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Jim Furtado
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Pitching Newsbeat

Monday, January 24, 2022

Just Throw It Down the Middle

To summarize, hitters were worse off against poorly located fastballs than ever before, in a season where they saw a greater rate of them than ever before. That’s confusing, and it wouldn’t be a FanGraphs article without numerous words, tables, and charts to infer why.

One reason: Fastballs are also faster than ever before. The velocity surge, once viewed with dismay and wonder, had largely plateaued since around 2016, when fastballs averaged 93.2 mph. That average rose to just 93.4 mph by 2020, the sluggish pace suggesting a limit to what humans could achieve. But pitchers broke out of their slump last season, recording an average fastball velocity of 93.7 mph. In conjunction with a new baseball, the sudden jump could explain hitters’ struggles against even the plainest fastballs, location-wise.

There seems to be more, though. The explosion in fastball velocity suggests a sudden improvement in results – fluctuating years preceded by a definitive jump. But look at fastballs located in the “Shadow” of the zone, and the decline in run value is gradual. It’s likely that over time, as more and more pitchers started climbing the ladder, hitters became increasingly ill-equipped to handle these fastballs. Last season represented a new low for borderline fastballs, sure, but merely in the footsteps of several lows before it. So how are pitchers’ strategies different with down-the-middle fastballs? How did they become, all of a sudden, better?

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 24, 2022 at 06:29 PM | 7 comment(s)
  Beats: pitching



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