I have written approximately 100 blogs over the last several years and the topics of those blogs have ranged from particular workouts to conditioning equipment to philosophies. Today, I am writing about a topic that I am dismayed I haven’t addressed before: effective velocity. I was first introduced to the concept of effective velocity approximately 8-9 years ago when my Dad and I met Perry Husband, the man responsible for creating EV (as it is commonly referred to). To be candid, the catalyst for this blog was a tremendous article that Jason Turbow wrote on June 18th on SB Nation. After reading Turbow’s piece, I knew that as many baseball people as possible needed to be introduced to this concept, and the least I could do is share it with our circle.

So what is effective velocity? To quote Perry’s website (www.hittingisaguess.com), “effective velocity is the study of pitch speed and how location changes the reaction time by forcing the hitter to hit the ball at a contact point that is different than they were ready for.” The core concept of EV is something that many baseball people already know intuitively, yet we often don’t pay enough attention to it: all pitches are not equal, even those that register identically on the radar gun.

Anybody who has ever stood in the batter’s box and had a fastball come in high and tight knows that it looked a whole heck of a lot faster than that same fastball that was thrown down and away. Even if that fastball was only 85 mph, when it is thrown high and tight it seems like it is 90+ mph. But if that fastball is thrown down and away, 85 mph seems like 80 mph. This is essentially a very basic, simplified core understanding of effective velocity. The same pitch (a fastball), thrown at the same velocity (85 mph), can appear very different to a hitter depending on where it is thrown.

But effective velocity is not just about the same pitch with the same velocity in different locations looking different. It is really based on a hitter’s response time to these pitches. Perry understood that a hitter’s bat must move further to reach pitches on the inside part of the plate when compared to hitting pitches on the outside part of the plate. To time an inside pitch a batter must reach the ball well in front of the plate, while outside pitches can be squared up as they are crossing the plate. Again, most baseball people already knew this. I know I did when I was a freshman in high school and went to the batting cage to work off a tee. I would set up the tee out in front of the plate when working on hitting inside pitches and I would move the tee to the middle or even back part of the plate when working on hitting to the opposite field.

Perry realized that if a pitcher throws the same 85 mph fastball on the inside corner vs the outside corner a hitter’s reaction time dramatically changes. The hitter is forced to react much quicker to the inside fastball since he will have to make contact out in front of the plate to square it up, while he can react slower and later to the outside fastball since he can still make solid contact with it even as it crosses the plate. This is the basis of effective velocity.

Likely, many of you reading the above are thinking that what I have written is common sense. And in its simplest form it is. But I doubt many of you arrange pitch sequences based on this concept. Most of us are far more concerned with changing up the speed registering on the radar gun, completely oblivious to the fact that we can effectively change speeds even with the same radar readings by moving the ball around the strike zone. Perry designed the below chart evidencing the change in effective velocity that a pitch has depending on where it is thrown.

EV Chart

As you can see, the more the pitch is elevated and closer to the batter the more effective velocity it gains. It follows, of course, that as a pitch moves down and away, it loses effective velocity. Perry calculated that a hitter’s reaction time to a 90 mph fastball is closer to that of a 93 mph pitch if it runs inside and as much as 96 mph if it is up and in. Conversely, a 90 mph fastball that is on the outside corner of the plate requires a reaction time similar to an 87 mph pitch and if that pitch is down and away the reaction time required is closer to that of hitting an 85 mph pitch.

The diagonal stripe in Perry’s graphic above represents the area where a pitch’s effective velocity equals its actual speed. Perry calls it the “Zero Line.” He calculated that for every 6 inches the ball moves closer to the hitter from that line it picks up 2.75 EV mph, and of course, for every 6 inches it moves away, it loses the same amount. This means that strikes thrown at the same speed on the radar gun on the same horizontal plane can have close to a 6 mph difference in reactionary speed for a hitter. If you start adjusting the ball up and down in the zone as well then that spread can easily double. This is for the exact same pitch at the exact same speed! I bet very few of you have truly contemplated this despite all of the intuitive knowledge you have regarding many of the things I discussed before.

This is why a pitcher armed with just a fastball and the ability to move it around the zone can be so effective. Most people think that it is simply because he is spotting up his fastball. And while true, this belief doesn’t explain WHY hitting spots gets hitters out. Effective velocity explains the WHY. It’s because that one pitch pitcher with the ability to move the ball around the strike zone is forcing hitters to react at different speeds in order to make solid contact with that fastball. That one pitch is acting like many different pitches at different speeds depending on where it is thrown, keeping a hitter from timing it and squaring it up.

Now that I have explained the core concept of what effective velocity is I want to discuss how it can be utilized in a game. That will be the topic of my next blog. I will discuss the importance of pitch sequence and how Perry has shown that hitters actually square up pitches by accident more frequently than you may think when a pitcher throws pitches in the wrong sequence.

Until next time,

Brian Oates