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Keep Watch, But Don’t Panic About Ryan Pressly’s Velocity Just Yet

MLB: Houston Astros at Arizona Diamondbacks Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

One of the first measurements utilized is pitch velocity when evaluating pitchers at the start of a new season. As fans, we tend to become enthralled with hurlers reaching new highs while panicking when someone is below their usual marks. A significant jump velocity opens up a whole new range of possibilities, while a rather precarious decline could indicate trouble. Take Bryan Abreu as a recent example of the former and Pedro Báez for the latter.

Talking about relievers, it is no secret that the Astros’ bullpen will only go as far as Ryan Pressly takes them. That is not to bash the other relievers on the staff, who have pitched relatively well to start the season. But an effective Pressly raises that ceiling, and without him, it isn’t a guarantee for Houston to finish with a bullpen in the top half of Major League Baseball. This reason is why the drop in pitch velocity to start the 2022 season is beginning to make me nervous, even if slightly.

Fresh off a 2021 season in which Pressly averaged about 95.2 miles per hour on his four-seam fastball, it isn’t an optimal development to see your best reliever averaging about 2.5 miles per hour less than last year. As indicated in the chart above, this velocity decline isn’t solely limited to his fastball, either.

Admittedly, the sample size to start this season remains relatively small, and the lockout effects on a pitcher’s ability to ramp up, especially in a shortened Spring Training, can’t be outright ignored. Don’t forget Pressly has only thrown 12 pitches thus far, and his velocity has gradually ticked upwards in each of his appearances.

However, it is worth pointing out that Pressly’s fastball release points — horizontal and vertical — are a bit different to start the season compared to his past track record. I am not confident that this alteration where he releases his fastball is driving any velocity decline, but I found it fascinating.

For now, file everything I mentioned above as something to watch. Considering how the Astros signed Pressly to an extension earlier this month, I speculate whether the velocity issues stem from a lack of proper ramp-up time in addition to a potential release point adjustment. While Houston is notoriously secretive about discomfort injuries, I think they would’ve not given Pressly more money if there were long-term health concerns. Of course, this is also the same club that gave Báez $12.5 million over two seasons, so what do I know?