The Blue Jays have a much-improved rotation heading into the 2020 season but how hard do they throw?
Andrew Simon of MLB.com (full piece) did a piece listing the game’s top 10 hardest throwing rotations in 2020. Simon outlined the importance of a good fastball, stating that batting averages dropped as miles per hour on a fastball increased. He does add a nice disclaimer: when it comes to fastballs specifically, velocity does not account for location, spin, movement or deception. So high velocity is not required to have success.
In 2020, the American League East will be home to the top two hardest-throwing rotations in Major League Baseball. The Tampa Bay Rays take the #1 spot with an average fastball of 94.9 mph, thanks to James Paxton undergoing spinal surgery thus pushing the Yankees down a spot. The Rays’ Tyler Glasnow (96.9mph) and Blake Snell (95.5mph) lead the way for an exciting Tampa Bay rotation. The Yankees (94.8mph) get a bump thanks to their giant offseason addition, Gerrit Cole (97.1mph). New York will be hoping for a healthy full season from Luis Severino (97.6mph).
The Boston Red Sox are also on the list with an average fastball of 93.6mph. The Sox will be hoping Nathan Eovaldi (97.3mph) is healthy and can return to the rotation. However, the question of who will fill David Price‘s spot in the rotation could be one that lasts the season?
So, What is the average fastball for the Toronto Blue Jays retooled rotation?
Firstly, fans of the Blue Jays are aware that this edition of the Blue Jays rotation was not built on the premise of hitting triple digits on the scoreboard. This rotation is not a collection of flame throwers. It seems the front office valued innings over gas when assembling this group.
Secondly, the projected Blue Jays rotation has some very real question marks surrounding its durability; therefore, I will be adding a scenario or two which differ from the projected Opening Day rotation. Just for fun and to give us some hope.
Lastly, don’t get hung up on the order which I have listed our starters. I am not projecting how the rotation will be made up. Focus on the fastball speeds.
Let’s get at it.
I used Baseball Savant to collect the fastball mph while including the percentile. I used Fangraphs RosterResource- Depth Chart (see here) for the projected rotation.
LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (90.7mph)
According to Baseball Savant, Ryu used his four-seamer 27.3% of the time. The league owned a .222 batting average and .357xSLG off his FB. His fastball ranked in the 8th percentile with a spin rate in the 11th percentile.
RHP Chase Anderson (93.3mph)
Anderson relied on his four-seamer 43.4% of the time. The league owned a .264 batting average and .467xSLG off his FB. His fastball ranked in the 46th percentile with a spin rate in the 39th percentile.
RHP Tanner Roark (92.1mph)
Tanner Roark relied on his four-seamer 25.5% of the time and his sinker 30.0% of the time. His sinker was thrown .2mph slower than his fastball. The league owned a .251 batting average and .512xSLG off his FB. A fastball which ranked in the 36th percentile with a spin rate in the 18th percentile.
FYI- Roark throws a curve with a spin rate which is ranked in the 82nd percentile.
RHP Matt Shoemaker (90.5)
Shoe relied on his four-seamer only 17.3% of the time. He relied on his split-finger (84.3mph) and sinker (90.5mph) about 30% of the time. His four-seamer was 0.2mph slower than his sinker, so we are using his sinker. The league owned a .125 batting average and .691xSLG off his sinker. His fastball ranked in the 16th percentile with a spin rate in the 18th percentile. Despite not being used as much as his splitter or sinker, Shoemaker created a 25.8Whiff% and 18.8PutAway% with his four-seamer.
LHP Ryan Borucki (91.9)
The 25-yr-old Borucki only threw 155 pitches in 2019. He relied on his sinker 52.3% of the time which is comparable to his 2018 usage of 58.7%. Despite losing most of the season to injury, Borucki’s velocity didn’t suffer as he averaged 91.5 on his sinker in 2018. In 2019, the league owned a .474 batting average (.282BA in 2018) and .703xSLG (.466 in 2018)off his sinker.
In the season started today with this cast of starters, the average fastball velocity for the Blue Jays rotation would be 91.7mph. According to Andrew Simon,
“when starters threw fastballs below 92 mph in 2019, batters hit .307 and slugged .561”
With the possibility of time lost to the Injury List being high with this group, it is possible that one or more of the club’s young pitchers could start the year as the club’s 5th starter. This group includes Nate Pearson, Shun Yamaguchi, Trent Thornton, Anthony Kay, Jacob Waguespack, or T.J. Zeuch. For this piece, I am only going to focus on the pitchers with major league experience. Sorry, Nate.
RHP Shun Yamaguchi (90.1mph)
According to a recent article by Nick Ashbourne (see here), Yamaguchi used his FB 43.70% of the time with a split of his splitter and slider being used between 20 and 26% of the time. Ultimately, Nick concluded that Yamaguchi, if used in the rotation would be good for 6.6K/9, 2.2BB/9, 1.03HR/9, 3.98ERA, and a 1.3WAR/100IP.
Unfortunately for this exercise, Yamaguchi’s fastball will hurt our average so let’s relegate him to the bullpen.
RHP Trent Thornton (92.9mph)
Thornton and Borucki are the leading candidates for the 5th spot in the rotation. Trent relied on his four-seamer 43.6% of the time. The league owned a .265 batting average and .504xSLG off his FB. His fastball ranked in the 30th percentile with a spin rate in the 88th percentile.
If Thornton won the 5th spot in the rotation over Ryan Borucki the rotation’s average fastball velocity would increase to 91.86mph.
LHP Anthony Kay (93.4)
In a very small sample size, Kay relied on his four-seamer 61.6% of the time. The league owned a .281 batting average and .411xSLG off his FB. His fastball ranked in the 56th percentile with a spin rate in the 60th percentile.
If Kay pushed his way into the rotation, the average fastball velocity would increase to 91.96mph.
RHP T.J. Zeuch (91.9mph)
Zeuch relied on his four-seamer only 3% of the time, using his sinker 49.5%. In a small sample size, T.J.’s sinker was thrown 1.2mph faster than his 90.7mph fastball. The league owned a .333 batting average and .627xSLG off his sink. His fastball ranked in the 34th percentile with a spin rate in the 33rd percentile.
Since Zeuch and Borucki have the same mph on their sinkers, this one is a wash.
RHP Jacob Waguespack (92.3mph)
Waguespack relied on his four-seamer 32.2% of the time. The league owned a .262 batting average and .479xSLG off his FB. His fastball ranked in the 21st percentile with a spin rate in the 5th percentile.
Adding Waguespack into the 5th spot would give the rotation an average fastball velocity of 91.74mph.
A likely Scenario
I really hope that Shoemaker and Borucki will be healthy to start the 2020 season and remain on the field the year; however, I am not confident when considering their recent injury history. For that reason, I removed them from the equation and added Trent Thornton and Anthony Kay.
In this scenario, the Blue Jays rotation saw the average fastball velocity jump to 92.48mph.
Obviously, the addition of Nate Pearson will undoubtedly provide a nice bump in the Blue Jays’ average fastball velocity. Unfortunately, we shouldn’t expect this to happen until sometime in June.
The Baltimore Orioles projected rotation of John Means (91.7mph), Alex Cobb (92.3mph), Asher Wojciechowski (91.5mph), Wade LeBlanc (86.3mph), and David Hess (93.0mph) projects to have an average fastball of 90.96mph. Replace LeBlanc with one of the Rule 5 selections Brandon Baily or Michael Rucker, or even Keegan Akin and the fastball velocity will jump up nicely.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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