Who’s Going to Throw 2013’s Fastest Pitch?

If I had to distill the core purpose of FanGraphs down to a two-word remark, I’d assert that the purpose is to “answer questions”. Given a third word, I’d assert that the purpose is to “answer baseball questions”. That’s really what we’re all doing here; that’s really what we’re all doing almost all of the time. Many of the questions we try to answer here are important, in a baseball sense. They’re questions like “is this player good?” and “is this player going to be good?” and “why is this player good?” Other questions are less important, like “how many players bunted for doubles in the 2012 regular season?” I specialize in examining the unimportant questions, and today we’ll tackle another.

The goal is expressed in the headline: I want to talk about who’s going to throw the fastest pitch in the upcoming baseball season. There’s no trophy for the achievement (yet), and the fastest pitch might not even go for a strike, but we’re a people who love us some fastball velocity, to the extent that we dress it up with fancy words like “velocity” instead of simpler, more accurate words like “speed”. Surely, a player would be honored to know if he threw the league’s fastest pitch in a season. Pitchers like velocity, too. We all think velocity is important, so let’s talk about the pitch with the most velocity.

As a necessary part of talking about 2013, we first have to talk about 2012. According to PITCHf/x, this was the fastest pitch of the 2012 season:

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That’s Kelvin Herrera, throwing to Don Kelly on April 17. The fastball is in the books at 102.8 miles per hour. That’s tops by one-tenth of a tick. However, the pitch was thrown in Kansas City, and Kauffman Stadium has a long history of slightly inflating PITCHf/x velocities. I’m not a PITCHf/x expert, but Herrera’s best fastball on the road was 100.6 miles per hour. At home, he threw 23 better fastballs, including 14 at or above 101. I’m inclined to believe an adjustment needs to be made, and so I’m inclined to believe Herrera didn’t actually throw 2012’s fastest pitch.

Right behind Herrera at 102.8 is Aroldis Chapman at 102.7. And there’s also Aroldis Chapman at 102.6. Those pitches:

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Those were actually consecutive pitches to Starlin Castro on August 11. If you sort all 2012 pitches by speed, Herrera’s up top, and then Chapman occupies spots two through six. It’s my belief that Aroldis Chapman actually threw 2012’s fastest pitch, which is the least surprising thing you’ve heard today, including your own alarm clock which you set yourself.

How about some runners-up? Here’s Andrew Cashner against John Mayberry on May 12, with a fastball clocked at 102.0 miles per hour:

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Here’s Justin Verlander against Asdrubal Cabrera on May 24, with a fastball clocked at 101.5 miles per hour:

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The next pitch, incidentally, was a curveball, taken for a called strike three. Justin Verlander isn’t real. He isn’t a real thing. And here’s Bobby Parnell against Yan Gomes on May 20, with a fastball also clocked at 101.5 miles per hour:

Parnell1.gif.opt

And those are the five pitchers who, at some point in 2012, threw fastballs recorded at at least 101.5 miles per hour. The first thing we have to do when looking ahead is to look back, so it stands to reason that, when thinking about 2013’s fastest pitch, we need to start with 2012’s fastest pitchers.

All right, that’s our foundation. Chapman, last year, probably threw baseball’s fastest pitch. However! While Chapman might once again close, the Reds haven’t yet decided whether he’ll spend the year in the starting rotation. Chapman as a starter would work with reduced velocity, of course, because he’d have to pace himself instead of putting everything into everything. I still think of Chapman as the odds-on favorite to throw 2013’s fastest pitch, because he might close out of the gate, or because he might go back to relieving midseason if starting doesn’t work out. Hell, maybe as a starter, at some point he’ll just reach back for gas. But Chapman isn’t a lock, here, opening things up to other contenders.

Herrera is a contender, as he’ll continue relieving for the Royals, but we can’t trust his inflated home velocities unless PITCHf/x makes a correction. Cashner throws a fastball not unlike Chapman’s, but Cashner also is getting stretched out so that he can start for the Padres. Cashner as a starter would also have to pace himself, and while Cashner, like Chapman, might not work out over multi-inning stints, our assumption right now has to be that Cashner won’t be scraping legitimate 102s. We can’t assume a return to the bullpen, given the Padres’ plans.

If you dock Herrera for PITCHf/x adjustments, and if you move Chapman and Cashner to starting rotations, then other candidates emerge. Verlander, as we all know now, heats up as he works deeper, and he throws a legitimate triple-digit fastball when he wants to. Parnell also has gas, and it looks like he’s going to close, fueling his body with adrenaline. Verlander and Parnell topped out at 101.5. But Henry Rodriguez topped out around 101. Nate Jones topped out around 101. Trevor Rosenthal topped out around 101, and he’s staying as a reliever for the time being. Carter Capps topped out around 101. Fernando Rodney topped out around 100, as did Tommy Hunter and Jason Motte. Keep scrolling and you see John Axford a little and Alexi Ogando, once.

