Eno Sarris

Saves and Steals

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Closers and Velocity Loss

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


Yesterday, I had what purported to be a Pittsburgh-style sandwich -- sweet sausage, coleslaw, vinegar, cheese and fries on white bread. Of course, I had that sandwich in San Francisco, and I haven't hung out in Pittsburgh much (ever), so I can't comment on the authenticity of said sandwich. I can, however, comment on its deliciousness, which was bold and decisive.

 

Here comes the segue.

 

I love sandwiches, but anything with sausage in it gets a thumbs up. In a similar way, I love pitchers, but every pitcher is better with velocity. We can love pitcher's breakers, and we can love their finesse. We can love all the outlier Greg Maddux types, and we can wonder at the marvel that is Jered Weaver still winning games, sitting around 87. Jamie Moyer! Sergio Romo! We can love these guys, yes.

 

But we must remember that there is a direct, linear relationship between velocity and runs allowed. Each mile per hour on the radar gun is worth a fifth of a run in terms of run prevention -- we're talking runs allowed, not earned runs allowed, but the idea is similar -- and so there's no disputing the fact that velocity is really important across baseball. And among closers, velocity and the associated strikeouts are the only things that I've seen causally linked to closer change. So the radar gun really is important.

 

Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $40,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Wednesday's evening MLB games. It's $25 to join and first prize is $6,000. Starts at 7:05pm ET on Wednesday. Here's the FanDuel link.

 

That said, pitchers start to lose velocity from the day they debut in the league. Take a look at that aging curve! There is no upward slope on velocity. Once you're born, you begin dying.

 

Not everyone loses velocity at the same... velocity, though. Let's take a look at the early fastball velocity changes among the top relievers. Fastball velocity usually takes about three appearances to stabilize, so we're not all the way there yet with all of these guys, but if your reliever is showing reduced gas, especially if it's over a mph, I'd worry. It probably means something. (There's less than a mph difference from April to July, when velocities peak.) Here are the most relevant relievers, sorted by velocity loss:

 

