The Outfielders Who Threw 100

“A pitcher, you throw 100 miles per hour, you are the shit.”

That’s Omar Vizquel, former longtime Cleveland Indians shortstop and current Detroit Tigers first base, fielding and baserunning coach, in a Maxim.com article by Hunter Atkins last month.

Vizquel’s not wrong. We love guys who can throw 100. It’s not much different than throwing 99 — no more different than 99 is to 98, at least. But there’s something about that number, 100, that appeals to us. For a while, there just weren’t that many guys who could do it, so the ones who could really stuck out. Even now, when plenty of guys can do it, the number is enticing. Maybe it’s the third digit. Maybe it’s the fact that the number starts with a one, when all the rest start with sevens, eights and nines. Maybe it’s those nice, round zeroes, their cleanliness and sense of closure. In the Maxim piece, Joba Chamberlain describes it as “sexy.”

So we’ve got 100, this big, clean, round, even, sexy number that pitchers can make appear on a radar gun for which crowds cheer regardless of the result or quality of the 100. But there are times when baseballs travel 100 miles per hour not having been thrown by a pitcher, and those aren’t given nearly the same attention.

This was the year of the exit velocity. It was our first season with Statcast data, and the number that infiltrated the public domain more than any other was batted ball velocity. Hitting 100 off the bat is nice, too, but it isn’t nearly as impressive as a pitcher throwing 100. For exit velo, the holy 100 is more like the holy 110, and that’s not nearly as fun a number. Let’s stick with 100.

Occasionally, an outfielder will get a running head start, whether on a single or a sac fly, and throw a bullet to home plate, just like a pitcher, and it elicits a response. We can see with our eyes that the ball was thrown exceptionally hard, but we don’t see it on the radar gun, so these throws go unrecognized. You’ll hear about “pitchers who can throw 100,” but you never hear outfielders regarded in the same light. The pitchers who can throw 100 have their own exclusive, little clubs. Some can do it, but most just can’t. Outfielders are the same way, just without the club.

This season, there were 24 pitchers who threw a pitch that registered in the triple digits. There were 15 outfielders. Let’s give them their own club.

The names, probably, aren’t too shocking. It’s got to do with defensive excellence, so you had to figure Kevin Kiermaier would be up there somewhere. We knew Carlos Gomez had a cannon. If you’re an Astros or Twins fan, you knew Marisnick and Hicks had cannons. You expected to see guys like Puig and Martin on there. I hadn’t expected Billy Hamilton to be capable of throwing 100, but Reds broadcasters talked about him having a strong arm, so maybe it’s just my perception that was incorrect.

Only 15 outfielders did it, and it happened just 27 combined times in 2,429 games this year, so on first thought, you’d probably think they’re all pretty extraordinary. However, just like with pitches (even the ones that go 100!) they’re all unique in their own way. Aroldis Chapman and Bruce Rondon each throw 100, but their 100’s are very different. One hundred can be straight. One hundred can be way off target. One hundred can be totally unnecessary. One hundred, also, can be totally amazing, and awe-inspiring. That’s the best version of 100, but they’re all worth appreciating.

The Flat-Footed 100

That’s Aaron Hicks, making an obscene 100-mph throw. It’s a truly terrible throw, and those are going to have their own category, but this one stands alone due to the way it was thrown. You see, you’ll soon realize that every other instance of an outfielder throwing 100 is prefaced by a nice running headstart of at least several steps. On this one, Hicks needs only a jump and an abbreviated crow hop to fire triple digits over the head of Kurt Suzuki.

Aroldis Chapman comparison: steps forward with the wrong foot, throws 100 anyway, sails to the backstop.

The Boring 100

You can always tell when an outfielder is gearing up to give a throw home all he’s got. You’ve got a baserunner, either rounding third at full speed or standing on the bag in a sprinter’s position ready to break for home. You’ve got an outfielder, camping under a fly ball with anticipation and enough room to catch it with a running head start, or charging a grounder at full speed while maintaining a sense of awareness as to what’s happening on the basepaths in front of him. As all of this is happening, suspense builds. You could argue that the buildup to the throw is as exciting as the throw itself. But, the throw is still what you’re building up to. And sometimes, even when that throw goes 100, it’s a letdown. Sometimes, when Carlos Gonzalez uncorks a heater from right field, he isn’t even close to having a play at the plate and his infielder just cuts it off.

