After the 2021 season, Brent Strom moved on from the Astros. Joshua Miller and Bill Murphy have stepped up into the role of providing support and vision for the Astros pitching staff this season.
We’ve seen our starting rotation produce 5 starts or more so far this season, and plenty of action from the bullpen. A trend I’ve noticed is an increase in fastball velocity for several Astros pitchers. I asked myself, “Why now?”. Perhaps the coaching change has produced a philosophical change for our pitchers. Let’s look at some numbers.
Below is a simplified chart breakdown the average fastball velocity for Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia, Bryan Abreu, and Ryne Stanek from 2021 and 2022. Before I proceed, I understand that 2021 was a full season. However, the reference to a change in coaching from one season to the next is the point we are examining.
As we can see, fastball velocity is up for these 4 pitchers throughout 2022. The reason I’m drawn to this is the fact I noticed this uptick in the playoffs last season. Valdez and Garcia were pumping fastballs in the mid to high 90s regularly. It’s also worth nothing they’re continuing that trend into 2022.
I wrote about Valdez earlier this month, discussing his average fastball velocity and how it effects his performance on the mound. My insight is that the most velocity he produces on his fastball and sinker, the less likely he can generate the movement that makes him so effective. He’s a soft contract, ground ball pitcher. I believe upping the velocity will decrease the effectiveness of the spin he enacts on the baseball. This will be an ongoing project to determine where my theory stands.
Luis Garcia was a notable call up from the single-A level to the majors. He has not disappointed. He has one of the better spin rates on his 4-seam fastball and the velocity pairs well with the hammer of a slider he throws for strikeouts. He’s off to a great start in 2022, and I believe this increase in velocity benefits Garcia.
Bryan Abreu is one of the notable young arms in the bullpen. It feels like fans have been waiting for his ascension for quite some time. Why hasn’t it come to fruition? It’s not an easy idea to understand. He is talented, brings triple digits in terms of velocity now and has a solid strikeout pitch in his slider. I’m cautiously optimistic on Abreu, and believe the hot fastball opens doors for him to be an effective reliever when utilized properly. I can see him being effective in one inning, between 10-20 pitches. He’s not shown the promise see more than one inning of work so far this season. The jury is still out on the young power arm of Bryan Abreu. However, the potential and fastball may entice teams at the trade deadline when the Astros are evaluating the roster for their postseason push.
Ryne Stanek has been very effective and was a very under-the-radar signing for the Astros. He is more effective against right-handed hitters, but the triple digit fastball might give him more leverage against his weaknesses throughout the season. I know it sounds like I’m repeating myself when I say 3 of the 4 pitchers, I’ve identified will benefit from increasing their fastball velocity, but the fact remains the gain is about power hitting and power pitching. I expect Stanek will prove to be one of the best relievers in the Astros bullpen, as he did last year.
As we continue throughout the season, usage and pitch count will become the indicator of how well our pitching staff will fair. As much as a season is about winning and losing, it’s about health and maximizing performance. I want to watch how these pitchers continue to perform, along with where the velocity goes throughout the season.
Our podcast episode will be out today discussing this topic. Whether you like to read or listen, we have the content for you.