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Breaking Down the Physics and Limitations of Pitch Speed in Baseball

The History of Pitch Speed Measurement: From Motorcycles to Radar Guns

Baseball is a game that has been played for over 150 years. Throughout this time, the way the sport is measured, tracked and analyzed has continuously changed.

One area of great significance is the measurement of pitch speed. There are two phases of pitch speed measurement that have occurred: early methods and modern technology.

The early methods consisted of measuring pitch speed with motorcycles and lumiline chronographs. The first pioneers of the sport to turn their pitching into science were Walter Johnson, Bob Feller, and Nolan Ryan.

And then came modern technology, which brought about the introduction of radar guns and Statcast technology that has revolutionized the way pitches are tracked. Aroldis Chapman, Joel Zumaya, Jordan Hicks, Ryan Pressly, and Jhoan Duran are some of the pitchers who have utilized and benefited from this modern technology.

Early Methods: Measuring Pitch Speed with Motorcycles and Lumiline Chronographs

Walter Johnson was one of the first pitchers in baseball history to have his fastball speed measured. Johnson played for the Washington Senators from 1907 to 1927, and it was in 1912 that his pitch speed was first scientifically measured.

The method was unusual: A motorcycle would race down the third base line, tracking the speed of a fastball by measuring how far behind the ball the bike was at the moment of delivery. This early use of physics and technology was very innovative and began the development of ways to accurately measure pitch speed.

Bob Feller became the next pitcher to have his speed measured, using lumiline chronographs in the mid-1940s. A lumiline chronograph is a device that uses a series of sensors and cameras to measure the time it takes for an object to travel a certain distance.

With these chronographs, Feller’s fastball was measured at an impressive 98.6 mph. However, Nolan Ryan was the pitcher who set the standard for pitch speed in the 1970s and 1980s.

Known for his fastball, Ryan had his pitch speed measured during a game in 1974. The device used was a JUGS gun, which was essentially a radar gun precursor.

Ryan’s fastball was accurately measured at 100.8 mph, an unbreakable record at that time. Modern Technology:of Radar Guns and Statcast

The 1980s saw the introduction of the Stalker radar gun, which set the foundation for today’s accurate and widespread measurement of pitch speed.

It was in this decade that pitchers began to be measured regularly on their fastball velocity using radar guns that were developed to measure the speed of moving objects. Nowadays, Statcast technology has become a whole different ball game.

Statcast is a sophisticated radar system that uses complex algorithms to track every movement on the field, including the speed of the pitch. This technology can track not only the speed of the pitch but also its spin rate, horizontal and vertical movement, and other factors.

Players can now be evaluated in more detail than ever before. The introduction of Statcast has been particularly useful in evaluating the efficacy of relief pitchers.

Pitchers Who Benefit from Modern Technology

Aroldis Chapman holds the title of throwing the fastest recorded pitch in Major League Baseball history. On September 24, 2020, Champman, who was with the New York Yankees at the time, threw a pitch that was measured at 105.1 mph, breaking his own record of 104.8 mph set in 2010.

The match was against the San Diego Padres. Joel Zumaya’s pitch speed was regularly measured at around 100 mph, and he was considered one of the hardest-throwing pitchers in baseball in the mid-2000s.

Zumaya played for the Detroit Tigers from 2006 to 2010, and in 2006 he hit 103 mph on the radar gun. Jordan Hicks came up into the league with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2018, and is another fireballing relief pitcher whose fastball velocity is frequently above 100 mph.

Ryan Pressly, who currently plays for the Houston Astros, is another modern pitcher who benefits from the accuracy of radar guns and Statcast. His average fastball velocity in 2020 was measured at 95.1 mph, one of the highest in the league.

Jhoan Duran, who currently plays for the Minnesota Twins, is a 23-year-old pitching prospect who has been making waves in the league due to his fastball, which has been measured at 101 mph.


The measurement of pitch speed has come a long way since the days of Walter Johnson’s fastball being chased by a motorcycle, to Joel Zumaya in 2006 regularly hitting 103 mph and the 2020 record-breaking pitch by Aroldis Chapman at 105.1 mph. Modern technology has brought accuracy and reliability to the measurement of pitch speed, allowing the players’ athletic abilities to be analyzed in more detail.

