Pitcher’s Exit Velocity – July Update (2019 Fantasy Baseball)

by Michael Waterloo | @MichaelWaterloo | Featured Writer
Jul 31, 2019

Eduardo Rodriguez has done an excellent job of limiting hard contact during a resurgent July.

Every month, I take a look at the Statcast leaders for pitchers’ exit velocity. I highlight the top 10 in average exit velocity and report the findings for what you should expect going forward. In May, I examined the 10 pitchers who had the highest and lowest average exit velocity based on 90 batted-ball events. In June, I raised it to 150 to get a larger sample and take away the middle relievers.

For July, I raised it even higher to 200 batted-ball events, which provided us with 133 qualified pitchers. 

The 10 hardest at last month’s update were:

  1. Dan Straily – 91.4
  2. Mike Leake – 91.4
  3. Glenn Sparkman – 91.3
  4. Carlos Carrasco – 90.9
  5. Jorge Lopez – 90.8
  6. Daniel Norris – 90.8
  7. Matt Harvey – 90.8
  8. David Hess – 90.7
  9. Shane Bieber – 90.7
  10. Jose Urena – 90.7

The 10 lowest: 

  1. Martin Perez – 84.5
  2. Kenta Maeda – 84.8
  3. Ryan Yarbrough – 85.1
  4. Mike Soroka – 85.4
  5. Hyun-Jin Ryu – 85.5
  6. Anibal Sanchez – 85.6
  7. Jose Berrios – 85.6
  8. Luis Castillo – 85.9
  9. Noah Syndergaard – 86
  10. Jalen Beeks – 86

Here’s how those pitchers have done over the past five weeks: 

Highest

  • Straily – 91.4 > n/a
  • Leake – 91.4 > 91.3
  • Sparkman – 91.3 > 90.7
  • Carrasco – 90.9 > n/a
  • Lopez – 90.8 > 90.3
  • Norris – 90.8 > 90.7
  • Harvey – 90.8 > n/a
  • Hess – 90.7 > 91.3
  • Bieber – 90.7 > 90.6
  • Urena – 90.7 > 90.6 

Lowest

  • Perez – 84.5 > 85.2
  • Maeda – 84.8 > 85
  • Yarbrough – 85.1 > 84.6
  • Soroka – 85.4 > 86.1
  • Ryu – 85.5 > 85.4
  • Sanchez – 85.6 > 85.7
  • Berrios – 85.6 > 86
  • Castillo – 85.9 > 85.8
  • Syndergaard – 86 > 86.2
  • Beeks – 86 > 86.8

What stands out to me the most is that from the top group, both Straily and Harvey were designated for assignment by their respective clubs. Besides that, only Sparkman and Hess have made any adjustments, but it’s not like you’re using them in fantasy.

Seeing Bieber on the list still is weird, but I did a deep dive on him last month.

On the bottom list, we’re seeing some slight regression from Perez, Soroka, Berrios, and, most noticeably, Beeks.

The Current Top 10 (Highest):

  1. Hess – 91.3
  2. Leake – 91.3
  3. Norris – 90.7
  4. Sparkman – 90.7
  5. Adrian Sampson – 90.6
  6. Urena – 90.6
  7. Bieber – 90.6
  8. Homer Bailey – 90.4
  9. Lopez – 90.4
  10. Gabriel Ynoa – 90.1

The Current Bottom 10 (Lowest)

  1. Yarbrough – 84.6
  2. Maeda – 85
  3. Perez – 85.2
  4. Ryu – 85.4
  5. Brandon Woodruff – 85.7
  6. Sanchez – 85.7
  7. Castillo – 85.8
  8. Eduardo Rodriguez – 85.8
  9. Berrios – 86
  10. Soroka – 86.1

Overall, the lists are pretty much the same. There are three newcomers to the highest — you don’t want any of them — and two to the lowest. I wasn’t surprised to see Woodruff there, but I didn’t expect Rodriguez.

When watching Rodriguez, you know that he should be a top-20 pitcher. He’s always struggled to maintain consistency, though.

This year, it’s been much of the same if you look at his month-by-month breakdown:

But Rodriguez has enjoyed his lowest average exit velocity this year since 2016 (85.7). It’s no coincidence that he has a 25.4 hard-hit rate, which trails only Kenta Maeda’s 25.3 rate among pitchers with at least 150 batted-ball events, per Statcast.

Rodriguez is throwing his sinker more this year, which is also what he did in 2016. Yet he’s getting more ground balls off of it (45.7 percent) compared to 2016 (31.6 percent).

Rodriguez is still a four-seam fastball pitcher first, but he has relied more on his secondary offerings as the season progresses.

As his fourth pitch, the sinker has been outstanding for Rodriguez. He’s holding the opposition to a .163 average against and a .214 slugging. He’s allowed just one home run off it and hasn’t given up a single barrel on the pitch all season. That’s 338 pitches, and not a single barrel. That, in itself, will limit the exit velocity.

Unlike a lot of pitchers, Rodriguez doesn’t rely on one pitch too much. He has a nice mix, and the lefty could actually increase his sinker usage in an era where pitchers are moving away from the pitch. With his 15.4% usage rate, he’s just 87th in baseball among pitchers with at least 750 pitches thrown.

Rodriguez’s K% is at 24.1 this year, which is 27th in baseball. Even if he trades a few punchouts for more sinkers, you’ll take the exchange to continue the great run he’s been on by eliminating hard contact.

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Michael Waterloo is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Michael, check out his archive and follow him @MichaelWaterloo.

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