Last week, I looked at a season-long split that analyzed how the Colorado Rockies played in different uniforms in 2017. I want to continue the theme of unusual splits, but this time let’s take a look at a factor that has more obvious relevance: opposing pitcher fastball velocity.
As has been well documented over recent years, the average velocity of pitchers across baseball is rising. It used to be just a chosen few who could hit triple digits with the fastball while still maintaining enough control to stick around in the big leagues. Now, however, it seems like every Major League team has someone who can at least touch 100 mph on the speed gun (think Rockies’ Carlos Estevez), while some teams have guys who hang out at or above 100 mph (looking at you, Aroldis Chapman).
On the other hand, we have the precision pitchers. Either not blessed with the flamethrower arm or wise enough to realize they can’t control such speed, there is still a place for the finesse folks. These guys are able to master three, four, sometimes five pitches that they can manipulate around the edges of the plate just enough to keep opposing lineups off-balance.
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Throughout last season, I was curious if there was a preference in the Rockies clubhouse towards one style or the other. Do they like the fastball-loving tendencies of the flamethrowers or did we lick our chops at a little less velocity?
To figure this out, I did some research and found that 315 pitchers made at least one Major League start in 2017. Using FanGraphs, I sorted all of them by average fastball velocity and created three groups, each with about 105 players (1/3 of the total, plus ties). Let’s take a look at what that looks like.