Long/Cole: Do hard-throwing relievers really pitch better?

From Jeffrey Long and Bryan Cole at Beyond the Box Score on August 20, 2014:

I remember the first time I was blown away by how hard a pitcher threw. It was back in July of 1999, at the then young Camden Yards with the Orioles taking on the Toronto Blue Jays. A young kid by the name of Billy Koch came into the game in the ninth and began warming up. I loved going to Orioles’ games like any good Baltimore youngster would. This would be the first time though that the pitching stole the show from my otherwise unfazed love of hitting.

Koch toed the rubber as Will Clark stepped to the plate. Clark lofted a single to left field on the first pitch, and I thought for a brief moment that we were in store for some of that patented Oriole magic. Fan favorite BJ Surhoff sauntered up to the plate, working the count full 3-2. Then Koch unfurled a fastball, that made Surhoff look like a little leaguer. My eyes darted to the scoreboard where one number lit up and blew my mind: 104 mph. Rich Amaral had pinch run for Will Clark and he was unceremoniously thrown out at 2nd base because stealing on a 104 mph fastball is generally ill-advised.

Koch would go on to find himself in a full count against Albert Belle. Before another heater, this time 103 mph, set Belle down and secured the win for the Blue Jays. It was disappointing for the Orioles fan in me, but seeing 103 and 104 mph on that scoreboard stuck with me forever.

Many years later I now know that those numbers likely weren’t 100% accurate, but the concept of elite velocity has always intrigued me. Just last week I read an article that Jonah Keri and Neil Paine wrote on FiveThirtyEight about the growing trend of high velocity pitchers in the game.

Read the full article here: http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2014/8/20/6044553/do-hard-throwing-relievers-really-pitch-better

Originally published: August 20, 2014. Last Updated: August 20, 2014.