Staturday: Pitch, Blease: Fastballs and Cutters ... Mostly Fastballs, though ...

 

We all love fastballs. It is the pitch we drool over – we are always excited to watch the pitchers who crank up the heat, who bring the mustard, throw cheese, gas and/or smoke or who fire BBs, pills or seeds. It is also the pitch pitchers rely on the most. Pitchers throw a lot of fastballs. A lot of them.

 

Of the 142 pitchers included in this study, only 21 did not throw a fastball the majority of the time. Twelve of them replace those fastballs with cutters, which are basically fastballs with a little extra movement, so only nine pitchers rely on the slow stuff or the breaking stuff most of the time. Most of these guys, bottomed out by John Smoltz at 44.9%, are not that far off the pace. Two guys are, though. One is obvious – Tim Wakefield, who relies on his knuckler, to the tune of 82.6% -- the other, perhaps not as much. The New York Mets’ Jorge Sosa throws his slider 52.3% of the time.

 

Least Fastballs

 

 

Name

Thrown

Velocity

D Davis

40.10%

84.1

J Moyer

37.70%

81.1

J Sosa

37.30%

91.6

J Litsch

18.90%

88.3

T Wakefield

13.60%

74.2

 

One of these pitchers is not like the others, one of these pitchers just doesn’t belong. Three of these guys throw slightly harder than my grandmother and Litsch’s fastball is a couple of ticks below average. Sosa, though, throws a good, above average speed fastball – he just relies on his slider an unprecedented amount.

 

Slowest Fastballs

 

 

Name

Thrown

Velocity

T Glavine

50.60%

83.7

L Hernandez

59.30%

83.6

M Maroth

58.90%

83

J Moyer

37.70%

81.1

T Wakefield

13.60%

74.2

The slowest fastballs, not surprisingly, are thrown by a knuckler, a bunch of old guys and a bunch of lefties, all but two of whom went to college.

Fastest Fastballs

 

 

Name

Thrown

Velocity

F Hernandez

57.00%

95.6

A Burnett

66.70%

95.1

J Verlander

62.30%

94.8

D McGowan

59.20%

94.7

J Beckett

63.10%

94.6

The fastest fastballs, here’s a shocker, are thrown by youngish righties, only one of whom went to college.

Now none of this should surprise anyone. Righties are expected to throw more heat, lefties to get by on guile, no one can throw heat forever and the pitchers who are going to be obvious prospects earliest, are going to be the ones with the greatest physical tools.

Finally, the guys who throw the most fastballs:

Most Fastballs

 

 

Name

Thrown

Velocity

A Cook

79.90%

90.7

D Willis

77.70%

89.3

C Wang

76.40%

92.7

F Carmona

75.00%

93.5

C Young

74.70%

88.7

Here we have five pitchers whose fastballs range from the average to good, two of whom were good last year, two a tick above average and one who was quite poor.

The speed of their fastballs, however, does little to shed light on their performances.

Here’s an interesting piece of analysis for you – the less often a pitch throws his fastball, the more its velocity correlates with his effectiveness.

Among pitchers in the top quartile of fastball percentage: (Fastball % v FIP)

Fastball1_medium

As you can clearly see, there is basically no correlation at all. The velocity of the fastball accounts for less than 1% of the pitcher’s success.

Among pitchers in the middle 50%:

Fastball2_medium

Here the trend line is much stronger. Fastball velocity accounts for 31% of these pitchers success, very slightly less than the pitchers who throw the fewest fastballs:

Fastball3_medium

It strikes this observer as pretty remarkable that if you know that a pitcher throws a fastball less often than a quarter of the league and you know how fast he throws his fastball, you are one third of the way to knowing how effective he is. Basically, if all you can do is bring the heat, it does not matter, a major league hitter can turn on it. If you have something else to offer, though, that extra MPH or two will leave your opponent helpless.

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