Handling the heat: Three pitchers making better use of their fastballs

Royals pitcher Ian Kennedy is having more success this season by locating his fastball better at the top of the strike zone. Orlin Wagner/AP Photo

This time last year, the trio of Ian Kennedy, Danny Duffy and Rick Porcello had a collective ERA of 4.45. They weren't on anyone's short list for the Cy Young award. This year, they've combined for a 3.27 ERA, and they'll probably each get at least a vote or two for some hardware.

Often, when a pitcher redirects his career as these three have, we think he has found a new pitch.

"He finally got that changeup!"

"He added a cutter!"

Those things are important, of course, but this trio seems to have profited from a focus on the old No. 1. Each of the three did something to his fastball usage that has meant more success.

That makes sense. Fastballs are still thrown more than the rest of the pitches in baseball put together, and they can be used for strikes both called and swinging. Even though all three pitchers have tweaked their fastballs, and that brings them together as a group, each has made a different adjustment, and that highlights how amazing the fastball can be.