Aroldis Chapman comparison: batter is granted time mid-windup, Chapman lobs it home, throws 100 anyway

The Unnecessary 100

Sometimes, you just do it because you can. I mean, Kevin Kiermaier didn’t really think he had a shot at throwing out Adam Jones from the star in center field, did he? I guess the rationale would be that it at least opens up the possibility of something good happening if your opponent does something really dumb, and it makes you look pretty cool in the process.

Aroldis Chapman comparison: intentional walk, throws 100 anyway.

The Truly Terrible 100

Watch enough videos of outfielders throwing as hard as they possibly can and you see plenty of throws like these, making you wonder why outfielders ever throw as hard as they possibly can. Sometimes, it’s your only choice. It would have taken a perfect throw to the plate for Aaron Hicks to get Abraham Almonte here, and perfect includes both “throw going 103 miles per hour” and “throw being right on target.” He got one of them, at least.

Aroldis Chapman comparison: morphs into Bruce Rondon, throws 100 anyway, does so poorly.

The Truly Amazing 100

These are the ones you came for. That’s Carlos Gomez, Michael Taylor and three times the Kevin Kiermaier, making unbelievable, jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring, envy-inducing, ticket purchase-reaffirming throws to home plate that clocked in between 100 and 104 miles per hour. Because sometimes, everything goes perfect, and that’s why you try.

Aroldis Chapman comparison: Aroldis Chapman.



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August used to cover the Indians for MLB and ohio.com, but now he's here and thinks writing these in the third person is weird. So you can reach me on Twitter @AugustFG_ or e-mail at august.fagerstrom@fangraphs.com.


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jdbolick
Member
Member
6 months 14 days ago

This was fantastic.

KCDaveInLA
Guest
KCDaveInLA
6 months 14 days ago

“Hi, Kevin Kiermaier, the human form of the 100 emoji.”

Gina Linetti
Guest
Gina Linetti
6 months 14 days ago

Oopsie, you just said something super dumb.

*I* am the human form of the 100 emoji.

Aaron
Guest
Aaron
6 months 14 days ago

Who is the White Sox runner that thought home plate was an end zone?

AJP
Guest
AJP
6 months 14 days ago

Alexei.

The Real McNulty
Member
The Real McNulty
6 months 14 days ago

looks like Alexei

Not Al Bundy
Guest
Not Al Bundy
6 months 14 days ago

In my meaningless high school baseball career I managed to have a handful of memorable moments, but nothing was ever as thrilling as hitting the catcher on the fly from RF and nailing a runner by 10 feet. I probably hit about 75 on the gun that day, I was probably 130 feet out not 250, but it was still awesome.

War2d2
Guest
6 months 14 days ago

I have a similar memory, except it was twice, in Little League. I was 11, and I was probably only 90 feet out, but in those moments I felt like I was wielding the power of the God of Thunder in my right arm.

Lip Pike's Bitters
Guest
Lip Pike's Bitters
6 months 14 days ago

I had all the same thoughts! Except I had one more humblebrag in my anecdote.

GoOppo
Guest
GoOppo
6 months 13 days ago

I can appreciate this. I have the same memories in HS and Legion with throws from center and eventually right. I would have to say seeing the flight of the ball, and knowing where the runner is from RF, or center is more exciting than making a diving catch.

Blerick
Member
6 months 14 days ago

Easily my favorite article of yours so far, Fagerstrom

Rick
Guest
Rick
6 months 14 days ago

Is this data publicly available? I’ve only been able to find this page which doesn’t have all that much http://m.mlb.com/statcast/leaderboard#hr-distance,p

What I’d really like to see is average route efficiency for every position player.

Lo Cain
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Lo Cain
6 months 14 days ago

I don’t believe any OF can hit 100 mph on a throw. Seems way too far-fetched. Gotta check that hot gun.

Marc Foster
Guest
Marc Foster
6 months 14 days ago

For a historical one… how about Bo throwing out Harold Reynolds? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBJIyD7wDdc

Only GLove, No Love
Guest
Only GLove, No Love
6 months 14 days ago
Only GLove, No Love
Guest
Only GLove, No Love
6 months 14 days ago

Or Ankiel’s game in 2008 against the Rockies

1:55 for first throw and 13:10 for the second

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6IOT5bTesw

Kevin Kiermaier
Guest
Kevin Kiermaier
6 months 14 days ago

Oh, look, it’s another defensive thing I’m better than everyone else at.

