Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 4/3/13
Jack did a good job this morning dissecting the adjustments Yu Darvish has made and how those have paid off in a big way, but there was one thing he didn’t mention that Darvish is also doing better now – throwing harder. Here are the average velocities for Darvish’s pitches from 2012 and then last night, per PitchF/x: Season Team Four Seam Two Seam Cutter Splitter Slider Curve Change 2012 Rangers 92.6 92.7 89.7 87.2 81.6 70.9 82.4 2013 Rangers 94.1 95.2 91.0 85.6 82.7 69.9   The MLBAM classification algorithm isn’t perfect, so just for comparison, here are those same numbers according to Harry Pavlidis, who manually classifies pitches at BrooksBaseball. Season Four Seam Two Seam Cutter Splitter Slider Curve Slow Curve Change 2012 93.6 93.3 90.4 89.0 82.9 79.6 70.3 87.4 2013 95.4 94.8 91.3 85.4 84.0 82.1 70.6 86.3 We can also show this graphically. Here’s the spread of all pitches that Darvish has thrown that have been classified as four seam fastballs by PITCHF/x. You’ll note that not only is the point denoting average velocity higher for last night’s game than it was for any point last year, but that the maximum velocity is also higher than it was at any point during last season. Darvish threw ten pitches that topped 95 last night, and three times, he got over 97. Perhaps the most remarkable point of all of this is that April velocity is lower than seasonal velocity, and most pitchers throw harder as the season progresses than they do at the start of the year. And yet, according to the PITCHF/x data, Darvish was throwing harder last night than he did in any single start last year. In his Opening Day start last year, Darvish only topped 95 three times, topping out at 95.8. He eventually started hitting 97 on occasion towards the end of the year. But, again, this isn’t all about the fastball. Darvish’s velocity was up on most of his pitches last night, and as Jack notes, he relied heavily on his cut fastball and slider. Differentiating between those two types of pitches can be difficult for an algorithm, so we’ll just focus on Harry’s classifications for these pitches. When you compare April 2012 to last night, in order to account for the early season diminished velocity effect, you’ll see that Darvish’s cutter was recorded at 91.3 versus 90.7 last year, and the slider was 84.0 versus 82.8. Now, just because this is PITCHF/x data doesn’t mean that small sample size warnings don’t apply. It’s possible that a calibration issue in Houston could be inflating the velocities relative to what the system records in Arlington, or it could just be that Darvish put a little extra mustard on his pitches as the game wore on, given the whole perfect game thing. Two of his three pitches recorded at 97 mph came after the sixth inning, though there’s no Verlander-style velocity increase as the game wore on. Still, just because PTICHF/x has Darvish throwing harder last night doesn’t mean it’s a new established norm for him. His maximum velocity spiked in his fourth start of the year last season, then fell off in May. Velocity is fairly consistent from start to start, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no variation, and last night could end up being an outlier. Or it could be a measurement issue with PITCHF/x. It’s still one start. Never read too much into one start. That said, there are reasons to think that it’s probably partially real, at least. Since the Rangers spring training complex has PITCHF/x cameras installed, we also have data from March for each of the last two years, and Darvish’s 2013 spring training velocity is up compared to his 2012 velocity as well. And, of course, we have the benefit of knowing just how hapless the Astros looked against Darvish last night, and even after accounting for a weak opponent, the results align with the idea that Darvish had his best stuff last night. For all the talk about how Houston’s line-up compromises the impressiveness of Darvish’s performance last night, keep in mind that he opened 2012 against the Mariners, and they tagged him for five runs in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out only 5 of the 30 batters he faced on Opening Day last year, versus 14 of the 27 he faced last night. That’s two straight years he’s opened against a bad line-up, but his results from last night were far more impressive. Both from a scouting and results perspective, Darvish was at his best last night. The question now is whether he’s going to keep throwing harder the rest of the season, and whether or not he can actually gain velocity from this current point as the season wears on or if he’s just starting from a higher base. After all, the longer spring training — due to the WBC — may have allowed pitchers to build up more arm strength than usual by Opening Day, so we can’t say for certain that pitcher velocity trends will follow previous years patterns. However, even at last night’s registered velocities, Darvish’s projections would likely have to be revised upwards. Steamer used a projected 92.8 mph FBv for Darvish as their velocity input, and it still spit out a 3.25 FIP projection despite the fact that he pitches half his games in Texas. As those guys have shown, increasing fastball velocity improves a pitcher’s projection and makes for more accurate projections, and Darvish was throwing well above that 92.8 average last night. If he spends the year throwing closer to 94 than 93, then Darvish may actually be underrated by the preseason forecasts. And they already forecast him as one of the game’s best starting pitchers. It’s still one start, and one start against the worst team in baseball. Maybe Darvish gets rocked in his next start while throwing 92 and we throw this whole post in the trash. Small sample warnings cannot be overstated at this time of year. This might not mean anything. But, you know, on the chance that Darvish’s velocity is trending upwards, well, look out, American League.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Seahawks went on Hawaiian vacation to ease SB tension

Robert Kraft: Deflategate 'most overblown story' in NFL

Top 10 storylines for Week 1 of college football season

Jim Tressel once sent touching note to family of Michigan OL

Sony cut 'Concussion' scenes to avoid angering NFL

Ryan Clark: Trent Richardson is 'worst RB of all time'

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: David Feherty won't be back at CBS Sports

Warren Moon: RG3 needs to start taking the blame

Lovullo: I don’t see Hanley Ramirez playing left field again in 2015

Judge Berman’s one-sentence order repeats Deflategate decision timeline

Ishmael Adams suspended indefinitely following arrest

McNair: Pats caused problem by not cooperating with Deflategate

Jack Eichel plans to move in with teammate Matt Moulson

Report: Bills GM 'went rogue’ in cutting Fred Jackson

Terrance Knighton irked by Redskins-Kardsashians comparison

Connor Cook on not being named Michigan State captain: 'It stinks'

Danny Amendola’s advice to those on roster bubble? ‘Control what you can’

Dallas Cowboys: Rookies to watch

Apple reportedly sought exclusive rights to new Bill Simmons podcast

One of Clemson’s 1981 national championship trophies broke

Milan Lucic says playing with Canucks is ‘dream of mine’

Underdogs: Hopefuls that can shock in the World Cup

WATCH: Victoria Azarenka rips chair umpire at US Open

Bill O’Brien starts charity swear jar for cursing on ‘Hard Knocks’

Dikembe Mutombo teared up when Hawks announced franchise will retire his jersey

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

Top 10 storylines for Week 1 of college football season

Underdogs: Hopefuls that can shock in the World Cup

Manfred digs Shoeless Joe a deeper grave

Why Mike Trout ain't right

The Opening Drive: Jamal Anderson warns UM fans before heading to Salt Lake City

Best and worst MLB players in August

RG3 blames intern for liking Instagram post trashing owner

Four most surprising roster cuts from NFL teams

Raiders cut Trent Richardson

Caroline Wozniacki smoking cover of ‘Rhapsody’

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