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Tuesday, April 02, 2013

FanGraphs: Petti: CC Sabathia’s Velocity Is Definitely Worth Watching

For over 40 years, Velocity Watchers has helped hundreds of pitchers around the world to lose velocity!

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.

Repoz Posted: April 02, 2013 at 12:28 PM | 19 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics, yankees

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   1. SG Posted: April 02, 2013 at 12:50 PM (#4402030)
CC's averaged less than 92 mph(rounded) twice with his fastball as a Yankee. Opening Day last year (around 91) and yesterday (around 90).

He didn't throw much this spring so maybe he gets some of that back, but it is a reason to be concerned.
   2. zonk Posted: April 02, 2013 at 12:54 PM (#4402031)
Is it a loss in velocity or an increase in the necessary force for the ball to break orbit and head towards the plate?
   3. Hack Wilson Posted: April 02, 2013 at 01:01 PM (#4402036)
CC could transition to becoming a crafty lefty, although I don't see much resemblance to Digger Odell.
   4. SG Posted: April 02, 2013 at 01:06 PM (#4402041)
Is it a loss in velocity or an increase in the necessary force for the ball to break orbit and head towards the plate?


CC's actually bordering on slender these days.

Maybe not, but he's lost about 30 lbs.

I was hoping whatever he had done to his elbow would help him recover the velocity he lost last year, but there are a lot of pitches on that arm and that was probably not realistic. I look forward to him re-inventing himself as Jimmy Key.
   5. Blastin Posted: April 02, 2013 at 01:18 PM (#4402056)
His breaking pitches are nasty. He got 11 swings and misses at the change-up and the curve was fine. Slider hasn't been an issue. If indeed his velo is gone (and he was pumping up to 95 in the ALDS, so... I'm gonna wait before we declare that), there's no reason he can't be a better version of Old Man Pettitte.
   6. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 02, 2013 at 01:27 PM (#4402069)
It's a sign of the Yankees' 2013 season that concerns about an ace who's coming off arm surgery rank somewhere around 5th or 6th on their list of problems. But I do think that it's a bit too soon to start fretting about this, if for no other reason that we'd like to save a few fingernails for chewing later in the month.
   7. valuearbitrageur Posted: April 02, 2013 at 01:35 PM (#4402077)
Did we expect his velocity to increase coming off elbow surgery?
   8. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: April 02, 2013 at 01:36 PM (#4402079)
But I do think that it's a bit too soon to start fretting about this, if for no other reason that we'd like to save a few fingernails for chewing later in the month.

Ha! By the end of the month, we'll have moved through all 5 stages of grief and be beyond caring.
   9. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: April 02, 2013 at 01:44 PM (#4402089)
Did we expect his velocity to increase coming off elbow surgery?

When the surgery is to remove a bone spur that was causing pain? Quite possibly, yes.

Tommy John surgery also improves velocity (not just from the injured state) but sometimes from the pre-injury norm.

If a guy has an elbow problem, and they fix it, why shouldn't velocity go up?
   10. valuearbitrageur Posted: April 02, 2013 at 01:49 PM (#4402090)
When the surgery is to remove a bone spur that was causing pain? Quite possibly, yes.

Tommy John surgery also improves velocity (not just from the injured state) but sometimes from the pre-injury norm.

If a guy has an elbow problem, and they fix it, why shouldn't velocity go up?


I didn't realize the surgery was all the way back at end of October (apparently he doesn't have A-Rod's doctor).

I was thinking his rehab cut into the time he had to get ready for this season, and his velocity would come later. But it seems he had enough time, and it should be close to back now.
   11. Dan Posted: April 02, 2013 at 02:00 PM (#4402099)
CC's averaged less than 92 mph(rounded) twice with his fastball as a Yankee. Opening Day last year (around 91) and yesterday (around 90).


Where are you getting those numbers, SG? I'm seeing different numbers on BrooksBaseball.net, which uses Pitch F/X data.

For Opening Day 2012 he was at 92.46 MPH with the 4-seamer and 92.12 with the sinker, topping out at 94.1 and 94.5 respectively.

For 2013 those numbers are 89.92 (4-seamer) and 89.12 (sinker) with top speeds of 91.7 and 90.2.

The 2013 numbers might be a touch HIGH too, since a few of his fastballs were mislabeled as changeups by the algorithm due to the significantly lower velocities than his historical averages. If you look at the second link, you'll note that the highest speed registered on a changeup yesterday was 89.3, which was clearly a fastball with how he was throwing yesterday. Not sure how many besides that one were misidentified, but probably at least a couple. Gameday's algorithm was getting completely screwed up; it labeled at least 15 fastballs as change ups during the game.

At any rate, Pitch F/X has Sabathia down nearly 3 MPH from where he was at just 12 months ago.
   12. SG Posted: April 02, 2013 at 02:25 PM (#4402126)
I grabbed them from Fangraphs' Game Logs, here. These are supposedly Pitch F/X as well. They show an average 4-seamer velocity of 91.0 on Opening Day 2012, 89.9 yesterday.

I ignored sinkers, not sure if that changes things.
   13. Weekly Journalist_ Posted: April 02, 2013 at 02:33 PM (#4402133)
Also, what the hell is going on when the YANKEES can't sell out opening day or the ALCS. This is a team that, in AVERAGED over 50,000 fans from 2005-2008, including a whopping 53,000+ in 2008. Now they can't sell out the playoffs? They can't sell out opening day? The pirates sell out opening day.

What is going on?
   14. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: April 02, 2013 at 02:39 PM (#4402141)
For Opening Day 2012 he was at 92.46 MPH with the 4-seamer and 92.12 with the sinker, topping out at 94.1 and 94.5 respectively.

For 2013 those numbers are 89.92 (4-seamer) and 89.12 (sinker) with top speeds of 91.7 and 90.2.


If that's accurate...wow.
   15. Shooty Is Disappointed With His Midstream Urine Posted: April 02, 2013 at 02:43 PM (#4402144)
I'm rooting for CC to get 300 wins, so I hope this isn't indicative of too steep a decline. Maybe he just settles into a being a slightly better David Wells from here out?
   16. Mirabelli Dictu (Chris McClinch) Posted: April 02, 2013 at 04:14 PM (#4402263)
CC's actually bordering on slender these days.

Maybe not, but he's lost about 30 lbs.


I don't know. It's still pretty accurate to call him CCC.
   17. DL from MN Posted: April 02, 2013 at 04:45 PM (#4402316)
They can't sell out opening day?


Probably one of the effects of the sequester. Seriously though, I'll bet the cheap seats sold out.
   18. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: April 03, 2013 at 10:21 AM (#4402992)
So, CC Sabathia, HOF? He needs 5 more years pretty much the same as last year to match Mussina. They'd be remarkably similar, 270 wins or so, 3,500 IP, low 120's ERA+. CC has a Cy Award, only one 20-win season. Is last year too pessimistic a projection for CC?
   19. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 03, 2013 at 10:30 AM (#4402998)
So, CC Sabathia, HOF? He needs 5 more years pretty much the same as last year to match Mussina. They'd be remarkably similar, 270 wins or so, 3,500 IP, low 120's ERA+. CC has a Cy Award, only one 20-win season.

If Sabathia matches Mussina's stats, it'll take him fewer years than Mussina to get in, rightly or wrongly. Of course the operative word there is "if".

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