Michael Pineda

Michael Pineda, Justin Verlander are 2011’s hardest throwers

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Another leaderboard today.  This one, taken from Fangraphs.com, looks at the top fastballs for this year’s starting pitchers.

1. Michael Pineda (Mariners) – 95.8 mph
2. Justin Verlander (Tigers) – 95.0
3. David Price (Rays) – 94.9
4. Alexi Ogando (Rangers) – 94.2
5. Edwin Jackson (White Sox) – 93.8
6. Josh Johnson (Marlins) – 93.8
7. Edinson Volquez (Reds) – 93.8
8. Kyle Drabek (Blue Jays) – 93.4
9. Daniel Hudson (Diamondbacks) – 93.4
10. Felix Hernandez (Mariners) – 93.4
11. Jordan Zimmermann (Nationals) – 93.2
12. Derek Holland (Rangers) – 93.2
13. Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers) – 93.1
14. Matt Garza (Cubs) – 93.0
15. Tim Lincecum (Giants) – 93.0
16. Tyler Chatwood (Angels) – 92.9
17. Jorge De La Rosa (Rockies) – 92.8
18. CC Sabathia (Yankees) – 92.8
19. Josh Beckett (Red Sox) – 92.7
20. Matt Harrison (Rangers) – 92.6

No one should be very surprised by the top names on this list. Verlander, Price, Jackson and Johnson were all in the top six last year as well. Missing, though, is last year’s No. 1, Ubaldo Jimenez. Jimenez doesn’t qualify anyway after spending time on the DL last month, but he’s all of the way down to 92.8 mph this year after averaging 96.1 mph with his fastball each of the previous two years. For what it’s worth, he has been closer to 94 mph better lately. His worst starts came while he was dealing with a cut on his thumb last month.

One nice surprise is Lincecum’s return to the list. He averaged 94 mph with his fastball when he first entered the league, but he was down to 92.4 in 2009 and 91.3 last year before getting back up to 93.0 so far this season.

Here’s a look at the bottom five:

1. Livan Hernandez (Nationals) – 83.8 mph
2. R.A. Dickey (Mets) – 84.0
3. Jeff Francis (Royals) – 85.4
4. Mark Buehrle (White Sox) – 85.4
5. Bruce Chen (Royals) – 85.9

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
Jason O. Watson/Getty Images
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.