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August Fastball Velocity Surgers

We have looked a lot at starting pitchers’ fastball velocity this year and we know that on average, it rises throughout the season. Pitchers will typically see a very slight uptick each month, but sometimes more significant spikes occur. These could be the result of many things, but whatever the explanation, it could portend a strikeout rate jump and likely performance improvement. Here are the five starters whose velocity has increased most in August versus July. The sample size for August is obviously small as it only encompasses one to two starts, so keep that in mind.

Name Aug FBv Jul FBv Diff
Ryan Vogelsong 92.0 90.8 1.2
Jeremy Guthrie 93.6 92.4 1.2
Doug Fister 89.6 88.4 1.2
Mark Buehrle 86.1 85.1 1.0
Luis Mendoza 93.2 92.3 0.9

The newest Giants sabermetrician confuser Ryan Vogelsong is working his magic once again this year. If you thought he was defying the luck metrics last year, he has taken it to a whole new level this season! I won’t even attempt to explain him, but the velocity jump is a good sign. His velocity had been down for most of the year, which makes it even more amazing that he has sustained a sub-3.00 ERA this entire time. In his two August starts though, his velocity was actually higher than it had averaged last year. Unfortunately, it didn’t boost his strikeout rate. I abstain from ever trying to figure him out, but I could at least cross off “oh, and his velocity is down too” from my list of reasons why his ERA is unsustainable.

Can Jeremy Guthrie return to being a Major League caliber starter again, now pitching in Kansas City? The velocity jump is a good start, though looking at his game logs, it has jumped around all season. It is possible though that KC has tweaked his mechanics and made some changes that could have contributed to the velocity bump, but that is pure speculation on my part. Moving out of one of the top hitter’s parks in baseball and into a pitcher’s park will obviously help a great deal, though it will be offset a bit by moving back into the American League. Since Guthrie was never a positive contributor in strikeouts and his overall skill set was rather soft, he should remain ignored in fantasy leagues.

Over his last three starts, Doug Fister averaged over 89.0 miles per hour with his fastball, something he had done just once previously this season. Although his season velocity makes it appear that last year’s velocity jump was a fluke, he is now much closer to that level than he had been all season. His SwStk% has even increased and Dave Cameron recently discussed the role that Fister’s curve ball has played in his success. Although I still believe that his strikeout rate is due to decline ever so slightly, given his pedestrian SwStk% and Contact% rates, he is proving that last year’s skill surge was no fluke.

Mark Buehrle averaged over 86.0 miles per hour with his fastball during his last year, the first time he did so all season. Buehrle has always possessed poor velocity and this year his average dropped below 85.0 miles per hour for the first time in his career. Of course, it hasn’t hurt him at all so far, but I would venture to guess that the difference between an 84.0 mile per hour fastball and an 85.0 one is much smaller than comparing 93.0 to 94.0. So, this is probably negligible and will have limited impact on his performance.

Luis Mendoza would have been fairly interesting, but in his last start, which was not included in the velocity data, his velocity was back down to the low 92.0 range. Mendoza is slightly intriguing though because of his 54% ground ball rate. His control hasn’t been good enough to offset the low strikeout rate so far, but he has shown better walk rates in the minors. Though his fantasy upside is rather limited, only a few more first pitch strikes could lead to better control and someone who may generate some value in AL-Only leagues.