The 100 MPH Fastball… Is this the new norm?
Holy Cow, shout out Harry Caray, what a crazy opening MLB Postseason weekend that was! Filled with some sweeps and some tense, pressure packed situations that remind us all why October Baseball is so special. Now, we’ve discussed Postseason Plotlines previously, and the types of teams that are lurking in October, but I didn’t realize how many guys in the show are throwing the baseball so damn hard until I was locked in on every Postseason game, hanging on pitch by pitch. Pitchers are toeing the slab and chucking that thing up there harder, crisper, and more precisely than I can ever remember in the past. So here we go, we got to show some love to the pitchers, how hard they are throwing baseballs, why are they throwing baseballs this hard, and how beautiful the game within the game of pitching really is.
The other day Jacob (co-founder namedrop, might have seen him in Ft. Myers last weekend, we flip e-mails back and forth… NBD) drops this little nugget in my inbox to wet the beak about how crazy hard pitchers are throwing the baseball and figured it would be a great place to start:
Coming directly from the Director of Research & Development for mlb.com, aka “The Source”, Daren Willman drops some absolute fire (solid play off the emojis) numbers on the evolution of pitches being thrown at 100+ MPH. As you can see with the above tweet, it’s no denying that we're in a baseball era where pitching is as good as it’s ever been in terms of shear velo, and hell I’ll take it step further that most of these guys throwing the ball this hard are also running it up there with movement. What would be the reason for the spike in velocity during the last few years, and how are pitchers readily able to command the zone while throwing with this kind of velocity?
The first thing I thought about is technology, and how the growth of technology has enhanced the athletes playing the game. Every bullpen is filmed, there is always a set of eyes on a pitcher when he’s throwing, thus players in todays world are able to see exactly what is happening with their body, make the necessary tweaks with their mechanics to maximize and get every MPH out of their fastball, and touch that triple digit number on the radar gun. Call it an off the wall take and a hell of a spinzone, but there is absolutely a direct correlation with the advancement of technology and sabermetrics that is contributing to these recent trend of pitchers throwing the ball with velocities that have been until now, uncharted waters.
Doesn’t it seem like every dude that trots out of the bullpen now throws upper 90’s, can creep into the triple digits if necessary? Even starters are out there touching triple digits and being able to sustain that kind of velocity when they need to reach back the 2nd or 3rd time through the lineup and throw a guy a chair. Sidebar: unless you’re Thor, I’m not really including breaking/movement stuff when we’re discussing this velo trend, because a 96 MPH slider just isn’t fair, and slightly ridiculous that a human being can make the baseball move like that!
Segway’ing away from the technology game, I truly believe that another major reason we are seeing velocities at an all time high across the board is because we’re seeing players start to understand, and be in tune with their bodies and arm more at a younger age. Pitchers now are able to maximize velocities by proper training and education about their bodies and arm handling the strenuous repetition of delivering a baseball to the plate. Gone are the days of going into the weight room, putting max weight on and ripping it out; now we got guys doing yoga (shout out Jake Arrieta), position based workouts, proper nutritional diets, and various other flexibility and range of motion exercises that I believe are enhancing the velocities we’re seeing. Every club has employees devoted to the strength and development of their players, and researching new ways to gain maximum results from their pitching staff; because we all know the ol’ saying “pitching wins championships”. The evolution of the player, combined with the evolution of technology could be why we are seeing velo increases in the game.
Keeping on the evolution of the player theme, I think at some point we just have to K.I.S.S., Keep It Simple Stupid for all you non-acronym folks out there, and understand that pitchers are now very athletic, and sometimes you just have to let your athletes be athletes. At times I think we tend to attribute a guys stuff, or velocity to something more, when in reality he’s just an athlete who throws the ball really hard, and it’s a God given talent. The root fundamental here is that these dudes have been throwing the ball as hard as possible from a time when their arm could handle that workload as a youth player, and before any of the technology and player development pieces came into the picture like described above.
The advancement of technology within the last 10-15 years in the game, coupled with the advancement of player development starting at youth baseball throughout college programs and into professional organizations, and finally the pitchers being athletes are my three hot takes on why we’re seeing velocities in outer space as of late. So basically what I’m saying is that you put those three takes in the blender, mix ‘em all up, and that’s the recipe to become this dude:
Ok, ok, ok maybe that’s a slight exaggeration on becoming AChap, and a few more tools may be required to be a freak like that, but it’s certainly a solid start! Also, how could you think we’d do a whole blog on velocity, and not even mention Chapman and his 105.1 mph fastball? …we got you!
- Josh Mason,