Early Velocity Gainers and Losers

Intuitively, it would make some sense for velocities to be down to begin the year. Pitchers may still be building arm strength and finding their feel. But surfing around player pages early in the season, I noticed what seemed to be an abnormally high number of guys with velocity down from where it was last year. As it turns out, velocities are down a smidge. The average four seamer velocity last year was 90.66 and is only 90.48 so far this season. However, the average velocity in April last year was 90.39. So there’s probably some truth to the idea that velocities will rise as a season progresses.

However, there are still a few starters this year that have seen their average velocity come in way below where it was last year. I compiled a list of 70 pitchers who threw 150+ innings last year and all qualified pitchers so far this season. I then compared their average velocities. Below is a list of the guys who have seen a decrease in velocity that is one standard deviation or more above the mean.





David Price




CC Sabathia




Cliff Lee




Max Scherzer




Matt Moore




Mat Latos




Jeremy Hellickson




Justin Verlander




Joe Blanton




Edinson Volquez




Hiroki Kuroda




Jon Niese




Lance Lynn





Because velocity is tied somewhat to swinging strike rate, I checked to see how each player’s swinging strike rate compared to last year.

Season Name SwStr% Difference Season Name SwStr% Difference
2012 CC Sabathia 11.50% 2012 Jon Niese 7.80%
2013 CC Sabathia 10.90% -0.60% 2013 Jon Niese 7.10% -0.70%
2012 Cliff Lee 8.70% 2012 Justin Verlander 11.70%
2013 Cliff Lee 8.80% 0.10% 2013 Justin Verlander 11.40% -0.30%
2012 David Price 8.30% 2012 Lance Lynn 9.80%
2013 David Price 7.00% -1.30% 2013 Lance Lynn 9.70% -0.10%
2012 Edinson Volquez 10.10% 2012 Mat Latos 10.10%
2013 Edinson Volquez 7.10% -3.00% 2013 Mat Latos 10.60% 0.50%
2012 Hiroki Kuroda 9.60% 2012 Matt Moore 11.80%
2013 Hiroki Kuroda 10.70% 1.10% 2013 Matt Moore 8.70% -3.10%
2012 Jeremy Hellickson 8.90% 2012 Max Scherzer 12.20%
2013 Jeremy Hellickson 8.90% 0.00% 2013 Max Scherzer 14.30% 2.10%
2012 Joe Blanton 9.60%
2013 Joe Blanton 6.00% -3.60%


Obviously other pitches play in to swinging strike rate. And it is equally as obvious that we’re dealing with a small sample here. But eight of the 13 in the sample have seen their swinging strike rate decline, and only Kuroda and Scherzer have seen big gains in that category.

I also considered the possibility that these guys might be consciously taking something off in order to improve control. But again, eight of the 13 have seen their walk rate rise so far this season. Again, it’s a small sample and things other than velocity factor into control, but these are guys to keep an eye on going forward. For now, I’d be wary of using them in daily salary cap formats unless they have a great matchup or are coming in at a cheap price.

On the flip side, there are several pitchers who have seen big increases in their fastball velocity early in the season. Below is a list of the players from the 70-pitcher sample discussed above who have seen their average velocity rise by more than one standard deviation above the mean.

Name 2012 2013 Difference
Bronson Arroyo 86.3 86.7 0.4
James Shields 92 92.4 0.4
Jason Vargas 87.9 88.4 0.5
Homer Bailey 92.4 93 0.6
Ian Kennedy 89.2 89.9 0.7
Trevor Cahill 89.7 90.4 0.7
Adam Wainwright 89.9 90.7 0.8
Derek Holland 92.6 93.5 0.9
Mike Leake 89.5 90.5 1







Of those nine, six have seen an increase in swinging strike rate and one has remained stagnant. This list is more interesting than the list of guys who have seen a decrease in velocity because aside from Shields and Wainwright, the rest of the pitchers are either semi-acquirable by trade or possibly available on your waiver wire. Again, small sample size here, but these are some additional names to watch.

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You can find more of Brett's work on TheFantasyFix.com or follow him on Twitter @TheRealTAL.

16 Responses to “Early Velocity Gainers and Losers”

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  1. Chcago Mark says:

    I can’t help but think that seeing velo increase is almost an immediate occurrence. I mean…..no sss.

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    • jimbo says:

      Magnfies it if velo is typically lower early on, yet those guys are starting out higher than all of last year.
      I might look into Holland…

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  2. pirates hurdles says:

    You missed James McDonald at -1.5 mph (91.8 to 90.3) so far in 2013.

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  3. If you mention right away that early-season velocity is *always* lower, why not compare Last April to This April numbers?

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  4. Ender says:

    I put almost no stock into early season velocity. Some pitchers arms are just fresh and wear down as the year goes on. Some pitchers haven’t found their arm strength yet. Some pitchers have been pitching in the extreme cold and it really bothers them etc. Pitchers are just way too variable a bunch to derive anything useful from their first few starts. Do this study with May velocity and you’ll find a lot more meaning in it.

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  5. Ashman says:

    Did Gio narrowly miss the decliners list?

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  6. Chcago Mark says:

    I looked at Price’s velo in 2012. It started at about 95 but vacillated between 92 and 96 throughout the season. His most recent 2013 start was 93+. It is increasing for him. Don’t know what it all means. But if we are trying to decide weather to trade or target a pitcher it sure adds to the data.

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  7. Chcago Mark says:

    Gio has lost 0.6 mph. Not much. But his zone% is a career low 39.7%.

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  8. k_r_i_s_k_o says:

    AJ Burnett has been throwing harder than in recent years

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  9. Adam says:

    For those that lost velocity, I would have liked to see how peak velocity compared in April year over year.

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