Take all of what is about to be said/shown with a massive sample size caveat, grain of salt, or your analogy of choice. We are only a couple weeks into the major league season, but I still want to take a look at some Statcast data to see if anything stands out.
4-Seam Fastballs (Source-Baseball Savant. Criteria – at least 10 pitches in 2017 and 2018)
What I looked at: Velocity, Spin, Usage, and Extension
Cautionary Aside: With the usage data there can be classification issues making the changes look larger than reality. For example, imagine Baseball Savant classified a pitch as a 4-seam in 2017 and as a sinker in 2018. I haven’t taken the time to delve into the changes and see which are “legit”.
Takeaways: Amir Garret leads MLB with a 2 mph increase over his 2017 average. Tyler Glasnow was among the leaders in both increased velocity and spin. I wonder if Gerrit Cole’s spin rate increase was the result of mechanical changes the Astros have advised him to make?
Curveballs (Source-Baseball Savant. Criteria – at least 10 pitches in 2017 and 2018)
What I looked at: Spin, Usage, Velocity
Takeaways: Oh hey, Tyler Glasnow. He tops the curve spin rate increase list. It’s crazy to me that Garret Richards and Rich Hill were among the leaders in curve spin rate increase considering they were already elite at this last year.
Sliders (Source-Baseball Savant. Criteria – at least 10 pitches in 2017 and 2018)
What I looked at: Velocity, Spin Rate, Usage
What I found: Amir Garrett popping up again. His slider velocity has increased the most in MLB. He is also using the pitch a lot, up almost 18% to 41%. Severino’s already good spin rate has increased to an elite level, almost 3000 RPM.
Hitters: (Source-Baseball Savant. Criteria – at least 50 pitches seen in 2017 and 2018)
What I looked at: Launch Angles, Launch Speeds, and Swing:Take Ratios
Takeaways: Jesse Winker was in the top 10 for launch angle increases. Ryan McMahon has been hitting everything into the ground. His launch angle to date is -6.7. Ouch. Jose Martinez has had a surprisingly low launch angle, 3.6.
Aledmys Diaz has been insanely aggressive swinging twice as often as taking. Javier Baez has been more aggressive than last year. Eddie Rosario has not become more patient, an idea I had heard bandied during spring training. In fact, his swing:take rate has increased. Rougned Odor has been more patient. His swing to take rate has dropped from 1.13 to .73.