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Welcome to our fourth annual look at pitcher velocity, starring data from Brooks Baseball and continuing the trend of past seasons by looking at pitchers who lost velo as well as those gained it. This will be a two-part series, starting with the losers, after which we'll reconsider the role of spine-tilt in maintaining velocity.

Here's a quick rundown of the methodology:

*Pitchers who have started 10 or more games and thrown 500 or more fastballs (four-seam plus sinkers) in each of the previous three seasons. In order to qualify, a pitcher must have shown a velocity-drop of at least 0.5 mph from each of the previous two seasons (so 2015 performance compared to '14 and '13), and the loss of a full-tick when compared to at least one of the seasons under the microscope. The velocities shown reflect a weighted average of four-seam fastballs and sinkers, taken from the awesome resource at www.BrooksBaseball.net, and only cover pitches thrown in the regular season at the MLB level. We will emphasize the two-year change in velocity for this analysis, from 2013 to 2015.

There will be some natural carry-over from last year's lists, which had a total of 23 players. That number has been ratcheted down to 21 pitchers this time around (out of 95 qualifiers). Now on to the pitchers whose velo is on the down-slope:

The Bunny Hill

MPH Difference, 2015-'13

MPH Difference, 2015-'14

2015

2014

2013

Wily Peralta

-0.6

-1.5

95.1

96.6

95.7

Tom Koehler

-0.9

-1.0

92.9

93.9

93.8

Jeff Samardzija

-0.9

-1.0

94.6

95.6

95.5

James Shields

-1.0

-1.5

91.9

93.4

92.9

Tim Hudson

-1.4

-0.5

89.2

89.7

90.6

Peralta had a noticeable dip when compared to 2014, but '14 may have been a velo spike (it was the highest of his career), but by that same token his '15 pitch-speed was a career-low. His oblique injury may have played a role in the velocity decline, so I won't be especially worried until we see what he brings into 2016. The concern with Koehler is that he also lost velocity throughout the '15 season, averaging just 91.0 mph in his final start of the campaign. He'll get a lot of splinters if he flies too close to the floor.

The pitch-speed loss of Samardzija takes on a bit of added meaning when one considers how reliant he is on velocity, with everything that he throws coming within an average velocity band of 86-94 mph. The fastball velo is down to 2010 levels following four consecutive years of averaging at least 95 mph, and that lost tick of velocity can play up when the other pitches in his arsenal are similarly impacted. The speed reduction may not have been solely responsible for the escalated homerun count against the Shark, but one can imagine that it was easier to square up his pitches at a lower velocity.

Shields had been on a velocity plateau for the past three years, averaging greater than 93 mph for the past three seasons, but he turned things down to his early-career volume. Perhaps it was the financial security of signing his first big free agent contract, maybe it was the candles on his birthday cake (there were 3X on his last one), or it could be none of the above, but whatever the reason Shields did not pump the same octane of gas that he had used for the past three years. Tim Hudson is retiring, but he derves credit for keeping his fastball within a rounding error of 90-mph (on average) or better throughout his career.

The Black Diamond

MPH Difference, 2015-'13

MPH Difference, 2015-'14

2015

2014

2013

Kyle Kendrick

-1.2

-1.0

89.5

90.5

90.7

J. Zimmermann

-1.3

-1.3

93.4

94.7

94.7

Hisashi Iwakuma

-1.4

-0.7

88.8

89.5

90.2

Anibal Sanchez

-1.6

-0.7

92.5

93.2

94.1

Hector Santiago

-1.7

-0.6

90.9

91.5

92.6

A.J. Burnett

-1.8

-0.9

91.6

92.5

93.4

Phil Hughes

-1.9

-1.9

91.4

93.3

93.3

Bartolo Colon

-2.0

-0.5

89.1

89.6

91.1

Jerome Williams

-2.0

-1.3

90.9

92.2

92.9

Most of these pitchers are tumbling down the fat part of velocity curve, turning what once was a plus attribute into the baseline for crooked numbers.

As if the idea of contact-heavy Kyle Kendrick pitching in Colorado wasn't cruel enough, he lost a tick when pitching in purple last season, thus ensuring a high-scoring game whenever he pitched – at home (7.63 ERA) or away (5.24 ERA) from Coors Field. Jordan Zimmermann is a particularly interesting case, given that his velocity had essentially been static for the past three seasons: 94.7 mph in each of 2014 and '13, then 94.6 mph in '12. The loss of pitch-speed could be a one-year blip or the sign of something more ominous, and his heavy usage pattern of the heater (62.6-percent four-seamers in 2015) calls his long-term sustainability into question.

