10 MLB Starting Pitchers Who Showed The Largest Velocity Gains In 2019
Cardinals righthander Jack Flaherty found a new gear in 2019.
Not only did Flaherty’s four-seam fastball velocity (94.3) increase by one mile per hour over his 2018 average, according to MLB Statcast, but he also topped out near 99 mph. That was also roughly 1 mph faster than he had reached the year before.
The Cardinals’ 24-year-old ace used the extra gear on his fastball to strike out 130 and walk just 24 in his final 106.1 innings of 2019. In those final 16 starts he recorded a 0.93 ERA and limited opponents to a .139 average.
Among starting pitchers, Flaherty made the seventh-highest improvement to his four-seam velocity in 2019 compared to 2018.
The top 10 four-seam fastball velocity gainers are presented below. The sample includes only starting pitchers who threw at least 1,500 pitches in both 2018 and 2019. Journeyman Zack Godley finished with the highest four-seam velocity gain (2.35%) but threw the pitch so infrequently (less than 1% of the time) that he was omitted from the display.
Three younger starters fell short of throwing 1,500 pitches in 2018 but are noteworthy for their four-seam gains in 2019: Brewers righthander Brandon Woodruff (+1.2 mph), Marlins righthander Pablo Lopez (+1.0) and Braves lefthander Max Fried (+0.7).
1. Jake Odorizzi, RHP +1.8 mph
2018: 91.1 mph.
2019: 92.9 mph.
The Twins maximized Odorizzi’s effectiveness by letting him dominate in shorter outings. He responded with a career best 131 ERA+ and 3.6 WAR.
2. Lucas Giolito, RHP +1.8 mph
2018: 92.4 mph.
2019: 94.2 mph.
A streamlined delivery and a fastball two ticks faster resulted in a breakthrough season for Giolito, the 16th pick in the 2012 draft who had finished with an MLB-worst 6.13 ERA in 2018.
3. Mike Clevinger, RHP +1.8 mph
2018: 93.6 mph.
2019: 95.4 mph.
A strained muscle in his upper back limited Clevinger to 126 innings in 2019, but when healthy the Indians righthander has the stuff to win a Cy Young Award.
4. Matt Boyd, LHP +1.6 mph
2018: 90.5 mph.
2019: 92.1 mph.
The veteran Tigers lefty gave up an AL-high 39 home runs but balanced that with an elite strikeout rate of 11.6 per nine innings, generating trade interest.
5. Jon Gray, RHP +1.3 mph
2018: 94.7 mph.
2019: 96.0 mph.
The No. 3 overall pick in 2013 quietly lived up to his draft billing by recording a 135 ERA+ and 4.1 WAR while making half his starts at Coors Field.
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6. Anthony DeSclafani, RHP +1.2 mph
2018: 93.5 mph.
2019: 94.7 mph.
DeSclafani got back on track in 2019, recording a 3.89 ERA in 31 starts for the Reds. He was similarly effective in 2016 before missing all of 2017 with a strained elbow ligament.
7. Jack Flaherty, RHP +1.1 mph
2018: 93.2 mph.
2019: 94.3 mph.
An incendiary second half makes Flaherty one of the favorites to win the NL Cy Young Award this season. He is the youngest pitcher in this group, two draft classes younger than Giolito.
8. Mike Fiers, RHP +1.0 mph
2018: 89.4 mph.
2019: 90.4 mph.
Fiers logged a career-high 185 innings for the Athletics at age 34. He led the staff in innings and Oakland starters with 3.0 WAR.
9. Patrick Corbin, LHP +1.0 mph
2018: 90.8 mph.
2019: 91.8 mph.
Fresh off signing a $140 million free agent deal with the Nationals, Corbin recorded a career best 5.6 WAR and 141 ERA+ for the World Series champions.
10. Zack Wheeler, RHP +1.0 mph
2018: 95.8 mph.
2019: 96.8 mph.
Already one of the hardest throwers in baseball, Wheeler added a tick in 2019 and dominated hitters up in the zone. The Phillies took note, signing him for $118 million as a free agent.