Pitchers throwing harder, as Pirates fans can attest

Ronald Martinez

Jeff Sullivan writes about increasing velocity among big-league pitchers, and among relievers in particular. In 2007, 13 relievers (10 IP minimum) had fastball velocities of 95 MPH or higher; this year, 46 did. Also, nine starters averaged at least 95 MPH in 2013. As Sullivan notes, it's amazing that this would happen so quickly.

Most Pirates fans reading this are probably nodding their heads right now. One of those nine starters who averaged at least 95 MPH was Gerrit Cole, whose fastball averaged 96.1 MPH. The Pirates also had four relievers who averaged 95-plus (although three of them didn't meet the 10-inning threshold, and two are now gone): Duke Welker, Vic Black, Stolmy Pimentel and Justin Wilson. The Bucs had 10 more pitchers who averaged at least 92.5 MPH. The Pirates as a whole averaged 92.6 MPH, the sixth-hardest of any team in baseball, behind the Nats, Rays, Cardinals, Rangers and Marlins. (The Marlins?!)

Just for fun, I compared the 2013 Pirates to the 2007 Bucs, since 2007 and 2013 were the endpoints Sullivan used. Unsurprisingly, the 2007 Pirates were a lot softer, averaging 90.2 MPH. Surprisingly (at least to me), that didn't make the Pirates one of the softer-throwing teams -- 10 entire teams in 2007 had average fastball velocities under 90 MPH, whereas in 2013, no teams did. But the Pirates' metamorphosis into a flamethrowing team under Neal Huntington clearly represents a shift in organizational philosophy as well as a league-wide change -- almost soon as he arrived, he was grabbing hard throwers like Denny Bautista, Craig Hansen and Tyler Yates.

The Pirates' hardest thrower in 2007 was Romulo Sanchez, who averaged 93.3 MPH. Eight pitchers on the 2013 team threw harder than that. The pitcher with the median fastball velocity was John Van Benschoten, at 90.2 MPH. Every pitcher who appeared for the Pirates in 2013 threw harder, except Jonathan Sanchez, Phil Irwin and Wandy Rodriguez. The '07 Pirates had three pitchers who averaged 87.2 MPH or less: Masumi Kuwata (at 85.8 MPH!), Shane Youman and Matt Morris.

And yes -- I just made you remember John Van Benschoten, Masumi Kuwata, Shane Youman and Matt Morris. You're welcome.

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