clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Is Yordano Ventura the hardest-throwing starting pitcher ever?

Yordano Ventura brings the heat. Is he the hardest throwing starting pitcher ever?

Pool

The fastest recorded fastball belongs to Aroldis Chapman and his 105.1 mile per hour heater on September 24, 2010. Old salts such as Nolan Ryan will dispute that velocity, and Bob Feller or 'Rapid Rob' reportedly got his heater up to 104. Then there's Steve Dalkowski who never made a major league appearance but threw a baseball right through a wall. And don't forget Sidd Finch, the yogi who could gas it up to 168 miles per hour.

Yordano Ventura can't get to 168, and he can't throw 105 either. But, he might be the hardest-throwing starting pitcher in baseball history. No doubt Ryan would disagree, but average fastball velocity data only goes back to 2002, at least in the public sphere.

Since 2002, no starting pitcher has recorded a higher average fastball velocity than Ventura, and it isn't particularly close. His fastball checked in at 96.9 miles per hour. Second place on that list belonged to Garrett Richards, who averaged 96.3 miles per hour this year. If the minimum innings bar is lowered to 50 innings, the 2010 version of Stephen Strasburg appears ahead of Ventura. Strasburg sat at 97.3 miles per hour in his electric debut season. That's a much smaller sample, and post Tommy John surgery Strasburg's fastball has settled in around the 95-96 range.

With regards to high-octane heat, Ventura far outpaced Richards, or any other starting pitcher in baseball. Ventura hurled 545 fastballs of at least 98 miles per hour. Only Aroldis Chapman threw more. Teammate Kelvin Herrera came in at third with 454 such pitches, albeit in a much smaller sample. Nathan Eovaldi and Richards were the next closest starting pitchers with 114 and 84 of these heaters, respectively.

On these pitches Ventura managed a whiff rate of exactly 10 percent. He allowed just four extra-base hits with the super-heat. One of these was a home run by Carlos Santana. The other three were doubles by Elvis Andrus and Josh Phegley and a triple by Seth Smith. In addition, he allowed 18 singles. Overall, batters recorded hits on just 3.3 percent of these pitches, compared to 6.4 percent on all of his other pitches.

On the whole, Ventura was a rather average pitcher. He posted a 99 xFIP-. Ventura struck out 20.3 percent of hitters, which is just a hair better than the major league average for a starting pitcher. His K-BB percentage of 11.5 percent was a little lower than the MLB average. Even in the minor leagues Ventura has never posted very high strikeout rates. The fastball is fascinating, but with the exception of his cutter, he doesn't have a reliable secondary pitch.

Yordano Ventura is a horse of a different breed. He's the hardest-throwing starting pitcher in baseball and it's not even close. In fact, he might be the hardest-throwing starting pitcher in the history of baseball. There's no foolproof way to verify that, and a bunch of old salts would have qualms with that statement, but nobody brings the heat like Yordano. Appreciate that, because on the whole he's only a little better than the average hurler.

. . .

Stats courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Savant

Chris Moran is a former college baseball player at Wheaton College and current third-year law student at Washington University in St. Louis. He's also an assistant baseball coach at Wash U. In addition to Beyond The Box Score, he contributes at Gammons Daily. He went to his first baseball game at age two. Follow him on Twitter@hangingslurves.