Velocity Decliners: Teheran, Godley, Leake, & Eickhoff

Pitchers who lose velocity early in the season get noticed immediately and get an “injury” or “something’s wrong” label. This late in the season, velocity changes can come in as noise as pitchers have 20 games of good numbers to even out the results. Here are a few pitchers seeing a recent drop in their velocity whose owners might not have noticed.

Julio Teheran (-2.1 mph on sinker, slider)

Teheran has been unstartable this season (4.90 ERA, 5.27 FIP) and it’s not just being unlucky in BABIP (.276, .275 career average). His struggles come down to allowing a career high number of walks (3.4 BB/9) and home runs (1.7 HR/9) since becoming a full-time starter in 2013. At the same time, his strikeouts are at a career low (7.2 K/9).

I’m not surprised that in this juiced ball era, his flyball nature has led to a home run spike. His heavy flyball nature has helped lead to his lower than expected BABIP. A few extra balls, leaving the park can be expected but coupling those home runs with a high walk rate has led to a disastrous season. But it seems like he’s turning it around. Kind of.

This past month, his results have been reasonable with a 4.15 ERA, 3.49 FIP, and a season best 16% K%-BB%. All this “improvement” has happened while his velocity is down. Maybe the improved results are closer to his true talent level but I don’t expect improved results with this velocity sliding backward.

I could see experts begin to recommend him as a late season two-start streaming pitcher. I would try to find other options.

Zack Godley (-1.2 mph on sinker)

I almost didn’t mention Godley as his drop was mainly down because he averaged 91.0 mph in his last start. But the long season may be taking a toll on him. In the first half (2.58 ERA), his fastball velocity averaged 92.3 mph and in the second half (3.99 ERA) it’s down to 91.5 mph.

My worry with Godley is if he will wear down during the season’s last month. He’s near his career high in innings pitched (155 IP in ’16, 145 IP in ’17). While I would continue to start Godley, I feel his owners need to monitor each of starts to see if he has the endurance to keep his production up.

Mike Leake (-1.7 mph on sinker)

Any rational person saw a Leake regression coming when in this season’s first half he posted a 3.12 ERA. No one expected it to balloon to 6.90 in the second half (4.21 on the season). Leake has a career 4.02 ERA which was in line with his first half FIP (3.94) and xFIP (3.83) and overall ERA.

The problem with Leake is when his velocity began dropping, so did his strikeouts which peaked at 6.8 K/9 in April and was 5.7 K/9 in August. Additionally, his WHIP went from 1.15 in the season’s first half to 1.76 in the second half. All signs point to Leake’s value dropping but not to 6.90 ERA bad.

His second-half 4.89 FIP and 4.41 xFIP point to his new value being around the 4.50 ERA level. This talent level is not playable in most league formats. In my 15-team Tout Wars league, the last place team has a 4.50 ERA. It’s just not at the desired production for continuous improvement. He’s a matchup pitcher for the rest of the season.

Jerad Eickhoff (-1.3 mph on fastball, -2.3 on season)

Eickhoff has never lived up to his perceived potential he flashed in 2015 when he posted a 2.65 ERA (3.25 FIP) in eight starts. He hasn’t come close with his ERA jumping to 3.65 in 2016 and 4.36 this season. The higher 2017 ERA is closer his recent ERA estimators of 4.19, 4.15, 4.05, 4.18, 4.79, 4.67.

While a low 4’s ERA is not completely useless, it may get worse since he has been losing velocity as the season has gone on.

He’s down 2 mph from the season’s start and 1 mph just in the last month. Some of the velocity loss results are being masked by a drop in his home run and walk rate. Additionally, his second half ERA (3.86) is better than his first half (4.63).

The problem is that his FIP has gone in almost the exact opposite direction from 3.99 to 4.53. I don’t have much faith in a 4.25+ ERA talent in the middle of a major velocity drop. Like Leake, he may be usable depending on the matchup but he’s not a must start every time through the rotation.

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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Sean Manaea is another guy whose velo is off recently, as well as his results.