even more velocity?! Part of the increase here is due to Statcast determining he only threw his four-seamer during his first start, whereas his 2022 includes a much lower velocity cutter. So you can mostly ignore his name here, but just be reminded that this is a human being who is amazingly so good at both pitching and hitting a baseball.

As a sinker-baller who generates tons of grounders, Framber Valdez has never been an elite strikeout artist, but perhaps this year he could push that mark up due to an uptick in velocity. Last year, he experienced a surge to a career higher, so this is yet another step up. The increased velocity failed to lead to a higher SwStk% mark or strikeout rate during his first start, but perhaps he gets that strikeout rate back into the mid-20% range like he posted in 2020.

LOL at Hunter Greene averaging over 100 MPH with his fastball. Weirdly, he generated just a microscopic 6% SwStk% in his first start, but somehow still managed to strike out a whopping 44.4% of batters faced. Normally, I would be concerned by the fact he’s a two-pitch guy, featuring a four-seamer and slider, that might struggle against lefties. But he was actually better against lefties than righties last year, going by wOBA against, and underlying skills. It will be interesting to see how his ERA tracks with his xERA and SIERA, both of which were significantly better last year.

Buying into a Jesús Luzardo breakout last year after a spring training velocity surge was one of my big wins, at least until he got hurt. Now, he’s enjoying yet another velocity bump and is now officially above his 2019 debut mark. What I love here is that he’s not just a good fastball guy, he actually sported two pitches, his slider and changeup, with SwStk% marks around 20%, to go along with that mid-to-upper 90s fastball. And during his first start, all four of his pitches generated double digit SwStk% marks! I think I’m in love.

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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1 year ago

I watched Kremer’s start. Velo it awesome but his command was really bad. He looked defeated everytime someone hit one of his fastballs.