100-mph fastball: Are pro baseball players throwing their hardest?

I’m no baseball fan, but I was watching the Marlins trounce the Yanks last night and became intrigued at a Marlins pitcher–a big pudgy black fellow–who was throwing fast balls in the 95-97 mph range.

He seemed to be doing so without any apparent strain. Although I know better, he looked like he was doing it effortlessly. Basically, I was wondering:

a) if he (or other pitchers) had it in him to throw controlled 100-mph fastballs, or is throwing the incremental 2-5 mph exponentially more difficult to achieve?

b) given the need to throw for several innings and to throw accurately, are these fastball experts throwing at their maximum sustainable speed, or is their a bit more in reserve that they could tap, if they wanted to?

c) Am I right in thinking that few if any major-league pitchers can throw consistent 100-mph fastballs?

I know Farnsworth (Cubs) is in the high 90’s and throws the occasional 100 mile an hour fast ball. But he’s a mid relief pitcher and can only last an inning or two. In this case, I think Farnsworth is giving his all and just gets worn out.

Some interesting stuff on “fastest pitcher”, and a non-comprehensive “100 mph club”:


According to yabob’s link, the following is incorrect, but:

I could swear that I once read that former Houston Astros pitcher J.R. Richard could throw above 110 mph. I also thought Nolan Ryan, in his 20s, could throw about as fast.

I didn’t think 100 mph was all that rare. Seems my memory is fuzzy.

That was probably Dontrelle Willis.

Some of the hardest throwers have very smooth motions. Speed comes not just from effort, but also from form.

There have been very few pitchers who could throw 100-mph fastballs, and even fewer who could do it consistently. If you’re asking whether Dontrelle Willis could throw faster than he does, the answer is probably not without losing control. That is, he might be able to get a couple of extra mph, but he wouldn’t be able to put the ball where he wanted it, which is at least as important as speed.

It used to be common for pitchers to pace themselves. Now, with so much relief pitching and so many home runs, pitchers generally go out and throw their best stuff as long as they can.


Dontrelle Willis is black, but he is certainly not pudgy. And he doesn’t throw close to 100 mph. Willis is a very lanky lefthanded pitcher who gets a lot out of a deceptive motion.

Do you think you may have seen Jose Contreras of the Yankees, who is pudgy and throws hard?

I seem to recall reading that, amazingly, some underhand softball pitchers can throw well over 100 MPH, faster than many overhand baseball pitchers.

       100 MPH and just over that seems about the limit, at least if you are trying to throw accurate.  What is interesting is that it really seems to have little to do with size or arm muscle mass.  Its largely in the wind up and motion along with lef strength probably more so than arm strength.  Its similar to hitting for distance in golf.  Look at Tiger Woods.  He is not huge, but he hits about the farthest on the tour.

I reckon the Marlins pitcher Carnac was referring to - “big pudgy black fellow” - was Urbina rather than Willis. Willis has a ‘herky-jerky’ (sp?) motion with an old-style high leg kick. He’s black, but not pudgy, and his fastball has lots of movement but clocks in the low 90’s. Urbina hits the mid-90’s.

Brad Penny (Marlins) hit 99 MPH late in the game - 7th inning or so.

The MPH numbers typically come from the ‘Juggs’ radar gun which measures speed as it leaves the pitchers hand. I know there’s all kinds of anecdotal stuff about Bob Feller throwing a ball faster than a motorcycle doing 100MPH. Maybe 100MPH - or close to it - is the barrier for what human bone and muscle can do.

To be successful, a fastball pitcher needs a good ‘#2 pitch’. Old-schoolers favour the over-the-top Curve - “Lord Charlie”. Nowadays it’s the slider. Some (Randy Johnson) throw all three. For strikes, even.

I think most power pitchers keep a little in the tank for the bases loaded 2 out situations. Until they get to 3 balls and then control is more important.

Back in the 40s, 50s, and even 60s pitchers were expected to pace themselves; save their really hard stuff for crucial situations. That was the only way they could get through the nine innings that was expected of them. Nowadays, there are hardly any complete games and pitchers just throw as well as they can for 5-7 innings until the relief corps comes on.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see an evolution to the three-inning pitcher, pitching with two days rest. A complete pitching corps would have nine of them, plus a couple of relief specialists. The W-L stat would have to be revised so that pitchers would get statistical credit for their contribution, but it is already quite suspect. I saw a game this year in which the winning pitcher was the guy who pitched only 1/3 inning and gave up three runs and the lead, but was bailed out in the bottom of that inning.

I watch a LOT of baseball, around 5-6 games a week, and I have seen two people hit 100+ this year. Billy Wagner in the Astros combined no-hitter of the Yankees hit 101 or 102. Also, In the NLCS in some game, I know Josh Beckett threw one 100mph pitch to Sosa that he fouled off. It actually is fairly rare for people to throw 100mph, and it’s generally closers that are around there. And yeah, Farnsworth hovers around 100 too, but I don’t think he hit it this season.