Jered Weaver and his Declining Fastball


It’s an inevitable and depressing fact that everyone physically declines as age catches up. When it happens to our heroes who we’ve watched and admired growing things seem especially bitter. Once, these were invincible champions  who could be counted on to dominate. Then, suddenly there armor is cracked and we see they are vulnerable. At 32-years-old it is apparent our ace has been worn down by years of battle and is not who he once was.

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Jered Weaver never was a dominating fireballer but when he came into the big leagues his fastball averaged about 90 MPH. It stayed there until 2010. The year in which he led the league in strikeouts with 233. In 2011 his fastball averaged 89.1 (only a slight dip) and in 2012 it was an even 88 MPH. Those three years were his most dominant. He made the All Star team all three and garnered top votes for the Cy Young.

His fastball was below average by major league standards, but his deceptive delivery and impeccable command more than made up for it. He was as feared as any pitcher in the game. The 2 MPH drop in velocity in those years was made up for by that command and reflected in his WHIP; he went from leading the league in strikeouts in 2010 to leading in WHIP (1.018) 2012. He got off to another good start in during 2013, but an elbow injury led to the disabled list and what velocity he had never returned.

2013 saw his velocity drop to 86.8 MPH and his dominance has waned as well. Known as one of the most competitive pitchers in the game, he has found a way to be highly effective despite the velocity decline. This past season saw him post an identical fastball velocity average of 86.8. With it he won 18 game sin 34 starts with an ERA of 3.59 and a still solid WHIP of 1.209. He has found ways to get batters out.

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Like crafty left-handers who pitch late into careers with strong results, Weaver has modified his game to fool batters. He threw fastballs and sliders at a career low of 51.6% and 10.1 of the time. To compensate his curveball and changeup rate has grown the last two years to a career highs of 19.3 and 19.1%.Since his rookie year the curve (10.9%) and change (9.6%) have essentially flipped places with the slider percentage which was at 19.5% as a rookie. Combine those adjustments with the fact that his command and deception are still present and you have a good pitcher.

The scary part is no matter how well you adjust time catches up, and ERA+ has shown Weaver is feeling the clock. He has always been an above league average pitcher but last year he barely made the mark with a 101 ERA+. The year prior he was at 115 ERA+. The year before that he was 135 ERA+ and the year before that he was a remarkable 156 ERA+.

Along with his fastball the decline is apparent. But, does that mean he isn’t a valuable pitcher. By no means. He started 34 games last year and pitched consistently enough to capture 18 wins. And, for the Angels he is of particular value since he is an absolute clubhouse leader with big game and postseason experience. Aside from C.J. Wilson, the club has very young and inexperienced starting pitchers. A presence like Weaver is a sure boost to the entire staff.

With age also comes experience. He may not be able to do much about his velocity but he has shown his worth by steadily improving in the clutch. The chart below shows that last year was actually his best year ever in clutch circumstances.

2015 will be a very interesting and defining year in Weaver’s career. At age 32 his decline shouldn’t be falling off a cliff but with such a low average velocity there is very little room for error. His command will be key since he can’t blow it by any big league hitter. Perhaps more important will be his baseball I.Q. and competitiveness since those have always been the cornerstone of his remarkable Angels tenure.

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