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 Park 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 few 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 knowing how 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:

Rank Pitcher Team MPH
1 Aroldis Chapman Reds 99.5
2 Arquimedes Caminero Pirates 97.8
3 Carter Capps Marlins 97.6
4 Craig Kimbrel Padres 97.5
5 Trevor Rosenthal Cardinals 96.7
6 Pedro Baez Dodgers 96.6
7 Dellin Betances Yankees 96.5
8 Blake Treinen Nationals 96.4
9 Kelvin Herrera Royals 96.1
10 Noah Syndergaard Mets 96.0

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 averaged 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
142 Aroldis Chapman 27.4% 102.8
21 Arquimedes Caminero 4.9% 101.1
8 Kelvin Herrera 2.5% 101.3
4 Jeurys Familia 0.8% 100.4
2 Gerrit Cole 0.2% 100.3
2 Carter Capps 0.9% 100.7
2 Kevin Gausman 0.9% 100.3
2 Trevor Rosenthal 0.4% 100.4
1 Blake Treinen 0.2% 100.3
1 Franklin Morales 0.3% 100.4
1 Nathan Eovaldi 0.1% 100.6
1 Noah Syndergaard 0.1% 100.0
1 Jumbo Diaz 0.3% 100.9
188 Total 100+ mph pitches

Now we really start to see the dominance of the Cuban Missile. He has reached the century mark 7x more than anyone else. He has hit the century mark 3x 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 the 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 few relievers can hit 100 more often since they don’t have to pace themselves.

Bruce RondonChapman has no challengers this year, but he has seen some competition in prior years. In 2013 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 third 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.

Rank   100+ 101+ 102+ 103+ 104+ 105+
1 Aroldis Chapman 1105 506 156 37 3 1
2 Joel Zumaya 310 94 10
3 Henry Rodriguez 228 42 6 1
4 Kelvin Herrera 193 22 2
5 Bruce Rondon 113 47 11
6 Bobby Parnell 78 16 3
7 Justin Verlander 72 15
8 Andrew Cashner 64 13 1
9 Neftali Feliz 61 15 4 1
10 Jonathan Broxton 53 9 2
11 Jordan Walden 46 3
12 Yordano Ventura 45 3
13 Daniel Bard 34 1
14 Trevor Rosenthal 29 1
15 Carter Capps 24
16 Carlos Martinez 23 1
17 Ubaldo Jimenez 21
Arquimedes Caminero 21 4
19 Nate Jones 20 1
Erik Cordier 20 1
21 Brian Wilson 17 6 1
22 Fernando Rodney 12
23 Gerrit Cole 11 1
24 Matt Lindstrom 10 1
25 Ken Giles 8 1
26 Kyle Farnsworth 5
27 Jose Dominguez 4
Juan Morillo 4
Chris Carpenter 4
Brandon League 4
Maikel Cleto 4 1
Dellin Betances 4
Jeurys Familia 4
34 Alexi Ogando 3
Stephen Strasburg 3
Jeremy Jeffress 3
Nathan Eovaldi 3
38 Craig Kimbrel 2
Jason Motte 2
Phil Coke 2 2
Chris Sale 2
Mitchell Boggs 2
Ervin Santana 2
John Axford 2
Matt Harvey 2
Jumbo Diaz 2
Kevin Gausman 2
48 Danny Salazar 1
Edwin Jackson 1
Merkin Valdez 1
Kevin Jepsen 1
Greg Holland 1
Rubby De La Rosa 1
Tommy Hunter 1
Joba Chamberlain 1
Mark Lowe 1
Blake Treinen 1
Brandon Morrow 1
Franklin Morales 1
Jake Diekman 1
Jake McGee 1
Mike Foltynewicz 1
Noah Syndergaard 1
# of Pitches 2699 806 196 39 3 1
# of Players 63 24 10 3 1 1

Joel ZumayaChapman 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. 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 flaming glory. More than 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 speed 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.

 

 

 

 

 

28 Responses

  1. Vanessa Galagnara

    He is elite. Curious how many 100 mph pitches he would have thrown as a starter. My guess would be even less.
    I question out there. Is speed the only thing that makes Chapman’s fastball dominant? Are there any other factors that come into play such as deception, location, variable speed?
    It used to be said about Tony Cingrani that his fastball was very hard to hit because of the deceptive motion upon delivery. But I do believe his speed tops out not even close to 100 maybe even as low as 92.

    Another question. With all the hard throwing pitchers now out there on the market, seemingly every organization has one guy they label the “flamethrower” is it making it easier for batters to get in practice against em and make them generally more effective against the elite fastball thrower?

    Last question. With so many hard throwers out there wouldnt have a knuckle baller be all the more effective in a bullpen scenario. How much more effective would Chapman be if the guy in the 7th or 8th inning was up there throwing 65 mph knuckle balls? I would imagine that the retraining of the eye to slow down is just as difficult as it is to speed up but curious what your thoughts are on that notion. But most certainly having to do both would be very difficult on batters.

    • Matt

      Regarding the first question: I saw a video (think it was ESPN Sport Science) once that talked about how his height and his release point being very far forward make it feel like his fastball is even faster than it really is. You should be able to find it on YouTube pretty easily if you want to watch it.

