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Statcast data: The top differences in actual and perceived velocity

After this week's release of Statcast data, take a look at which pitchers achieve the largest differences between their actual velocity and perceived velocity.

In 2015, Carter Capps added an average of 3.7 mph of perceived velocity to his fastball.
In 2015, Carter Capps added an average of 3.7 mph of perceived velocity to his fastball.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

This week, MLB Advanced Media's public data mastermind, Daren Willman, re-published Baseball Savant under the MLB umbrella. Key among the improvements of this edition was the first official release of proprietary Statcast data. In addition to traditional PITCHf/x data fields, every search on the site now includes hitting data like batted ball distance, exit velocity, and launch angle. Additionally, there are now three more interesting pitching data points - release spin rate, pitcher extension, and perceived velocity.

Perceived velocity, in this case, refers to the velocity of a pitch adjusted to the league average release point. It's basically a function of pitcher extension - if two relievers throw pitches at 100 mph, but one releases the ball a foot closer to home plate than the other, his pitch will reach home plate at a higher perceived velocity due to the batter having less time to react.

Pitchers who release the ball closer to home plate than the league average release point see added advantage. The most notable example of this in 2015 was Carter Capps, who was made dominant by his controversial hop-step delivery.

As one could guess, Capps' four seamer is the fastball that has seen the most benefit from perceived velocity, minimum 100 pitches. Last season, he averaged 97.9 mph in actual velocity, but it effectively crossed home plate at the same speed as a 101.5 mph pitch, if released at the league average release point.

Another pitcher of interest is Noah Syndergaard, who also achieves a significant extension - enough so that his already unfair sinker and slider respectively add, on average, over 1.6 mph and 1.1 mph in perceived velocity.

There are endless fun ways to parse these data, but what was of most interest to me was examining the outer bounds of this metric and creating some leaderboards. The full rankings for pitches that the PITCHf/x system marks as four seamers, two seamers, cutters, and sinkers are available in spreadsheet form here, but below are just some quick snapshots of the results.

Top 10 Four-Seam Fastballs in 2015, Minimum 100 Pitches

Actual Velo Perceived Velo Velo Margin Extension
Carter Capps 97.9 101.5 3.7 8.30
Ian Thomas 89.8 92.3 2.4 7.55
Yusmeiro Petit 88.6 90.5 1.9 7.28
Simon Castro 91.2 93.0 1.9 7.13
Gavin Floyd 92.4 93.9 1.5 7.02
David Hale 90.2 91.6 1.4 6.75
Jon Gray 93.7 95.1 1.4 6.82
John Lamb 91.5 92.8 1.3 7.15
Michael Wacha 94.5 95.8 1.3 6.98
Addison Reed 92.9 94.2 1.3 7.04

What is immediately noticeable about this list is that these are not the ten best pitchers in baseball. Throwing a fastball that is effectively a little faster doesn't make you Clayton Kershaw - in fact, it doesn't even make you a hard thrower, necessarily. Yusmeiro Petit is tied for third on this list and still barely cracks 90 mph on the leaderboard.

Many of the game's best pitchers, including Zack Greinke, Jake Arrieta, and David Price, are at or a little below zero added velocity. It is nice to have and could, with more research, boost the profile of a borderline arm. However, it isn't essential and could even cost a pitcher his command to attempt to improve. Right now, it's just for fun - but seriously, Carter Capps is crazy.

Bottom 10 Four-Seam Fastballs in 2015, Minimum 100 Pitches


Actual Velo Perceived Velo Velo Margin Extension
Joel Peralta 89.8 87.2 -2.6 4.93
Brad Hand 92.8 90.3 -2.5 5.13
Tommy Layne 90.4 88.0 -2.4 5.05
Justin Nicolino 89.2 86.9 -2.3 5.21
Chris Narveson 89.4 87.2 -2.2 5.21
Tom Koehler 92.5 90.5 -2.0 5.31
Brad Boxberger 93.5 91.5 -2.0 5.28
Ross Detwiler 92.8 90.8 -2.0 5.32
Carlos Frias 95.4 93.5 -2.0 5.23
Mike Leake 91.1 89.1 -2.0 5.07

Again, weak perceived velocity is not a death sentence - Mike Leake just made $80 million this offseason and appears near the bottom of the lists for four seamers, sinkers, and cutters. There are endless components to pitching, and while the velocity that a batter experiences is important, there are ways to overcome it.

Most Added Velocity by Pitch Type

Pitch Name Actual Velo Perceived Velo Velo Margin Extension
FF Carter Capps 97.9 101.5 3.7 8.30
FT Matt Belisle 91.0 92.5 1.4 7.02
FC-t Michael Wacha 89.7 91.2 1.4 6.95
FC-t Kenley Jansen 92.8 94.2 1.4 7.00
SI Steve Cishek 91.0 92.8 1.7 7.34

Michael Wacha benefits a lot from perceived velocity in these rankings as it relates to his four-seam fastball and strong cutter. That cutter ties in added velocity (velo margin), but not in perceived velocity, to Kenley Jansen's immortal version of the pitch. It's probably a part of the unmatched nature of the pitch that Jansen is able to keep hitters a little more off balance with good extension.

Most Subtracted Velocity by Pitch Type

Pitch Name Actual Velo Perceived Velo Velo Margin Extension
FF Joel Peralta 89.8 87.2 -2.6 4.93
FT Tommy Layne 90.2 87.5 -2.7 5.06
FC Chris Narveson 84.6 82.6 -2.0 5.08
SI Peter Moylan 91.0 88.9 -2.1 5.36

Something of note here is that all four of these pitchers are relievers on the wrong side of 30. Layne is still only 31, but Narveson is 34, Moylan is 37, and Peralta is 41. It would make sense that pitchers lose some extension as they age. Additionally, this may be just survivor's bias, but none of these four pitchers had disastrous seasons in 2015.

The release of Statcast data this season makes 2016 an exciting time to follow baseball. New statistics, measurements, and visualizations are appearing frequently from the analysts of MLB Advanced Media, and perceived velocity is just a small portion of what we can expect to see.

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Spencer Bingol is a Contributing Editor at Beyond the Box Score. He can also be read at Crashburn Alley. You can follow him on Twitter at @SpencerBingol.