You probably know that I write for MLB.com and specifically about Statcast, and so earlier this month I put together some visuals about how spin and velocity correlate. For the most part, they don’t; Chris Young & Dellin Betances have the same spin rate on their fastballs, but there’s a velocity difference of about a dozen miles per hour.
Still, I thought the images were cool…
— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) January 11, 2016
…and for each pitch, in an attempt to add some context, I shared the MLB average, and high/low outlier, for spin and velocity. Relevant to your interests, here’s what that looked like for four-seam fastballs:
With the 40-year-old Betancourt’s playing days looking finished, the reigning active four-seam spin king would be Dodgers reliever Yimi Garcia, at 2,533 rpm. Garcia had the third-lowest ground-ball rate of the 328 pitchers who threw at least 50 innings, but had a higher strikeout rate than Stephen Strasburg or Jose Fernandez.
And that’s cool. I feel like Garcia (and to a lesser extent, Pedro Baez) gets overlooked in the Dodger bullpen, and he admittedly has to find a way to cut down on that 1.27 HR/9. But there’s no denying that a 68/10 K/BB in 56 innings in his first full season is damn impressive. There were 328 pitchers who threw 50 innings last year, and only 22 had a strikeout rate of 30% or higher — Garcia included. (As were Kenley Jansen & Clayton Kershaw.)
A lot of that goes to that elite spin rate. (For example, I’d previously identified very low spin guys, and Brett Anderson appeared. On fastballs, high spin gets whiffs and flies; low spin gets grounders.)
Chad was talking about this way back in 2013, when Baseball Prospectus first published Trackman’s spin rates from the Arizona Fall League, and Garcia appeared as a standout. (Also on that list: an at-the-time unknown Ken Giles.)
As I’ve said for a while, I think the 2016 Dodgers bullpen is better than people give it credit for. Jansen is a stud. Chris Hatcher‘s 2015 wasn’t what we hoped, but he sure turned it around at the end. Joe Blanton, well, sure, who knows. J.P. Howell terrifies me, but he’s made it work. And Baez & Garcia sure can miss some bats. For Garcia, that ability to spin the ball sure seems like a reason why.