Only GLove, No Love
Guest
Only GLove, No Love
6 months 14 days ago

I like the one you bobble the ball and still burn the guy.

nickolai
Guest
nickolai
6 months 14 days ago

fantastic. For all the hype Cespedes’ arm has received over the years, I wonder what speed he topped out at?

Also Harper
Guest
Also Harper
6 months 13 days ago

I recall watching through Statcast throws and both him and Harper hit 99 MPH I believe (there was a top 5 throws list, but it was from early in the season.

DatabasesLoaded
Member
Member
DatabasesLoaded
6 months 11 days ago

Well, to be fair to Cespedes, it’s not all hype. He may not hit 100 mph but he is also accurate, as too many runners have found out.

David K
Guest
David K
6 months 14 days ago

The Alexi Ramirez flip at home plate was probably the best part of this whole thing! I am assuming the catcher wasn’t called for blocking the baseline because he had just gotten into that position when fielding the thrown ball, but the way that play has been called in the past, you never know

tz
Guest
tz
6 months 14 days ago

I’m expecting Hick’s flat-footed 100mph throw to sail out of play, out of the GIF, through my computer screen and hit me in the face.

jp
Guest
jp
6 months 14 days ago

The cut-to-closeup-of-runner on throws from the outfield is by far the single worst production decision in all of televised sports, and seemingly every network does it. Are there really fans out there who prefer seeing a closeup of a runner chugging around third instead of an outfielder letting loose a missile? A perfect outfield throw is one of the most beautiful, exciting plays in baseball, and idiot producers refuse to show it to us, because hey, closeups that don’t provide any meaningful information are more important!

This is a fun article, but we never get to see the full flight of the ball from the OF’s arm to the target, except in the Michael Taylor clip (where the producer still tried his best to obscure the throw, but accidentally cut back too soon).

End rant.

Alexei "Cuban Missile" Ramirez
Guest
Alexei "Cuban Missile" Ramirez
6 months 14 days ago

Someone has to give our fans something this year to be enthusiastic about…

cornflake5000
Guest
cornflake5000
6 months 14 days ago

I was at a game in Cincinnati at Riverfront and watched Vlad hit the catcher from the warning track, no bounce.

Tom
Guest
Tom
6 months 14 days ago

Do you know how these throws were measured? Was there an actual reading on these throws or are they just taking time and distance covered to come up with an estimated speed?

Ben
Guest
Ben
6 months 14 days ago

You realize that speed is literally equal to distance divided by time, right? There’s no estimating. That’s what it is.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
6 months 14 days ago

To be a little nitpicky: a pitcher’s pitch velocities are directly measured, and so done shortly after release, so if these velocities are calculated by simply dividing distance by time then:

A) apples are not being compared to other apples here
B) these ratings are actually much much more impressive, considering that a pitch slows down around 5 mph (I think) just between the pitcher and the catcher, so these must slow down considerably more by the time they reach their intended (or unintended) destination
C) that would only measure the horizontal vector of velocity, which would again be quite a bit lower than true velocity, unless the distance being measured is the actual path of the ball, which, I wouldn’t know.

george
Guest
george
6 months 14 days ago

can you imagine a throw that travels 200 + feet with an average horizontal speed of 100mph? holy wwowowow! But Tom, to answer your question without being a dick (and kinda wrong), I’d guess this is something close to a release speed. Statcast must be able to map the ball somehow. I think the physics of looking at total distance and time involves too many variables to determine a release speed from.

BigChief
Guest
BigChief
6 months 13 days ago

This would be my guess as well. Statcast could use cameras position around the field to map the balls location, then by comparing the location of the ball between two frames they could get a very accurate instantaneous speed.

This is definitely what it looks like stat cast is doing when they measure player tracking.

BigChief
Guest
BigChief
6 months 13 days ago

Well this is wrong. The velocity of the throw is going to start to decelerate once the ball is released due to drag. So if you use change in distance and time to measure an instantaneous non-constant velocity, the change would need to be infinitely small. So even if measured the position separated by a single frame, you would still have to assume some drag force slowed the ball down in that shot amount of time.

