Phelps wishes he can get back to his excellent 2017 curve before the TJ surgery. 2019 was much worse. He lost almost four percentage points in swinging strike rate with a nearly seven point drop in chase rate. He gave up far more fly balls and gave up three homers in 40 plate appearances.
Phelps has lost a few mph on his fastball. It was close to 95 mph the previous two seasons before he had to get Tommy John. In 2017, the season that led to his surgeries, he started pitching much more wild, walking 17% of batters. Back in 2019, he continued to be wild and his K rate on this pitch dropped a bit as well. Overall, for a fastball the year back after TJ for a 33-year-old, he performed quite well with a sub-100 wRC+ against.
Phelps’ slider can also be considered a cutter. It is still about 90 mph and pretty tight. However, in this year back, it got rocked with a .906 OPS against with his K rate dropping over 10 percentage points.
Phelps has pretty solid speed on his fastball, coming in around 94-95 MPH on average, and it’s got some above-average rise too. The only problem is, he had trouble controlling it, throwing it in the zone just 53.1% of the time in 2017 with a 22.1% walk rate on the pitch (by far the worst of all his pitches). That being said though, the pitch did have just a .203 average against it.
Phelps’ cutter doesn’t move a whole lot horizontally, but it has over two inches more vertical rise on it than your average cutter, and it comes in pretty fast too, at around 91 MPH on average. Phelps threw the pitch pretty frequently in 2017 and with good results. Opposing hitteres had just a .260 wOBA and a .077 ISO against it.
Of all of Phelps’ pitches his curveball generated his highest whiff rate, at 12.9%. The pitch has below-average movement, but it comes in relatively fast for a curveball, at around 81 MPH on average, getting up to 84 at times. IT was easily his most effective pitch, generating his best strikeout rate at 31.8% with opposing batters having a .207 wOBA against it.
Phelps used to throw his changeup a lot more but only threw it three times in 2017. This has been a pattern over the past few years, as he only threw the pitch 31 times in 2016. It missed bats pretty well in 2016, with a 25.8% whiff rate and a 42.9% chase rate, but he didn’t keep it in the zone much, throwing it in the zone just 32.3% of the time.