RED SOX INSIDER

Tomase: Velocity doesn't translate to success for Eovaldi

RED SOX INSIDER

Not all 100 mph fastballs are created equal.

Nathan Eovaldi is proof of that.

The Boston Red Sox right-hander made headlines on Sunday by hitting triple digits 10 times in a spring training start vs. the Minnesota Twins.

"It's hard for us to slow him down," manager Alex Cora said. "That's who he is. When he gets to the ballpark, everything is full speed and we understand that and we have to live with it. He's in a great spot physically, he's made some adjustments in the offseason and you see it. It's full blast from the get-go."

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While the idea of throwing that hard in March is difficult for most pitchers to fathom, it's also worth noting Eovaldi's results: seven hits and four runs allowed in four innings.

That merely continues a career-long trend for the club's presumed No. 2 starter, who has routinely pitched in the upper-90s without missing bats or posting dominant numbers. He's sub-.500 with a lifetime 4.27 ERA for a reason.

In fact, Eovaldi's best fastballs are often hit the most frequently. On pitches of at least 98 mph throughout his career -- 1,942 of them, per Baseball Savant -- Eovaldi has allowed a .289 average and .816 OPS. That's the equivalent of an All-Star season from, say, former Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones or Twins standout Torii Hunter.

Faster isn't better

Eovaldi's opponent batting average on pitches 98 mph or faster
.289

Of the 25 pitchers with at least 799 fastballs of that velocity since 2008, Eovaldi ranks dead last in average and OPS. While it's no surprise that aces like Justin Verlander (.188) and Gerritt Cole (.169) are virtually unhittable at this speed, some lesser lights like Ubaldo Jimenez (.225), Felipe Vazquez (.198), and Jonathan Broxton (.170) don't get touched there, either.

 

If we limit our search to starters with at least 300 fastballs of 98-plus, Eovaldi doesn't fare much better, ranking 26th out of 27 in average (.294) and 25th in OPS (.836), trailing only former Atlanta Braves righty Mike Foltynewicz in the former category and Foltynewicz and Cincinnati Reds All-Star Luis Castillo (.837) in the latter.

Most pitchers who throw that hard use their velocity to post huge strikeout numbers, but not Eovaldi. His K rate of 19.8 percent ranks 24th out of the aforementioned 27 starters, just ahead of teammate Garrett Richards' 19.7 percent.

As a means of comparison, teammate Chris Sale has struck out 53.1 percent of hitters at that velocity, while New York Mets Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom is at 47.2 percent, and the late Jose Fernandez checked in at 45.2. Even former teammate Andrew Cashner, no one's idea of an ace, owned a K rate of 28.9 percent.

So while Eovaldi's radar gun readings may look impressive, we've yet to see if they can translate to consistent results.