One of the best ways to judge if a pitcher still has his stuff or if he's at risk of injury is looking at his velocity. I've compiled most of the A's staff's April velocity (fastballs only) and compared it to previous months to see who's up, who's down, and who we should be paying attention to.
A few caveats:
-Velocity tends to increase and stabilize as the season goes on, so don't read too much into small losses in velocity. That's normal as pitchers are still building up arm strength.
-Small sample size can affect things like velocity too, so per usual, be wary of a single months worth of statistics (aka this whole post).
-I left out Chris Bassitt because :(, Eric Surkamp, Jesse Hahn, and Sean Manaea because of small sample sizes. I'll include any of those three who see significant time next month.
Without further ado, here are your velocity gainers and losers for the month of April. I put down each pitcher's average velocity by month in 2015 and compared the total average from 2015 to the average from April 2016.
Here are your starters:
|Change from 2015
And the relievers.
I've left out Andrew Triggs for small sample purposes.
|Change from 2015
Again, velocity tends to go up as the year goes on, so the limited number of players on this list shouldn't be a concern. Yet. It also means any gains are even more impressive since it's early on, if you're looking for pluses.
Doolittle isn't the best representation of velocity gain since his 2014 campaign was injury marred, but it's still good to see the bearded ginger in the green. His average fastball is a touch below where it was at its peak, but it has similar movement to his dominant days, and that's a great sign.
Reports of Graveman hitting 95 in spring were a bit exaggerated but the sinkerballer has increased his velocity by over one mile per hour. His stuff has certainly looked sharper early on, although his last two outings have been less than impressive. While his game is more predicated on movement, any velocity will help and the A's will gladly take it.
Hill's average fastball is up and in his first start in May, it rose even higher. I'm here to talk about April, though, and while we're working with an extra small sample with Hill, that increase in velocity is nothing but good news. His fastball will be an interesting pitch to track as his command improves, it wouldn't be surprising to see the velocity climb as he gains better feel for his heater.
It can't be stated enough, velocity tends to increase as the season wears on, hence why the vast majority of A's pitchers are in the red. I won't cover everyone in the red, just the notable cases.
Gray's velocity is down over one MPH from his average last season and he's looked more like the tired pitcher we saw in September than the ace who dominated the first three quarters of the season. His dip is more concerning when you compare this April to last, where he's down even more.
Gray's dip is certainly worth following but I'd caution reading into it until Gray has some semblance of command. He's been unable to find the zone with his heater for most of this young season, and it stands to reason he can't let his fastball fly like he would if he did have that command. That said, keep a close eye on Gray's upcoming starts.
If there's a guy here who could afford to lose velocity, it's probably Rzepczynski - the LOOGY's stuff could work even if he shaves off some velocity. Scrabble has already made a May appearance and his velocity was up a tick, hopefully indicating small sample blip on the early season loss.
The good news on Hendriks' dip is that he's actually above where he was last April, indicating he's still building up arm strength. The bad news is that he's looked downright awful at times in spite of an acceptable FIP. The small nature of the sample size means nothing is certain, but Hendriks has certainly looked vulnerable without his best fastball.
There are your gainers and losers for April. I'll update this monthly! Who are you nervous about? Who are you excited about?
All numbers in this post are from the wonderful website Brooks Baseball.