In picking up the save in Friday’s 4-1 Yankees win over the Mets in the opener of the Subway Series, Aroldis Chapman threw “only” two fastballs of 100 miles per hour or more.
The first was a 100.4-mph ball to Todd Frazier. The second was the final pitch of the game, a 100.3-mph heater that potential tying run Jay Bruce skied to right.
We said “only two” because Chapman is the king of the 100-mph fastball. In fact, until May 20, Chapman was the only pitcher to have ever thrown a verified 105-mph pitch.
That changed when St. Louis Cardinals rookie righthander Jordan Hicks threw a pair of 105-mph fastballs in an at-bat against Philadelphia’s Odubel Herrera. The at-bat went like this: 104, 105, 104, 105 and 103. Herrera struck out but reached first base on a wild pitch.
According to MLB.com’s Statcast, those five pitches in that one at-bat were the five fastest this year going into Saturday’s games. Chapman has the sixth-fastest, a 103-mph pitch that hit Boston’s Jackie Bradley Jr. on May 8 (ouch!).
Statcast has Hicks and Chapman combining to throw the 49 of the 50 fastest pitches this season. Tayron Guerrero of the Marlins threw a 101.8-mph fastball on April 30 that stands tied for No. 47.
Here’s the funny thing about Hicks: Even though he throws really, really hard, he doesn’t strike out that many batters. After striking out one batter in a one-inning outing against the Reds on Friday, Hicks has 21 strikeouts in 32 innings. That with an average fastball speed of 99.5 mph.
Chapman, who earned his 16th save on Friday, has struck out 46 in 26 2⁄3 innings. His average fastball velocity is 98.9 this season.
“I’m not trying to throw 105,” Chapman said through a translator. “I’m not trying to throw 103 or 102. To me, it’s just going out there and doing my job. Some days, the velocity is higher. Some of the days, it’s not. It’s not a goal of mine to go out there and throw 105. It just happens.”
Chapman’s recorded 105 was on July 19, 2016, on an outside pitch to Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy that went for a ball. Hicks’ two 105-mph pitches produced a ball to the backstop and a foul hit by Herrera.
“I can’t explain it,” Hicks told reporters after the game. “I don’t know. I just try to gear up and throw.”
Said Chapman: “It was everywhere. Everybody had a good chance to see the video of that. He’s a talented young pitcher and I think it’s just going to keep on happening. Nowadays you see more guys throwing 100. You’re seeing guys throw 103, 104. So I just think it’s the time where we are in baseball now. Guys are throwing harder.”
Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo knows what it’s like to face Chapman and Hicks.
“You have to be really ready,” he said.
Nimmo singled off the St. Louis reliever on Opening Day and was hit by a Chapman pitch (96.3 mph) leading off the ninth inning on Friday.
“Hicks has such an electric arm that that’s what creates his deception with his velocity,” Nimmo said. “It’s like a quick, electric arm. Chapman is more like that Noah [Syndergaard] body where it’s like it’s halfway to you when he’s letting go.”
Chapman is also credited with throwing a 105.1-mph pitch as a rookie to Tony Gwynn Jr. in September 2010. That was according to the scoreboard radar gun at San Diego’s Petco Park and pre-Statcast pitchf/x data. Statcast wasn’t installed in all 30 big-league ballparks until 2015.
Chapman was so proud of that pitch that he got a flaming baseball with “105.1” tattooed on his left (pitching) wrist. Or at least that’s the legend. Chapman said he had another reason to get that tattoo.
“Actually, I had something else there, another tattoo,” Chapman said. “I wanted to cover it.”