And, of course, there’s a new guy coming up with the Tigers, with prospect Bruce Rondon slated to take over as closer. Rondon didn’t throw a major-league pitch in 2012, but:


Brooks Baseball has a four-fastball sample for Rondon, averaging 102.1 miles per hour. On the other hand, that’s from last year’s Futures Game, and that game took place in Kansas City, with the Kauffman Stadium PITCHf/x system. So Rondon’s numbers are probably inflated, and he’s probably more of a 95-100 type. But the expectation is that on more than a few occasions he’ll reach triple digits.

Barring surprise, this is our pool of candidates, although I’m open to further suggestions in the comments in case I’ve missed some other minor-league reliever. It’s probably worth giving some consideration to Rubby de la Rosa. I still have to believe it’s going to be Chapman, because I’m not sold on Chapman starting games all season long. As a reliever, his arm is nearly unparalleled. But if Chapman starts all year, and if Cashner starts all year or gets hurt, this is practically wide open. Whoever wins would win by a hair, and if you leave out Chapman and Cashner, I don’t think it’s possible to identify one favorite. This could and should be a race to monitor, and perhaps by season’s end the winner might be made aware of the fact that he won something. Or, more likely, the winner will have no idea, and it won’t make any difference in anybody’s life.



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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Jaack
Guest
Jaack
3 years 5 months ago

The surprise answer will be Barry Zito during an extreme windstorm, where he reaches 126 MPH, or 1 MPH for every million dollars the Giants are paying him.

channelclemente
Guest
channelclemente
3 years 5 months ago

How about those 15 wins, and WS run performances. Worth every penny, as it turned out.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
3 years 5 months ago

“Worth every penny, as it turned out.”

False.

Failedstate
Member
Member
Failedstate
3 years 4 months ago

Comments like that are the reason your children have to live with their Grandmother.

Jim
Guest
Jim
3 years 5 months ago

Mariano Rivera, when he decides to put everything he has into his very last major league inning.

Eric Cioe
Guest
Eric Cioe
3 years 5 months ago

You should do starters separately.

It’s absolutely insane that Verlander threw one of the fastest pitches of 2012 in the 8th inning of a game he started. That was pitch 116 on the day.

Pitch f/x says neither Strasburg nor Price hit 100 mph in 2012. I can’t think of any other starter who can hit 100, let alone on the 116th pitch of the day, let alone after one of the heaviest workloads in MLB over the last four years.

cass
Guest
cass
3 years 5 months ago

Strasburg wasn’t ever allowed to pitch into the 8th inning last year, and that’s when Verlander apparently throws his hardest. Strasburg has talked of emulating Verlander, so perhaps he’ll go over 100 again if he’s allowed to pitch in the 8th inning this year. Back in 2010, before Tommy John, he was frequently above 100 as a starter.

Eric Cioe
Guest
Eric Cioe
3 years 5 months ago

Surely you don’t think that the reason Strasburg hasn’t hit 100 is that he hasn’t been allowed to throw enough pitches to get warmed up.

MikeS
Guest
MikeS
3 years 5 months ago

I am not sure Verlander should count as he clearly is not a human being.

Jeff Long
Member
3 years 5 months ago

Seconded.

Balthazar
Guest
Balthazar
3 years 5 months ago

Verlander does have a strong resemblance to another human being who was a pitcher: Nolan Ryan. High velocity, fastball-curve pitcher who handled a high workload, maintained velocity deep in games, and maintained velocity until very late in a long career. One might talk about Cy Young himself and Walter Johnson, and that comprises the entire sample of comparable arms. But Nolan Ryan is the closest. Those are Verlander’s peers. Guys like him come around once in a generation at most.

MrKnowNothing
Guest
MrKnowNothing
3 years 5 months ago

Justin Verlander is ridiculous. I wonder if in the 3rd inning, after his arm is warmed up but before he would’ve experienced any fatigue, if he could just fire off 105 or something.

Eric Cioe
Guest
Eric Cioe
3 years 5 months ago

Justin Verlander broke up with Fatigue in early 2007.

TRob
Guest
TRob
3 years 5 months ago

This question needs to be posed to Verlander as some sort of challenge, because I see him as the type of guy that might try it in the right situation.

channelclemente
Guest
channelclemente
3 years 5 months ago

Hmmm, Sandoval must have not read the press book.

byron
Member
byron
3 years 5 months ago

I don’t think Verlander needs to wait until the 8th to starting pushing the velocity up, I think he saves his energy until he knows his day is getting close to ending. Look at the All Star Game.

brian
Guest
brian
3 years 5 months ago

Rubby was a good sleeper pick but his velocity has been down early in ST so it might take a bit for him to build it up again.

