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Every year we hear stories about pitchers whose fastballs don’t seem to have the same life as last year. The most talked about are typically front-line starters that rely on their fastballs. In early 2013, the name that’s being discussed the most is Yankee ace CC Sabathia.
Throughout spring training, Sabathia’s velocity has been a point of concern. Coming off of elbow surgery during the offseason, Sabathia’s first regular season start did nothing to quell that concern. As The Star-Ledger’s Andy McCullough notes:
Sabathia’s fastball topped out at 91.7 mph on Monday, according to Pitch f/x data from Brooks Baseball. On Opening Day in 2012, his fastball hit 94.5 mph. On Opening Day in 2011, his fastball touched 94.7 mph.
In the end, McCullough notes that while it’s reasonable to be concerned, Sabathia is likely to improve as the season wears on and has good enough secondary stuff to still be very good.
Overall McCullough is right, however, I think there is greater reason for concern than some may think.
Sabathia was one of the top starters I flagged as at risk for further velocity loss this season based on how far his velocity declined last year. CC lost nearly 1.5 mph off of his fastball in 2012. Pitchers that lose at least 1 mph have, on average, a 39% chance of either getting injured or failing to throw at least 40 IP in the following season. They also have a 91% chance of losing further velocity the following season.