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Sunday, April 21, 2019

Tangotiger Blog: How much better is it to throw your fastball at 95mph than 91mph?

Throwing harder is better.

Jim Furtado Posted: April 21, 2019 at 11:31 AM | 2 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: analytics

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: April 22, 2019 at 02:42 AM (#5834055)
That was a weird way to do that study. For EACH pitcher, he took their 10% fastest fastballs and called all of those "group 1" -- regardless of how fast those pitches were. That makes this not quite a study of "what are the advantages of a 95-mph fastball" but more a "how much more effective is a pitcher's fastest fastball compared with his slower ones." Statistically speaking, he's looking just at the within-pitcher variation, no between-pitcher variation whatsoever, but then aggregating that within-pitcher variation across pitchers.

More obvious would be to bin the 10% fastest fastballs into one group, etc. then see how they turned out. The differences in results would probably be minimal though -- he's looking at sets of fastballs that average from 91 MPH to 95 MPH.
   2. Bhaakon Posted: April 22, 2019 at 03:45 AM (#5834058)
I think you hit the point of the study on the head, and the problem is just a misleading headline. A straight investigation of the general value of velocity would be covering well-trodden ground. This analysis--what value a pitcher might gain by rearing back and throwing with maximum effort versus trading in some velocity for command (or movement, or whatever) is potentially more interesting.

The main problem I see is that simply tossing all pitches into buckets fails to account for other variables. For instance, a reliever's normal effort fastball to his first batter might be in his top 20% velocity, but the same pitcher, while starting, might be giving the proverbial 110% just to heave a bottom 20th percentile fastball somewhere in the vicinity of the plate in the 8th inning. A pitcher nursing an injury is probably going to be throwing both slower and with worse command. It's hard to say on any given pitch whether low velocity is the sole culprit behind the poor value of low-'effort' fastballs or a concurrent symptom of another underlying cause. Perhaps a pitch limit cut-off to try and exclude the effects of fatigue? I'd be interested to see if/how the relationship changes if you're only looking at pitches 1-25 vs, say, pitches 50-75.

As far as the diminishing returns on high-end fastballs goes, it jives well with a lot of baseball truisms about overthrowing, throwing too hard, being too amped up, etc. Obviously it's better to pitch with higher velocity...as long as you can still pitch and not just heave.

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