Neil
Guest
Neil
3 years 5 months ago

That entire inning surrounding the Verlander pitch in question is the most dominant inning I’ve ever seen. Go back and watch the whole thing, Jeff (and everyone). It is incredible. Face melting incredible.

Jim
Guest
Jim
3 years 5 months ago

You’ve obviously never seen the first inning of the 1999 All Star Game.

samuelraphael
Member
3 years 5 months ago

Joel Zumaya, amirite!?

Majesty
Guest
Majesty
3 years 5 months ago

The day Zumaya set a pitch speed record (104.8, right?) the same system in Oakland recorded Barry Zito hitting 94-95 multiple times, 2-3 mph faster than in any other game that season. Do you believe Zito hit 95?

canuckassassin
Member
canuckassassin
3 years 5 months ago

Can someone please explain to me how exactly a particular stadium can inflate velocity data?

GraphsFan
Guest
3 years 5 months ago

The officially reported MPH depends on a stadium gun that is calibrated differently from the other stadiums? You can find more on the topic if you google something like “speeding ticket radar”.

MGL
Guest
MGL
3 years 5 months ago

I think we’re talking pitch f/x not radar guns. Someone familiar with pitch f/x technology can tell us how one stadium can be significantly different from another, and more importantly, why it isn’t corrected by the powers that be (MLB, Sportvision, etc.).

Jeff Long
Member
3 years 5 months ago

There are always going to be inconsistencies like this with PITCHf/x. The cameras can’t be placed in the exact same spot in every stadium, which means that the angles, distances, etc. will be different. I would imagine that they have some difficulty with the available infrastructure for positioning the cameras (most like 1B & 3B) in KC.

GraphsFan
Guest
3 years 5 months ago

Who’s Going to Throw 2013?s Fastest Pitch?

Michael Nelson Trout is the proper answer to all skills competitions queries.

Didja see that only 2 umps crewed parts of the first inning in yesterdays Angels/Milwaukee exhibition? Tim McClellan called balls and strikes from behind the mound and other ump covered first. Baseball always suprises, which is, I think, the name of your beat, Sully.

Josh M
Guest
Josh M
3 years 5 months ago

Tommy Hunter pitching a full season out of the pen will throw 138.4 mph

bampton
Member
bampton
3 years 5 months ago

Jeremy Jeffress could be a sleeper pick in this years fastest pitch fantasy draft

maguro
Guest
maguro
3 years 5 months ago

Verlander threw that pitch in the 8th inning. Ridiculous.

Chris
Guest
Chris
3 years 5 months ago

How about Kelvin Herrera in a road game?

Willy Wonka
Guest
Willy Wonka
3 years 5 months ago

It’s weird to think Hunter threw so hard as a reliever when he was one of the most hittable starters around. Since Hunter can throw 100mph, it must be possible for Luke Hochevar to start throwing 100.

Eric Palmer
Guest
Eric Palmer
3 years 5 months ago

When Hunter was with the rangers, he would hit 94-96 every now and then with his fastball as a starter. It just doesn’t have great movement and he often times catches too much of the plate.

d_i
Member
Member
d_i
3 years 5 months ago

If Y. Ventura makes an appearance, he could throw his hat in the ring.

Mike Krukow sayz
Guest
Mike Krukow sayz
3 years 5 months ago

the gamer babes

Mike Krukow
Guest
Mike Krukow
3 years 5 months ago

She’ll be on me within minutes. Fastest pitch ever

Who?
Guest
Who?
3 years 5 months ago

Gerrit Cole if he gets the call this season.

White Blood Cells
Guest
White Blood Cells
3 years 5 months ago

Hey Jeff: what was the fastest pitch that hit a batter in 2012? Inquiring minds would love to know!

Kenny Powers
Guest
Kenny Powers
3 years 5 months ago

I’m the man who has the ball. I’m the man who can throw it faster than fuck. So that is why i am better than everyone in the world. Kiss my ass and suck my dick… everyone.

Jamie Moyer
Guest
Jamie Moyer
3 years 5 months ago

If somebody signs me, I’m your man.

dp
Guest
dp
3 years 5 months ago

Agree with the Yordano Ventura nomination above. He was regularly clocked at 100+ as a starter last season. Given his size and stuff, he’s probably a reliever, but he could be promoted late this season in a mop-up role and let loose.

Antonio bananas
Guest
Antonio bananas
3 years 5 months ago

Dylan “King Kong” Bundy in a relief appearance?

