Pitch Mix and Velocity Report

Ryan Venancio brings you the latest in notable pitch mixes, velocities, and overall changes on pitchers throughout the 2022 season.

It’s important to remember that velocity loss in April is not a death sentence. It has been proven that pitcher velocity peaks later in the season when the weather gets warmer. And with a shortened spring training, we will probably see more pitchers with velocity down than ever before.

All this should do is make you aware of the situation and try and get ahead of a potential ‘down year’ before it happens. If you have any of these players, it’s not a death sentence that their velocity is down. All pitchers are different, some can survive the decrease, and some cannot.

On the other hand, just because a pitcher added a pitch or changed their mix doesn’t automatically make them good. You have to look at the underlying metrics to see if the mix actually helped in changing the skill of the pitcher. Just because their ERA is lower after three starts, it doesn’t mean that it worked or didn’t work, it’s always important to look at what’s underneath this early in the season.

Gerrit Cole, SP, New York Yankees

Added a cutter

Cole has been off to a “slow start” on the surface. Posting a 4.41 ERA with only 9.92 strikeouts per nine, way down from his recent seasons.

If you look at everything under the hood, it’s mostly the same. His velocity is in line with last season and the swinging strike rate is great. All of his spin rates and movement on his pitches are nearly identical to the previous year. You have to remember, that’s what is important to take away from starts early in the season. Production over the course of a three, four, or even six-start sample is irrelevant. It’s all about how everything looks in the underlying numbers.

One thing that is different from Cole, in a good way, is the addition of a cutter. The pitch that is suffering in terms of usage is the curveball. A pitch that got hit harder than any one of his offerings, surrendering a .483 slugging while having the lowest whiff rate among his non-fastball pitches.

The early results on the cutter have been great so far. Throwing the pitch 11-percent of the time on the season, ramping it up to 20-percent on usage in yesterday’s start. In the small sample, he has induced a 53-percent whiff rate and allowed zero hits on the pitch.

If Cole ends up replacing his weakest off-speed pitch with an even stronger one. We could see the resurrection of 2019 Gerrit Cole, one of the best pitching seasons in recent years. If you can still trade for him, now is the time to do it before he starts stringing together dominant starts.

Julio Urias, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Velocity down 1.9 mph

This could be the perfect example of a pitcher that needed the full Spring Training ramp-up to really get to his mid-season form. Julio Urias has seen his fastball velocity jump up each and every start. Yet he’s still over one mph down from his normal self.

During his first start, he was sitting 91.5, then bumped it up to 92.4, and ended up sitting 92.8 in his most recent start. If we see it continually go up after every start, similar to Zack Wheeler, then there really is no reason for concern.
For whatever reason, Urias’ chase rate is way lower than last year, though that could even out after only three starts.

The real issue is that his swinging strike rate is down three percent, going from 11-percent to 8-percent. Another thing to note about Urias, his velocity was down to the 92.8-93.1 range in three of his four final starts of the season last year.
This isn’t something to completely panic about because it’s so early in the year and we have seen the velocity increase every start. But, the fact Urias had a 3.92 xFIP in the second half of last year while ending the season with lowered velocity. To then see it down again to start the year makes him more concerning than other pitchers on this list.
If there is a chance you could sell low for someone similar in his tier that isn’t having these issues, it could end up being a wise move. Urias isn’t going to win 20 games again and will need a lot to go his way to post a sub-3 ERA again.

Robbie Ray, SP, Seattle Mariners

Velocity down 2.5 mph

Through the first four starts of the young season, Robbie Ray has lost a considerable amount of velocity. Whether it’s due to the quick ramp-up and short Spring Training is unknown. The main issue is that it hasn’t really gone up at all over the course of the four starts. In the four starts, it has gone from 92.1 to 91.8 to 92.7 back to 92.2 in yesterday’s outing.

How exactly has this impacted Ray? While it may seem his struggles are tied to his fastball velocity being down, that isn’t the case. The whiff rate on his four-seamer is identical to last season. What seems to be the problem is that he isn’t getting the whiffs on his slider like he normally had in the past. Again, considering it’s so early, that could just be something that is fixed as he gets more comfortable after each start.

In general, there’s not a huge worry for Ray. If he can make 92-93 work, it’s not ideal but results are results. The only thing you may want to do is bench him against really tough matchups until we see the velocity possibly climb up as it gets warmer. Otherwise, it may be wise to buy low on the Seattle left-hander. As long as he isn’t walking everyone, he will be effective enough to be a solid contributor.

Hunter Greene, SP, Cincinnati Reds

Velocity down 4.5 mph from previous start

During his second start of the season, Hunter Greene broke a Major League record by throwing 39 pitches at 100 miles per hour or harder. In the following outing, Greene loses nearly five mph on his fastball, while not throwing a single pitch at or over 100 mph.

Of course, it heavily affected his results. He went from striking out six with no walks in one start to walking four with three strikeouts in the next start.

The real question is what to do with Greene. Obviously, if you are in a deeper league or a dynasty, you probably can’t afford to sit him. If you are in a shallower 10-12-team league, it may be smart to bench him the next time just to see what he looks like.

