Starting Pitcher Velocity Changes Update

A little over a month ago, I compared the early 2011 average fastball velocity of starting pitchers with their 2010 marks. Looking back, I realize that was quite an early look, only about a week and a half into the season. So after another month of baseball having been played, it is time for an update. Monitoring velocity changes is very important for two reasons: 1) they sometimes hint at a hidden injury and 2) according to this research, every increase or decrease of one mile per hour for a starting pitcher’s average fastball velocity equates to a change of about 0.25 runs allowed per nine innings in that direction.

Tim Lincecum remains at the top as the starter whose velocity has increased the most this year. The jump has helped contribute to a career high K/9 so far, and a SwStk% that is tied with his high set in 2008. So much for the worries after his velocity had dropped every year since his 2007 debut.

Madison Bumgarner = excellent buy low target. He is currently winless and sporting a 4.25 ERA and poor 1.42 WHIP, but has posted a 3.41 xFIP. Unfortunately, his SwStk% and Contact% are worse than league average, so his increased velocity has not had a significant effect on his ability to punch out hitters. Still, with a decent strikeout rate, good control and a GB% above 50%, he is someone to look into acquiring, especially in keeper leagues, as he could very well come at a nice discount.

Though Ricky Romero’s velocity has improved from last year, it is merely just a rebound back to his 2009 level. Still, his strikeout rate is up, he has generated more swinging strikes and he is continuing to induce tons of ground balls. He still lacks the track record and name value as others with worse skill sets so he is another you may be able to trade for at his possibly lower perceived value relative to his potential actual value.

Daniel Hudson has remained in this top five and his xFIP is nearly identical to what it was after his trade to the Diamondbacks last season. Of course, a completely 180 in luck has caused his ERA to jump over 2.5 runs, but his skills are strong and his ERA should dip below 4.00 once his BABIP and LOB% improve.

It was fairly obvious to me that after being one of the biggest Justin Masterson fans last year, he would open this season the way I expected him to pitch all of last year. He is pitching nearly the same as last year, with the exception of improved control, which is fine since all he needed was better luck to see his ERA drop below 4.00. However, he still rarely throws his change-up, and is having the same issues versus lefties again, as they have posted a .394 BABIP against him. If his change-up could ever improve to the point he starts throwing it more often, he could be a dark horse Cy Young candidate, but until then, he will be a risky start against lefty-heavy lineups.

Recently, David Golebiewski wrote about Wade Davis’ new pitching approach and how his strong results cannot possibly last if he keeps up this so-called pitching to contact philosophy. I completely agree and would therefore advise his fantasy owners to send out the trade offers and try their best to sell him high.

It is a surprise to find Gavin Floyd’s name above as he has pitched fantastically so far, having posted career bests in both K/9 and BB/9. However, his SwStk% and Contact% are slightly worse than in the past several years so I would expect his K/9 to drop below 8.0 as a result. Though, he is throwing his curve ball and sliders more frequently this season at the expense of his fastball, which has led to a career best called strike percentage. So maybe his increased K/9 is actually sustainable, if he continues with this altered pitch mix. Still, the decreased velocity remains a slight concern.

Josh Tomlin’s velocity has dropped 1.9 MPH, and yet he has posted a 2.70 ERA so far. Tomlin could thank the luck gods for his generous helping of good fortune in the form of a .170 BABIP and 87.3% LOB%. If you could find an AL-Only owner who thinks Tomlin will continue to sustain decent fantasy value, go trade him now!

At least Jeff Francis is offsetting his putrid strikeout rate and pathetic average velocity with pinpoint control and a 50% ground ball rate. Though his ERA should certainly improve, the microscopic K/9 limits his fantasy upside, so he is not worth gambling on if he is sitting in your AL-Only free agent pool.

We do not yet have the velocity data from yesterday’s game, but so far Clay Buchholz’s velocity has not improved and remains well below his average speed last year. It is good to see his strikeout rate improving though, as he has posted a 7.1 mark over his last four starts, while walking just six batters. As disappointing as he has been, his 3.94 ERA is actually below his 4.40 xFIP thanks to an unsustainable 81.1% LOB%. Ten days ago I advised fantasy owners not to buy low, but as is usual when attempting to give blanket fantasy advice for every league, it really depends on what you would have to give up to acquire him.

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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Zach Piso
12 years ago

I’m just wondering if there is a correlation between the depth into a season and a pitcher’s average fastball velocity. Later in the season, after the normal wear and tear begins to burden a pitcher, does their fastball lose velocity? I have just always expected that, once stretched out, pitchers will start the season with more on their fastball than their average at the end of the season. Is this so though?