At 34 years old, Iwakuma is a bit young to be losing velocity so rapidly – he has lost at least a half-tick per year in each season that he's pitched in the majors. His track record will certainly earn interest on the free agent market but there's considerable risk in inking Iwakuma to a multi-year pact. Anibal Sanchez is on the down-slope of the velocity roller coaster, having peaked in 2013 but falling back to his 2011 levels with an average fastball that is in the cross-hairs of his career average. Santiago's decline has stretched from the start of his career, taking down the 93.8 mph velocity from 2012 and dwindling it to the 90.9 mph that he brought to the table in 2015.

Burnett and Colon can each look at his birth date, as Father Time has come for their precious mph's. There's no reason to think that either of these pitchers will regain velocity (though Colon has made a habit of defying expectation), nor is there cause for concern, given that velocity is expected to leak as a pitcher gets further away from his physical peak. Colon's physical peak may have waved goodbye years decades ago, but his ability to locate high-speed pitches with subtle movement has fueled a late-career renaissance.

Hughes has a few culprits for his utter collapse last season, and though regression to his walk rate was inevitable, the fact that his fastball velocity took a nose dive in 2015 was certainly part of the conspiracy behind his blowup. Jerome Williams has a case that's similar to that of Kendrick, as he was walking a fine line between the majors and Triple-A prior to the reduction in velocity, a redevelopment tat could hasten Williams' comeback.

The K-13

MPH Difference, 2015-'13

MPH Difference, 2015-'14

2015

2014

2013

Josh Collmenter

-2.6

-1.2

85.7

86.9

88.3

R. Hernandez

-2.7

-1.3

89.8

91.1

92.5

Alex Wood

-2.7

-0.9

89.8

90.7

92.5

Dan Haren

-2.8

-1.5

86.9

88.4

89.7

Tim Lincecum

-2.9

-1.9

88.4

90.3

91.3

Jered Weaver

-3.0

-2.9

84.0

86.9

87.0

Doug Fister

-3.0

-1.9

86.7

88.6

89.7

Collmenter breaks the rules slightly, given that he failed to make 10 starts back in 2013, but he gets grandfathered in from last year's list (slightly different criteria). The axe-thrower hit the Black Diamond last season, only to vault into K-13 status for 2015. Technically, everything that he throws is labeled as a cutter, but that cutter velocity is trending quickly in the wrong direction.

Roberto Hernandez, aka Fausto Camona, has shot below the hard deck of a 90-mph average last season. His MLB career is hanging by a thread, and continuing to drop velocity is a quick way to the firing squad. In contrast, Alex Wood's job doesn't appear to be in any immediate danger, but the funky left-hander with the Neo-like delivery has been losing velocity as well as command for the past few seasons. The big decline for Wood came in 2014, but last season cost him nearly a full tick as he drfited below 90 mph.

Haren called it quits, so there's no real reason to worry here, but I will note that he was a multiple offender on these lists as his career wound down. Likewise, Tim Lincecum has been a repeat offender of the velo-drop list and his pitch-speed is slipping into dangerous territory. At this point, Big Time Timmy Jim is asking a lot of his deep release point and split-change to carry the performance load.

Weaver was already in the market for a Rascal before this past season, but then he slipped another three ticks this past year and now he's being asked to do their commercials. He has suffered an injury to his left (non-throwing) elbow as well as dealt with hip issues, but as far as we know Weaver's arm is fine. Well, fine is relative, and right now for Weaver “fine” is equivalent to high school-level velocity. Fister is in a similar boat as Weaver, in that his precipitous decline on the velocity scale has taken him far past the point of acceptability. He held firm for much of his career and doesn't need elite speed to have success, but giving opposing batters that much more time to make a decision is a quick way to get battered.

Next time we'll discuss the players that gained velocity in 2015 (the list is much shorter), as well as take an updated look at spine-tilt and how it ties to pitchers that lose velocity.

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TGT969
11/20
Doug, just as a note about about the now retired Burnett: he had his first- ever trip to the DL with arm trouble. Prior to that he was throwing very very well