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Dodgers: Fastball Velocity Trends For The Pitchers

How hard do these guys throw?

(Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

These are times where many of us look at things like exit velocity, launch angle, pitch velocity to help determine how a player is doing. It’s great to have so much data available for those of us are into getting more details about a player. Most televised broadcasts have the pitch velocity as part of the game information. When the data is missing people are generally not happy.

Over the last couple of seasons fans and media have wondered about the drops in effectiveness with both Kenley Jansen and Clayton Kershaw. Many of us look at the drops in velocity as a partial cause for their decreases in effectiveness. Personally, as a velocity junkie, I avidly watch for how hard a pitcher is throwing.  Of course, throwing hard isn’t everything and if a pitcher can’t change speeds they will eventually get lit up. We’ll focus on the fastball velocity for this piece. In the case of Jansen it will be his cutter since he throws it over 90% of the time. We’ll break up the results by starters and relievers and sort by the fastest in 2019, going back to 2015 or when data is available.

All raw data was found on FanGraphs by searching for each pitcher and selecting the “Pitch Type” option.

The Starters

Name 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Buehler, Walker 98.1 96.2 96.7
Gonsolin, Tony 94.5
Stewart, Brock 93.2 93.3 91.1 92.8
Santana, Dennis 92.9 92.7
Maeda, Kenta 90.0 91.5 91.9 91.8
Stripling, Ross 90.5 92.9 91.7 90.6
Hill, Rich 90.2 90.2 89.0 89.3 90.5
Ryu, Hyun-Jin 89.8 90.3 90.2 90.5
Kershaw, Clayton 93.6 93.1 92.7 90.0 90.2

Of course, Walker Buehler leads the starters. Tony Gonsolin, Brock Stewart and Dennis Santana are small sample sizes and Ross Stripling has been both a starter and reliever. The big alarm is the drop in velocity for all-time great Clayton Kershaw. It’s no coincidence that his last fully healthy season was 2015 and that he’s pitched extensively in the post-season since 2013. What is ironic is that 39 year old Rich Hill is throwing harder than any time since sometime before 2015. The next starter that comes up could be Dustin May, and he can hit 98 MPH.

The graphic below shows some of the more extreme changes in velocity for selected pitchers.

The Relievers

Name 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Kelly, Joe 95.4 96.3 99.0 98.1 97.7
Shultz, Jaime 94.9 95.8
Baez, Pedro 97.1 96.7 97.0 96.0 95.8
Chargois, JT 96.2 95.2 95.7
Urias, Julio 92.6 93.1 93.1 95.2
Garia, Yimi 93.4 92.8 94.5 94.4
Ferguson, Caleb 93.9 94.3
Floro, Dylan 92.5 91.3 93.3 93.9
Sadler, Casey 90.7 92.1 93.2
Alexander, Scott 92.8 90.7 93.2 93.3 92.9
Jansen, Kenley 92.5 93.6 93.3 92.3 91.8

Joe Kelly leads the bullpen by almost 2 MPH! His 2015 and 2016 are slower because he was also used as a starter. Both Jaime Shultz and Casey Sadler are small sample sizes and mostly with different teams. They are also currently in AAA. One of the bigger increases is Julio Urías as he has regained his velocity from before his shoulder surgery. Now that he has been in the bullpen I’ve noticed a steady increase in his average velocity. Another one with a decent gain is Dylan Floro.

Yimi Garcia has more than recovered his velocity post Tommy John surgery. Kenley Jansen had his best season in 2017 while averaging a little more than 93 MPH. If he can get than extra 1.5 MPH back I think it would make a difference as his cutter seams best at 93-94 MPH.

The graphic below shows some of the more extreme changes in velocity for selected pitchers.

Final Thoughts

As I stated before, velocity isn’t everything, but it can be an indicator of issues. In the case of Clayton Kershaw his drop in fastball velocity there is only a three MPH difference from his slider speed. Just two years ago he had a 5-6 MPH difference between the fastball and slider. It’s strange that his fastball has dropped over 3 MPH since 2015 but his slider velocity is the same.

In regards to Kenley Jansen he’s only lost about 1.5 MPH from his 2017 prime season but it seems to make a difference. Kenley also gets a lot of fly balls and in the “juiced ball” era the balls fly out instead of being caught before the warning track.

Velocity is fun for some of us but speed differentiation and location matter as much or more. One place where it seems velocity really plays up is in the post-season. I’m hopeful that the Dodgers can get another hard thrower or two to help out in the run for the World Series Championship.

Written by Tim Rogers

A fan of the Dodgers since 1973 since I got my first baseball cards while living in Long Beach. I came to San Diego for college and never left nor did I ever switch my Dodgers' allegiance. Some know me as the "sweater guy". #ProspectHugger

One Comment

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  1. This is the most useless article and the velo stats in this article prove absolutely zero. There is no difference in a batter’s eye in plus our minus 1.5 MPH in perceived velocity once you get above 85 MPH. 85 MPH and 88 MPH look the same, just as 89 MPH AND 92 MPH. The next jump in perceived velocity is 95 MPH. 95 MPH AMD 100 MPH look the same to a hitter. The real thing that is never discussed is perceived velocity. No one ever talks about perceived velocity, when in a hitter’s eye that is all that matters. A pitcher who’s velo is 88-90 MPH can be just as effective as a guy who throws 98-100 MPH. It’s all about hiding the ball from the hitter as long as possible, changing speeds in the count, changing the eye level of the hitter, staying off the center of the plate and keeping the hitter guessing. That’s what it takes to be effective. There are pitchers and there are throwers. Pitchers could do not care what the RADAR gun reads. They care about how effective at keeping the hitters off balance. That’s what really counts.

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