FanDuel - WFBC

April 12, 2005

Why can't anyone throw a baseball faster than 100 mph?: In almost every measurable physical activity, athletes show improvement over time. Pitchers, though, don't seem to be getting any faster.

posted by dusted to baseball at 02:12 PM - 16 comments

This was a great article. I read it yesterday and did some more digging. There is some fascinating stuff on the web concerning the physics of pitching. Many of the most common pitching injuries can be traced to poor pitching posture. Amazing our bodies can endure such stress.

posted by pgrote at 08:32 PM on April 12

speaking of pitching injuries, i haven't picked it up yet but will carrol's book saving the pitcher is supposed to be pretty good.

posted by goddam at 09:20 PM on April 12

The limits of human anatomy sounds like a convincing argument. In over 150 years of first class cricket, no-one has bowled a delivery more than 100 mph either, and the fastest modern bowlers (Akhtar of Pakistan and Lee of Australia) have all their deliveries measured, and regularly approach the figure, but haven't yet exceeded it. Although legendary Aboriginal fast bowler Eddie Gilbert was said to have sent one past the wicketkeeper, through the boundary fence and killed a passing dog...

posted by owlhouse at 11:18 PM on April 12

Not quite true. Akhtar has broken the 100mph barrier.

posted by salmacis at 05:01 AM on April 13

(After all, the umpire didn't call chucking at the time, so it stands in the record books, right?)

posted by salmacis at 05:05 AM on April 13

great googly moogly!

posted by scully at 08:04 AM on April 13

I know its only anecdotal evidence, but... In 1958 Dalkowski was invited to the Orioles' camp in Miami. One day that spring Ted Williams was lurking around the batting cage and decided to see this Dalkowski kid for himself. The Splendid Splinter stepped into the batter's box, watched one pitch fly by and stepped out of the cage, muttering to reporters that he'd be damned if he would face Dalkowski until he had to. Williams told Dalkowski he hadn't even seen the ball -- he'd just heard the pop of the catcher's glove. Steve Dalkowski was according to many of the best baseball men of the age, the fastest pitcher that ever lived. This is a great catch-up piece on Dalkowski, the real-life basis for Nuke LaLoosh from "Field of Dreams".

posted by wfrazerjr at 09:27 AM on April 13

i have a friend Russell Sexton, who has not thrown a ball in four years. Last tuesday at the new florence freedom farm league stadium he through an impressive 96 mph. i dont know about you all but i think a couple months he could be in the 100 class

posted by bengalsnation at 10:45 AM on April 13

I saw Eric Gagne throw a 100 mph pitch on a few occassions. Also Rob Nen of Miami hit 101 a few times in the playoffs in 1997 for the Florida Marlins. But remember this, back in the old days, the mound was flat. Todays pitchers get a kick off of the raised mound to produce more leg drive which helps velocity. That makes what guys like Bob Feller and Bob Gibson look even more impressive.

posted by bluekarma at 10:57 AM on April 13

you'd think that, all arm-breaking torque being equal, that cricketers might have a chance to add a few more mph with their run up. mind you they are coming to a stop when they release.

posted by gspm at 11:59 AM on April 13

i dont know about you all but i think a couple months he could be in the 100 class Or, he could be having Tommy John surgery by then...could be either.

posted by chris2sy at 01:26 PM on April 13

That makes what guys like Bob Feller and Bob Gibson look even more impressive. You have it backwards there. The mound was lowered in 1968 to its current height. From 15" to 10 ". Gibson and Feller had the advantage, not today's pitchers.

posted by pivo at 07:57 PM on April 13

Excuse me, but last year, Barry Bonds did connect with an Eric Gagne 102mph pitch. To the moon it went (foul of course). Gagne and the likes of Nolan Ryan and probably a couple of more legendary pitchers are the elite few who can (or could) consistently pitch on a whim, over 100mph. As far as "one time peak pitches" go, I bet we will see a measured 104/105mph pitch, but nothing faster, at least in our lifetimes.

posted by jandr at 05:37 AM on April 14

Speed might not have changed much, but doesn't it seem like pitchers are throwing harder, you don't see too many finesse stoppers or closers. Is it harder pitching or cheaper wood, or both that is causing the higher rate of broken bats?

posted by Nunosabe at 07:48 AM on April 14

Bonds does steroids, Eric doesn't. That is impressive. And the mound was flat in the old days. Look at those old black and white film clips. Bob Feller pitched off a flat surface.

posted by bluekarma at 11:04 AM on April 14

And the mound was flat in the old days. Look at those old black and white film clips. Bob Feller pitched off a flat surface. The really old days maybe (when it was 45 feet from the plate).

"Additional history of the pitching mound comes from statistician Bill Deane, who informs, "The first mention of the mound in the official baseball rules appears in 1903. Installed "to prevent trickery," Rule 1, Section 2 required that "the pitcher's plate shall not be more than 15 inches higher than the base lines or home plate." The height was reduced to ten inches in 1969. Obviously, mounds were in use before they were standardized. Speculation is that they evolved as a matter of groundskeeping practice, for better drainage and water absorption. After overhand pitching was legislated in 1884, pitchers undoubtedly found the mounds to be an advantage: the downward weight-shift and momentum enable them to generate greater velocity on their pitches. John Montgomery Ward, who pitched in the major leagues 1878-84, supposedly took credit in later years for the innovation of the pitchers' mound." Source
This certainly happened before Bob Feller was pitching. My guess it's a trick of perspective in black and white that makes it appear more flat than today.

posted by trox at 12:52 PM on April 14

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