Baseball pitch velocity: the most competitive challenge presented in ‘America’s Favorite Pass-time’. From the moment the pitcher releases the ball from his hand, the batter must decide if he’s going to swing, or not, and how; and he has less than .40 seconds to make that decision—that’s at a pitch of 90 mph. The following pitchers didn’t afford a hitter that much time.
10. Randy Johnson–While the ‘Big Unit’ rounds the list at a paltry 102 mph, it’s important to remember that, at 6’ 10”, there was never a more imposing figure that ever took the mound. His success was built upon his consistent speed and the angle of trajectory (given his extraordinary height), making the angle of incidence (point of contact of bat and ball) a near impossible task for a batter.
9. Bobby Jenks–Now residing with two other 100+ club members on the Red Sox (Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard), Jenks is the poster-child for power pitchers. Not only can the man clip at 102 mph, but he throws a very ‘heavy’ ball–a ‘bat-breaker’.
8. Brian Wilson–‘Blackbeard’, also weighing-in at a mere 102 mph, is the go-to guy in the late innings of the reigning champs, San Francisco Giants. His dark, intimidating intensity is only matched by the pinpoint control of his phenomenal flame. His skill defines the title of ‘closer’.
7. Steve Dalkowski–Although he never received a Major League paycheck, it’s only fitting to include him in the list. In the minors, 1958, his speed was measured at a soft 102.2 mph. However, those who faced him, including legend Ted Williams, assessed his unmeasured speed at 110 mph; and possessing little control of his projectile, he was truly a feared presence on the hill.
6. Jonathan Broxton–At 6’4”, 300 lbs., this Georgia native is the foundation of the Dodgers bullpen; and, rightly so, given his propensity to keep his median velocity at, or above, 100 mph. He peaked at 102.5, giving him an earned spot on the list.
5. Mark Wohlers–Most noted for his years as a closer for the Atlanta Braves, this Massachusetts native clocked a verified speed of 102.6 mph. Unsuccessful rehabilitation, post-surgeries, shortened his career but not his notable mention in the club of the Fastest!
4. Joel Zumaya–While being selected in deep rounds of the draft (11th), the Detroit Tigers’ closer has paid-off in huge dividends in stabilizing a formerly erratic bullpen. Quite often, the ‘big heat’ is saved for the job of a closer, but the Tigers like Zumaya’s 103 mph fastball to stop any momentum the opponents may have in middle innings…smart baseball!
3. Aroldis Chapman–The ‘Cuban Missile’ arrived on the scene just a year ago to fill the much needed vacancy in the Reds’ franchise: a ‘beacon’ in a murky clubhouse. Hitting the stage with a 105.1 mph fastball was a great way to get some press-time, even if it arrived in the form of relief. The Reds are now left with the task of building his endurance, expanding his pith repertoire and making him a starter.
2. Bob Feller–‘Rapid Robert’ enjoyed a 20-year stint with Cleveland beginning in 1936. Despite the fact that he threw serious heat (107.66 mph), he had an arsenal of other pitches that were equally lethal. This Iowa-born phenom would surely rank in the Top 5 of the greatest throwers of all time.
1. Nolan Ryan–The ‘Ryan Express’ graced the professional mound for 27 years. With perfect, complex mechanics, Ryan mastered consistency in velocity and was strong and determined enough to sustain this through late innings and a long career. He holds the speed record at 108.01 mph, giving his opponent batters about .06 seconds’ less time to think about what they’re going to do.
There you have them, from number ten to number one. The fastest hands that have ever thrown a baseball in this world’s history.