Fastball Losses

Previously, I looked at the pitchers with the biggest increases in fastball speed this past season. The list of the top 20 was dominated by relief pitchers, which is not a huge surprise given how volatile relief pitchers tend to be and since they tend to throw harder, on average, than starters, those fluctuations can cause bigger shifts in absolute speed.

Looking at the list from the other end, however – that is, from the pitchers that lost the most speed on average on their fastballs – produces more starters. Whether because starters will get more innings even when injured, a usual byproduct of diminished fastball speed, or some other cause is open for speculation, but the results are definitely interesting.

As promised, a list of the biggest drops in fastball speed from 2009 to 2008. A minimum of 50 innings pitched in each season was needed to qualify.

Joba Chamberlain, -2.5
Ervin Santana, -2.1
Ross Ohlendorf, -2
Jared Burton, -1.7
Tim Lincecum, -1.7
Daniel Cabrera, -1.7
Manny Delcarmen, -1.6
Chan Ho Park, -1.6
Brian Fuentes, -1.6
Jeremy Sowers, -1.5
Lance Cormier, -1.4
Chris Young, -1.4
Grant Balfour, -1.3
Mariano Rivera, -1.3
Tim Redding, -1.3
Oliver Perez, -1.2
Aaron Cook, -1.2
Kevin Gregg, -1.2
Kyle McClellan, -1.1
Aaron Heilman, -1

Obviously, the decrease in fastball speed meant little to Tim Lincecum as he went on to repeat his NL Cy Young. Ervin Santana’s recovery from injury in 2009 was far from 100% and how his fastball shows up in 2010 could have a major impact on the close AL West race. The Yankees might be starting to worry about the future ceiling of Joba Chamberlain and the Mets, well, the Mets should have been worried about Oliver Perez long before they inked him to that ridiculous extension.

Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

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14 years ago

I had noticed Lincecum’s decrease this year. He’s really thrown a lot of innings for a kid that young. If the Giants don’t sign him to a long term deal, there’s not as much incentive to reduce his workload.