Kill the Win

A pitch-by-pitch look into exit velocity for Reds’ pitchers

Last week, we dove in to exit velocity for pitchers to see if we could reach any conclusions about what it means. While there was a lot of interesting data, the results didn’t yield many definitive conclusions. There simply wasn’t much to connect between a pitcher’s overall performance and how hard batters are hitting the ball against him.

In the comments, fellow Redleg Nation columnist Doug Gray made an interesting point about how batting average is directly related to exit velocity; that is, averages go up the harder the ball is hit, which makes plenty of sense. He also pointed out that it may be more prudent to look at exit velocity when broken down by pitch. So, that’s exactly what the column is about this week! Thanks, Doug!

Below, you can see the results. Instead of using ERA and FIP, we’ll look at batting average and slugging percentage allowed by each hurler per pitch, as those are more directly related. In addition, whiff rate is also included because it gives us another measure to gauge how effective a pitcher has been with specific offerings (it obviously doesn’t actually have anything to do with exit velocity). While there are still some obvious issues with sample size, the results are a bit more telling when broken down this way as opposed to grouping all pitches together. Although it certainly doesn’t clear up all of our questions about exit velocity, we can certainly see some connections. Let’s dive in!

(Note: To avoid sorting through the numbers for all 27 (!) pitchers the Reds have used this year, the data is limited to those who are still on the 40-man roster. Additionally, the results for each section are limited to pitchers who have 10 or more batted balls against them on that specific pitch.)

Four-seam fastball

4-seam exit velocity

With every pitcher featuring a four-seamer and the sample sizes varying widely, it’s tough to read too much into the data here, as the numbers are scattered. But there are some interesting things to note:

  • The five Reds pitchers with the lowest average exit velocites on their four-seamers are each holding hitters to a batting average either below or right on par with the rest of the league.
  • Minus Tim Adleman (19.1 IP), Robert Stephenson (12.0 IP), and Blake Wood, each hurler below the red line is allowing a batting average north of .318.
  • Of the five pitchers giving up the highest slugging percentage, four are getting hit harder than the league average by nearly one full mph or more.
  • The bottom of the list is certainly interesting. As expected, having a four-seam fastball hit at an average speed of 96.2 mph hasn’t boded well for Alfredo Simon. Right above Simon is Blake Wood, who has also gotten hit hard on the pitch, but has had considerably more success.
  • Of all MLB pitchers with 50 or more batted balls given up on the pitch, J.J. Hoover has the third highest slugging percentage allowed on the four-seamer. Cody Reed (before Tuesday’s start) is fourth.

Two-seam fastball

2-seam exit velocity

Minus Dan Straily’s strange results (something something sample size), the numbers on the two-seamer fall more in line with what one would expect.

  • Excluding everyone’s favorite waiver-wire pickup (no, not Alfredo Simon), the batting averages go up as the exit velocities do for each pitcher.
  • Making Straily’s numbers even more bizarre is the fact that has the highest average exit velocity in baseball of pitchers who have had the two-seamer put into play at least 20 times.
  • Further indicating the lack of two-seam fastball effectiveness for this group is the below-average swing-and-miss percentage for all four pitchers.

Sinker

sinker exit velocity

Compared to the other pitches, we have some nice sample sizes for the two hurlers that throw a sinker. The numbers really show why it is such an effective No. 1 pitch for both Raisel Iglesias and Brandon Finnegan.

  • Both pitchers have a very high whiff rate on the sinker and are holding opposing hitters well under the .290 league mark.
  • It’s Iglesias that really stands out when looking at this table, though. His average exit velocity is over four mph lower than the league’s, the batting average is 33 points below, and the slugging percentage is nearly 100 points less. The newly converted reliever is not giving up a lot of hard contact on the pitch and, as a result, hits — and especially extra-base hits — are few and far between.

Cutter

cutter exit velocity

Low or high exit velocity, the cut fastball has been a particularly bad pitch for both Reds that use it.

  • Despite allowing soft contact in comparison to the rest of the league, John Lamb has gotten rocked on the pitch, which can likely be tied back to the fact that hitters aren’t fooled by it and are rarely coming up empty when they swing at it.
  • Simon is giving up harder contact, unsurprisingly leading to better power numbers for opposing hitters.

Changeup

changeup exit velocity

While we got more intuitive results for the two-seamer, sinker, and cutter, the changeup stats are all over the place. Keep in mind, however, that only three of the players on this table have thrown the pitch in excess of 100 times.

