What do you classify as success?
Skin Blues wrote:I don't know what you're looking at but it seems you're calling a 2-seamer is classified as a sinker or changeup. Regardless, they are all classified separately. And yeah it's possible that he's purposely dropping 2 MPH on his fastball but that doesn't make too much sense considering the success he was having. More likely it's the slowly breaking down that every pitchers arm faces when they throw so many innings. Even without this drop in velocity, it just makes no sense to do this with 2 seasons of control left. It's not like they got a discount in return for assuming so much risk. They basically gave him the Cain deal with an extra 35% AAV for a guy that was a full year further from free agency.
His K:BB has improved in 5 straight seasons. FIP & xFIP have also shown subtle improvements. He's durable and repeats his delivery. I'm not debating that the contact is or isn't a good one or that his fantasy appeal is or is not on the rise. As a pitcher for the Mariners I see him maturing. I think that he has gotten better.
I classify success as finishing 1st and 2nd in CY voting the two years prior to the velocity drop. He's still a great pitcher, but there was clearly no reason to consciously change what he was doing unless he felt like he needed to alter his technique to reduce the wear and tear he was putting on his arm. To me that's a bit of a red flag. Like Tommy Hanson changing his arm slot and Lincecum not wanting to throw his slider (which turned out to be a terrible pitch, anyway).
I went back and quickly looked up pitchers that have been relatively healthy over the past 4 seasons (>160 IP each year) and compiled the list of guys that have had a drop of at least .75 MPH two separate times: Ubaldo Jimenez, Ricky Romero, Tim Lincecum, Jered Weaver, Paul Maholm, and Felix Hernandez. Ubaldo, Lincecum and Romero are three guys that were amongst the best in baseball in their prime even if only for a year or two, and saw a rapid decline. Maholm was never all that good and is a light tosser. The other two are Weaver and Felix, obviously still at the top of their game. Weaver has seen a huge jump in his xFIP (almost a full run over the span of 2 years) which has been neutralized by a huge drop in BABIP, and Felix has been pretty much the same the entire time. It's just a scary group to be included in, and I'd be worried about him hitting the tipping point if the trend continues.