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Monday, December 07, 2020

Fastball Velocity, Fastball Usage, and All That Fun Stuff

For nine years, pitchers threw a near-constant share of fastballs. From 2017 onward, that number has cratered, and 2020 represented a new low. There’s no reason to expect this trend to stop in the way that velocity did, either. Easy velocity gains have some limit: At some point, a lot of pitchers will have gone to pitching labs to improve their mechanics and conditioning, and teams will have tapped all the hardest throwers from their farm systems. On the other hand, all you have to do to throw fewer fastballs is throw fewer fastballs.

I’m resisting the urge to make some broad sweeping statement about the future course of the game, but it certainly doesn’t feel like we’ve reached an equilibrium rate of fastballs. Batters still want to see a fastball every pitch. Per our pitch values, hitters were 234 runs above average against fastballs and 234 runs below average against all other pitches.

That differential hasn’t moved much, even as pitchers throw fewer fastballs — in 2015, it stood at 594 runs against fastballs and -594 against all other pitches, which is roughly the same after pro-rating 2020 to a full season. In other words, batters keep getting better at hitting fastballs, which makes them less and less attractive for pitchers to throw, which keeps the overall value lost via fastballs the same even as it increases per pitch thrown.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 07, 2020 at 02:39 PM | 0 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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