CFIC
Guest
CFIC
3 years 5 months ago

uh, where is Trevor Rosenthal?

CFIC
Guest
CFIC
3 years 5 months ago

oops, there he is

Antonio bananas
Guest
Antonio bananas
3 years 5 months ago

Wouldn’t it make more sense to measure the time it took the ball to cross the plate from the time it was released? If I throw 88, but I’m tall and lanky and release the ball 50 feet in front of home plate, it’s going to seem a lot faster than 88.

Just speculating here when discussing most difficult to catch up to pure stuff. It’s a reaction time thing.

The Party Bird
Guest
The Party Bird
3 years 5 months ago

I think that’s the main reason why David Robertson is good. He releases the ball closer to the plate than almost anyone.

DCN
Guest
DCN
3 years 5 months ago

Chapman

Bronnt
Member
Bronnt
3 years 5 months ago

While you can’t necessarily trust Spring radar guns, J. R. Graham of the Braves organization apparently already hit 102. If the Braves are in a tight playoff race, he could end up in the bullpen in September.

Le Vagabond
Guest
Le Vagabond
3 years 5 months ago

Are we going to have to start keeping Verlander out of these pitching discussions? It’s starting to spool things for everyone, he’s actually starting to get a little selfish.

Schuxu
Guest
Schuxu
3 years 5 months ago

What ever happened to the game two teammates where “playing” last year about who managed to throw the slowest pitch?

Klements Sausage
Guest
Klements Sausage
3 years 5 months ago

That was Zack Greinke and Randy Wolf, with maybe a little Shaun Marcum thrown in. Are we allowed to link?

http://www.baseballnation.com/2012/7/4/3136070/zack-greinke-randy-wolf-brewers-slowest-pitch

Dan Ugglas Forearm
Member
Dan Ugglas Forearm
3 years 5 months ago

If Juan Jaime in the Braves system comes up this year, he might be able to do it. But if not, Halladay’s got it in the bag.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
3 years 5 months ago

Halladay?! I will bet everything I’ve got on “hell to the naw.”

Randy
Guest
Randy
3 years 5 months ago

R.A. Dickey!

James
Guest
James
3 years 5 months ago

Can we get an article on Verlander and whether, (though this would never happen) he could be a 300 inning pitcher, over a full season, today. Outside of CC Sabathia there can’t be many in the day today to make that claim about and be relatively safe.

Vil
Member
Member
Vil
3 years 5 months ago

Verlander should be excluded from this feature for the next couple of years–supernatural beings don’t count.

But there must have been something wrong with the radar gun on Cashner’s alleged 102. Put the Verlander frame right next to the Cashner frame and watch it several times. Watch how fast Verlander’s pitch reaches the catcher’s mitt compared to Cashner’s pitch. I know that your eyes can deceive you, but by that much? No way IMO Cashner’s pitch is faster than Verlander’s.

telly
Guest
telly
3 years 5 months ago

Periods and commas go inside quotations, even when it’s only one word inside the quotations.

Eat me, telly
Guest
Eat me, telly
3 years 5 months ago

“Periods and commas go inside quotations, even when it’s only one word inside the quotations.”

Sorry, Telly, but saying “one word inside the quotations” makes no sense.

Firstly, the plural makes no sense there, because it’s not one word inside multiple quotations simultaneously. You should have gone with the singular.

Even then, you are wrong. It’s one word inside the quotation marks, not the quotation. A quotation can be one word long; in other words, one word can make up an entire quotation. It can *be* the quotation. But you don’t put a word *inside* a quotation, you put it inside the quotation marks. Unless you are somehow attempting to put the word inside itself. Which makes no sense.

Finally, please observe the following rules:
1) If you are going to correct someone’s grammar, please be correct and don’t make mistakes yourself.

2) If you are correcting some annoying asswad who has violated rule #1, then you are not bound by rule #1.

Thank you.

Eat me, telly
Guest
Eat me, telly
3 years 5 months ago

And even then, I’d prefer “between” the quotation marks, by the way.

Jason B.
Guest
Jason B.
3 years 5 months ago

If you’re going to be nitpicky, names should be capitalized.

Trace Wood
Guest
Trace Wood
3 years 5 months ago

Verlander has almost gotten to the point where his name can be substituted for Chuck Norris’ without any degradation to the claim.

Chip B
Guest
Chip B
3 years 4 months ago

Chapman hit 106 in 2011 against the Padres. I think that’s a record that won’t be touched for quite a while.

Chris Everett
Guest
3 years 17 days ago

I think it will be Matt Harvey or Zack Wheeler who will throw the fastest pitch of 2013 for the Mets.

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