This is why people use a radar gun, which utilizes how a wave frequency changes to an observer based on the relative speed of a reflecting object.

DatabasesLoaded
Member
Member
DatabasesLoaded
6 months 11 days ago

Yes but you also must factor in the tiny but non-zero relativistic effects as well. /snark

Dan Greer
Member
Dan Greer
6 months 14 days ago

Man, just a few years after Rick Ankiel.

DatabasesLoaded
Member
Member
DatabasesLoaded
6 months 14 days ago

Amazing that Cespedes is not on the list. I guess his arm is strong but not 100 mph strong.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
6 months 14 days ago

I also might have guessed that Puig would show up more than once. Maybe more in past years, considering how much time he missed this year, and how he’s actually scaled back his tendency to let loose missiles at inappropriate times.

Sylli
Guest
Sylli
6 months 14 days ago

I still remember the day when I went to see Aaron Hicks in his first full pro season in Low A. I, being the prospect nut, had to explain to my dad that Aaron Hicks was a ridiculous athlete who would have been drafted as a pitcher who was recorded up to 97 mph, and he could have gone pro as a golfer. He didn’t do anything at the plate, but early in the game he made a threw out a runner at home on the fly from mid center and late in the game he threw out a runner at third on the fly from mid center. Probably the most impressive defensive game I’ve ever seen at a minor league game.

Andrelton Simmons
Guest
Andrelton Simmons
6 months 14 days ago

How fast can I throw?

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
6 months 14 days ago

I hear you can throw upper 90’s, but note that you are basically always doing it flat-footed, and never with the kind of running start outfielders get.

I don’t know why I’m telling you this.

Phantom Stranger
Guest
Phantom Stranger
6 months 14 days ago

Apparently not fast enough to win a Gold Glove this year, Andrelton. You should demand a recount.

pft
Guest
pft
6 months 14 days ago

So is MLB selectively giving access to this data?. It does not seem to be publicly available like pitch f/x.

Who_Is_Zorbist
Guest
Who_Is_Zorbist
6 months 14 days ago

I love how Kiermaier bobbles the ball, then throws out JBJ, one of the fastest in MLB, by plenty. If fielded cleanly, KK would have gotten the 3rd base coach fired, just like the White Sox 3rd base coach.

GoOppo
Guest
GoOppo
6 months 13 days ago

Jackie is not one of the fastest. He’s probably the 3rd or 4th fastest guy on the Sox. He just gets ridiculous jumps in the OF

james wilson
Guest
james wilson
6 months 14 days ago

Most outfielders who are considered to have good arms can’t reach 90. After Strawberry whined long enough in spring training to force the Mets into giving him a turn throwing 60 foot bp he topped out at 80 and shut up about it. An average pitcher has exceptional velocity.

A running throw ought to add 10 mph. Ankiel never threw so hard as when he was in the outfield. Those two or three guys throwing 100 flatfooted are beasts.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
6 months 14 days ago

I am now very sad that my team plays in the exact opposite division as Kiermaier, and that I never watched him at all this year.

lorecore
Guest
lorecore
6 months 13 days ago

Great article, thank you. How much $$ you do want for access to statcast data?

Matt
Guest
Matt
6 months 13 days ago

Interesting to see Avi Garcia on this list, thrice. He was supposed to miss this entire season with a shoulder injury…comes back and throws triple digits.

I’m not quite sure which shoulder he injured. I assume not his throwing arm?

Matt
Guest
Matt
6 months 13 days ago

Edit: It was his non-throwing arm.

David
Member
Member
David
6 months 13 days ago

wait, Billy Hamilton throws hard enough to throw himself out?

That's just silly
Guest
That's just silly
6 months 13 days ago

No. He would still be safe… and have taken an extra base. Just because.

lg;kje
Guest
lg;kje
6 months 13 days ago

I bet we could calculate release speed without the help of the radar gun. Couldn’t you take d/t and then adjust for known rates of air drag? It wouldn’t account for the fact that these throws are arcs and not lines (unless there’s an easy way to estimate angle of arc), but it would be something that you could do without aiming radar guns at outfielders all the time.

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