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August Fastball Velocity Decliners

On Monday, I identified the starting pitchers whose average fastball velocity had increased the most over a couple of August starts versus July. Today, I look at the opposite side of the coin, the pitchers who have experienced a velocity decline. Since on average, velocity should be around its peak at this time in the season, a steep decline may be a red flag.

Name Aug FBv Jul FBv Diff
Chris Tillman 91.8 93.3 -1.5
Yu Darvish 91.9 93.3 -1.4
Ervin Santana 90.7 91.9 -1.2
Bartolo Colon 89.6 90.7 -1.1
Blake Beavan 90.5 91.6 -1.1

I mentioned this in my latest tiered rankings update, so it’s no surprise to see Chris Tillman atop this list. According to PITCHf/x, his fastball velocity declined for five straight starts since being recalled, before rebounding over his last two. He hasn’t averaged over 93.0 miles per hours since his third start of the season. I have no idea what could be behind this velocity dip, but he’s a whole lot less exciting throwing 92-93 than when he was hitting the mid-90’s with regularity. And as commenter MLPPlayerAnalysis (appropriately named indeed!) adeptly noted in my Thursday AL SP to Avoid column, Tillman’s schedule for the rest of the season is quite difficult. I wouldn’t bother with him in mixed leagues and would even be careful in AL-Only leagues as well.

Last night’s Yu Darvish start isn’t included in the velocity reading in the table, but this supposed August dip really only came from his first two starts of the month when he averaged around 91.5 with his fastball. In his third start of the month, he was back at 93.0, which is generally where he has been at all season. Obviously, he has been a disappointment so far, and I expected a better ground ball rate. However, he may be a good buy opportunity next year with the assumption that his control has got to be better than it has been this year. We know he has the stuff to dominate, so that’s really the only thing missing. That’s the type of pitcher I like to gamble on, but his name value might still make it tough to make him a bargain at the draft table.

Man, Ervin Santana‘s velocity was already down all season compared with last year, but in August, it dipped even further. In fact, he hasn’t averaged more than 91.0 miles per hour in any of his last four starts, despite typically sitting around 92.0 miles per hour all year. Interestingly, while it would appear that hitters are just teeing off against him given his MLB leading 28 home runs allowed and ridiculous 19% HR/FB ratio, his BABIP is just .255! And his line drive rate is league average. So it has been one heck of an odd season for Santana. Unfortunately, I wasn’t much of a fan of him before the season and don’t think his upside is high enough to warrant starting in any leagues. The velocity drop is just another nail in the coffin.

Bartolo Colon‘s average velocity each start has bounced around from 89-91 all season, so this doesn’t appear to be out of the ordinary. It’s amazing to me that a guy who has a below average fastball, in terms of velocity at least, throws it nearly 90% of the time! That certainly explains the pathetic SwStk% and of course it’s much easier to throw first pitch strikes if all you’re doing is throwing fastballs. You would think that with such a pitch mix (or lack of a mix), batters would be knocking him around and his BABIP would be elevated. That’s not the case of course, which probably owes to the pitch’s movement. I still don’t think he has any value in mixed leagues, but he is obviously worth starting in AL-Only leagues.

Blake Beavan‘s velocity decline and appearance here was really only due to one outing when he averaged just 89.2 miles per hour. He had never averaged below 90.4 in any other start, so it’s curious what exactly caused that drop in that game. Whatever it was, he rebounded in his last start, as his velocity bounced back to 91.7 miles per hour, right where he was averaging in July. Beavan is having a Colon-esque season, striking out no one, and walking no one. Unfortunately, his ground ball rate isn’t as good, but he does call the best pitcher’s park in baseball home. Though he has thrown a high percentage of first pitch strikes, it’s unlikely a 1.1 BB/9 is sustainable, but it’s probably that given his lack of quality stuff, batters simply put the ball in play early in the count and don’t even have an opportunity to take a walk. Okay, way too much analysis on Beavan, he has no value in any leagues.