Are Pitchers Thowing Harder? Not So Fast!

St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), April 9, 2017 | Go to article overview

Are Pitchers Thowing Harder? Not So Fast!


The scoreboard at Citi Field in New York showed Jacob deGrom hitting 98 mph, and the ballpark buzzed with the Mets star back in top form. In Seattle, fans surely thought the same when Felix Hernandez's fastball ticked up on opening day. And how about that extra juice from Detroit ace Justin Verlander?

All across the majors, pitchers are ramping up the velocity this season or at least it seems that way. Not so fast. They're actually getting a little help: Major League Baseball has changed the way it's recording and reporting pitch speeds, driving up readings all over the league.

After previously using PITCHf/x to provide velocities to broadcasts and ballparks, Major League Baseball Advanced Media instead is supplying numbers from its Statcast system. The key difference is that PITCHf/x calculates velocity at a set point usually 50 or 55 feet from the back of home plate while Statcast is able to measure velocity directly out of the pitcher's hand.

Because of that difference, Statcast readings are faster than PITCHf/x by about 0.6 mph on average, according to MLBAM senior data architect Tom Tango.

"We do have the technology to capture the speed right out of the hand now," Tango said. "So that's what we report."

Trouble is, for now, fans and analysts aren't necessarily comparing apples to apples on pitch speeds from last year. For example, PITCHf/x had deGrom averaging 93.4 mph on his four-seam fastball during an injury plagued 2016 season. On Wednesday, Statcast measured him at 94.2 mph, a bump deGrom noticed during the game.

"Last year, it felt like all I could do to get to 93 or 94," deGrom said. …

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