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April 14, 2014

Moonshot

Does April Velocity Last?

by Robert Arthur


This early in the season, when the samples sizes are small and the conclusions fragile, attention tends to focus most especially on pitch velocity. That’s a reasonable thing to do, since velocity stabilizes quickly. Because velocity is the simple result of the acceleration a pitcher can impart to his pitch, it is not as affected by luck as, say, batting average or ERA (or even the advanced metrics like tAV or FIP). Moreover, velocity is of prime importance in predicting a pitcher’s future success.

Velocity is deceptively simple. It is only a single number, and yet it can explain multitudes about a pitcher: the kind of pitches he throws, how he gets hitters out, and in aggregate, the kind of pitcher he is. I set out to explore the early-season changes in velocity, and to what extent they are predictive of the season’s velocity.

I ought to note up front that this analysis is well-trodden ground. However, there is room for exploration and improvement. It’s a new year, and so there’s a new crop of April data to be mined for potential velocity breakouts (and breakdowns).

The Consistency of Velocity
Perhaps the most striking feature of velocity (besides its obvious implications for pitcher performance) is how consistent it is between seasons. Here are 118 pitchers’ median fastball velocities from 2012 and 2013, plotted against each other. For the remainder of the analysis, I’ll limit myself to starters in 2013, attempting to predict their velocities for 2014.

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Moonshot: What PITCHf/... (04/23)
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