The Fastball Paradox: With velocity up, fastballs on decline

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June 18, 2018 - 11:00 PM

Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Trevor Bauer (47) throws against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

NEW YORK (AP) — Over five seasons as ace of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Gerrit Cole threw one of the game’s hardest, heaviest fastballs, and he threw it often. The pitch helped him make millions of dollars. It put him in contention for major awards. Hitters swung through it again and again, and Cole seemed content not to mess with a good thing.

But when Cole was traded to the Houston Astros this offseason, a funny thing happened. He became more frugal with his fastball and ended up more overpowering than ever.

Cole has joined some of the game’s best pitchers — including Cleveland’s Corey Kluber and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw — in benefiting from a puzzling baseball paradox: In an era when pitchers are throwing harder than ever, they’re maximizing success by using fewer fastballs.

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