MASH Report – Velocity Decline and Kershaw Edition

• It is just too early for any PAIN, HURT or SLOW reports, but I do have some decent early season information on fastball velocities. Every morning I will try to Tweet out pitchers who are seeing a major increase or decrease in velocity. You can follow me at @jeffwzimmerman or to see the most recent information, go to https://twitter.com/jeffwzimmerman.

• One pitcher who I am keeping a close eye on is Ubaldo Jimenez. His velocity was down 2 mph.

Additionally, his release points were all over the place.

Also, he wasn’t have able to maintain his velocity as the game went on.

I am not saying he is injured, but he is definitely someone to monitor to see if the decline continues.

• Two closers are experiencing a ~2 mph drop in fastball velocity compared to the 2013 season.

Joe Nathan
(92.3 mph to 90.4mph)

Fernando Rodney
(96.3 mph to 92.8 mph)

Clayton Kershaw will likely be out a month with a strained shoulder. To see how this injury may affect him, I went back to look at how a pitcher’s ERA, K% and BB% change from the previous season to the DL season for a strained shoulder (20 to 40 DL days, 32 samples with an average age of 28.4).

Stat: Average change in percentage point
K%: -1.4%
BB%: +0.9%
ERA: +0.56

Normally pitchers should expect to see an degrading of stats as they age, so I decided to look at the rest of the league’s average change (average age 29.2)

Stat: Average change in percentage point
K%: -0.4%
BB%: +0.2%
ERA: +0.23

So a pitcher with an strained shoulder will likely see a two to four times worse than expected stats. Even when Kershaw comes back, he looks like he may not produce at his normal super human levels.

Bobby Parnell has a torn MCL which he got opening day. He is currently not going to have surgery. Instead he will rest two weeks and then have four weeks of rehab to see if he doesn’t need to be cut open. Reports from spring training put his fastball around 90 mph. Here is a chart of the velocities during his one 25-pitch outing.

He is threw anywhere from 90 to 92 mph for 6 pitches and then his fastball ranges from 88 mph to 95 mph (all were fastballs, except a 85 mph curve). At one point he went from 93 to 88 to 94 to 91 to 94. Talk about arm destruction.

Jose Reyes is out for at least 15 days for a hamstring problem … again.

Brian Wilson will miss at least a couple of weeks with an inflamed nerve in his elbow.

Wilson admitted the twinge he felt in the bullpen before blowing a lead on Sunday was the same sensation he felt on March 10, when he threw a pitch that alarmed pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, resulting in a mound visit by Mattingly. Wilson stayed in that game, too.

“I probably should have said something before I went out there,” he said of the Sunday game.
Mattingly agreed.

“We tell them all the time to tell us, and all the time they don’t tell you,” he said. “Don’t let little things turn into big things. But guys still don’t tell you.

It seems too many pitchers are trying to tough out arm injuries this spring.

Brian Wilson‘s and Clayton Kershaw‘s injuries are being blamed on a shorter than expected spring training.

Manager Don Mattingly stopped short of saying the injuries to Kershaw and teammate Brian Wilson(right elbow) were the result of an abbreviated Spring Training to facilitate the season-opening trip to Australia.

“If I would, I’d be guessing,” he said of making the connection. “If you talk to [pitching coach] Rick Honeycutt, if MLB asked him what he thought, he’d have a different plan. He thought it was a little short, that pitchers didn’t get on the mound enough. If they listened to Rick, they would have had a different system.”

I still don’t understand how MLB thought it was a good idea for those games.

Wilson Ramos will miss 4 to 8 weeks after having his hamate bone removed.

Manager Matt Williams said that only the hamate bone was removed and there were no issues with Ramos’s nerves. As a result, Williams said that recovery usually lasts six to eight weeks, but he believed Ramos could return in perhaps four to six weeks if all goes well. Williams pointed to minor league infielder Josh Johnson, who was in major league camp, and had his hamate bone removed six weeks ago and was already back to playing in games.

I have looked at wrist injuries in the past and came to the following conclusion:

As a general rule, hitters don’t seem to have any major loss of production after coming back from a wrist injury. It has been written that wrist injuries can effect a player’s power. Even I have written about the possible effects on a hitter after a wrist injury, but I am now lessening my view quite a bit. It doesn’t seem that wrist injuries have any long term effects on a player’s production.