PitcherSVGIPK/9BB/9ERAFIPFBv 14FBv 13Diff
Fernando Rodney 2 3 2.2 16.9 6.8   1.72 93.4 96.5 -3.1
Glen Perkins 2 4 4 9 4.5 9 2.72 92.2 94.9 -2.7
Jim Henderson   3 1.1 20.25 6.75   0.97 92.6 95.3 -2.7
Steve Cishek 2 2 2 9     1.22 89.8 92.3 -2.5
John Axford 3 4 3.1 10.8 10.8 2.7 4.42 93.2 95.4 -2.2
Danny Farquhar   3 4.1 10.38 6.23   2.99 92.4 94.5 -2.1
Joe Nathan 1 3 2.2 3.4 6.8 6.75 4.72 90.2 92.2 -2
A.J. Ramos   5 3.2 12.27 4.91   2.13 91.3 93.3 -2
Ryan Cook   1 1 18 18   5.22 92.9 94.9 -2
Rex Brothers   3 3 6 6   3.89 91.4 93.4 -2
Tom Wilhelmsen   4 3.1 8.1 8.1   4.12 94.3 96.2 -1.9
Kyle Farnsworth   4 4.1 6.23 2.08 2.08 2.53 90.7 92.6 -1.9
Grant Balfour 2 3 3 9 3   3.22 91.6 93.4 -1.8
Francisco Rodriguez 2 3 3 18     -0.78 89.6 91.4 -1.8
Manny Parra 1 4 4.2 7.7 1.9   2.15 91.7 93.4 -1.7
Koji Uehara 1 4 4 13.5     0.22 87.6 89.2 -1.6
Sean Doolittle   4 5 7.2     1.62 92.8 94.3 -1.5
Joakim Soria 1 3 3 12   9 0.55 89.6 90.8 -1.2
Jonathan Papelbon 1 3 2.1 11.6 7.7 11.57 3.22 90.8 92 -1.2
Matt Lindstrom 1 3 3 6 3 9 2.89 93.9 95 -1.1
Antonio Bastardo   3 3.1 8.1 8.1   4.12 90.6 91.7 -1.1
Trevor Rosenthal 3 4 4.1 12.5 4.2 4.15 1.84 96.3 97.3 -1
Jose Valverde 1 4 4.1 12.5 2.1   1.14 91.9 92.8 -0.9
Sergio Santos 3 4 3.1 21.6 8.1 2.7 1.12 93.8 94.6 -0.8
Brad Hand 1 2 5 5.4 5.4   3.82 92.3 93 -0.7
Pedro Strop 1 5 3.2 9.8 4.9 2.45 2.68 95.1 95.8 -0.7
Craig Kimbrel 3 3 3 18     -0.78 96.3 96.9 -0.6
Greg Holland 3 5 4 13.5 2.3 4.5 0.97 95.5 96.1 -0.6
Rafael Soriano 1 2 2 18     -0.78 90.9 91.5 -0.6
Brett Cecil 1 4 3.1 13.5 5.4   2.02 91.7 92.3 -0.6
Cody Allen   4 3.1 16.2 2.7   0.52 94.8 95.4 -0.6
Huston Street 2 2 2 9     1.22 88.9 89.4 -0.5
J.J. Putz   4 3.1 10.8 2.7   1.72 91.2 91.7 -0.5
Tommy Hunter 2 3 2 13.5     1.72 95.9 96.2 -0.3
Jake McGee   5 3.1 5.4     2.02 96 96.3 -0.3
Shawn Kelley 1 4 3.1 5.4     2.02 92 92.2 -0.2
LaTroy Hawkins 1 2 2 4.5 4.5 4.5 3.72 92.4 92.6 -0.2
Junichi Tazawa   4 4 13.5 2.25   0.97 93.3 93.5 -0.2
Jim Johnson 1 4 3 12 12 15 5.55 93.7 93.8 -0.1
Chad Qualls 1 3 2.2 10.1   6.75 0.97 94.1 94 0.1
Gonzalez Germen   3 4.1 12.46 2.08 2.08 1.14 93.2 93 0.2
Jason Grilli 2 4 4 2.3 4.5 2.25 4.22 94 93.4 0.6
Matt Albers   3 4.1 12.46     1.14 94 93.4 0.6
Adam Warren   3 3.1 10.8 2.7   1.72 93.2 92.6 0.6
Addison Reed 2 4 4 13.5 4.5 4.5 5.72 93.6 92.8 0.8
Sergio Romo 2 2 2 9   4.5 7.72 88.6 87.7 0.9
Josh Fields 1 3 3 9 6   3.22 94.7 93.7 1
David Robertson 2 3 3 3 3   3.55 92.9 91.7 1.2
Santiago Casilla   4 5.1 8.44 3.38   2.47 94.6 93.4 1.2
Kenley Jansen 2 6 5 16.2 5.4 3.6 4.02 94.5 92.4 2.1

 

Let's name the tiers after sausages!

 

Tier 1: Elite (4) (AKA: The “Bratwurst” Tier.)

Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves
Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers
Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals
Koji Uehara, Boston Red Sox

 

I'm German. Well, I'm German-Jamaican-American, but I haven't seen jerk chicken sausage yet. So bratwurst reigns supreme, especially if you've got dirty mustard and sauerkraut on it. Speaking of dirty, all of these guys. Take a look at that table above... Kenley Jansen has actually put on velocity! One of the very few. Perhaps his story -- a converted catcher with fewer miles on his arms than others -- means he's not your typical pitcher. None of these guys are typical, but the rest of the tier has lost velocity like most pitchers in baseball.

 

Read about the more volatile closer situations on the next page.


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Eno Sarris is an editor and writer at FanGraphs.com. You can find his work gathered in one place at and enosarris.com. Follow his misadventures in writing on Twitter as well.
Email :Eno Sarris



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