Pitch movement isn’t as exciting as high velocity these days, especially when talking about four-seam fastballs. The harder you throw, the more attention you draw, and any additional cut, run/ride, or rise you produce is the icing on the cake. So what happens if you throw a fastball with average velocity and minimal movement?
There are a few pitchers who don’t rely on heavy movement and can compensate for unimpressive velocity with things like pitch command or control and being able to use their offspeed and/or breaking pitches with the fastball effectively. While looking at some 2019 four-seam movement data, I came across a few pitchers that produce minimal four-seam action. Since the fastball is essentially the foundation on which all other pitches thrive, I wondered about the capacity of their other secondary pitches working off of this somewhat linear-moving pitch.
I found Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Hunter Wood to be of interest to me. Only a half-win player in 2018, Wood took a small step backward in 2019 after a decent start to the season that went south just before the All-Star break. His HR/9 skyrocketed in that time, going from 0.68 from April to June to 2.84 in July and August, and his fastball was largely responsible for the degradation.
Eventually, Wood was dealt to the Indians in late July after spending his two and a half seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays. Per Wood’s scouting report, he possesses a good level of command. His pitches generally grade out as average, with exception given to his cutter.
Wood’s undeviating four-seamer averages a horizontal break of three-quarters of an inch with the tenth-highest rise of all fastballs thrown in 2019. Given the lack of expected drop to the pitch, hitters generated a fair number of fly balls, a lot of which left the various stadiums they were hit in. Thrown for league-average velocity with the 43rd-highest spin rate, it produced a .280 batting average and a 120 wRC+ against. Below are a couple of his typical fastballs: Read the rest of this entry »