Erik Bedard’s declining velocity

Erik Bedard has made four starts as a Pirate, putting up a 2.63 ERA in 24 innings. He has been a bit inconsistent with his command, but has been effective for the most part. That being said, so far this season, his velocity has been a few ticks slower than in 2011. Here is a look at his velocity over the past six seasons, courtesy of Brooks Baseball and The Hardball Times.

It is clear that his four-seam fastball (FA) and two-seam sinker (SI) have been a bit slower in 2012. On average, each offering is down over two MPH this season. Here are his velocities for 2011 and 2012.

2011 2012
Four-Seam Fastball 91.22 89.08
Sinker 91.72 89.03

Bedard’s strikeout rate is down pretty significantly this season (23.1% in 2011, 17.0% in 2012), and it would seem to be easy to blame that on his declining velocity. But that does not seem to be the case. Bedard is actually missing bats more frequently in 2012 than he did in 2011. Here are his whiffs per swing rates for the past two years. (Note: League average numbers listed below were published by Harry Pavlidis at The Hardball Times.)

2011 2012 League Average
Four-Seam Fastball 22.15% 23.53% 16.4%
Sinker 12.39% 12.50% 11.9%
Curveball 17.72% 25.64% 28.0%
Changeup 25.22% 23.53% 29.7%

The decreased velocity is certainly something to keep an eye on, but I’m not sure there is much reason to worry as long as he is still missing bats with the heater. Right now, Bedard’s decreased strikeout rate seems like it is probably due to some other factor, such as a small sample size, erratic command, etc.