Baseball is a game of numbers and statistics, however there is one awe-inspiring statistic is not recognized as an official stat by Major League Baseball. That stat is the velocity on a pitch or basically, how fast a pitcher can throw a ball recorded on a radar gun. Most major league pitchers throw a fastball in the range of 89-93mph. Others can reach mid to upper 90’s, however a select few can reach that 100 mph plateau.
Radar guns were first introduced to the game of baseball in 1935 and since then have changed the way many players and scouts approach the game. Baseball scouts can judge the success a pitcher may have in the major leagues by the velocity or speed of a pitcher’s fastball. Pitchers that can throw hard are still not guaranteed success in the Major Leagues however. There have been many players that have thrown a ball with extreme velocity but have struggled to keep a job in the pros. Accuracy plays a huge part in that fact as many pitchers who throw fast, are not as accurate as a pitcher that can only reach the high 80’s or low 90’s on the radar gun.
The fastest recorded pitch in the major leagues based upon the radar gun readout is from the Cincinnati Reds closer, Aroldis Chapman. On September 24, 2010 at Petco Park in San Diego he threw a fastball a whopping 105.1 mph. When Chapman stands on the mound to pitch, the fans stop what they are doing and watch him throw. He is definitely a “flame thrower” but if not for the radar gun in the stadium, would he get as much attention as he does? Can a hitter really tell the difference between a 99 mph fastball versus a 105 mph fastball?
The radar gun entices pitchers to give that extra oomph and try to throw faster than the next pitcher. This can also have an adverse effect on pitchers as not all pitchers who can throw fast are successful in the pros. Even though pitchers can throw hard, professional hitters will learn to time the pitches and sooner than later that 100 mph pitcher will be out of a job. Pitchers need to have additional pitches, such as a curve ball, slider, or change-up to offset the hitters as changing speed and location of each pitch is crucial for success.
Radar guns have also changed the fan experience at professional sporting events. In almost every Major League baseball stadium throughout the country you will find a speed pitch area where fans can throw a fastball and see how fast they can throw it. The radar gun not only has changed the way that professional athletes try to pitch but also how fans can feel like they are a part of the game by participating in these extra activities around the ball park.
Radar guns are loved by some and hated by others, but they are not going anywhere in the game of baseball. Major League Baseball may never recognize the speed of a pitch as an official statistic but fans absolutely love seeing a triple digit read out on the radar gun in the stadium and at home on TV, and that is just one of the many reasons that the radar gun has changed the way baseball is played today.
- CC’s decline in velocity no big surprise or worry (mlb.mlb.com)
- Ranking the most powerful pitchers in baseball history (sportsillustrated.cnn.com)