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July velocity changes, with a special look at Sonny Gray

Who's up, who's down, and who is the real Sonny Gray?

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

You seem like the kind of person that would be interested in a fairly boring chart comparing Oakland A's pitcher's velocity from this past month (July) to their previous month's velocity, July average, and 2015 average. Here you go!

Starters July 2015 2015 Average June 2016 July 2016 Change from July 2015 Change from 2015 Average Change from June 2016 Average
Sonny Gray 94.13 94.2 94.68 93.53 -.6 -.67 -1.05 93.65
Kendall Graveman 91.94 91.59 93.06 92.81 .87 1.22 -.25 93.08
Jesse Hahn - 93.15 94.58 95.18 - 2.03 .6 95.2
Sean Manaea - - 93.63 93.22 - - -.42 93.45
Daniel Mengden - - 92.99 92.86 - - -.13 92.92
Dillon Overton - - 88.80 89.27 - - .47 89.02
Relievers July 2015 2015 Average June 2016 July 2016 Change from August 2015 Change from 2015 Average Change from June 2016 Average
John Axford 96.36 96.54 96.61 96.44 .08 -.10 -.17 96.41
Ryan Madson 95.15 94.94 95.76 96.09 .94 1.15 .33 95.64
Liam Hendriks 95.47 95.63 95.17 95.09 -.38 -.54 -.08 95.06
Ryan Dull - 91.76 92.17 92.42 - .66 .35 91.65
Marc Rzepczynski 92.38 92.73 92.29 92.16 -.22 -.39 -.13 92.24

A few notes:

-I've left off a few of the Nashville-Oakland commuters but will add them if they rack up significant innings in the final months of the year.

-Seeing average velocity fall isn't necessarily an indication that something is wrong. Velocity often starts down, increases as the year goes on, and falls towards the end of the season. We're getting closer to the end and will probably start seeing that, especially with guys who are approaching inning highs.

-The list above is for whatever fastball type corresponds best to said pitcher. For example, Graveman rarely throws a fourseam fastball like most pitchers, and the averages above represent his average sinker.

The gainers

Ryan Madson

If you're trying to teach a young pitcher the importance of location and intelligence, let him watch a single Adrian Beltre/Ryan Madson matchup. Overall, Madson's velocity is good news. He's got the same stuff that made him a very good pitcher last year, and his velocity is nearly the highest it's ever been in spite of his climbing age. But clearly, there's more to pitching than just throwing hard and Madson's July is proof.

Jesse Hahn

Hahn barely cracked the Oakland roster this past July, but boy has he been throwing gas this year. Like Madson, it hasn't remotely translated to success but if you're like me and occasionally forgotten that Hahn exists, good news. He's still got great stuff and he'll be a nice little lottery ticket for the rotation starting right now.

Kendall Graveman

A little cheating here, as Graveman was technically down a fraction in July. Still, his velocity increases on the season have flown under the radar, partially due to a rough start. But he's been dynamite for a good stretch now, and his exclusive use of his much faster sinker is a good reason why.

Ryan Dull

As Dull wraps up puberty, he's getting stronger and throwing harder. That's good news for a guy who frankly doesn't have a lot of room for velocity loss. Even though he isn't the hardest thrower, he's dominating and that's what matters.

I love you, Ryan Dull

The losers

Liam Hendriks

Hendriks is down a decent amount from last July which is probably the result from spending a decent amount of time on the DL. He was fantastic in July and should be a bullpen staple for years to come.

Marc Rzyepczynski

Scrabble isn't the kind of dude who relies on velocity, though it is interesting to see the trade deadline come and go without him being move. Are scouts more skeptical of his stuff than in previous years? Is that related to the slightly deflated velocity? Hard to say, though Rzyepczynski has remained an excellent pitcher even in spite of a slightly less fast-ball.

Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden

As noted, both starters are reaching their previous inning limit highs. This can lead to periods of dead arm and a lack of stamina at this juncture in the season. Hopefully, both can use the final two months of the year to help build up strength for next years October run.

The curious case of Sonny Gray

The pitcher formerly known as an ace deserves his own portion of this otherwise very mild piece. For starters, let's look at all of Sonny's offerings compared to a year ago. All numbers (in this whole piece) are from the always entertaining Brooks Baseball.

Sonny Gray Fouseam Sinker Change Slider Curve
2015 Average 94.2 93.99 88.43 87.15 82.5
2016 Average 93.65 93.53 88.7 85.99 81.71
2015 July 94.13 94.26 87.04 87.22 82.65
2016 July 93.53 93.14 87.46 86.1 81.39

There's often discussion of where his velocity stands, and barring a late season resurgence, Gray's averages will be down across the board this season. It's likely that Gray's already diminished velocity will sink further as we get later in the year; pitchers tend to throw slower come the dog days of summer.

What does this mean? We still really just don't know. The lack of velocity is probably a symptom of his season as one of the worst pitchers in all of baseball, but we still don't know the cause. Gray has insisted he's fine and so have the A's, which is settling and worrisome all at once. After all, pitchers just lose it sometimes and if there's no physical fix, there's a chance Gray isn't the same guy who placed third in last season's Cy Young voting. On the flip side, while an injury might explain his sudden demise, it wouldn't exactly be good news.

In a way, the velocity loss gives us more questions than answers but it reaffirms the obvious notion: something just ain't right.