Beat the Heat: MLB Hitters Improving Against Elite Velocity
In a game captivated by numbers, those displayed by the radar gun have long been among the most fascinating. There’s just something transfixing about seeing a pitcher fire a horsehide sphere with ever-increasing velocity, hearing the way it pops the catcher’s mitt, laughing as the hapless batter swings in futility at that which he cannot see. Except that’s not really the case any longer.
Sure, we’re seeing more and more guys who can throw the ball harder than ever, and the average fastball velocity in Major League Baseball has been steadily increasing. But as with any significant change, there’s bound to be an adjustment to bring things back to the mean. In this case, that shift is coming as hitters’ palates grow more accustomed to stinky cheese.
MLB vs pitches 95 MPH+
— Daren Willman (@darenw) November 7, 2016
Somewhere, Brandon Guyer and Rajai Davis are nodding their heads.
I know, I know, those individual at-bats aren’t necessarily indicative of this larger trend. But it does lead one to question whether elite velocity will continue to be as sought after as it becomes more the norm or whether it goes the way of aluminum. Yes, that ubiquitous metal you use for 12-ounce curls was once considered more valuable than gold. It was even used to produce the capstone of the Washington Monument. Once the Hall-Héroult process led to cheap mass production, however, aluminum ceased to be so precious. Well, except to beer lovers. And aircraft manufacturers. Whatever, you get the point.
So does this mean fireballing pitchers like Aroldis Chapman, Noah Syndergaard, Dellin Betances, et al will fall out of vogue? Hardly. But I do believe we’ll see a gradual return to greater appreciation for guys like Kyle Hendricks who ply their trade with location and subtle movement. Yeah, I know you already appreciate what The Professor does out there. And he’s perhaps an extreme example, what with his phenomenal results this season while working mostly in the 80’s.
There really isn’t some grand point in all this, I really just thought the info in Daren Willman’s tweet was pretty cool and wanted to discuss it a little further. Do you think there’s anything to see here, or is it just much ado about nothing?