All Reds fans and most baseball fans in general are fully aware that Aroldis Chapman is the fastest pitcher in the game today, and perhaps in the game’s history. Let’s take a few minutes to map out the full extent of his dominance.
We can’t say for sure that Chapman is the fastest pitcher in baseball history, but we can say for certain that he threw the fastest accurately recorded pitch in history. According to PITCHf/x that fastball reached 105.1 mph and was thrown to Tony Gwynn Jr. back in September of 2010, which was Chapman’s first year in the big leagues. In 2011 Chapman threw a pitch to Andrew McCutchen that registered 106 mph on the Great American Ball ParkÃ‚Â scoreboard and 105 mph on the Fox Sports Ohio FoxTrax system but that pitch was measured by PITCHf/x at “only” 103 mph.
The PITCHf/x system uses calibrated cameras to determine pitch speeds much more accurately and precisely than radar guns. It is the gold standard for measuring not only the velocity but also the movement of pitches. Every pitch in the major leagues has been tracked in this fashion since the beginning of the 2008 season, which means this is the 8th season it has been in use.
Prior to 2008 there was no standardized method for measuring pitch velocities. Most ballparks had radar guns installed to show the speeds on the scoreboard, but those radar guns were not calibrated and were often programmed to run “hot”, which means they displayed velocities that were a fewÃ‚Â miles per hour higher than the true result. In addition to that, the pitch speeds were not recorded in any organized fashion for us to access today. This means we really have no reliable velocity data prior to 2008.
There is no foolproof way to compare modern pitchers to pitchers from earlier eras. We have a rough idea of who the fastest pitchers were from previous decades, but we can’t say for certain if they could throw 100 mph or challenge Aroldis Chapman for the crown. Bob Feller, Bob Gibson and Nolan Ryan all threw very hard, but unfortunately there is no way of knowingÃ‚Â howÃ‚Â hard.
Chapman has thrown 519 pitches this year, 388 of them have been fastballs and 142 of them have exceeded 100 mph. His average fastball velocity is 99.5 mph. Here is the list of the top 10 fastest pitchers this year in terms of average fastball velocity:
You can see that Chapman has a big lead on the second place pitcher, almost two full miles per hour better. Almost all of the pitchers on the list are relievers, only the rookie Syndergaard is a starter. Four of the ten are closers (Chapman, Kimbrel, Rosenthal and Betances). The others are mostly future closers. Chapman averagedÃ‚Â 100.3 mph last year, which is the only time anyone has ever averaged 100 mph for a full season.
Chapman has thrown 388 fastballs this year and only one of them has been hit for a home run. That came a couple weeks ago when the Phillies’ Maikel Franco hit a three run homer in the bottom of the ninth on a 97.7 mph heater. That was the first home run that Chapman had allowed since last June, almost a full year between home runs.
Chapman’s slowest fastball of the year so far was 94.5 mph on May 25th vs the Rockies’ leadoff hitter Charlie Blackmon at GABP. In fact the four slowest fastballs of Chapman’s season came in that one at-bat. The other three were 94.9 mph. He walked Blackmon, who later came around to score the winning run. Chapman did reach 101.8 mph in that same inning when striking out Rockies superstar Troy Tulowitzki.
Chapman’s fastest pitch of the season so far was 102.8 mph to Freddie Freeman of the Braves on May 11th at GABP. The pitch was a ball. Freeman later singled off the glove of Kris Negron. Chapman has thrown 11 pitches this year at 102 mph. No one else has thrown any at all. In fact, Chapman has thrown all of the 43 fastest pitches in the majors this year! The fastest non-Chapman pitch was thrown by the Royals’ Kelvin Herrera at 101.3 mph. The only other pitcher to reach 101 mph is Arquimedes Caminero of the Pirates, who has done it four times, topping out at 101.1 mph.
Here is a list of all the pitchers to reach 100 mph this year:
|100 mph Pitches||Pitcher||% of Pitches||Fastest Pitch|
|188||Total 100+ mph pitches|
Now we really start to see the dominance of the Cuban Missile. He has reached the century markÃ‚Â 7xÃ‚Â more than anyone else. He has hit the century markÃ‚Â 3xÃ‚Â more than everyone else combined! Chapman has thrown 76% of the 100 mph fastballs in baseball this year. Only three pitchers reach 100 mph on 1% or more of their pitches, Chapman does it 27.4% of the time. Nobody can even come close to challenging his status as theÃ‚Â most elite flamethrower in the game today.
