If you guys read The Hangover each morning, you know that Jeff Niemann has been a different pitcher this year. That is, he is throwing five different pitches with regularity.
This new “Crafty” Giraffe is a far cry from the Fastball-Curveball pitcher that first made his debut with the Rays in 2008.
And part of the reason may be that Niemann’s fastball is just not what it used to be.
Here’s a look at every start by Niemann since the start of the 2009 season. Each data point represents the average velocity on Niemann’s fastball for that start plus the four starts prior. This 5-game average makes it easier to see the overall trend throughout a season…
So far this season Niemann is averaging just 90.0 mph on his four-seem fastball. That is down from 90.7 in 2011, 91.2 in 2010, and 91.5 in 2009.
Of course, this could be by-design. In 2009 and 2011, Niemann’s velocity plummeted late in his final starts of the season. So maybe the Rays are trying to conserve his arm.
But the mix of pitches also seems to indicate that the team is no longer confident that his fastball can be dominating. And looking at this chart, we can see why.