Angel Droppings: Jered Weaver and His Diminishing Fastball
By Travis Reitsma
Apr 1, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Jered Weaver (36) pitches during the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports
It was a successful Opening Day for the Angels yesterday as they beat the Cincinnati Reds in the first ever opening Day Interleague game 3-1 in a drawn-out 13-inning affair. I wrote about it last night, in case you missed it.
Something I neglected to mention—and for that matter, failed to notice—was the velocity with which starting pitcher Jered Weaver was working. Weaver has never been a hard thrower. Over the last several years he’d regularly sit in the 87-90 mph range with his four-seam fastball—slightly lower with his sinker. Weaver never relied upon blowing away his opponents, but rather by deceiving them with his funky delivery and freezing them with excellent command of the strike zone.
But yesterday, Weaver was working with even less velocity than we’re used to, as Bill Shaikin of the LA Times points out:
"Number of times Jered Weaver hit 90 mph: zero.There might be no pitcher in the major leagues more crucial to the fortunes of his team. There might be no radar gun readings more unsettling that the ones at Great American Ball Park on Monday, the ones that tracked Weaver’s fastball most often in the range of 84-87 mph."
Shaikin was taking his data from the stadium radar gun, which isn’t terrifically accurate, but the point stands. Weaver’s velocity was down relative to his career norms in yesterday’s game. Last season, Weaver’s fastball averaged 88.75 mph; his sinker, 87.99 mph. In yesterday’s start, that number was down almost three full miles-per-hour. He topped out at just 87.6 mph and his average speed was just 85.81 mph. His sinker was also down, but not quite as much.
Still, as I pointed out in the game summary, Weaver changed speeds very well and was still able to keep the Reds’ hitters off balance.
Velocity does tend to go up for pitchers as the season goes on and the arm gains strength, but Weaver was throwing much harder on Opening Day last season than he did for the rest of the year. In last year’s shutout win over the Royals on Opening Day, Weaver topped out at 93.8 mph with his fastball and averaged 89.9 mph.
Weaver managed to hold the high-powered Reds to just two hits and one run over six decent innings yesterday; striking out four, so at least for one start, his rather staggering drop in velocity wasn’t a concern. Still, it’s troubling considering not many pitchers can survive at “ace” levels throwing a mid-80s fastball. And if he’s throwing like that now at the age of 30, what’s he going to do as he advances into his 30s?
If Weaver’s drop in velocity is permanent (and to be fair, we don’t have a large enough sample size here to know that it’s gone forever), what happens to the Angels’ chances in the AL West if that drop begins to have bearing on his results? If there’s something wrong with Weaver—and I’m not saying there is—the Angels pitching rotation looks even thinner than it already does.
Sticking with the LA Times, Mike DiGiovanna marvels at Mike Scioscia’s quadruple-switch in the eleventh inning of yesterday’s game that allowed Peter Bourjos to hit second in the following inning.
Are there any hate-worthy Angels on the 2013 team? [Rev Halofan, Halos Heaven]
Loving on Jered Weaver’s contract. [Randy Holt, Monkey with a Halo]
Are the Angels at their worst still better than the Astros at their best? [Sam Miller, Baseball Prospectus]
Frank Robinson, California Angel. [Jeff Mays, Halos Daily]
Finally, for some reason, I have yet to mention Productive Outs on these virtual pages. Ian Miller and Riley Breckenridge (of Kowloon Walled City and Thrice fame respectively) not only have one of the most hilarious sites on the internets, they also host one of the best podcasts. If you’re somehow unfamiliar with their work, go check them out. Breckenridge is a die-hard Angels and Jose Mota fan.
Speaking of Jose Mota, this is a snippet from his post-game interview with Chris Iannetta yesterday. Gold. Absolute gold.
The Angels have an off-day today so if you have yourself an MLB.tv subscription (if not, why not?), check out the rest of the Major League schedule and enjoy some stress-free baseball.