Originally posted on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 4/3/13

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

WATCH: Florida's Chiozza sends Wisconsin home on incredible buzzer-beater

LaVar Ball gets Crying Jordan, meme treatment after UCLA loss

Celtics upset Suns tried to pad Devin Booker’s stats

Five teams that may be interested in Blake Griffin this summer

Report: Tony Romo ‘believes it’s Texans or retirement’

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Clay Matthews Sr. passes away at 88

WWE’s Kane is inching toward running for mayor in Tennessee

Jung Ho Kang denied visa for DUI, may miss 2017 MLB season

Jets not ready to say Josh McCown will be starter

Sens owner on Sidney Crosby: He’s 'a whiner' and should be suspended for Methot slash

Report: Griffin could be growing more open to leaving Clippers

Best of Yardbarker: Did Team USA's victory save the World Baseball Classic?

The Rewind: George Mason's improbable run to the Final Four

Breaking down the Naismith Award race

Box Score 3/24: Waiting on West Virginia

Eat, Drink, Watch: Weekends are for upsets

The 'Once again, Barry Bonds is the best power hitter in San Francisco' quiz

With Team USA's victory, World Baseball Classic (finally) lived up to its potential

The NFL distraction playbook

Which Sweet 16 team should you be rooting for?

The Aesthetic: The world of player exclusive sneakers

Lingering issues for each 2016 MLB postseason team

Box Score 3/23: Team USA wins their first WBC title

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

Best of Yardbarker: Did Team USA's victory save the World Baseball Classic?

The Rewind: George Mason's improbable run to the Final Four

Breaking down the Naismith Award race

Eat, Drink, Watch: Weekends are for upsets

The 'Once again, Barry Bonds is the best power hitter in San Francisco' quiz

The NFL distraction playbook

With Team USA's victory the WBC (finally) lived up to its potential

The Aesthetic: The world of player exclusive sneakers

Which Sweet 16 team should you be rooting for?

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Steph Curry pushes OKC's buttons

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker