One of the most dangerous weapons for a pitcher is a power fastball that can simply overpower opposing hitters. The league average for fastball speed tends to sit between 95 and 96 mph, and any pitcher who even occasionally can reach 97 or 98 mph is considered among the best of the group.
Those numbers, however, pale in comparison to the speeds being posted by pitchers in recent years. Since 2011, the total number of pitches to hit triple-digit speeds has increased by nearly 400%, and has grown by close to 2000% since 2008.
That figure has ballooned immensely since the arrival to the United States and the Major Leagues of left-handed relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman. The 28-year-old defected from Cuba in 2009 and, after playing six seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, signed with the New York Yankees before being traded to the Chicago Cubs en route to their first World Series title in 108 seasons.
During Chapman’s seven-year career, there have been 4,495 pitches of 100 mph or faster thrown throughout the entire league. Of those, 43.2% (1942/4495) have been delivered by the arm of Chapman, nicknamed “The Cuban Missile” by fans and the media.
This past offseason, the Yankees signed Chapman to a five-year deal worth $86 million to be their closer. As he continues to get regular work in the Bronx, expect that 100 mph-plus pitch count — both for Chapman individually and the league as a whole — to continue to skyrocket.