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Spring Velocity Trends

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Trend or Mirage? Probably mirage but in case it's not...

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s make wild proclamations about the velocity readings from spring training! Seriously though, let’s not. I tried creating a disclaimer big enough to satisfy our editors but that proved to be an impossible task. So I ask you to please pretend the following disclaimer is ironclad with so much legal jargon that, when printed, must be stapled with a 12-foot stick of rebar. Thank you.

Velocity readings are notoriously unreliable at spring training and not every park is equipped with a radar gun. Still, some interesting nuggets have emerged that are worth tracking during the last two weeks of spring training.

JAMES PAXTON

If you took Paxton in the Who Gets the Last Rotation Spot office pool, sweet! That sounds like a fun work environment. Unfortunately, Paxton is currently losing the battle and this may not help:

To the casual observer, Paxton appears to be the victim of a radar gun glitch but other pitchers who appeared during his starts registered typical velocities. If remotely accurate, the drop in velocity could be due to any number of things. Some of those things are not scary and one or two might even be good for Paxton, such as starting slow to build up core strength, throwing mostly cutters, or getting comfortable with a mechanical adjustment. Whatever is happening, clarification regarding Paxton’s velocity should leak out of Peoria in the coming days.

NATE KARNS

Speaking of the last rotation spot, Karns was effective in his most recent outing and appears to be throwing the ball well:

Karns looks fresh and appears to be throwing harder than he has at any point during his major league career. He gradually lost 1-mph of average fastball velocity during the grind of the 2015 season so a return to previous velo levels would be reassuring.

TAIJUAN WALKER

There has been talk of Walker’s uptick in velocity this spring, but you might remember his fastball averaged 96-mph last spring before dropping down to 95 at the start of the regular season. There is something though:

Walker’s curve has been 3-mph faster with more vertical tilt, dropping 2-3 more inches than his average spike curve from 2015, which he picked up before his memorable June tear. I recommend you pause a moment and imagine Walker carrying that pitch into the regular season and commanding it well.  Now smash your dream on the rocks as you remember this is only spring training. As for the cutter, pitch classifications can be unreliable in samples this small so ignore it for now.

JOEL PERALTA

The 39-year old veteran would earn a base salary of $1.25M with the chance to double that amount in performance bonuses if he heads north with the big club. Peralta needs to justify that price tag with a convincing performance in Arizona. So far so good:

Peralta hasn’t averaged 92-mph with his heater over a full season since 2009 so this is probably a mirage. However, he finished strong in 2015 and his trademark splitter was biting well Saturday. Peralta also gets high marks for traits like "character" and "guts" and the bullpen is down a few candidates. Things are going well for Peralta so far and watching him fight his way onto this roster may be one of the more entertaining storylines as camp winds down.

MIKE MONTGOMERY

You know that thing people talk about, how starters gain velocity when they transition to the bullpen? Sometimes it’s true:

If you have a difficult time picturing Montgomery pumping an everlasting stream of 95-mph fastballs and 87-mph changeups, trust me, you are not alone. At the very least, Montgomery is an interesting story since he is out of options and Furbush is somewhat questionable to start the season healthy. It will be interesting to see how he commands that velocity if he carries it into the regular season.

Other Notes:

Felix Hernandez is apparently down a couple ticks after two short outings but this has been part of his annual spring routine, so do not fear. Adrian Sampson last appeared in major league game in 2014, but each pitch in his repertoire is reportedly up 2-3 mph since that time. Former Cubs Tony Zych and Donn Roach are also up a mph or two. Joaquin Benoit has thrown his slider almost 9-mph slower than last season and with more horizontal tilt, so keep your eye on that.

Huge thanks to brooksbaseball.net for making this data available.

Go M’s!