  • Straily continues to be an anamoly, keeping opposing hitters below the league average in both batting categories listed despite giving up harder contact on the pitch than most other pitchers.
  • Finnegan’s most effective off-speed pitch has undeniably been the change. The average batted ball speed is over four mph lower than the league and he’s allowed only three hits on the pitch all season.

Curveball

curveball exit velocity

The league performs worse against the curveball than any other pitch, and we can see here that there are several Reds with a good hook.

  • The three hurlers with the lowest exit velocities each have whiff rates and slugging percentages superior to the mean.
  • Here’s Simon at the bottom of another list, with more signs pointing to his declining repertoire. His curveball has been hit harder than that of any other Red, resulting in the 12th-worst slugging percentage among pitchers with 30 balls in play.
  • On two of his three primary pitchers, Josh Smith has allowed an average exit velocity well below the league average. Batters simply aren’t squaring his curveball up at all. His dominance with the bender is further evidenced by a very high swing-and-miss percentage.

Slider

slider exit velocity

On the slider, we’re also seeing that hitting the ball with less authority results in fewer hits and lower power numbers.

  • All six Reds allowing weaker contact than the league as a whole are also stingy in giving up hits — their batting averages against are all at or below the Mendoza line.
  • The only two with an average exit velocity of 90 mph or above are also the only two giving up a batting average above .300 and a slugging percentage of over .500.
  • None of the pitchers below the red row have an above-average whiff rate. Four of the other six pitchers do.

13 thoughts on “A pitch-by-pitch look into exit velocity for Reds’ pitchers

  1. How is straily’s 2 seamer averaging 97 mph? I don’t ever remember seeing him throw that hard, and I have a hard time believing Lorenzen is only averaging 86 with his four seamer

      • Exit velocity is how fast the ball is coming out of your hands, right? So due to the fact that the friction the ball makes from the air should slow the ball down, pitch velocity should be slower than exit velocity. So it still doesn’t make sense to me

        • I believe in this case “exit velocity” means velocity off the bat when the pitch was hit. Understand your confusion experienced it myself a few times when exit velocity talk first started coming into vogue.

        • Exit velocity is how hard the ball is coming off the bat. So when batters put Straily’s two-seamer into play, they’re hitting it at an average of 97 mph. Sorry for the confusion, I’ll edit the post to make it more clear.

  2. By and large it would seem as if the harder a pitch is thrown, the higher BAA (with, maybe, an anomaly here and there). What this leads me to conclude is that, if this info is taken seriously league wide, that almost every team will start having their pitchers throw “slower” pitches since they generally yield lower BAA’s. That would seem to indicate that 90+MPH pitches could become a rarity league wide. Logic, would also seem to indicate that, the slower a pitch is, the better it is on the pitcher’s arm, which could lead to lower injury rates for pitchers on their throwing motions. I don’t really pay attention to what other teams do bcuz, well, why would I. I only care about the Reds. So, with that being said, I suppose it’s entirely possible that this “practice” (having pitchers throw slower for strategic &/or arm health benefits) could already be in place around MLB.

    • I can’t tell if this is sarcasm. But if it’s not, that would be a very bad strategy. You’re ignoring a lot of things here. First, increased fastball velocity is correlated with increased strikeouts. Second, the decreased exit velocity for breaking pitches is not caused by decreased pitch velocity. It’s caused by hitters getting fooled and swinging at tough pitches. The longest homers often come on hanging breaking balls that didn’t fool anyone. A 78 mph cement mixer over the middle of the plate is usually going to get hit harder than a 97mph heater in the same spot. And it’s hard to be fooled by a breaking pitch if the pitcher doesn’t have a good fastball that you have to be ready for.

      • Tct, it’s not sarcasm. It’s my honest observations. All I’m doing is going by the data the article provided. Either we (the Reds) are the anomalies here in that most of our pitchers seem to yield lower BAA’S on slower pitches or this data is reliable for league wide application. I know they only looked at the Reds in this article so it probably would be foolish to saying this so-called practice should be applied league wide which is not what I’m saying. But I don’t know how else to explain the numbers listed above

  3. Who could have predicted that Alfredo Simon would give up about 12 standard deviations higher exit velocity than the league average?

  4. I’m not sure where the data is located, but, could you calculate the average exit velocity for Red’s pitchers per pitch by week over the course of the year? It’d be interesting to see any trends, or even a correlation between the movement in average and movement in staff ERA, FIP, SIERA etc.

    • You can find all of this on Baseball Savant (baseballsavant.mlb.com). It’s an awesome site with a ton of Statcast data. Unfortunately, their search feature doesn’t allow you to break things down by week, only by year.

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