Sunday, September 26, 2010

Hail Aroldis, 106

This is a matter of no small importance. Whenever a new king is crowned, trumpets must blare and merriment must prevail. The KING of the FASTBALL has taken his rightful place in baseball lore. Aroldis Chapman, a 22 year old fireballer from Cuba, was clocked by radar at 105 mph and that's not in his car.

Mr. Chapman is 6-4 and lean at 179 pounds. His body is like an elastic catapult. With a stride of what seems 10 feet, he pushes off the rubber with his left arm fully extended. The ball, held at at a point most remote from the base of this human slingshot, explodes towards the hitter. Like Michael Phelps, who has a body built for swimming, Aroldis Chapman is a pitcher.

On Friday night, that is, 9/24/2010, Chapman threw 25 pitches in 1 and 1/3 innings of relief. All were fastballs and all exceeded 100 mph. That itself is quite a feat. Being well rested, Chapman related, helps his speed consistency. The 105 special was delivered against Tony Gwynn of the San Diego Padres. The pitch itself was a bit inside and was called a ball. Gwynn described himself as feeling sort of helpless facing speed like that.

Aroldis defected from the Cuban national team in 2009, while playing in a tournament in the Netherlands. The Cincinnati Reds signed him to a $30.25 million contract. Observers thought he would get a bigger, more lucrative deal from the deep pocket franchises, namely the Yankees. The Bronx Bombers made an apparent mistake. Only time will tell.

Fastball Pitchers

  • Aroldis Chapman      Reds                   2010    105
  • Joel Zumaya              Tigers                 2006    104.8
  • Mark Wohlers            Braves                1993    103
  • Armando Benitez       Mets                   2002    102
  • Jonathan Broxton      Dodgers             2009    102
  • Neftali Feliz                Rangers              2010     102
  • Bobby Jenks              White Sox          2005     102
  • Randy Johnson          Diamondbacks   2004    102
  • Matt Lindstrom          Marlins               2007    102
  • Robb Nen                   Marlins               1997     102
  • Jason Verlander         Tigers                 2007    102

"105" stands for now, of course, subject to the usual issues of speed gun accuracy, humidity and the like. Nonetheless, its stands only to be broken. Aroldis may best himself. Surely, this is not the end of the line. For fans around long enough a 90 mph fastball used to be the gold standard. Now that is downright so-so.

Now, if Arodis has charisma, if he remains drug and alcohol free, if he learns reasonable English and if he can learn to be a great pitcher, the USA may have a new hero. Lots of "ifs". But at least there is hope. In times like these with a miserable economy in a country that has lost its way, baseball heroes are needed. Like Dudley Do-Rights,

these denizens of the diamond can save the day and make people think of better times when you could go to the Park and feel good about yourself. Go Aroldis.

E cosi va...

UPDATE April 19, 2011

After three days rest, fireballer Chapman threw a fastball clocked at 106 mph. He did this in a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 17. Now that's special, but barring injury this record is temporary. Wait till he pitches in Colorado where the air is thinner by a mile.

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