What is the fastest baseball pitch ? What is the fastest pitch in MLB? Aroldis Chapman can light up the radar gun like few others, while Jacob deGrom throws heat that no starting pitcher can match. But how do these flamethrowers stack up in MLB history.
There are few things more impressive in sports than witnessing a pitcher light up the radar gun. The ability to load up and fire a ball at 100-plus mph gets fans excited, makes hitters feel intimidated and leaves teams fantasizing about the possibilities of what that electric arm can do.
What is the fastest pitch ever thrown in history?
On Sept. 24, 2010, Chapman made MLB history. Then a rookie relief pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds, the fireballer unleashed a fastball clocked at 105.1 mph by PITCH/fx. MLB later bumped that up to 105.8 mph.
Technology plays an instrumental role in the rapid velocity of fastballs and the tracking speed. Major League Baseball implemented the PITCH/FX system in 2006, allowing it to more accurately track the movement and speed of pitches, and the software kept improving over the years.
While many MLB statistics date back to the 1900s, data specific to movement and speed only comes from modern technology. As a result, Aroldis Chapman is credited with throwing the fastest pitch in MLB history.
Chapman did it again the following year, a wild pitch that nearly hit All-Star outfielder Andrew McCutchen in the face.
Average MLB fastball velocity in 2022
Some of the fastest pitchers in 2022 clocked over 103 mph, with multiple relievers and even a few starters hitting 102 mph with relative ease. Unsurprisingly, MLB set a record for the highest average fastball velocity ever in 2022.
As detailed by Jeff Passan of ESPN, pitchers delivered blistering heat on the mound this season. Back in 2008, MLB recorded only three instances of pitchers in the playoffs who threw fastballs 100 mph or faster. In 2022, there were 164 pitchers hitting triple digits with their fastball.
It’s all part of the revolution, movement and spin is paramount for off-speed pitches and velocity is treasured on fastballs. As we detail further below with data on the fastest MLB pitches in 2022, the numbers reflect how baseball changed.
Are pitchers throwing harder?
With technology becoming a greater resource for pitchers and more emphasis being placed on velocity, we are seeing players throwing harder than ever. As the graph below shows from Jeff Leach, the average fastball speed in MLB has skyrocketed since 2002 and it will likely exceed 95 mph next season.
Twins’ Jhoan Durán Throws MLB’s Fastest Pitch in Five Years
Twins closer Jhoan Durán throws harder than anyone in the major leagues. His average fastball velocity of 101.8 mph is the highest in baseball this season. Of the 283 fastballs he’s thrown this season, only six have been under 100 mph (three at 99.9, two at 99.4 and one at 99.2).
But Durán has never thrown a pitch as fast as the one he threw in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s game against the Mariners. With one out and two runners on, Durán threw an inside fastball to Eugenio Suárez that was clocked at a blazing 104.8 mph. It was the fastest pitch in the majors this season, surpassing Durán’s own mark of 104.6 mph on June 2. Remarkably, Suárez was actually able to make contact with it. He hit a weak grounder to shortstop and was retired for the second out.
That wasn’t the only fireball Durán threw in that inning. His first two pitches to Suárez were 104.1 and 103.8 mph. He ended the game by striking out Mike Ford on a fastball at 104.0 mph.
In fact, not only has Durán thrown the fastest pitch of the season, 104.8 mph pitch the fastest in the majors this season, he’s thrown 11 of the 12 fastest. And five of those were on Wednesday night in Seattle.
Durán’s pitch to Suárez was also the 15th fastest pitch thrown in the majors since MLB began tracking pitch velocity in 2010, and the fastest since Jordan Hicks threw two pitches clocked at 105.0 mph on May 20, 2018.
Why It’s Almost Impossible for Fastballs to Get Any Faster
Consider the confusion over the game’s fastest fastball ever. On paper, the honor goes to Yankees relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman, who clocked 105.1 miles per hour in 2010. But the record could have been set all the way back in 1974. Back then, Nolan Ryan was the first MLB pitcher to be tracked by radar during a game—and while his heater topped out at 100.8 miles per hour, the radar measured Ryan’s ball just before it crossed the plate. Had it eyed the pitch as it was leaving Ryan’s hand (as Chapman’s was), experts believe it might have registered at upwards of 108 miles per hour.
Similar retroactive estimates have put Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Feller’s fastest fastball at 107.6 miles per hour—and that was all the way back in 1946. Walter Johnson, who played from 1907 to 1927, is also thought to have thrown pitches at 100 mph or more. All of which is to say: Pitchers have been throwing north of 100-mph for the past 100 years.
Over the same time period, advances in training, technology, nutrition, and, yes, drugs, have fueled a dramatic upward trend in world-record athletic performances, from the marathon to the long jump to the 50 meter freestyle. But when it comes to hurling a five-ounce, leather-wrapped sphere as fast as possible, humans appear to have plateaued.
“I don’t see it going much higher,” says biomedical engineer Glenn Fleisig, research director of the American Sports Medicine Institute and an expert in the biomechanics of pitching. “I’m sorry to say that, but I don’t see it happening. Baseball isn’t like other sports, where we see people running faster or swimming harder or whatever, where today’s records are smashing the records from 10 years ago.”
That hasn’t prevented pitchers from pursuing the triple-digit barrier at the expense of their arms. A significant number of them undergo major medical procedures to correct injuries from competition. Like the “Tommy John” surgery: When the tendon in a pitcher’s elbow tears, surgeons can replace it with a fresh one from the player’s wrist, forearm, hamstring, or even their toe. Swapping in the relief tendon involves the surgeon drilling holes in the ulna and humerus bones and threading them in a figure-8 pattern with the healthy tissue.
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