Baseball has seen a rise in the prominence of strikeouts and velocity and spin rates in recent years. More and more pitchers are throwing 100 mph and the velocity of the average pitch has risen nearly one mile per hour over the last decade. One of the poster boys of this rise is Cardinals releiver Jordan Hicks who has been clocked at 105 mph. While this is impressive, he is not the only one who can bring the heat in St. Louis. Additionally, the Cardinals also deploy some pitchers who have experienced a good amount of success with the pitch despite lacking elite velocity. This article will examine which pitchers throw the hardest fastballs, have the best spin rates, and have the best results with the pitch.
Hardest Fastballs (on average)
Jordan Hicks: 101.1 mph
Ryan Helsley: 97.8 mph
Junior Fernandez: 96.8 mph
Carlos Martinez: 96.6 mph
Genesis Cabrera: 96.4 mph
Top Starter - Jack Flaherty: 94.3 mph
Unsurprisingly, four of the top five flamethrowers in the organization are 25 years old or younger and the top starter is also under 25 years old. This could indicate a bright future for the Cardinals pitching staff as they have plenty of young dynamic arms. Additionally, Jordan Hicks was not included on this list because he only threw three innings last year. However, in that small sample size, his fastball averaged 97 mph which would have put him third on this list.
Best Spin Rate
John Gant: 2520 rpm
Ryan Helsley: 2510 rpm
Giovanny Gallegos: 2428 rpm
John Brebbia: 2389 rpm
Daniel Ponce de Leon: 2335 rpm
Top Starter - Miles Mikolas: 2303 rpm
Interestingly, Ryan Helsley is the only pitcher in the top five in fastball velocity and in the top five in spin rate. The others on this list are not soft tossers, but they do not throw hard enough to make it onto the top five in average fastball velocity. However, they still have plenty of velocity, but they also have the best spin rates on the major league roster.
Best Results (.wOBA allowed)
Giovanni Gallegos: .250
Tyler Webb: .251*
Jack Flaherty: .265
John Gant: .267*
Daniel Ponce de Leon: .280
Best starter - Miles Mikolas: .305
*average of fastball and sinker
A notable player that was left off of this list due to a small sample size is Jordan Hicks who allowed just a .255 wOBA against his fastball. Interestingly, Gallegos, Gant, and Ponce de Leon were among the top five in both spin rate and results while Mikolas was the top starter in both of those categories as well. However, Hicks and Flaherty were also in the top five of velocity and results (Hicks would have been top five in results if he had a larger sample size)
It is unsurprising that the pitchers who tallied the best results with their fastballs either had a top five spin rate or a top five velocity, with the exception of Tyler Webb. Velocity and spin rate seem to be very important factors for the success of the pitch, and while Tyler Webb was able to be successful without being top five in either, he did allow a .350 wOBA with his fastball in 2018. This may have simply been one good year for Webb while the other pitchers on this list will likely be able to maintain a similar level of success with the pitch.
There is a lot more experience on the list of pitchers with the best results with their fastballs. However, Flaherty and Gallegos are still young and the previous two lists were filled with players under 25 years old. This should bode well for the Cardinals future on the mound, as they have plenty of young pitchers capable of generating high velocities and high spin rates.