In a world of pitchers lighting up radar guns, hurlers like Atlanta Braves All-Star Bryce Elder have become the minority. Elder’s fastball usually sits in the high 80’s or low 90’s at best. This was a topic of conversation at Braves Fest that he addressed brilliantly.
Elder was asked for tips to improve velocity by a fan in attendance. Every youth pitcher in the world needs to take note of his response. Velocity is not everything and Elder perfectly explains why.
The 24-year-old right-hander opened his response with a joke about his below-average fastball stating that he was still looking for ways to increase velocity himself. Changing perspective to a more serious take, Elder provided us with a clearer lens to look through.
In college at the University of Texas, Elder claims that his fastball could sit at 91-93. However, he noticed that when he increased his velocity, the movement on his pitches was no longer there and he was losing command. No matter how hard a pitcher throws, that is not an effective formula.
Fans got a taste of that when Elder lost command during the second half of the 2023 season. Batters were crushing his pitches way more often.
"As long as it's a smart way of going about it, then you can chase velocity but other than that, I think there's times when you need to be careful because there's always some give and take with everything. "- Bryce Elder
High velocity is still something that Elder says he would like to achieve but he doesn’t feel like it is necessary for him. Having realistic expectations and understanding his mechanics, Bryce Elder says 93-94 is probably the highest his fastball could ever reach. If this is the case, he does not feel like that change in velocity would be worth potentially losing movement and command. If Elder felt he had the potential to reach triple digits, velocity would be more of a priority.
Elder struggling during the second half of the season led to this candid response to the question. It is easy to get the feeling that he knows exactly what he needs to do to be more successful heading into 2024.
FanGraphs does not expect Elder to return to All-Star form, projecting a 4.69 ERA next season. Bryce Elder will be looking to prove these predictions wrong and if anyone can, it's him.