When 92 Is Actually 95: Bailey Falter’s Extension Adds Meaningful Velocity

What if I told you that there is a pitcher who throws 92 mph but is actually throwing 95? That’s just Bailey Falter’s niche. Despite only throwing nine major league innings in his career to date, Falter has already shot to the top of some important leaderboards: release extension and average velocity added.

Here are the top-10 fastballs in June, sorted not by average velocity, but instead by average added velocity, which is the result of simple subtraction: effective velocity minus release speed. Effective velocity estimates the “actual” pitch speed the hitter faces based on where the pitcher releases the baseball and how much time the hitter has to react. If a pitcher releases the ball closer to home plate, the batter has less time to react, effectively (there’s that word again) making the pitch come in faster. This is music to Falter’s ears:

Top-10 Fastballs by Added Velocity, June
Player Pitch Type Release Speed Effective Velocity Difference
Edwin Díaz FF 99.5 103.3 3.8
Garrett Whitlock SI 94.6 98.2 3.6
Bailey Falter FF 94.1 97.5 3.4
Logan Gilbert FF 93.3 96.7 3.4
Tyler Glasnow FF 95.9 99.3 3.4
Bailey Falter SI 93.6 96.9 3.3
Bailey Falter FF 92.6 95.9 3.3
Bailey Falter SI 90.0 93.3 3.3
Bailey Falter SI 92.5 95.7 3.2
Logan Gilbert FF 96.7 99.9 3.2
SOURCE: Baseball Savant

That’s a lot of yellow. Falter is responsible for five of the top 10 pitches by added velocity this month. Furthermore, 60 of his 63 fastballs in June have added at least 2 mph of effective velocity when fewer than 2% of all fastballs across baseball have done so this month. In total, Falter has averaged an additional 2.5 mph on his fastballs this month, putting him in a virtual tie with Gilbert for the most added velocity in baseball:

June Added Velocity Leaders
Player Fastballs Velocity Effective Velocity Difference
Logan Gilbert 176 94.7 97.2 2.5
Bailey Falter 63 92.2 94.7 2.5
Brandon Workman 66 89.8 91.9 2.1
Steve Cishek 84 90.1 92.2 2.1
Tyler Glasnow 138 96.8 98.9 2.1
Bailey Ober 160 91.8 93.9 2.1
Phil Maton 91 91.6 93.6 2.0
Luis Oviedo 22 95.4 97.3 1.9
Brent Suter 111 87.8 89.6 1.9
Garrett Whitlock 95 96.3 98.0 1.8
SOURCE: Baseball Savant

When pitching, Falter releases his pitches more seven-and-a-half feet closer to home plate than the pitching rubber, the second-highest figure in baseball. (Only Gilbert is ahead of him.) In contrast, the pitcher with the lowest average extension (min. 50 pitches, to exclude position players) is Germán Márquez, at just 5.3 feet. When the baseball leaves Falter’s hand, it is only traveling 53 feet to home plate; when it leaves Márquez’s, it is traveling more than 55. That matters a lot: For each additional foot a pitcher releases the ball closer to home plate, they experience an additional 1.7 mph in “effective velocity,” on average. For pitchers whose extension is less than 6.25 feet, they experience a loss in added velocity. This is what that looks like:

After taking a look at the graph, let’s take a look at Falter himself. This is what that seven-and-a-half feet of extension looks like from a cool, behind-home-plate camera angle that I uncovered on one of his sinkers. This pitch to Max Scherzer left Falter’s hand at 92.5 mph but had an effective velocity of 94.8 mph with precisely 7.5 feet of extension:

Talk about a pitch getting up on the hitter quickly; Scherzer had no chance swinging at that one.

That does raise the ever-so-important question: Does added pitch velocity matter? Logically, you would think so. Releasing the ball closer to home plate, thus giving the hitter less time to react, should yield better results. That logic does bear itself out in the data, with a simple model suggesting that for each 1 mph increase in added fastball velocity, a pitcher is expected to gain about 0.3 runs per 100 pitches in terms of run value. For a player like Falter, who has added more than 2.5 mph on his fastballs this season, he would expect to earn about 0.75 runs per 100 pitches. That has wide-ranging implications for him if he pitches a full season; even if he threw just 500 fastballs in any one season, he would be expected to save himself about 3.75 runs on average, which is worth more than one-third of a win. And in the most recent full season, 130 different relief pitchers threw more than 500 fastballs.

We can also evaluate the average wOBA allowed by added velocity to have a better understanding of the effects of this advantage on plate appearance outcomes. Again, there is a relationship between added velocity and wOBA, and again, Falter would be a huge beneficiary of his funky delivery and release point:

Again, putting things in Falter terms, a pitcher who adds about 2.5 mph to their fastball via release extension would expect to see their wOBA allowed on the pitch fall by about 24 points. That is a huge decrease, and it suggests that he is likely to find success in the major leagues, at least with the fastball.

As for the results in the extremely small sample to date, Falter has pitched very well. He’s allowed three runs in those nine innings (good for a 3.00 ERA), struck out nine of the 34 batters he has faced (good for a 26.5% strikeout rate), and hasn’t yet walked a batter. He’s even impressed Bryce Harper, who called him “nasty” after Falter pitched three solid innings against the Giants this past weekend.

Though he’s mostly been a long-man for Philly so far, there is still the chance that Falter develops into a long-term starting pitching option. In our 2021 prospects report, he was pegged as the 12th-best prospect in the team’s system, with a 40+ Future Value. Eric Longenhagen wrote that there could be a “breakout opportunity here, and if not, it’s nice to know Falter is healthy and will be a viable backend option soon because of his ability to throw strikes.” Perhaps with added velocity — Eric noted that Falter was mostly 89–92 mph in his most recent season, 2019, while he’s more 90–94 today — the breakout potential is actually there. The deception and extension, at least, make him an interesting guy to watch for the rest of the year.

Devan Fink is a Contributor at FanGraphs. You can follow him on Twitter @DevanFink.

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2 years ago

I don’t think Suter has ever hit 99 mph