Averaging a cool 99.1 mph with his fastball, Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera has taken over as the league’s hardest thrower since being called up last month.
Here’s the top 10, according to Fangraphs data:
99.1 – Herrera
98.6 – Andrew Cashner (Padres)
98.4 – Henry Rodriguez (Nationals)
96.8 – Nate Jones (White Sox)
96.8 – Alexi Ogando (Rangers)
96.7 – Pedro Strop (Orioles)
96.4 – Aroldis Chapman (Reds)
96.3 – Jason Motte (Cardinals)
96.0 – Esmil Rogers (Rockies)
96.0 – Craig Kimbrel (Braves)
The top starter on the list is Stephen Strasburg at 95.7. Obviously, Strasburg and a few other starters could average in the high-90s for an inning like some of these relievers, but they have to pace themselves to go six or seven innings.
Herrera, a 22-year-old righty out of the Dominincan Republic, generates his big velocity despite standing just 5-foot-10. He has a 3.31 ERA and a 15/3 K/BB ratio in 16 1/3 innings since joining the Royals.
Interesting is that, to this point anyway, Herrera has used his fastball less than any other pitcher on this list, throwing it just 55 percent of the time. Cashner and Rodriguez are both over 70 percent fastballs. Chapman throws his 84 percent of the time.
You hear a lot about pitchers tipping pitches. It’s often offered up post-facto as an excuse for poor performance by the pitcher himself or his own team. It’s sort of like the “best shape of my life” thing being offered in the offseason to talk about why the player got injured or played badly the previous year. “Smitty’s stuff is still great, he was just tipping his pitches,” said a source close to the player whose stuff is not really great anymore.
Which isn’t to say that pitchers don’t tip pitches. Of course they do. Opposing teams look for it, pick up on it and take advantage of it whenever they can. It’s just that (a) the opposing team has an interest in not talking about it, lest the pitcher STOP tipping its pitches; and (b) the guy actually tipping his pitches doesn’t want to talk specifically about it lest he starts doing it again.
Which is what makes this article at Sports Illustrated so interesting. In it Tom Verducci talks to an anonymous Houston Astros player who explains how Dodgers starter Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches during the World Series, leading to him getting absolutely shellacked in Games 3 and 7. The upshot: the Astros knew when a slider or a cutter was coming, they waited for it and they teed off.
Darvish is a free agent now. I’m guessing, whoever signs him, knows exactly what they’ll gave him work on the first day of spring training.