Once Ramos returns, feel free to play him everyday.

• In weekly leagues, don’t expect a full slate of games from Corey Hart early in the season as he continues to regain his health.

Hart didn’t play on Opening Day against right-hander Jered Weaver, but he played Tuesday against left-hander C.J. Wilson and will play Wednesday against lefty Hector Santiago. Manager Lloyd McClendon plans to bring him along slowly at the start of the year, with the hope he’ll be able to play 140-plus games over the long haul.

Hart said he hurt his forearm from trying to “keep up with all these younger guys” in outfield drills this spring. He took about a week off to let that rest, then played four Minor League intrasquad games in four days so he could bat every inning and get extra swings.

Chris Young (OF-Mets) is going on the DL with a strained quad.

Matt Kemp will be activated tomorrow.

Yu Darvish is supposed to return to the Rangers on Sunday to pitch.

Jon Niese also plans on coming off the DL to pitch on Sunday.

Johan Santana’s fastball is sitting at 85 mph.

“He had one of the best changeups in baseball, but if his velocity is only 85, can he drop his changeup to 75?” Showalter said. “I don’t know, and is 85 enough? I think the hitters are going to answer a lot of those questions.

“I know in my mind what I’d love to see on the gun in a perfect world. But all indications are so far, so good. He hasn’t had any setbacks.”

I just don’t see him making it back

Travis Sawchik at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review wrote a great piece looking at why fastball velocities are up. Some reasons are:

“For a long time, pitchers really focused on the front side, their beach muscles. Front-side shoulder muscles help to increase acceleration of the baseball. But the back-side shoulder muscles put on the brakes. Your brain knows not to accelerate beyond a limit it cannot possibly slow down. Some of these guys who had underdeveloped back-side shoulder muscles were not able to max out velocity even though they were yoked out in on the front side. A lot of (the velocity increase) is working the back-side shoulder muscles.”

and

“We are in the first generation of kids that every time they throw the ball, they can look up and see how hard they are throwing it,” Darling said. “But also the training techniques. I played four sports growing up. I pitched just during baseball season. A lot of kids are playing year round, their training techniques are a lot different. There is a generation of kids that want that speed.”

and why velocity is important.

“(Velocity) gives you a larger margin for error,” Huntington said. “Ninety-four (mph) that runs and gets too much of the plate has much more margin for error than 88 (mph) that runs and gets too much of the plate.”

Players on or Probably on the DL to Start the 2014 Season

(*) 15 Day Disabled List
(**) 60 Day Disabled List
(***) 7 Day Concussion List
(****) Free Agent
Red colored entries are updates since last report.

Major League Report

On DL

Minor League Report




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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.


12 Responses to “MASH Report – Velocity Decline and Kershaw Edition”

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  1. Lenard says:

    I noticed on the After Dark chat you said to stay away from Gray because his velocity was down about 2.5 MPH. How were his release points during his start?

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  2. Emcee Peepants says:

    Can we all please stop talking about Gray’s reduced velocity? If we pretend it’s not happening, maybe it’ll just go away?

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  3. RT says:

    Johan Santa. Every time.

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  4. jdbolick says:

    Not every wrist injury is alike. My understanding was that hamate surgery results in a temporary but significant loss of power in almost all hitters. David Ortiz, Darin Erstad, Eric Hinske, Dustin Pedroia, Pedro Alvarez in college, Yonder Alonso in the minors, Ryan Zimmerman, Pablo Sandoval, and Nick Markakis all did. Troy Tulowitzki and Wily Mo Pena are the only examples I could find that didn’t have a significant power loss in the remainder of the season following surgery, and WMP’s may be misleading as reports from 2006 suggest that he may have been playing with the break during the first half of that season while that whole season was down from his usual levels.

    The good news is that it doesn’t appear to have a long-term effect in most cases. But since most of Ramos’ fantasy appeal came from his power, it’s reasonable to be pretty pessimistic about his value in 2014.

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  5. Kevin says:

    Small error in the analysis of Kershaw. It says “strained elbow” when you meant strained shoulder.

    “So a pitcher with an strained elbow will likely see a two to four times worse than expected stats.”

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