It is great to see how the advancements in technology have made significant contributions to the ever-improving performance of baseball athletes. 3) Fastest Pitch Possible in Baseball: Limitations of the Human Body

The speed of a pitch in baseball is a key indicator of a pitcher’s skill level.

Over the years, the way that pitch speed is measured has improved leading to higher recorded speeds. However, there is still a limit to how fast a pitch can be thrown.

The limitations of the human body can cause ligament damage when attempting to throw pitches at extreme speeds, and 110 mph is currently deemed to be close to the upper limit. Pitching speed dramatically increased in the 21st century with the introduction of pitch-tracking technologies like Statcast.

Under this system, the highest recorded speed by a pitcher is held by Aroldis Chapman – a remarkable 105.1 mph. Although many fans, some players, and coaches argue that Chapman has had many pitches thrown over 110 mph, there is yet to be any verifiable evidence to support these claims.

The pitchers who tend to throw the hardest have specific genetic traits that allow for their bodies to function differently than others. They have larger muscles in their legs and torso, as well as more flexible joints in their arms.

It is little wonder that the pitchers who top the charts for pitch speed have been found to have this physical advantage. Even with these physiological advantages, there will always be limitations when it comes to pitching speed.

For example, the strain of throwing at high velocities can have severe negative impacts on a pitcher’s body, particularly affecting the UCL ligament in their throwing elbows, a crucial component in the throwing motion. Many pitchers who have had significant success thanks to their speed have also suffered serious injuries that resulted from the stress their arm was put under.

For instance, Joel Zumaya, a former Detroit Tigers player known for his high speed, missed much of the 2007 season due to repetitive stress injuries and shoulder inflammation. Likewise, Stephen Strasburg, a pitcher for the Washington Nationals, has undergone Tommy John surgery, a surgical reconstruction of the UCL, twice in his career due to ligament damage caused by throwing at high speeds.

The highest recorded pitch speed, 105.1 mph, thrown by Aroldis Chapman does not have any known long-term negative effects on the pitcher’s arm. It is the velocity-related stress over time that can lead to the injuries that some of the hardest throwing pitchers face today.

Overall, it is within reason to assume that the fastest a human being can throw a baseball is close to 110 mph. While there have been many claims that pitchers have thrown harder than this, they are yet to be verified and consistently tracked.

With the health concerns that come with throwing a baseball at extremely high speeds, teams, coaches, and players must remain cognizant of these limitations to avoid risking severe injuries. 4) Details of Aroldis Chapman’s Pitching Record

Aroldis Chapman’s world record for the fastest pitch ever delivered in MLB history is a remarkable achievement.

Throwing at 105.1 mph on September 24, 2020, during a game against the San Diego Padres, Chapman’s record-breaking pitch underscores the importance of technology in pitching. Chapman’s extraordinary speed and endurance have always been the hallmark of his pitching career.

These qualities were first on display during his time with the Cincinnati Reds, where he impressed fans and players alike with his fastballs. Following his time with the Reds, he quickly earned a reputation for his impeccable performance while playing for the New York Yankees.

He was able to break the MLB record for a pitch speed, previously held by Bob Feller for six decades, hitting 105.1 mph. However, the record-breaking pitch has come into question recently.

Andrew McCutchen, a Philadelphia Phillies player, tweeted shortly after the game stating: “Guys I just stepped out on one of Chapmans pitches and it was 100 mph.” McCutchen’s claim put the authenticity of Chapmans record pitch into doubt and speculators began to call for the overturning of the record. The issue arose again during a game between the Yankees and the Kansas City Royals, where a pitch recorded at 102.8 mph for Chapman was adjusted to 101.3 mph.

This revision not only cast doubt on the legitimacy of Chapman’s world record for the fastest pitch, but it also highlighted the imperfections and potential inaccuracies of the technology used to measure the pitch speeds. Despite these concerns, Chapman’s record still stands as the fastest pitch ever recorded in MLB history, using standardized technology and data collection methods.

The use of technology to monitor and provide more accurate data points for every pitch thrown is transforming the sport, and pitchers like Chapman are continuously pushing the limits.

In conclusion, Aroldis Chapman’s pitch during the match against the San Diego Padres is still the fastest pitch ever recorded in MLB history, with a speed of 105.1 mph.

