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Post  RedMagma on Thu Feb 21, 2008 1:57 pm

Throwing Smoke (and Mirrors) PDF Print E-mail



http://www.baseballdigestdaily.com/bullpen/?option=com_content&task=view&id=398

Contributed by Jonathan Hale
Monday, 18 February 2008
By Jonathan Hale

Of course there’s more to pitching than throwing the ball hard, but it’s hard not to glance at the radar gun when a real flamethrower is on the mound. A pitcher who can break triple digits makes national headlines whether or not he’s any more effective, and can thrill an entire stadium no matter what the score. On the other hand, it’s also impressive when a pitcher can make it in the major leagues on guile and deception even though he’s pretty much lobbing the ball over the plate.

So who are the guys at either end of the speed spectrum? For the following rankings, I’ve averaged all the 4-seam fastballs over the 2008 season, so they’re probably a little lower than the numbers people think of (due to pitchers wearing down towards the end of the game, or in come cases being not at 100% due to injury). Also included is the average vertical movement (the pfx_z value for anyone who thinks in pitch f/x speak) compared to a spinless to give an idea of how much pure “rise” the fastest pitches have. The league average rise is about 9 inches.

Fastest Starters (Average ERA: 3.92)

Name
Average MPH
Rise on Fastball (inches)
Felix Hernandez


96.2


8.3

A.J. Burnett


96.0


9.6

Josh Beckett


94.8


9.6

Dustin McGowan


94.8


10.1

Daniel Cabrera


94.6


10.5

Justin Verlander


94.5


9.3

Edwin Jackson


93.6


10.6

Brad Penny


93.2


11.7

Jake Peavy


92.9


9.8

Matt Cain


92.7


10.6


Felix Hernandez manages to top the list while pointing out a flaw in the quick-and-dirty definition of a 2-seamer/sinker as any fastball with less than 6 inches of rise. Hernandez throws a lot of pitches that tail more than his 4-seamers and sink just a bit. They’re not as hard at the 98 mph fastball he can throw, but are still enough for tops in the league.

Slowest Starters (Average ERA: 4.45)

Name
Average MPH
Rise on Fastball (inches)
Tim Wakefield


75.1


10.1

Jamie Moyer


81.6


8.7

Livan Hernandez


83.2


8.6

Paul Byrd


83.8


9.5

Mark Buehrle


84.8


8.8

Tom Glavine


85.0


10.8

David Wells


85.2


9.8

Doug Davis


85.3


10.5

Barry Zito


85.5


11.8

Steve Trachsel


86.5


10.8


No real surprises here…Wakefield is in a whole other category, but it probably looks about 90 when it comes after one of 65 mph knuckleballs. Barry Zito is also an interesting case- his “rise” number is so high because he comes almost right over the top (which would reduce any sinking/tailing movement and could help with control). Now on to the relievers:
Fastest Relievers

Name
Average MPH
Rise on Fastball (inches)
Joba Chamberlain


97.8


11.5

Matt Lindstrom


97.4


9.6

Joel Zumaya


97.2


9.0

Dennis Sarfate


96.6


12.8

Heath Bell


96.3


11.1

Chris Ray


96.1


9.6

Seth McClung


95.9


11.0

Jonathan Broxton


95.8


11.2

Brad Lidge


95.8


10.5

Ubaldo Jiminez


95.6


9.2


As you would expect, the fastest relievers throw 3-4 mph faster than the starters. It will be interesting to see where Joba Chamberlain’s fastball ends up when he is moved to the Yankee’s rotation halfway through next year. Dennis Sarfate is probably the only unknown on that list- he was traded to the Orioles in the Miguel Tejada deal but has not done much so far due to command problems.

Slowest Relievers

Name
Average MPH
Rise on Fastball (inches)
Mike Bacsik


84.9


10.1

Aaron Fultz


85.0


9.6

Travis Blackley


85.7


9.8

Matt Wise


85.8


10.0

Trevor Hoffman


85.9


13.55

Ron Flores


86.2


8.5

Jamie Walker


86.5


9.3

Jorge Campillo


86.8


10.5

Bobby Livingston


86.9


7.67

Chris Seddon


87.3


9.5


Fewer crafty veterans and more straight-up nobodies without a good fastball in the bullpen that the rotation, but some guys like Aaron Fultz (ERA: 2.92) had really good years (in his case mostly due to his sinker). And look at the rise on Hoffman’s fastball? He comes over the top as well, which could contribute to the effectiveness of his changeup, as it would tend to make it look like it is sinking more.

Now that we’ve seen the highs and the lows, here’s a look at the breakdown across the entire league, both starters and relievers, by the speed of their fastball.


Who says you need a 90+ MPH fastball to pitch in the big leagues? Although the average of all fastballs was 91, the single most common velocity thrown by a pitcher last year was somewhere between 89.5 and 90 mph.

Last Updated ( Monday, 18 February 2008 )

RedMagma

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