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Jim Henderson's velocity has bounced back, but strikeouts are down

It's been an interesting start to the season for the right-handed reliever.

Hunter Martin/Getty Images

Mets reliever Jim Henderson has bounced back from his outing last Wednesday afternoon, but his velocity hasn’t been where it was before then. That day, after setting a new career high for pitches thrown in an appearance, Henderson saw his fastball dip from the mid-90s to just 90 and unsurprisingly wound up with poor results.

In three appearances since that outing, he’s been much closer to the mid-90s than 90 with his fastball, but he’s sat in the 93 mile per hour range rather than 94 or 95, according to Brooks Baseball.

Game Fourseam Change Slider
NYN@KCA (4/5/16) 95.77 -- 84.87
PHI@NYN (4/8/16) 94.92 -- 84.85
PHI@NYN (4/10/16) 94.24 -- 84.34
MIA@NYN (4/12/16) 95.60 -- 87.55
MIA@NYN (4/13/16) 90.61 -- 81.97
NYN@CLE (4/16/16) 93.83 84.41 85.32
NYN@PHI (4/19/16) 93.96 -- --
NYN@PHI (4/20/16) 93.47 -- 84.46

In his first four appearances, Henderson was downright dominant. His fastball had hitters swinging and missing at an excellent 25 percent clip. Including his slider, which he threw seven times, he had a 25.3 percent whiff rate overall. Henderson had seven strikeouts through just three-and-one-third innings. Expecting that sort of production to continue over an extended period of time after just four outings would have been unrealistic, but the first impression of Henderson was that of a high-leverage, late-inning, shutdown reliever.

Over his last three outings—all of them after the ill-advised appearance last Wednesday—Henderson has only two strikeouts and hasn’t generated many swinging strikes. He’s thrown 33 fastballs, and opposing hitters have swung and missed just four times, a rate of 12.1 percent. Throw in the handful of offspeed pitches he threw in those games, and he’s had a 10.5 percent whiff rate. The major league average for a relief pitcher this year is 11.2 percent.

In the long run, that outing on April 13 might just be a blip in Henderson’s season. This is a pitcher who’s made his way back from two shoulder surgeries and hadn’t thrown in a major league game since early in the 2014 season. It’s entirely possible that the velocity he maintained in those first four games doesn’t come back, and it’s entirely possible that was going to happen this year no matter what. But going forward, Henderson’s velocity and ability to make opponents swing and miss are things worth watching.