While Chapmans record has been called into question, there has been no definitive evidence to overturn or amend it. The use of technology to track pitch speed has brought much-needed accuracy to the sport, allowing us to appreciate the exceptional ability of pitchers capable of performing at the highest levels.

5) Fastest MLB Pitches Today: Other Pitchers Who Can Throw at High Speeds

The speed of pitches in baseball continues to increase as players become bigger, stronger, and more skilled. Many pitchers are now throwing at speeds consistently above 100 mph, adding even more excitement and intensity to the game.

Aside from Aroldis Chapman, there are several other pitchers who are known for their ability to throw hard, such as Jordan Hicks, Ryan Pressly, and Jhoan Duran. Jordan Hicks is a relief pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, and is known for consistently bombing pitches over 100 mph.

During the 2018 MLB season, Hicks had the fastest pitch of the season with a velocity of 105.1 mph. Hicks was only 22 years old at the time, and he continues to impress fans and critics alike.

Despite missing the entirety of the 2019 season due to injury, he bounced back to hit 100 mph again in 2020. Ryan Pressly is another player who can throw at exceptionally high speeds.

The Houston Astros relief pitcher has a fastball that can hit 100 mph, making him a tough pitcher to face for opposing batters. Pressly was considered one of the best relief pitchers in 2020 due to his consistent high-speed performance, his great command, and his impressive ability to strike batters out.

Jhoan Duran is an up-and-coming pitching prospect for the Minnesota Twins. The 23-year old pitcher has caught the attention of many scouts thanks to his consistent and exceptional pitching-speed performances.

His fastball has been consistently clocked over 100 mph, making him a significant player to keep an eye on. These players all have specific traits that make their pitches unnaturally fast.

They have been gifted with muscular structures, torso rotations, and arm flexibility that allows them to deliver thunderous pitches that no one else can. In addition, the point of release for these pitchers is closer to home plate than with the majority of others in the league, which makes their release more difficult to read and react to for batters.

Nevertheless, whether these pitchers can sustain performances at such high speeds without causing long-term damage or injury to their body is still a matter of consideration. The use of data analytics and medical teams is helping to mitigate the risk of injury, though the possibility of joint and ligament damage cannot be ignored.

Furthermore, while speed is an important aspect of pitching, it is not the only factor that determines a pitchers success. Pitchers who can effectively use off-speed pitches and location are just as valuable to their team as those who can throw at high speeds.

Looking beyond fastballs alone, players like Clayton Kershaw, Jacob deGrom, and Max Scherzer are known for their mix of pitches, location, and strategic placement on the field. In conclusion, while Aroldis Chapman is the leader in pitch speed at present, there are many pitchers who regularly throw pitches in excess of 100 mph, such as Jordan Hicks, Ryan Pressly, and Jhoan Duran.

Yet, the best pitchers balance speed with other essential skills such as pitch placement, breaking pitches and strategic thinking. It is hard work and performance across all of these dimensions that make a truly great MLB pitcher.

In summary, the measurement of pitch speed has evolved greatly over the years. Early methods involved motorcycles and chronographs, while modern technology has seen the advent of radar guns and Statcast.

The fastest possible pitch speed is currently estimated to be around 110 mph, with pitchers like Aroldis Chapman, Jordan Hicks, and Ryan Pressly breaking records. However, concerns about the physical limitations and long-term effects on the player’s bodies continue to be a major challenge.

Therefore, it is essential to find a balance between pitch speed and other essential pitching skills like control, location, and overall strategic thinking.


Q: Who holds the record for the fastest pitch?

A: Aroldis Chapman holds the record for the fastest pitch, clocking at 105.1 mph. Q: Are there other pitchers who can throw at high speeds besides Aroldis Chapman?

A: Yes, several pitchers can throw at high speeds, including Jordan Hicks, Ryan Pressly, and Jhoan Duran. Q: How fast can a pitch be thrown before causing ligament damage?

A: Pitchers who throw consistently above 100 mph are at risk of joint and ligament damage over time. Q: Is pitch speed the only factor that determines a pitcher’s success?

A: No, a pitcher must balance speed with other essential skills, including pitch placement, breaking pitches, and strategic thinking. Q: Has there been any verified evidence of pitchers throwing faster than 110 mph?

A: There has been no verifiable evidence yet of any pitcher throwing faster than 110 mph.

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