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Monday, August 10, 2020

The Fastball Is Disappearing. What Does It Mean for MLB’s Future?

Fastball use held steady from 2010 through 2015 at between 56.8% and 57.8%. Then the fastball began to fall out of favor, slowly at first, but with stunning drops in the past two seasons. Fastball percentage starting from 2015: 56.8, 56.3, 55.3, 54.5, 51.9 and–drum roll, please–49.7 at the start of this week. (Here and throughout, “fastball” references do not include cutters.)

“I think 95 is the new 90,” Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Guys can really hit velocity. And so, to kind of get guys off of that, pitching off your secondaries … I really believe there’s a lot to that.”

It’s an upside-down world. Secondaries are primaries. And the simplest explanation why this strategy is happening is obvious: it works.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 10, 2020 at 03:01 PM | 8 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: fastballs

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: August 10, 2020 at 06:44 PM (#5968914)
If fangraphs numbers are accurate, this has been entirely a shift from FB to sliders. From 2014-19, FB% dropped from 57.7% to 52.5% while sliders went from 13.7% to 18.4%. Every other pitch type is pretty much constant. The average veolocity of everything is up and mostly by about the same amount -- I forget when they changed to measuring it out of the hand ... or whether fangraphs has adjusted their historical numbers for that change but for now I'll assume that's due to the change in measurement.
   2. Jack Sommers Posted: August 10, 2020 at 07:15 PM (#5968919)
So what is the "adjustment" that hitters must make that Verducci keeps referring to ?
   3. sunday silence (again) Posted: August 10, 2020 at 09:08 PM (#5968937)
well dont stop there Walt, what does it mean for MLBs future?
   4. Walt Davis Posted: August 10, 2020 at 11:13 PM (#5968966)
DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM! DOOM I say!!
   5. Walt Davis Posted: August 10, 2020 at 11:41 PM (#5968972)
Possibly more seriously ... Hitters are _hitting_ the ball better than ever. For the last decade, BABIP is pretty much unchanged, ISO is way up, LDs are up a bit (may be a definitional change), HR/FB is through the roof, and fangraphs shows a big jump in hard-hit% (mostly a crop in med-hit% ... I don't know how they have numbers back to 2010??), the pull/center/opp distribution is much the same. FWIW, wRC in 2019 was the highest this decade.

What we all know is that K% went from 18.5% in 2010 to 23.0% last year. That's gonna kill your BA for which hitters have compensated (at least in part) with more power.

Anyway Verducci is surely off the mark here. The massive drop in BA is just this season. Given FB% dropped 5% from 2010-19 while having minimal effect on BA (it was mid-250s through 2017, then 248 in 2018 and 252 in 2019) it seems odd that a further 2% drop would be the cause of a 20 point drop in BA. It might contribute but it's not gonna explain much of it. (Note K-rate is up 1% but so far walk rates are also up nearly 1%. ISO this year is in line with 2016-18 not the 2019 superball so the ball would be one place I'd look. FWIW, March/April last year, BA and BABIP were about 7 points lower than they finished so part of it could be "pitchers ahead of hitters" despite the warm weather. They are actually swinging a bit more often but swinging and missing a fair bit more often.
   6. Howie Menckel Posted: August 11, 2020 at 12:41 AM (#5968974)
Jeff Passan

@JeffPassan
·
47m
Major League Baseball has had preliminary discussions about holding its postseason in a bubble-type format, sources familiar with the conversations told ESPN.
   7. Rally Posted: August 11, 2020 at 11:57 AM (#5969036)
My impression is that pitching staffs are taking advantage of the current rules. Starters pitching less than ever before, so they can go max effort and are rarely asked to pitch to hitters for the 3rd time through the order. Expanded bullpens so you never run out of fresh arms. Managers can no longer go L-R-L and use 3 pitchers for 3 hitters, so the bullpens remain full longer into games.

There are no minor league games to play so top pitching prospects, at least the ones closest to the majors, are ending up in big league bullpens instead of in AA and AAA rotations.
   8. Itchy Row Posted: August 11, 2020 at 12:52 PM (#5969051)
I think we could throw disappearing fastballs in Baseball Stars on Nintendo in about 1990. What it meant for baseball's future then: steroids.

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