It’s early in the season, we aren’t assuming that Greene is injured. It’s just smarter to play it safe because we don’t have any data on him, considering it’s his rookie year. We don’t know if this is something that has happened to him before or the Reds told him to take it down a notch because they don’t want him throwing that hard every outing.
Regardless, he is definitely not someone you can cut due to his overpowering stuff. I would just play it safe and keep track of his velocity in the next start. No reason to panic just yet.

Noah Syndergaard, SP, Los Angeles Angels

Velocity down 3 mph

Noah Syndergaard is far from the pitcher we knew back in 2019. Someone who used to throw 100 mph sinkers on the regular is now nowhere close to throwing as hard as he once did. Through his first three starts, his four-seam fastball velocity is down 3 mph from 2019.

As a result, the strikeouts have suffered. Syndergaard used to strike out anywhere from 24-29-percent of batters. Thus far, he has struck out 16.4-percent of batters. Though looking under the hood, it may not be impacting him as much as you’d think.

If you look at his overall whiff rate, it’s higher than it was in 2019 at 27.3-percent. The zone-contact rate is exactly the same and the chase rate on all of his pitches is only down one and a half percent. Not only that, his ground ball rate is at 58-percent, an elite rate that will counter any loss he sees in his strikeout rate. So, essentially, he is the same exact pitcher as he was in his previous full season, just down in velocity.

Syndergaard has the secondaries to survive in the big leagues. With a slider, changeup, and curveball that are all above average offerings, there is a chance he is only a slightly worse version of his normal self. This could be a slight chance to buy low if someone sees that his strikeouts are down on the surface and wants to move on.

Aroldis Chapman, RP, New York Yankees

Velocity down 2 mph

The Yankees’ elite closer, Aroldis Chapman, continues to see his velocity go down every season. After being one of the first pitchers to be able to hit 103 mph, he now only averages 96 on his four-seam fastball, down two mph from 2021.
Sure, he’s not the same pitcher but the Yankees continue to try and reinvent Chapman by adding different wrinkles to his game. First, they had him ditch his changeup for a split-finger fastball that has dominated hitters. Now, he is throwing fewer fastballs while intentionally not throwing as hard to better command his fastball.
While it may be concerning to see his velocity down, it is supposedly intentional. Which would make sense considering Chapman hit 101 mph on his last pitch during a save on Friday night. If he is throwing that hard when he wants to, there is clearly nothing wrong with his arm.

Continue to move on comfortably with Chapman as your top relief pitcher.

Deeper League Dart Throws

When we say deep leagues, we mean it. Anything 15-teamers or up, some of these guys may apply to. Even a deeper dynasty league where you can afford to stash an arm or two to find out if the pitch change actually turns into results. Oftentimes the bad pitcher still turns out to be bad regardless of the change. Though this is a good exercise to try and find breakout arms in the depths of the waiver wire.

Erick Fedde, SP, Washington Nationals

Pitch mix overhaul

Erick Fedde is a career 5.31 ERA pitcher for the Washington Nationals, just in case you had never heard of him. Which is entirely possible and no fault of your own. He features a plus curveball that has gotten some decent results. To go along with a changeup and cutter as his two other secondaries.

The issue, as is with almost all of these guys, his fastball stinks. Fedde throws a sinker in an attempt to induce ground balls. Unfortunately, the pitch gets pummeled when it is not on the ground. Last season, he had a .547 slugging against when he threw the sinker with a 13-percent whiff rate and a negative 8-run value on Baseball Savant, which is quite bad.

What almost any organization would advise Fedde to do in this scenario is throw the sinker less. That is exactly what he is doing to start the year. The rate at which he throws his sinker has gone down from 42.4-percent to 29.7-percent.
As a result, he is throwing his curveball nine percent more often. His cutter usage is up seven-percent and the changeup usage has basically remained the same.

Through his first three starts, Fedde hasn’t seen a change in production. In fact, the velocity on all of his pitches is down roughly one and a half miles per hour. Considering all of his starts have come on the East Coast, this could be a weather issue.

Regardless, Fedde is someone to keep an eye on for his next couple of starts. The keys for him are inducing ground balls with the sinker, getting whiffs with the curveball, and getting left-handed batters out with the cutter and changeup. If he can do that, there’s a chance he can become 15-team relevant.

Aaron Sanchez , SP, Washington Nationals

Velocity back to normal

When looking at the previous year’s velocity, it’s important to go back multiple seasons. Some people may see Aaron Sanchez was up four mph on his fastball and think that he just magically found something out. In fact, his velocity is just back to what it normally was and happened to be down four mph last season. Most likely due to some injury he had.

Most people, including myself, had no idea that Sanchez was even on a team. He made a start for Washington on Sunday and looked much better than I thought he would. Obviously, seeing the one strikeout in four innings with four earned runs doesn’t get anyone excited. But he was hitting his spots, inducing ground balls, and got a decent amount of called strikes against a solid San Francisco Giants lineup.

Sanchez is really only appealing in 15-team leagues if he has a two-start week. Otherwise, we need to see more from the veteran right-hander to consider picking him up right now. He still has a wicked curveball and a ton of movement on his pitches. If he can keep up a high ground ball rate, there is a path relevance here though it is far from a guarantee.

We hope you enjoyed this article. You can follow this author on twitter Ryan Venancio (@ven_armbarn)

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