What is the fastest pitch in MLB? New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman can light up the radar gun like few others, while New York Mets ace 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.
Let’s examine the fastest pitch ever, in 2021 and look at the all-time history.
Fastest pitch ever thrown
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.
- Fastest pitch ever in MLB: Aroldis Chapman, 105.8 mph
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.
Chapman did it again the following year, a wild pitch that nearly hit All-Star outfielder Andrew McCutchen in the face.
History repeated itself a few years later, this time with the Yankees. Closing the game in the 9th inning, Chapman unleashed a 105.1 mph fastball against the Baltimore Orioles.
Aroldis Chapman’s fastball is widely regarded as the fastest pitch in MLB today. In fact, even after more than 575 career innings and countless pitches hitting 100-plus mph, he also holds the title this season.
Fastest pitch in MLB this season
St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Jordan Hicks, the only other active player to hit 105 with his fastball, is on the injured list. As a result, Chapman has faced little competition to retain his crown for the fastest pitch in 2021.
- What is the fastest pitch thrown this year? Aroldis Chapman, 103.4 mph vs. Matt Chapman (6/20/21)
deGrom likely won’t surpass Chapman’s fastball this season, but the front runner for NL MVP and Cy Young is blowing past his peers for average velocity.
- Jacob deGrom average fastball velocity (2021): 99.2 mph (1st)
- Jacob deGrom average slider velocity (2021): 91.5 mph (1st)
- Jacob deGrom average changeup velocity (2021): 91.3 mph (4th)
With deGrom sidelined indefinitely due to inflammation in his throwing arm, baseball fans must look elsewhere for arms throwing with serious gas. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of that as our quick look at the fastest throwing pitchers in MLB shows.
- Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Zack Wheeler’s average slider velocity (2021): 91.6 mph
- New York Yankees pitcher Jordan Montgomery’s average slider velocity (2021): 90.4 mph
- Miami Marlins pitcher Sandy Alcantara’s average fastball velocity (2021): 97.9 mph
- Fastest sinker in MLB: 98.1 mph, New York Mets reliever Miguel Castro
- Fastest changeup in MLB: 92.1 mph, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler
Let’s compare the data to reports and stories that predated modern tracking technology.
Nolan Ryan and the history of velocity
Fastball velocities have ticked up over time. Between pitchers tweaking their mechanics and throwing with greater effort thanks to lower pitch counts, the radar gun is hitting triple digits like never before. FanGraphs detailed in Apri how the average fastball velocity jumped from 91.7 mph in 2008 to 93.7 mph this season.
The measurement of fastball velocity has also changed in recent decades, as Baseball America explained in detail. MLB changed the point at which it tracked the baseball coming in. With a pitch losing velocity as it leaves a pitcher’s hand and gets closer to the plate, the specific moment the baseball is clocked matters.
It’s why Nolan Ryan isn’t officially credited for throwing the fastest pitch. When the Hall of Famer was unleashing heat from 1966-1993, his fastball was being tracked closer to the plate. He was still credited with hitting 100 mph multiple times, topping out at 100.9 mph.
The documentary Fastball examined velocities and how different speeds might look if modern technology was used. It ultimately suggested Ryan hit 108mph. But Pitching Ninja later broke down why it’s difficult to determine the accuracy of that suggestion and he compared Ryan’s fastest recorded pitch to Hicks and Chapman frame-by-frame.
We might begin to see teams place less emphasis on velocity. MLB could explore rules to reduce the number of pitchers allowed on a roster, resulting in starters going longer into games and thus using less max effort on individual pitches. With that said, there will still be plenty of arms who will blow past 100 mph.
There is a chance Chapman’s record could fall in the near future. Cincinnati Reds prospect Hunter Greene, one of the top pitching prospects in MLB, regularly throws triple-digits and has even hit 105 mph. Keep an eye on him as the next possible challenger to Chapman’s official record.