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Fastball Velocity Trends in Short-Season Minor League Baseball

Crotin, Ryan L.; Bhan, Shivam; Karakolis, Tom; Ramsey, Dan K.

Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: August 2013 - Volume 27 - Issue 8 - p 2206–2212
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31827e1509
Original Research

Abstract: Crotin, RL, Bhan, S, Karakolis, T, and Ramsey, DK. Fastball velocity trends in short-season Minor League Baseball. J Strength Cond Res 27(8): 2206–2212, 2013—Diminishing baseball velocities are objective measures to delineate pitching fatigue. Yet, velocity changes over the course of a competitive season vs. a single game remain unknown. This study examined fastball velocity (FBV) trends of minor league pitchers over an 8-game span. We assumed that accumulation of pitches would cause similar velocity decreases within games to produce velocity decreases between games pitched. Retrospective analysis of major league–affiliated pitching charts indicated mean FBVs, game pitches thrown, game innings pitched, rest days, and pitching work to rest ratios (PWRRs) for 12 pitchers over 8 games. Regression analyses (p < 0.05) were performed using the ordinary least squares method. The FBV was the dependent variable, where the explanatory variable was the game number (representing cumulative workload). Further analyses were performed on ball velocity differences predicted by days rest and PWRRs. The FBV increased linearly for the first 8 games of the season (R2 = 0.91, F(1,7) = 64.67, p < 0.001). Over the 8 - game period, mean FBVs increased 0.25 m/s (0.56 mph) with the greatest velocity increase occurring between the first and eighth game at 1.97 m/s (4.4 mph). Days rest and PWRRs did not impact FBV differences. When compared with previous research, minor league pitchers at the Class A Short Season level did not show similar exertion responses to cumulative workloads (pitches and innings pitched). Recovery factors (rest days, PWRRs, and training) also did not impact FBVs. Velocity increases may be attributable to biomechanical compensations, skill development, strength and conditioning regimens, multistarter rotations, and other performance-related factors. Strength and conditioning professionals should be aware of ball velocity trends, as apparent changes may infer neuromuscular fatigue and increased injury susceptibility, which require in-season training modifications.

1Department of Exercise Science, School of Public Health and Health Professions, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York

2Baltimore Orioles, Major League Baseball, Baltimore, Maryland

3Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, Department of Kinesiology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Address correspondence to Ryan L. Crotin, (e-mail: rcrotin@orioles.com).

Copyright © 2013 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.