Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Keith Law's Wrong--Olsen's Velocity Was NOT up in September

ESPN's Keith Law yesterday stated that Scott Olsen's fastball velocity, which was down three miles per hour in 2008 versus 2006, rebounded late in the year. He wrote:
Olsen was a high-upside power arm, but his velocity took a big hit this year, dropping from the low-to-mid 90s to the upper 80s, although he rebounded late in the year and was touching 94 again in September.
I'm not sure what he's basing that on, but I just clicked through the Gameday archives of Olsen's September starts on, and according to pitch f/x, he touched 92 just twice the whole month and never hit 93 ever, much less 94. His average fastball velocity for his last two starts of the year was 88.6 and 87.1.

For the year, according to pitch f/x data compiled at, his average fastball velocity for the year was 87.8. In 2006, his one good year as a major leaguer, his average fastball sat at 90.1.


Wil Nieves said...

i'm a relatively new reader of your blog (i'm a little busy during the season). do you get this worked up about every trade?

Steven said...

Hey you jump up and do a Knute Rockne pep talk after every pitch, and you're saying I get worked up? :-)

Well, guilty as charged I guess. Think of it this way--there may be only 9000 people watching, but at least we're a spirited group.

Miles said...

I found your blog a few months ago and have been checking it every so often. I think you run a really great site. I'm not a Nats fan but I do enjoy following the progression of teams that are trying to rebuild (Royals, Pirates..)

It's hard to say how the Olsen trade will work out. I would be concerned how Willingham will hold up. Some outfielders hit the wall at age 30 (Jason Lane), so I'd be worried about that. I also think the idea of Olsen (young, tall skinny lefthander with some success) is more appealing that the actual thing.

The Marlins also have a heck of scouting department to identify talent with. Do they see something in Smolinski and Dean that Jimbo doesn't?

Jon Williams said...

Perhaps the numbers law has access to at ESPN say something different than If they are using different sources that explains everything doesn't it?

Law is usually pretty good about getting his facts straight before writing.

niggledork said...

I for one agree with you. It might be that the trade works out in the end, and if so great. There's a principle at stake though. The "plan" is to stockpile young talent in the hope of future success. If we give away that talent for a few more wins, maybe a couple of extra seats get filled in the stands, but that also takes away from what we can do in the future to produce that "winner."

And personally, if we're going to be bad, I kinda like it when we're comically bad.

Will said...

Thanks for the clarification Steven. I tried to verify Law's remark before commenting on it, but unfortunately Fangraphs only provided his annual avg velocity, no month-to-month breakdowns, and a google search didn't yield any results.

Steven said...

@Jon W.--Pitch f/x is the most accurate measure of velocity out there--better than radar guns. It's possible that a generous gun picked him up at 94 at some point, but pitch f/x is more accurate, so we should go with that.

I imagine that he's reporting what was said to him by a coach, and that coach was probably commenting on Olsen's last start--which did see a slight uptick in velocity--still closer to his '08 soft-tossing than his '06 velocity (which even then didn't really justify the tag "power arm," but whatever).

@niggle, jim, miles--good points all. I can see where you're all coming from, and reasonable people can disagree on this one. I think through the chats we've distilled the issues at hand, and people can decide for themselves where they fall on the more debatable judgment calls.

I'll also acknowledge again that the vehemence of my opposition is greater because this move fits into a broader pattern for Jim going back to Cincy that I had thought Stan had broken him out of. If I had confidence that this was a one-time diversion and that he would get back to the business of stockpiling youth, then I'd be groaning less. But to me this is a sign of things to come, returning to repeating the mistakes of 04-06, when virtually every move was young for old, cheap for expensive, improving for declining, guys under team control for 5-6 years for short 1-2 year rentals, and more players sent away for fewer back. That's how we got to where we are now, worse than the Expos ever were in recent memory.

Will said...

I told you Keith Law is a hack...

he doesn't even know the speed for every pitch of every pitcher in the league.

David said...

The radar gun shows him at 88.0 in August and 88.3 in September.

You can look in the leaderboard or teams section of FanGraphs if you need month to month velocity splits, but you'll need to do them one month at a time.

Steven said...

Ah ha--good catch Dave. Like I said, very slight uptick, but nowhere near enough to erase concerns.