I attached an article I wrote in 2009 about the Malone University pitching staff that led the NAIA in ERA that season with only 2 pitchers that hit as hard as 88 on the radar gun. Most guys pitched between 82-85, which is considered average at that level.
So is velocity overrated? The answer yes and no. The article does not attempt to answer that question but it does address the idea that pitchers can be very successful at a high level without throwing 90+.
In many ways velocity IS overrated. What is not overrated is being able to locate the fastball to both sides of the plate and the ability to change speeds effectively. This is a formula to success at any level and I would like to have a pitcher who has the ability to do those things on my team. Velocity is overrated because so many pitchers are willing to sacrifice their ability to locate to try to light up the radar gun. There is a big difference between the speed at which one "throws" vs. "pitches". Many young pitchers do not understand the key is the velocity they "pitch" at and still have command.
I can also argue that velocity is NOT overrated. No one ever got drafted in the first round and signed for $3.5 million throwing 84 mph. The guys that get that kind of cash throw 95+. Velocity is not overrated because higher velocity pitches give hitters less time to make the decision to swing or not. Check out the Sport Science video about Aroldis Chapman (aka the hardest throwing human on the planet) below that discusses this concept. Pitchers who throw hard also throw sharper breaking pitches which leads to more strikeouts.
Overall, pitchers must understand that while maximizing their ability to throw hard is important, locating and changing speeds is important as well. No matter what your style is, by following the basic principles of locating, changing speeds, and just flat out competing, you can be successful at a high level.
Coach Mike Grady
Coach Grady has 10 years experience working with pitchers of all ages through private and group instruction, including 6 years experience as a college pitching coach. This blog is dedicating to helping pitchers of all ages improve their game.
7530 Tim Ave NW Unit A
North Canton, OH 44720
What others have to say:
"My son is in Grady's VIP program and this was his first time focusing on training to be a pitcher. The program is exactly what you want, there is a movement screening, data driven approach to pitch design, mechanics, velocity , and command, along with strength training. My son has improved his velocity, command, movement and off-speed pitches but most importantly he has improved how he thinks as a pitcher and how to actually pitch, not just throw.
My biggest takeaway from the program is that Mike and his coaches care about helping my son reach his goals and support him. My advice to any parent is to sign your son up for the VIP program and make sure he follows it, you will not be sorry!" - Mike Hampu
"My first and lasting impression of Grady's Pitching School is the enthusiasm Mike and his instructors bring to EVERY lesson. They genuinely interested in your players growth and improvement. Mike isn't trying to make every pitcher throw the same way. He analyzes and experiments with each pitcher, e.g. different release points, different grips, etc. to try and maximize their individual skills. Mike's understanding of pitching and pitch design coupled with the technology is second to none. Mike truly uses the technology to enhance the players' training experience. A lot of young players don't understand or possess the self-awareness to make adjustments. The technology and Mike's analysis with your player allows them to not only see what they are doing, but to see how the adjustments immediately impact the results." -Ian Schechterman