May 8, 2019

THE ONLY GAME THAT'S GOTTEN HARDER FOR OFFENSES:

IN THE HARDEST-THROWING ERA OF BASEBALL, WE'VE NEVER SEEN FEWER FASTBALLS (Matt Foley, MAY 08 2019, Ozy)

ONLY 55 PERCENT OF ALL PITCHES THROWN IN THE MAJOR LEAGUES LAST YEAR WERE A FORM OF A FASTBALL -- THE LOWEST EVER.

The fastball rate was down from 64 percent as recently as 2003. That year, sliders and cutters made up 14.6 percent of all pitches thrown. Last year, that secondary rate was up to 22.6 percent. Put simply, pitching repertoires have never been more diverse, making it impossible to know what's coming in the batter's box. No wonder strikeouts are at an all-time high.

Of the 15 hardest-throwing qualified starting pitchers this season, only Syndergaard (60.5 percent), the Rays' Tyler Glasnow (64.1 percent), the Yankees' James Paxton (63.6 percent) and Miami's José Ureña (64.3 percent) throw their fastball at least 60 percent of the time (all stats as of Tuesday). Meanwhile, aces Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander of the Houston Astros -- MLB's most progressive pitching staff -- rank among the top average velocity, but throw fastballs barely more than half the time.

"It's no longer just specialists or aging veterans throwing more off-speed pitches," says MLB Network analyst Mark DeRosa. "Every pitcher in the league can deliver two, three, four 'plus' pitches in any spot in any count in an at-bat. How [is a hitter] supposed to handle that?"

Take Cleveland Indians ace Trevor Bauer, one of the game's leading data-driven thinkers, who has focused on adding a plus-pitch (aka a pitch that would receive an "A" grade) each off-season. This winter's experiment, the changeup, gave Bauer a fifth pitch in his arsenal.

Bauer throws one of the hardest fastballs in the league (94.7 mph average) just 47 percent of the time -- in the bottom third of the league. While in the past he leaned heavily on his curveball, this year his four secondary pitches are fairly evenly distributed, making it that much harder to know what's coming. "Just knowing [Bauer's curveball] exists is enough to give a hitter pause," says former MLB catcher turned ESPN analyst David Ross. "And then it's even more devastating when you finally see it."

Posted by at May 8, 2019 12:01 AM

  

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