Of the 388 fastballs that have traveled at least 100 miles per hour this season, Reds closer Aroldis Chapman has fired 283 of them. Chapman is the undisputed king of the heater, and his four-seamer is averaging a blistering 100.3 miles per hour in 2014. Just three other pitchers have fired more than four triple-digit fastballs. Their names are Kelvin Herrera, Yordano Ventura and Carlos Martinez. How have these pitchers fared in 2014?
As a group, these three pitchers have thrown a total of 263 innings with 30 starts in between them. Over that sample, they have collective strikeout and walk rates of 20.6 percent and 9.3 percent with an ERA of 3.39. Here's their individual numbers.
Overall it's not that exciting. Ventura is the only one that has spent the whole year in the rotation. Herrera has never made a big league start, though he's generally been a quality reliever. Martinez has struggled greatly with left-handed hitters, and has spent time between Triple-A and the big leagues, making a total of seven starts with the Cardinals.
The Kansas City Royals moved Herrera to the pen in 2010, and he was in the big leagues by 2011. In nearly 200 major league innings, he's posted an xFIP that's about half a run better than the major league average, with an ERA that's almost a full run better. Though the ERA is still low, Herrera hasn't been quite as proficient at striking out hitters as he was last season when he posted a K-rate of 30.2 percent. His strikeout rate of 21.1 percent is a touch below the average for relievers, and his 97 xFIP is rather ordinary. He utilizes his heater on 70 percent of his pitches, relying mostly on a changeup with the occasional curveball mixed in. The curve has never been too effective at getting swings and misses. Of these three pitchers, Herrera has been the most effective, and he throws the hardest with an average fastball velocity of 97.9 miles per hour.
Ventura has been solid, even though he doesn't rack up the strikeouts that you might expect from a pitcher that possesses the highest average fastball velocity among qualifying starters. He's maintained his velocity throughout the season, but post All-Star break, he's been hit pretty hard. In those six starts, Ventura has walked 11.5 percent of hitters while striking out 18.8 percent. His ERA sits at 4.21, with his FIP and xFIP in the mid fours. The Royals rookie flamethrower has four pitches with a whiff rate of greater than 10 percent, but with the exception of his cutter, hitters have managed at least a 92 wRC+ against each of his offerings. Of the 29 heaters he's juiced up to triple digits, just one has gone for a hit, but at the same time, half of them have been taken for balls. He lights up a radar gun, and his platoon splits are very manageable, but right now he's a lot more solid than spectacular.
Martinez' Achilles' heel has been left-handed hitters. In 196 plate appearances, lefties have hit .318/.402/.479 against Martinez with strikeout and walk rates of 11.2 percent and 11.7 percent, respectively. A big reason for that is his lack of a changeup. He throws it approximately three percent of the time. While his fastball and slider combination have dominated right-handers, his overall numbers are rather average. At times he'll look invincible, as he did during the Cardinals 2013 playoff run. But, as a starter, his FIP and xFIP are each a shade over 4.00, albeit in only 37 innings.
This isn't to say that fastball velocity isn't important. Steve Staude's pitching tool shows a base correlation between fastball velocity and ERA of -.29. The base correlation between fastball velocity and strikeout rate is .46. For an individual pitcher, the correlation may be even stronger. However, simply being able to touch triple digits doesn't make a pitcher unhittable, or even particularly effective. None of these pitchers have been able to develop a full repertoire. With the exception of a select few pitchers who possess two dynamite pitches, it takes three pitches to get through a major league lineup. To this point, the ability to hit triple digits hasn't made these hurlers dominant.
. . .
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