I love analyzing velocity data and comparing it to historical marks generated by that particular pitcher. A decrease in velocity could be the first signal of an injury or a problem with mechanics, while an increase could suggest an imminent jump in strikeout rate. Previously, I had been comparing a pitcher’s fastball velocity to what he posted last season. This time I am comparing a pitcher’s velocity over the last 30 days with his velocity in April. The below top five velocity increasers are quite a boring group, but they are the top five, so let’s get to it.
Wade Davis averaged 92.3 miles per hour with his fastball last season, but his velocity in April dropped to just 90.0 as he apparently decided that pitching to contact was the right approach for him. He looked like a genius in April as he lucked into a 2.73 ERA, but his good fortune unsurprisingly ran out, with ERAs over 6.00 in May and in June so far. The small glimmer of hope is this velocity increase, however his strikeout rate is still way down. He does not have the control or the ground ball rate to afford a strikeout rate much below the league average (7.0), so he has a ways to go before becoming interesting again in fantasy leagues.
J.A. Happ was one of the three members of my overvalued club chosen in the pre-season, and so far, he has not disappointed. Poor control and extreme fly ball tendencies are a toxic combination, especially when your strikeout rate is just barely above league average. Unfortunately for Happ’s optimists, his velocity increase simply got him back to where he had been the previous two seasons. He appears to just be a typical example of a pitcher building arm strength early in the season and watching as his velocity rises to its more normal level. Nothing to see here, he should not be on any RotoGraphs readers rosters.
Finally, we have our first pitcher whose velocity over the last 30 days has increased to a level above last season. Although his ERA does not show it, Chris Volstad is pitching the best baseball of his career so far. This velocity increased has even led to a strikeout rate jump, as his K/9 has risen from 5.7 in April (right in line with his career average) to over 7.0 in May and June so far. Once his luck improves, he could generate some decent value in NL-Only leagues and might even elevate himself into mixed league consideration.
Doug Fister‘s April velocity was already 0.8 miles per hour higher than last year, and over the last 30 days, that velocity has risen again to land at a full 2.2 miles per hour higher than 2010. Not surprisingly, his K/9 has jumped to 6.1 versus just 4.9 last year. His ground ball rate is just about league average, but his control is excellent, and of course he pitches in a great home ball park. The increased velocity looks good for the sustainability of his improved strikeout rate, however he will most definitely start to see his current 5.8% HR/FB ratio rise. He should continue to generate value in AL-Only leagues, but his lack of run support could limit his win potential and so I would be hesitant to roster him in mixed leagues.
Ivan Nova enjoyed a nice increase in velocity from April to the last 30 days, but like several pitchers above him in the table, that velocity increase simply got him back to where he was last year. With a pathetic 4.5% SwStk% and below average control, his only positive attribute is his ability to induce the ground ball. His skill set and minor league track record actually reminds me of Volstad, but of course Volstad plays in the easier league and pitches in a better park. If Nova’s upside appears to be merely Volstad, then he could be safely ignored in fantasy leagues.