Major League Baseball batting averages are at their lowest in 2014 (.252) since 1972, while strikeouts are at their highest rate (7.70 per game) in baseball’s 144 years of recorded history. According to the players, flame-throwing relief pitchers deserve much of the blame. Instead of trying to knock out a team’s starter to get to the soft underbelly out in the bullpen, hitters are wary of the heat they face when managers call in relievers.
Indeed, in efastball.com’s list of pitchers who have thrown 102 mph or faster in MLB history, sixteen of the twenty-one listed hit their marks in the 2002 season or later. It is no longer a rarity in the game. While most come firing out of the bullpen in setup or closer roles, hitters are unlucky enough to see similar velocities from starters these days (the best averages 96.4 mph at press time).
Here are eight pitchers who have thrown pitches of 100 mph or better in 2014, according to PITCHf/x data on Fangraphs.com. Since PITCHf/x is the most scientific testing method, the results sometimes dispute what radar guns say and, in many cases, published reports of how fast pitchers have thrown. Stats are current as of August 7, 2014. Pitchers are listed from the “slowest” 100+ mph pitch thrown during the 2014 season to the fastest.
8. Gerrit Cole, Pirates
Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole went on the disabled list July 5, but not before the right-handed starter joined the century club in 2014 after hitting 100.0 mph in 2014. That wasn’t the highest velocity the young righty has clocked to date. In 2013, Cole hit 101.0 mph with a fastball. He is averaging 8.19 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) as a starter in 2014.
7. Jake McGee, Rays
Welcome to the 100 Club, Jake McGee. The Rays reliever broke the century mark for the first time ever in 2014 when he clocked 100.2 mph out of the Rays pen. Prior to this season, McGee topped out at 99.1 mph, which he hit in 2013. McGee is sporting a 1.44 ERA with 12 saves in 54 appearances for Tampa in 2014 with 11.70 K/9.
6. Dellin Betances, Yankees
New York Yankees relievers are leading MLB in strikeouts and are nearing the all-time mark for a bullpen K/9. The lion’s share of that production is coming from David Robertson (14.63 K/9) and stud setup man Dellin Betances. In 50 games in 2014, Betances has devastated opponents with his fastball and curve while posting 13.30 K/9. He has also joined the 100 Club.
Betances hit 100.4 mph August 2, 2014 in Boston. Fenway Park’s radar gun actually read 101 mph, but PITCHf/x delivered the accurate figure later, which MLB officials confirmed.
5. Trevor Rosenthal, Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals’ Trevor Rosenthal is no stranger to the 100 Club. Rosenthal hit 101.4 mph in 2013 and 100.9 in 2012. There has been not let-up in 2014. Though his 3.19 ERA and 1-6 record are down compared to the rest of his career, Rosenthal hit 100.5 mph in 2014. Whatever the problem is, it isn’t the velocity. He has 35 saves with 11.40 K/9 in his first season as a closer.
4. Yordano Ventura, Royals
Yordano Ventura has been one of the key pieces of the Kansas City Royals’ success in 2014. In 21 starts, Ventura is 9-8 with a 3.47 ERA and 7.80 K/9. His 96.2 average fastball velocity (96.4 for two-seamers) ranks second-best in MLB among starters behind Garrett Richards. That’s a tall order for batters, especially when he hits 100.8 mph, as he did earlier in 2014. Ventura nailed his highest pitch speed of 101.9 during his late-2013 debut.
3. Carlos Martinez, Cardinals
Another flamethrower currently on the shelf, Carlos Martinez has hit 100.9 mph in 2014, his first full MLB season. While control is an issue for Martinez (4.08 BB/9), velocity is not. His highest pitch speed was clocked at 101.3 mph by PITCHf/x in 2013, while he is averaging fastballs of 96.2 mph mph in 2014 (2-4, 4.74 ERA). Martinez is averaging 8.43 K/9.
2. Kelvin Herrera, Royals
Then there is the 101 Club of 2014. The Royals’ Kelvin Herrera nailed 101.4 mph earlier this season, which gave him one of the top 100 fastest pitches of the season (the other 99 belong to the Cuban Missile). It’s actually a step down for Herrera. In 2012, he nailed 102.8 mph, according to PITCHf/x. In 48 appearances this season, Herrera has a posted a 1.69 ERA out of the ‘pen with 7.50 K/9.
1. Aroldis Chapman, Reds
He may not have thrown the fastest pitch in MLB history (by some standards), but the Reds’ Aroldis Chapman is alone in the 103 club in 2014. In fact, he hit 103.8 mph in a July contest against Arizona. The Cuban Missile put on a speed clinic that outing, which had disputed results following initial reports he hit 104 mph. Chapman has an absurd rate of 17.65 K/9 in 2014.
Chapman has the record for fastest pitch of the PITCHf/x era at 105.1 mph (2010), though efastball.com has Bob Feller (in 1946) and Nolan Ryan (in 1974) topping that mark by “artillery” and “Doppler laser radar” testing methods, respectively. The efastball.com measurements will fascinate baseball fans, but the moral of this story is there is no reason to hit the books or search websites to discover 100 mph fastballs. They are being thrown by pitchers on a nightly basis at a Major League Baseball park near you.