CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Minor League Update: S... (03/07)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Raising Aces: Under th... (03/03)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Raising Aces: Bush Lea... (03/14)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Painting the Black: Sp... (03/07)

March 7, 2014

Raising Aces

Over the Radar 2.0

by Doug Thorburn


This week, we’re focusing on pitch velocity and identifying the arms who have seen a big change in their fastball speeds over the last couple of years. On Monday, we looked at the players who are on the velocity downslope, with offerings that fall under the radar-gun readings of their past. Today we study the other side of the coin, drawing attention to those pitchers who have added fuel to their heat over the past couple of seasons.

Consistent with the findings of version 1.0 of this series, the group of Over-the-Radar pitchers is much more selective than the club of velocity-decliners, a trend that follows the expectation that pitchers will lose velo as they age and accrue more mileage on their arms. More notable was the fact that fewer pitchers qualified for the distinction than last year, as the list of 10 pitchers who had established a multi-year incline has whittled down to five players this time around.

Here's a refresher on the rules: We’re looking at the three-year period from 2011-13. To qualify as “Over the Radar” a pitcher had to have thrown at least half a mile per hour harder in 2013 than he did in each of the previous two seasons, with an increase of a full tick relative to at least one of those years. He also had to throw at least 500 pitches labeled as fastballs or sinkers by BrooksBaseball.net in each of the past three seasons. The numbers in the charts were calculated based on a weighted average of the pitch-speeds on four-seam fastballs and sinkers in each season.

The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.

Not a subscriber?

Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.


Cancel anytime.


That's a 33% savings over the monthly price!


That's a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

Related Content:  Pitching,  Scouting,  Mechanics,  Velocity

9 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

hmamis

In a recent online article Bill James stated that the best way to determine the true value of a pitcher was strikeouts/walk ratio and strikeout-walks. Does increase/decrease velocity become a stable enough metric to evaluate a pitcher?

hmamis

Mar 07, 2014 06:00 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Doug Thorburn
BP staff

I haven't run the numbers, but on its own I would say no. They are many confounding variables, and you are competing against the natural development of a pitcher over time. The vast majority of pitchers lose velocity as they age, yet they refine other elements of their game such as mechanical efficiency, command, and the other pitches in their repertoire. There is the developmental overlap between physical function and the learning curve, which do not trace the same paths even when looking at just the averages. The variability skyrockets when looking at individual cases.

I agree with James if looking strictly at performance stats, and velocity is connected as a major driver of strikeouts. But we are looking at different ends of the process-outcome interaction, which could be even more predictive in theory, but we currently lack the means to adequately measure all of the variables in order to do a comprehensive study. You might be able to find something with the sample of pitchers who gain velocity rather than lose it, but you run into serious issues with sample size.

Really cool question.

Mar 07, 2014 11:51 AM
 
Matt Trueblood

Soaking it up, Doug. Terrific as always.

I'm probably on the left side of the bell curve of Cubs fans in terms of expectations for Arrieta. I feel like he's a reliever, or a mess. Do you see cause for hope that he can stick in the rotation, though? Or is that fastball playing up just another sign to see whether it could play up even further in bursts?

Mar 07, 2014 12:52 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Doug Thorburn
BP staff

I think that he has the mechanical baselines of a starter, though his struggles with repetition are a heavy domino that is the last to fall.

The big issue to me is his repertoire. Without a reliable changeup, and with a slider that has minimal velocity differential from the fastball, it seems that his stuff is best suited for the bullpen.

Mar 08, 2014 23:20 PM
 
jrcolwell

Great stuff Doug. I learn a lot every time you write.

Which one of these 5 do you see maintaining their velocity gains in 2014? I'm not sure if you were leaning toward Bailey with your comment at the end, but I would guess it makes sense if the relatively better posture takes away some of the wear on the shoulder.

Mar 07, 2014 15:38 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Doug Thorburn
BP staff

Bailey is the most intriguing case, though he is somewhat of a double-edged sword in retaining his velocity gains. The sheer fact that he enjoyed the highest gains in 2013 means that he has the furthest to fall in the event that he were to revert to old form. At the same time, he has the best mechanical indicators to sustain his growth. I believe that he is the most likely to beat his 2012 velocity again, but possibly the least likely of the five to match his radar-gun readings of '13.

