Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/17/14

Every year we hear stories about pitchers whose fastballs don’t seem to have the same life as last year. The most talked about are typically front-line starters that rely on their fastballs. In early 2013, the name that’s being discussed the most is Yankee ace CC Sabathia. Throughout spring training, Sabathia’s velocity has been a point of concern. Coming off of elbow surgery during the offseason, Sabathia’s first regular season start did nothing to quell that concern. As The Star-Ledger’s Andy McCullough notes: Sabathia’s fastball topped out at 91.7 mph on Monday, according to Pitch f/x data from Brooks Baseball. On Opening Day in 2012, his fastball hit 94.5 mph. On Opening Day in 2011, his fastball touched 94.7 mph. (By the way, if you don’t read McCullough on a regular basis you are missing out.) In the end, McCullough notes that while it’s reasonable to be concerned, Sabathia is likely to improve as the season wears on and has good enough secondary stuff to still be very good. Overall McCullough is right, however, I think there is greater reason for concern than some may think. Sabathia was one of the top starters I flagged as at risk for further velocity loss this season based on how far his velocity declined last year. CC lost nearly 1.5 mph off of his fastball in 2013. Pitchers that lose at least 1 mph have, on average, a 39% chance of either getting injured or failing to throw at least 40 IP in the following season. They also have a 91% chance of losing further velocity the following season. Sabathia is a slow starter, both in terms of performance in velocity. However, in 2012 he simply started with a lesser fastball in April and never quite saw it recover to previous levels: It’s only one start, but Sabathia’s fastball averaged around 90 mph yesterday. That would place it more than 1mph off his April velocity in 2012. As many pitchers will have slower fastballs in April compared to their overall average from the previous season, we have to compare April velocity in year one to April velocity in year 2. When pitchers are down at least 1 mph from the previous April they are four times as likely to finish the season down at least 1 mph: So, early season velocity isn’t as much as a signal as later months in terms of a declining fastball, but it should at least raise some eyebrows. And while Sabathia does possess great secondary stuff, the key for him to pitching with a reduced fastball will be how effective he can be in and around the zone with that pitch. As I wrote last year: From 2009-2011, Sabathia generated -20.5 runs per 100 fastballs clocked at less than 92.5 mph. This year, Sabathia generated 21.9 runs per 100 fastballs clocked under 92.5–virtually all of his fastballs. Sabathia still put up solid numbers in 2012 (ERA- 81, 23.7% K%, 5.3% BB%), but his HR/FB rate jumped to 12.5%–highest in his career. Eighteen of his 22 home runs allowed came on fastballs (82%). The previous three years? Only 56%. All great pitchers must adjust to reduced velocity at some point, but those adjustments typically take time. Lossing a tick off his fastball doesn’t necessarily spell doom for CC Sabathia. But given his age, usage, and what we saw last year it is quite reasonable to be more concerned about this April decline than most.

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

DeMarco Murray: 'I'm not worried about the Cowboys'

Turner has great quote in defense of Bridgewater

Gary Bettman's quote about expansion makes no sense

Beltre sends Richards invoice for three broken bats

Herschel Walker: Vikings should trade Adrian Peterson

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Raiders fielding calls about fourth overall pick

WATCH: UAB football player brings helmet to graduation

Andrew Luck to students: 'I'm only 25, I don't have advice'

Mark Sanchez: Tebow is another arm while Bradford recovers

Report: Former LSU CB Jalen Collins failed multiple drug tests

Six players suspended for White Sox-Royals brawl

WATCH: Demetrious Johnson wins with last-second submission

WATCH: Jerryd Bayless beats Bulls with buzzer-beater

John Legend catches Belichick checking out Chrissy Teigen

Jim Rice to Jim Palmer: 'Quit complaining'

Time Warner-Comcast failed merger hurts Dodgers fans

WATCH: Bucks mascot devours fan

Protestors tried to have Orioles-Red Sox game called off

Greg Hardy abandons his Bentley during flash flood

WATCH: LeBron James hits full-court shot after practice

Peyton Manning announces $3 million gift to Tennessee

WATCH: Leah Still scores TD in Temple spring game

WATCH: Todd Gurley shares video of himself sprinting

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

UAB player brings helmet to graduation

Leah Still scores in Temple spring game

Sanchez shares thoughts on Tebow

Stephen A. Smith blasts Tom Brady

Kris Humphries apologizes for Jenner tweet

Five most boring NFL prime time matchups for 2015

Bruce Jenner: "For all intents and purposes, I am a woman"

Jameis Winston vs. Marcus Mariota: Perception vs. reality

Report: Gronk dating former Patriots cheerleader

NFL exec compares Jameis Winson to JaMarcus Russell

NFL does not care about Rams' future in St. Louis

Nothing gleams like late-round draft gold

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.