Leading up to the season we've heard a lot about lost velocity. Specifically, the velocity that Jered Weaver and Tommy Hanson lost over the last few years. There has been much hand-wringing over whether or not Jered and Tommy would be able to recover that velocity and if they don't, how they will adjust to life with a not-as-fast fastball. Mike Scioscia even went so far as to say that he has "no doubt" that Hanson will be able to regain the MPHs he lost the last two years. Scioscia and the team have had essentially nothing to say about Weaver's velocity issues last season, almost as if they don't even think it is worth worrying about.
Well, it turns out that there is plenty of season to doubt and worry. That velocity probably isn't coming back. At least that is what the research says:
91% of pitchers that do finish a season down at least 1 mph compared to the previous season will lose additional velocity the following season (average decline of 1.6 mph), with only 7% regaining some (but, likely, not all) of that velocity back.
7 percent? Gulp. Those aren't great odds at all. But wait! It actually gets worse. That same writer, Bill Pretti, also did some research into how likely a pitcher is to recover velocity based on age, you know, because you don't need those 36-year old pitchers messing up the curve for everyone. Take a look for yourself:
|Age||% Gain Velocity||Odds Ratio||Ave Velocity Gain (mph)||Ave Velocity Loss (mph)|
To apply this chart to the Angels, know that Hanson falls into the 25 year-old bucket, giving him very good odds, although seeing how he didn't regain the velocity after a similar drop in his age 24 season doesn't bode well for his odds of being part of that 19%. As for Weaver, his velocity took a nosedive in his age 29 season. Like, zoiks, Scoob! ZERO PERCENT?!?! Really?
The sample used in the study spans from 2002 through 2011, so Weaver isn't completely screwed, but it sure isn't looking good. Really though, it looks like Weaver or Hanson are going to have to hope that there was some sort of physical impairment that can be removed to allow them recover their velocity. That's where the news is good for Weaver and somewhat encouraging for Hanson.
Take a look at Weaver's velocity chart via Fangraphs to see what I mean:
If you focus on the 2012 campaign, you can see a pretty clear pattern. He started off strong and then had a drop off just before the gap in the data, which is when he hurt his back. After the gap, the velocity began creeping up again before dipping back down only to fall off a cliff towards the end of the season, when he complained of tendinitis in his biceps and shoulder. That's good news because there is an explanation and neither of those explanations are too scary. With a little conditioning, it is easy to see Weaver at least getting back some of his heat, although it is possible that the back or tendinitis, especially the tendinitis since he apparently dealt with the same problem in 201 and just never fessed up to it, issues could become chronic.
For Hanson, the data is less encouraging. Again, via Fangraphs:
That 2012 velocity trend is pretty normal, unfortunately. That rules out an isolated event causing an unnatural decrease, but that doesn't mean there isn't an explanation. Hanson has ben dealing with a "shoulder impingement" the last two seasons, whatever that means. Let's hope it isn't code for a torn labrum because if that is the case then, as Taylor Swift would say, Hanson and his velocity are never, ever, ever getting back together. If the impingement is something that can be removed or corrected without surgically, then maybe he has a chance. He obviously wasn't able to correct the issue after 2011 though, so what he can do to clear it now is a mystery. He is in the "best shape of his life" though, so that certainly can't hurt.
For both Weaver and Hanson and their health situations, I can't say that I am smart enough to know if that makes them more likely to be in the minority that recovers velocity or less likely. I want to say it makes them more likely, but I'm pretty sure that is just me wishcasting. The pessimistic side of me, which is usually more practical and thus usually more correct, thinks it makes them less likely to regain their speed.
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I wonder what the chart would look like if you removed pitchers that had undergone Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery? I know that Kenny Rogers had that when he was 35 - 36 and went from a 87 mph fastball to a 92 mph fastball. That might the exceptions right there as several pitchers have had this done