Starting Pitcher Velocity Increasers

Fastball velocity is one of the most important numbers to focus on in a pitcher’s statistical toolbox. It has a high correlation with strikeout rate and when we saw an increase in velocity, good things should follow. Early on, we have heard about many starting pitchers suffering from a loss in fastball velocity, but some are actually enjoying a spike. I decided to only compare a starter’s velocity using the “Last 7 Days” filter so as to hopefully capture just the pitcher’s last start (or maybe two in some cases), since velocity does tend to increase throughout the season. These are the 10 pitchers with the largest increases so far:

Name 2012 FBv 2011 FBv Diff
Danny Duffy 97.3 93.3 4.0
Rick Porcello 91.9 90.2 1.7
Bruce Chen 87.5 85.8 1.7
James Shields 92.6 91.0 1.6
Mike Pelfrey 93.5 92.1 1.4
Max Scherzer 94.3 93.1 1.2
Homer Bailey 93.4 92.2 1.2
Jake Peavy 91.6 90.6 1.0
Mike Leake 89.9 89.1 0.8
Jason Vargas 88.2 87.4 0.8

Wow, that is one heck of a significant jump for Danny Duffy. I can’t imagine he sustains a 97.0+ average fastball all season. I have read that the gun during that game was “hot”, but does the PITCHf/x velocity rely on the gun readings? I thought it was independent. Anyhow, hot gun or not, it couldn’t have added four miles per hour to Duffy’s fastball, so the speed has clearly increased. His SwStk% is an elite 12.4% and his strikeout rate isn’t that out of line with what he has done in the minors. His intermittent control issues and extreme fly ball tendency early on are concerns, but I think he has a good shot at posting a sub-4.00 ERA with tons of strikeouts on his way to a breakout year.

Well, I don’t think Rick Porcello owners care at all what his velocity is after today’s outing! It is pretty important for him though because his strikeout rate has been so low during his career, a higher strikeout rate would go a long ways into making him a viable fantasy starter. Already possessing good control and a strong ground ball rate, the ability to miss bats is the only thing that’s missing.

James Shields is having an interesting season so far. His velocity jump is a full 1.1 miles per hour above his previous best posted in 2010. However, he’s throwing his fastball as infrequently as ever, mainly in favor of his cutter. It has not led to a higher strikeout rate or SwStk% yet, but he is sporting a career high 62% ground ball rate. Those grounders will help curb his home run issues of past, but it’s yet to be seen whether he can combine this new found ground ball skill with a similar ability to make batters whiff.

Mike Pelfrey’s velocity has jumped to a level not experienced since 2006. And not surprisingly, his K% and SwStk% are at career bests. Pelfrey was actually a strikeout pitcher in the minors, but for some reason has never posted a K/9 above 5.6 in the Majors. Like Porcello, Pelfrey already has solid control and a ground ball tilt, so a strikeout rate spike would really improve his fantasy prospects.

Max Scherzer has not averaged over 94.0 miles per hour with his fastball since 2008, though that includes some relief appearances. His SwStk% is basically unchanged, but his K% has increased. Though he has allowed line drive over 30% of the time, which somewhat justifies the inflated .419 BABIP resulting in an ERA near 8.00, his stuff is clearly fine and he has the skills to drive his ERA below 4.00 by the end of the season.

One of the main reasons I remain optimistic about Homer Bailey is due to his velocity. However, his PITCHf/x velocity chart does show a spike during his second start, while his third start was back down to where he sat in his first. And those first and third starts look to be about what he averaged over the second half of last season. So maybe this isn’t much of a velocity increase, but I am still a fan.

Dan Wade discussed Jake Peavy on Thursday, so I will just reiterate how positive this velocity increase is for him. His SwStk% has also rebounded. He still plays in a tough ballpark, which makes his high fly ball rate quite scary, but he should generate mixed league value for as long as he remains healthy.



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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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Colin Zarzycki
Member

PitchF/X does not rely on gun readings, it calculates the ball velocity via high-resolution (temporally) camera images and solving for ball motion using kinematics.

However, if the camera calibration is off, velocities have been known to vary a bit park-to-park. 4 mph is well above “acceptable” calibration error, so either there’s a major malfunction in Duffy’s starts, some sort of data processing issue, or he started seeing the same doctor from “Rookie of the Year”

Paul Sporer
Admin
Member

Andrew, that was Kelvin Herrera.

Colin Zarzycki
Member

Also, re: Duffy– it looks like FG has him at 95.1 mph average on the fastball which is a more modest 1.8 mph boost.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

Yeah it’s hot. Who’s that reliever who was consistently 101-103mph against Detroit last week? Seems questionable.

Eric Cioe
Guest
Eric Cioe

Eno is right, Kaufmann has been hot for quite some time.

Eno Sarris
Member
Member

Kauffman might be a little hot actually. As much as three mPH according to some.