Velocity Isn’t What Makes Tommy Hunter Go Boom
In my weekly column on MASNSports.com, I keyed in on Tommy Hunter‘s velocity and examined the PITCHf/x data to determine if he was more effective in the low-mid 90s than in the upper 90s. Hunter has peaked at 99.25 MPH this season, but has averaged between 95-96 MPH over his four appearances.
I wondered if Hunter was overthrowing his fastball and that led to him giving up home runs to left handed batters. I determined, however, that he has shown an ability to command upper 90s pitches and that his problems occur when he’s throwing up in the zone. The walkoff home run he surrendered to Matt Joyce on April 3 at Tampa Bay was a 96.12 MPH fastball in the middle of the zone.
Hunter’s next outing, on April 8 at Boston, proved to be much more effective (1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER 0 BB, 1 K). He relieved Wei-Yin Chen in the seventh inning with one out and the Orioles down 3-0. Hunter got Mike Carp to ground out to third base and Cody Ross to strikeout swinging in the seventh. Then Jose Iglesias grounded out to shortstop, Jacoby Ellsbury to second and Shane Victorino flew out to right field in the eighth.
Hunter’s average fastball velocity was 96.63 mph and he touched 99 mph on a chilly night in Boston. While the velocity was slightly higher in his second outing, Hunter worked the lower part of the plate more effectively in Boston than he did in Tampa Bay.
Trouble seems to arise when Hunter throws the majority of his pitchers in the top half of the strikezone. The strikezone plot below is from Hunter’s outing against the Red Sox on April 10 (1 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 2 HR allowed).
Eight of the ten pitches he threw in the bottom half of the zone were strikes or foul balls. The back-to-back-home runs he allowed (GIF’ed below) were on pitches at the batter’s belt or higher.