How do we recalibrate our reliance on the radar gun for modern-day pitching evaluation?
A month ago, I was lamenting the modern development of today's pitchers, and a theme that was central to my position was that the present-day obsession with the radar gun has created an unhealthy paradigm shift in the ways that pitchers are bred, developed, and used at the highest level. I then spent the past couple weeks combing through the group of pitchers who have lost the most velocity, highlighting their radar-gun readings and the excellent resources at Brooks Baseball to better understand the trials and tribulations of some of the game's biggest hurlers.
Where have you gone, past velocity? Should we be concerned your arm will break? Hey, hey, hey.
In the last episode of Raising Aces, we followed up with the big velocity gainers and losers from last season to investigate any trends, for better or worse. We found that the velocity changes over time reflected George Carlin's view of people in general: a few winners but a whole lot of losers.
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.
Revisiting last year's biggest velocity changes, because change is just another word for regression to come.
Every year, I write a pair of articles that breaks down the risers and fallers in pitch velocity, specifically targeting multi-year trends to look for any changes in baseline stuff. With all of the talk about pitchers who have lost a tick (or three) of velo, it seemed appropriate to revisit the movers and shakers to see if the changes in pitch speed have carried over thus far in 2016.
Outstanding arms from week three, including Strasburg, Jose Fernandez and Drew Smyly.
We're now three weeks into the baseball season, such that the relative quality of opponents is beginning to wash out as pitchers continue to tour the league, while emerging trends start to become more reality and less fluke. Let's take a look at a trio of starters who had multiple starts last week, and whose performances left an impression.
Chris Archer broke out last season, throwing more than 200 innings for the first time in his career, posting another ERA in the low 3.00's and adding nearly eight percentage points to his strikeout rate. He finished with 252 total Ks, and after his first start of 2016 it looked like he was on his way to another dynamite season. Sure, he walked three batters and gave up three runs (two earned) and only lasted 5.0 innings (despite throwing 107 pitches), but a dozen strikeouts have a way of distracting attention and the final tally wasn't so bad when considering his hard-hitting opponent that day, the Toronto Blue Jays.
Four National League arms had notable performances this week, including the two most talked about young guns.
Week two of the baseball season is the time when poor performance from elite players starts to become concerning, and when multiple standout starts from young players begins to elicit Joy-Joy feelings that they have ascended to a new talent tier. Whereas it's easy to dismiss the whims of the first week as single-game outliers, by now most of the top pitchers have toed the rubber multiple times, and the repetition of head-scratching performance can lead us humans down the natural path of assigning causation, whether or not it exists.
When you spend too much time admiring the beauty of the trees, you don't realize the forest is on fire.
I fear for the modern pitcher. Little League, travel ball, college, the pros—we are witnessing a revolution in the way that pitchers are grown, used, and eventually discarded, with results that look good in the box score but which claim the limbs of countless hurlers every year.