The World Series teams both have plenty of quality starting pitchers who can throw big-velocity fastballs. They just don’t throw them as much as many other teams.
For instance, the Houston Astros this year threw the lowest percentage of fastballs of all 30 major league teams at 45.6 percent. This despite the fact that Houston’s average velocity of 94.2 mph ranked second in the big leagues, according to FanGraphs stats.
As for Washington, the Nationals this season rated 15th in fastball usage at 52.5 percent. Their average velocity of 93.2 mph rated 13th.
Orioles pitchers threw the sixth-highest percentage of fastballs among all 30 Major League Baseball teams at 54.9 percent. But the average velocity for the Orioles of 92.4 mph rated 27th.
As an aside, averaging 92.4 mph and yet ranking ahead of just three other clubs shows just how much pitching velocity has risen.
Here is pitch usage in percentage for non-fastballs for the two World Series teams and the Orioles, and where that ranks in the majors.
Sliders: Astros 19.9 (11), Nats 16.3 (22), Orioles 21.5 (8)
Curves: Astros 13.5 (5), Nats 8.5 (24), Orioles 4.8 (30)
Changeups: Astros 11.2 (13), Nats 13.5 (6), Orioles 15.0 (3)
Cutters: Astros 9.8 (4), Nats 9.3 (5), Orioles 3.5 (25)
So Houston is among the top six in throwing curves and cutters. The Nats are in the top six in changeups and cutters. The Orioles are in the top six in fastballs and changeups.
Considering that many of the Orioles’ current brass came from Houston, will we see O’s pitchers over time throw fewer fastballs and more curves and cutters? I mean, the Astros have Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander as their top two starters, yet rank 30th in MLB in fastball usage, according to FanGraphs stats.
No doubt the game is morphing into more breaking balls and fewer fastballs. It seemed to become a big story this year when Orioles right-hander Dylan Bundy reduced his fastball usage. And while Bundy did use his four-seamer less and two-seamer more as the year went on, they are both fastballs. He threw the two pitches 50 percent of the time in April, 52 percent in August and 48 percent in September. So was there really that much of a difference?
Anyway, we have seen a movement to more of a 50-50 split in the game, with pitchers throwing about 50 percent fastballs and 50 percent non-fastballs. And while that is true, this year 25 of 30 MLB teams still threw 50 percent or a higher percentage of fastballs. The heater is seen a bit less in the current game, but it has certainly not disappeared.
Fastball usage via percentage by the O’s pitchers who made 12 or more 2019 starts:
Meanwhile, Houston is a heavy favorite to win the World Series. Here are some odds from BetOnline.
Washington Nationals: +190 (19/10)
Houston Astros: -220 (5/11)
Washington in 4 - 20/1
Washington in 5 - 9/1
Washington in 6 - 8/1
Washington in 7 - 7/1
Houston in 4 - 7/1
Houston in 5 - 5/1
Houston in 6 - 7/2
Houston in 7 - 4/1
Houston is the biggest favorite since 2007, when Boston was a (-230, 10/23) big favorite over the Colorado Rockies. The Red Sox swept that series in four games, outscoring the Rockies 29-10. I like Houston, but certainly am not expecting anything like a four-game sweep.
I’ll take the Astros in six games. Who have you got and why?
In the Arizona Fall League: The Surprise Saguaros (featuring seven Orioles minor leaguers) will play in the Arizona Fall League championship game on Saturday. After he allowed three runs in five innings Monday, right-hander Dean Kremer would be lined up to start. He has a 2.37 ERA with four walks to 23 strikeouts in 19 innings in Arizona. In 21 starts this year between Single-A Frederick, Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk, Kremer was 9-6 with a 3.72 ERA. In 15 games with Bowie, he went 9-4 with a 2.98 ERA.