  2. Vanessa Galagnara

    BTW Nick sorry for the questions this is one of the best non partisan pieces of data on a player that I have seen yet. Great write up and appreciate you scrapping the numbers together for us sir. There is no way to fudge these numbers to make Chapman look either good or bad so I really appreciate this write up in so many ways.

  3. Frank Byrns

    Reblogged this on Baseball the Right Way and commented:
    “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.”

    • Vanessa Galagnara

      again… by better are you talking just speed or are there other factors that are being taken into consideration aside from just how fast he is throwing the ball?

    • jdx19

      Depending on how much value you put on ‘pitch value,’ defined as ‘runs above average per 100 pitches’, Aroldis Chapman’s fastball is the 9th move valuable FB in MLB from 2010 to now (min 250 IP). He doesn’t command it well, so it might take 2-3 pitches to accomplish what 1 well place fastball might do.

      Interesting, though, is that while his fastball is 9th best by this particular measure, his slider is 4th best… giving him the best FB/Slider combo of anyone since Aroldis broke into the league, and that’s on a PER PITCH basis. If Chapman had any control whatsoever he’d be the best pitcher in history and it wouldn’t be close.

      http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=pit&lg=all&qual=250&type=7&season=2015&month=0&season1=2010&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&sort=10,d

      • Vanessa Galagnara

        his slider is still probably at what 98 mph? Ha! Speed does apparently matter with pitchers.

  4. Tom Gray

    MLB hitters can hit 100 MPH fastball that doesn’t move. If his pitches move and are 100+ MPH they are tough to hit.

    I remember Tom Seaver throwing 104 MPH fastball to an Atlanta Brave (it was on TV) when he was a Red in late 1970’s that was hit to CF for HR by the batter (I forget who it was).

    My guess is that Nolan Ryan (in his youth – late 1960’s or early 1970’s) was the fastest pitcher in the modern era.

    I think Bob Feller (Cleveland Indians – late 1940’s) may have been even faster.

    Jim Maloney of the Reds threw 100 MPH or close to it in early 1960’s.

    • jdx19

      Based on what we know now about the stress put on arms from throwing hard and from throwing a lot of innings, I think it’s extremely unlikely that any of those guys did more than touch 100 every so often.

      If you look at the amount of innings a lot of these guys threw year in and year out, there’s really no way they threw very hard unless people are born with weaker elbow ligaments now.

      • Tom Gray

        Feller did. I saw Maloney pitch in his prime. He surely did.

        Ryan also. I saw him pitch in person in his early 20’s. The fastest pitcher I ever saw, and I’ve seen Chapman in person.

      • jdx19

        Sorry I don’t trust your eyes over science, Tom. Nothing personal.

        I think folks eyes get calibrated to an era. On average, FB velocity has increased, so someone throwing 95 in 1950 would look like they were throwing 100 in 2015 parlance.

        Every era has its guys who are three standard deviations above the mean. Chapman is one of these guys.

        For Feller or Ryan to throw as hard then as Chapman does now, they’d have to be 4 standard deviations above the mean.

        As I said before, it’s highly unlikely that any of those guys threw anywhere near as hard as Chapman doe.

      • MrRed

        Hmmm…but how would you verify any of this other than the old “eye” test? No doubt those guys threw hard by comparing them to their peers but, at best, their velocity was measured by radar guns (with questionable accuracy).

      • Tom Gray

        Ryan was NOTICEABLY faster than other pitchers of that era. Faster than Maloney, Tom Seaver, Gary Nolan, and others. There were numerous fireballers back then.

        My eyes have seen both. Ryan in his youth was faster than Chapman now.

      • jdx19

        My point exactly. You saw Ryan in the 1970s. You see Chapman now. Your brain isn’t powerful enough to remember exactly how they looked compared to each other.

        But, I can see this discussion isn’t going anywhere! So, I concede.

      • Tom Gray

        No. I saw him in late 1960’s with Mets. NOTICEABLY FASTER than Maloney, Seaver, Nolan, and other fastballers of that era.

      • Vanessa Galagnara

        The science is probably there to test your theory by using markers on film of ryan, feller, maloney versus chapman.

      • Tom Gray

        Agreed. What I’ve read shows all of them to be 100 mph P in their prime.

    • jrob23

      no chance Seaver threw even 95. It was his curve, slider, and location that he had…not an otherwordly fastball

  5. WVRedlegs

    Chapman was humming last night. The Tigers’ fans were all abuzz about Chapman after the game. They’ll be clamouring for their front office to go get him.
    Chapman gave those scouts from the Dodgers, Mets, Yankees, Blue Jays, Nationals, and Giants something to report back on.
    Frazier was impressive in front of those Mets scouts too. The stock on these two won’t get much higher than it is now. I’d hate to have the Reds trade Frazier, but he could fetch LHP Steven Matz in a trade with the Mets.
    The scouts seats will be full tonight. This Cueto-David Price match up should be stellar.
    I hope Jocketty is doing the Cha-ching dance in his office this morning. The price for those two and Cueto are going higher.

    • Vanessa Galagnara

      Let us hope Cueto pitches the game of his life. Cueto’s FB is slightly down this year, at least that is what I am hearing

  6. azredsfan

    Chapman has a once in a franchise arm. The Reds have missed their slot to win the WS. I would only trade him if you get the boatload of players back.