These are crazy times, full of the unknown, particularly for those who want to understand the connection that gave 2017 its most puzzling beast.
Charlie Morton’s fastball didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. The signs, as much as there can be signs for a guy who once sat in the low 90s to start darting his fastball at 99 mph, were there. Morton is 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds. His Tommy John surgery gave him a fresh elbow. Before he blew out his hamstring last April, he was mixing in a few 95s and 96s. This, though? A sinker sitting 96 and a four-seam fastball resting at 97? Only a nut job would’ve predicted that.
Such is the business of trying to understand fastball velocity. It may not be the single most important piece of quantitative analysis about a pitcher, but it certainly offers the most bang for its buck. Velocity correlates strongly with effectiveness, and while exceptions exist in both directions – hard throwers that stink and soft tossers that shove – a monster fastball remains the sine qua non for an aspiring ace.
Morton is not there yet. His velocity jump is impressive, as is his strikeout rate, and for a Houston Astros team that entered the season needing better starting pitching to complement its bats, gloves and bullpen, its major league-best record is a manifestation of such. And yet in the grand scheme, it takes not a fastball with dueling 9s on the radar gun to evince dominance but merely the run-of-the-mill 95-mph goon that …
1. Chris Sale sics on hitters who don’t know what in the name of all that is holy to do with it. It’s hard enough facing Sale, what with his release point so far to the left it might as well be antifa, his slider biting like oak mites and his changeup poison for righties but sprinkled in liberally among lefties this season, too.