Before his demotion to the minors last week the Reds’ Jumbo Diaz delivered a 100.9 mph fastball against Will Venable of the Padres on June 6th. Diaz had the 10th-highest average fastball velocity in the majors last year at 96.7 mph. He also had one 100 mph blazing fastball last season.
Three of the pitchers above are starters (Cole, Eovaldi and Syndergaard) while the rest are relievers. You’ll notice that the starters are at .1% or .2% whereas a fewÃ‚Â relievers can hit 100 more often since they don’t have to pace themselves.
Chapman has no challengers this year, but he has seen some competition in prior years. In 2013Ã‚Â he was getting a run for his money from the Tigers’ Bruce Rondon until Rondon went down with an arm injury. Rondon actually had a higher percentage of 100 mph pitches than Aroldis did (25.6% for Rondon, 20.0% for Chapman), but Chapman had the highest average fastball velocity (98.4 mph to 97.9 mph). In 2012 Chapman threw “only” 156 blazing fastballs while Kelvin Herrera threw 81. Chapman’s ratio that year was less than 2:1 vs Herrera, which is far lower than his 7:1 ratio over Caminero this year.
Since PITCHf/x came into effect in 2008, only three 100 mph pitches have been hit for a home run. Two of them came against Andrew Cashner, including one off a 100.5 mph fastball — the fastest pitch ever hit for a home run. The thirdÃ‚Â one came off Aroldis Chapman. That one was hit by Jose Lopez of the Indians in 2013 (watch it HERE).
Here is the complete list of pitchers who have thrown 100 mph since 2008 when PITCHf/x began tracking pitches.
|Rubby De La Rosa||1|
|# of Pitches||2699||806||196||39||3||1|
|# of Players||63||24||10||3||1||1|
Chapman has thrown 3.5x as many 100 mph pitches as anyone else in the last 8 years. Joel Zumaya of the Detroit Tigers was the king of flamethrowers before Aroldis burst upon the scene. Zumaya led the league in blazing fastballs in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Zumaya, Rondon and Chapman are the only three pitchers to reach the “century squared” plateau — throwing 100 mph 100 times in a single season. The Tigers have had some beastly fireballers, three of the top ten on this list are Tigers: Zumaya, Rondon and Verlander.Ã‚Â Anybody else remember the grand slam Ken Griffey Junior hit against Joel Zumaya on a 104 mph pitch on the scoreboard gun in Detroit? Watch it HERE. That one was pre-PITCHf/x and was probably actually slower than 104 mph.
63 players have thrown 100 mph, but a quarter of them did it only one single time. You could say it was their lone moment of flamingÃ‚Â glory. More thanÃ‚Â half of them have done it 5 times or less. Only five players have reached the Blazing Fastball Hall of Fame (yeah I just created it) by throwing one hundred blazing fastballs in their careers, and Chapman has thrown more than the other four combined.
Chapman has fired more than half of the 101+ mph pitches and three-quarters of the 102+ mph pitches. Only two other pitchers have reached 103 mph (Henry Rodriguez and Neftali Feliz) and they only did it once. Aroldis is the only human to have thrown 104 or 105 mph. Are we sure he is in fact human?
Former Red Jonathan Broxton threw 53 blazing fastballs, but all of them came before he joined the Reds. Chapman and Jumbo Diaz are the only Reds to hit the century mark. The next one might be Michael Lorenzen or Robert Stephenson, both of whom have been reported to hit that speedÃ‚Â on scouts’ radar guns in the minor leagues. Lorenzen’s fastest pitch in the majors so far was 97.1 mph. Chapman, Diaz and Lorenzen are the only Reds to hit 97 this year. Cueto, DeSclafani, Hoover and Adcock have hit 96 a couple times.
The Missile is building up such a huge number of 100 mph pitches that he might never be caught. Could we be witnessing one of the most amazing records in baseball history? Could we be watching the equivalent of Pete Rose’s 4256 hits or Cy Young’s 511 Wins, records so high they could stand forever? That remains to be seen, but it is very clear that Chapman’s fastball is light years better than any other pitcher of the last decade. When you can perform a feat on a daily basis that few pitchers have ever done even once, you know you are a once-in-a-lifetime sort of player. If Chapman stays healthy he could make it nearly impossible for anyone to catch him.
Incidentally, the save that Chapman earned last night was the 127th of his career, tying him with Terry Forster and Jim Johnson for 100th place on the all-time list. A century mark of a different sort for Aroldis.