Velocity watch: Michael Pineda and John Danks

Michael Pineda looked pretty good in his first start. (USATSI)
Michael Pineda looked pretty good in his first start. (USATSI)

Should Fantasy owners care about early season velocity numbers? For the most part, the answer is yes. A pitcher throwing harder than normal early has a higher chance of being a breakout candidate. On the other hand, a pitcher throwing with a reduced velocity can cause some concern, but doesn't always mean disaster. For pitchers coming off major surgery, though, velocity is always going to be monitored carefully. Two of those pitchers were on the mound Saturday. Both looked pretty good.

  • Shoulder surgery is always worrisome for pitchers, which is why so much was made of Michael Pineda's velocity during spring training. Pineda did not pitch in a park equipped with the PITCHf/x tracking system, so there were no official readings on his velocity. There seemed to be reports that his fastball was better than last season, but not all the way back. That didn't seem to be the case Saturday, as Pineda consistently hit 95 mph on the stadium gun. Back in Pineda's breakout season, he was hitting 95.40 mph with his fastball in March. That number jumped to 96.67 mph in April. Considering those factors, Pineda's velocity technically was down, but the fact that he is still able to throw 95 mph consistently after shoulder surgery is impressive. Based on both his velocity, and his results, his arrow is definitely trending up after one start this season.
  • John Danks is also coming off shoulder surgery, but the White Sox allowed him to take his lumps in the majors last year. Pineda, by contrast, was left in the minors all season. Danks clearly saw some velocity decline last season. His fastball came in 2-3 mph slower than it had in 2011, and his cutter experienced a similar drop. After an offseason of rest, and some intense work with the White Sox medical staff, there was some hope he might recovery his velocity. Did it happen? It's hard to tell. Danks did hit 88 mph and 90 mph occasionally, but likely did so with his four-seam fastball. His cutter still seemed to hover around 86 mph, though it may have jumped higher a couple times. The promising thing here is that Danks seemed to be locating really well. He was able to use his cutter to jam righties, and generally kept his stuff in the zone (he's currently pitched three innings, so that could change by the time his stint is over). Despite not appearing to have regained velocity, he looks pretty good.
UPDATE: Danks had a rough couple of innings after my initial post, though ultimately finished with passable numbers. His control eluded him in the fourth inning, though he only gave up two runs. He struggled again early in the fifth, but found a way to get out of it. He could be a useful asset, but only if the control issues were a one-time blip.
This, of course, brings up the reliability of stadium radar guns. They are often not the best place to get accurate readings for pitchers. That's why I'm constantly going to during the season. MLB prevents BrooksBaseball from updating during games, so you can't get live reading of PITCHf/x data, but the site usually posts all their data immediately after a game ends. For both Pineda and Danks, it's worth it to check their velocity tabs over at the site later. It's an invaluable site if you want to know more about pitchers and their repertoires. 
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