Does Fastball Velocity really matter? A look at CC Sabathia’s slowing fastball.
The obvious answer to this question is yes, but I was interested in how much a pitcher’s success was dependent on velocity. Bill Pettit wrote a great piece about CC Sabathia’s fastball, and I hope to shed more light on this interesting question.
(The following pitch f/x number come from Brooks Baseball, and on a technical note I believe that because Brooks Baseball uses a Y0 of 55 feet instead of 50 the fastball release speeds are slightly higher than those reported from other pitch/fx sites since they measure speed 5 feet later, so while FanGraphs says CC topped out at 96.3 mph in 2012 Brooks baseball shows him hitting 97.)
I decided to look at all the fastballs CC threw in 2012 to see how well velocity correlated with pitch value. (One more technical note; these are my own pitch value calculations. They differ from FanGraphs in that they treat all balls in play as being worth the same. I did this to try to remove some of the effects of defense. Also note that the scale I’m using is runs- per- pitch and that a negative value is good for the pitcher while a positive value is good for the hitter.) Now according to pitch f/x CC throws a four-seamer and a sinker; because pitch classifications are not perfect I looked at both four-seamers and sinkers together and then looked at them each individually to minimize any artifacts from the classification system. [see the three graphs below]