For these reasons, it is safer to say somebody like Happ, given that he has the most modest of gains to maintain and he has demonstrated an incline of velo throughout his career - plus he has made the mechanical improvements to justify it.

Mar 08, 2014 23:25 PM
 
Matt Trueblood

I nearly forgot to ask: Doug, do you subscribe to the theory that velocity upticks can be a precursor to injury? I presume that, if increased mechanical efficiency is at Tue root of the climb, we need not worry too much, but where does that notion come from? And is it ever a fair concern?

Mar 07, 2014 23:06 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Doug Thorburn
BP staff

There is certainly something to the theory, esp as it pertains to the kinetic energy that is coursing through the system. As such, pitch velocity is one of the stronger ties to injury because of the increased joint loads that come along with higher levels of kinetic energy. So when you have a pitcher who increased that kinetic energy, then you are naturally increasing the risk on an arm that is enduring an increasing kinetic toll over time. The situation is most dire when there is not a concurrent rise in mechanical efficiency.

That said, it's just a potential indicator and certainly not a death knell. As you mentioned, better mechanical efficiency is a buffer against the risk, but in a vacuum the uptick of velo does present some additional risk.

Mar 08, 2014 23:29 PM
 
Matt Trueblood

Great info. Thanks for both answers.

Mar 10, 2014 08:23 AM
rating: 0
 
You must be a Premium subscriber to post a comment.
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
<< Previous Article
Premium Article Minor League Update: S... (03/07)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Raising Aces: Under th... (03/03)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Raising Aces: Bush Lea... (03/14)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Painting the Black: Sp... (03/07)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Fantasy Article Fantasy Players to Avoid: Starting Pitchers
Fantasy Infographic: Starting Pitchers
Fantasy Article Dynasty League Positional Rankings: Top 175 ...
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Diamondbacks Third Baseman is...
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: The Bad Bullpen Teams ...
Prospectus Feature: A.J. Preller's Offseason...
Premium Article Raising Aces: The Eyes of March

MORE FROM MARCH 7, 2014
Premium Article Minor League Update: Spring Training Games o...
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Projecting the Top 15
Fantasy Article Fantasy Players to Avoid: Relief Pitchers
Fantasy Article Graphical Fantasy Rankings: Relief Pitchers
Fantasy Article Fantasy Auction Values: Second Edition
Fantasy Article TTO Scoresheet Podcast: Relief Pitchers
The BP Wayback Machine: Inside Tommy John Su...

MORE BY DOUG THORBURN
2014-03-21 - Raising Aces: Bush League: Eddie Butler, Tyl...
2014-03-14 - Premium Article Raising Aces: Bush League: Jonathan Gray
2014-03-13 - TINSTAAPP: TINSTAAP Episode 19: Prospects, P...
2014-03-07 - Premium Article Raising Aces: Over the Radar 2.0
2014-03-03 - Premium Article Raising Aces: Under the Gun 2.0
2014-02-28 - Premium Article Raising Aces: Bush League: Andrew Heaney
2014-02-28 - TINSTAAPP: TINSTAAP Episode 18: Starting Pit...
More...

MORE RAISING ACES
2014-03-28 - Premium Article Raising Aces: Out on a Limb: 2014 Pitcher Pr...
2014-03-21 - Raising Aces: Bush League: Eddie Butler, Tyl...
2014-03-14 - Premium Article Raising Aces: Bush League: Jonathan Gray
2014-03-07 - Premium Article Raising Aces: Over the Radar 2.0
2014-03-03 - Premium Article Raising Aces: Under the Gun 2.0
2014-02-28 - Premium Article Raising Aces: Bush League: Andrew Heaney
2014-02-21 - Premium Article Raising Aces: Organizational Trends: Looking...
More...

INCOMING ARTICLE LINKS
2014-05-02 - Premium Article Raising Aces: Too Early to Worry?