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The Yankees rotation and Effective Velocity

Could the Effective Velocity phenomenon take the Yankees rotation to the next level?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

During the summer, SB Nation's own Jason Turbow published a tell-all about Effective Velocity, a phenomenon that he believes "could revolutionize baseball, if only the sport would embrace it." Essentially, the theory states that pitches low and away appear up to five miles per hour slower, while pitches up and in can look that much faster due to a wide variety of physics-related circumstances. Using the EV theory, it appears that some of the Yankees' biggest names are not doing themselves any favors with their pitching approaches.

Thanks to Brooks Baseball, we can see the most common fastball locations from CC Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi, and Masahiro Tanaka against righties:

The three pitchers all have varying fastball velocities. CC's currently sits around the high 80's. Tanaka usually throws his fastball at around 90-92 mph, but will dial it up to 94-96 in a jam. Nathan Eovaldi pretty much goes all out and can come close to triple digits. But according to the theory of effective velocity, none of them are really making the most of their velocity. All three of them tended to stay on the outside part of the plate against right-handed hitters, making their fastballs appear slower than what the number on the radar gun indicate. Possibly as a result, hitters do not exactly have much of a problem with any of their fastballs, according to Baseball Savant:

Pitcher 2014 BAA (FA) 2014 SLG (FA)
CC Sabathia .342 .737
Nathan Eovaldi .312 .458
Masahiro Tanaka .316 .561

For all three pitchers, better results against the fastball is extremely important. CC Sabathia is dealing with disappearing velocity. Tanaka has a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament, which some believe is linked to his excessive use of his splitter. Eovaldi already throws his fastball about 55% of the time, more than twice as often as the other two. Assuming all three can remain healthy, their numbers will depend greatly on how effective their fastballs are.

So should all three of them simply throw their fastball up and in more in 2015? For Sabathia and Eovaldi, it makes sense. As his ERA creeps up above 5.00, CC should be drifting more towards the "nothing to lose" category. He should definitely explore throwing his fastball inside more often during the upcoming season.

Eovaldi is making the jump from the NL West and Marlins Park to the AL East and Yankee Stadium, so his first priority should be working on his changeup in order to have a fighting chance against left-handed hitters. Eovaldi is stuck between a rock and hard place as he uses his fastball so much that hitters know it's coming, but his secondary pitches are not quite there yet. If he can develop his changeup enough to use it more often, the freedom to change speeds more might be enough to get him over the hump.

Tanaka is more of a unique case. Other than Michael Pineda, he is the only Yankees starter with real expectations. It might not be wise to tamper with a winning formula, even with the injury risk associated with his splitter usage. Looking at his pitch usage throughout the 2014 season, courtesy of Brooks Baseball, it looks like the wheels are already turning with respect to Tanaka:

He is relying more on his sinker, but the fact that it is only a few ticks faster than his splitter and breaks in the same direction raises some red flags. All things considered, I would say CC should be forced kicking and screaming to implement effective velocity into his pitch selection. Nathan Eovaldi should probably consider it, but should be more focused on working on his changeup and possibly adding a sinker to his arsenal to keep lefties in the ballpark. Masahiro Tanaka might experience success by becoming more of a sinkerballer, but if his sinker's similarity to his splitter proves to be a problem, he should be ready to bring the four-seam fastball back and pound the inside half of the plate.