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An old Tom Seaver quote explains a lot about the success of the Houston Astros: “The good rising fastball is the best pitch in baseball.”

Now, we know a fastball can’t actually rise. So what was Seaver talking about? The lingo has changed, but Seaver was essentially talking about what we now refer to as spin rate. A fastball with a higher spin rate appears to have a rising effect to the hitter. What’s actually happening is the pitch holds its plane longer than a pitch at the same velocity with a lower spin rate. The batter, with a brain shaped after thousands and thousands of swings, swings under the pitch. Thus, the mythology of the rising fastball.

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Major league batters are very good at hitting fastballs. They aren’t very good at hitting fastballs thrown by Astros pitchers. The Astros held batters to a .225 average on four-seam fastballs, the lowest rate in the majors. They also held batters to the lowest OBP and lowest wOBA on four-seam fastballs. If

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