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I don't care how fast you throw the ball: Unveiling the Nuances of Baseball Pitching

With pitchers and catchers reporting to each MLB team's spring training facility, a new cycle of media has come about. Finally, the offseason speculation is just about over, and we as fans get to watch our players actually play baseball. One of the biggest stories that has come about has been the message hung up at every bullpen station in the Nationals facility. “I don’t care how fast you throw ball four.” Mike Rizzo, Nationals General Manager, is clearly taking a strong stance against pitchers sacrificing any level of command for velocity. This of course, led to the older baseball crowd being thrilled with Rizzo for finally standing up to “velocity culture.”

The problem with that is, this is a very outdated message that is not backed by any level of data. Fact is, velocity makes you a better pitcher. The more speed you have on your fastball, typically, the better that fastball is. Sure, there are multiple outliers with great movement profiles on slow fastballs that find success or terrible movement profiles on extremely fast heaters that get crushed, but as a general rule of thumb, the harder you can throw, the better pitcher you will become.

In the modern era of baseball you simply cannot just try to throw strikes. Every team has seen plenty of pitchers come through their system that throw strikes at a very high level, but do not do anything else well. And these guys get hit way harder. The idea that grooving a 85 MPH fastball down the center of the plate is better than walking somebody is no longer a realistic idea. Hitters punish bad pitches.

In fact, studies show that in a three ball count, the success rate increases along with the velocity. So it seems as if hitters actually do care how hard a pitcher throws ball four.

In conclusion, this is a very questionable hill to die on if you are Mike Rizzo. Maybe this message helps with their near league high walk rate, but studies show it will not help with the rest of their statistics whatsoever.

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