How Aroldis Chapman Threw The Fastest Pitch Ever

08/28/2016 09:04 pm ET Updated May 23, 2017
Aroldis Chapman Delivers a Fastball for the Cincinnati Reds in 2010
By SD Dirk on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as "Aroldis Chapman") [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Aroldis Chapman Delivers a Fastball for the Cincinnati Reds in 2010

If you are a fan of baseball at all, you have heard the name Aroldis Chapman. The reason that Aroldis Chapman is so well known is because of the way that he pitches. He was recorded throwing a fastball that reached 105 mph. This is the fastest pitch that has ever been recorded. He has been nicknamed the Cuban Flame Thrower or the Cuban Missile and if you have ever seen him pitch, you know why.

Even if you are not a fan of baseball, Chapman is definitely someone that you should take the time to watch pitch. His delivery is like no one else’s as it is smooth and solid. He has now thrown the fastest pitch ever and chances are that he will break that record again.

Chapman’s History

Chapman is a Cuban-American who started out pitching for the Cuban National baseball team. In 2009 he defected from Cuba and then signed his first major league contract with the Cincinnati Reds in 2010. He made his major league baseball debut during the 2010 season. Since the beginning of his career he has been on 4 straight national all star teams from 2012 through 2015.

During the most recent offseason, Chapman was traded to the New York Yankees. During the 2016 season, the Yankees then traded him to the Cubs, where he is currently pitching.

Currently, Aroldis Chapman holds the record for the fastest recorded pitch in the history of major league baseball at a speed of 105.1 mph. He has also thrown a pitch that reached 106 mph in a different game, but this speed has been disputed, so the current record sits at 105.1 mph. It is important to note that there are some people who think that the radars that are used to record pitches during a game often add up to 5 mph to a pitches speed. However, Chapman has repeatedly thrown the ball over a hundred miles per hour, which is a truly impressive feat.

In addition, Chapman holds the record for striking out the most batters in relief appearances. He has struck out at least one batter throughout 49 consecutive appearances. His streak started on August 21st, 2013 and lasted 49 games with the final game being on the 13th of August in 2014. This broke the previous record of 40 consecutive games set by Bruce Sutter.

Chapman’s Pitching Style

Many people are left questioning how a person can throw a baseball that fast. When watching Chapman pitch you can see that he is using his entire body in order to throw the baseball. Chapman’s throwing motion is entirely fluid with no violence at all. He starts out slowly, uses an entirely fluid motion, and then the ball just fires out of his hand. During this process Chapman has to coordinate many moving parts and this could lead to inconsistency.

Additionally, his pitch speed could pose an injury risk to his arm over time. However, Chapman has developed more consistency since his first few seasons when he was walking more batters. This development of consistency could arguably make him one of the greatest closers of all time.

Since Chapman is solely used as a closing pitcher, typically only pitching one to three innings per game, it is likely that he will continue to be able to throw pitches over the 100 mph hour mark for several years to come. Unlike starting pitchers who tend to pitch more innings and thus wear out their pitching arms at a much faster rate.

Science Behind the Fastball

When a pitcher throws a baseball it is not his muscle mass that determines how fast the ball will go. The true determination of how fast a pitch is thrown has to do with the torque put on the pitcher’s body. Elite fastball throwing pitchers such as Aroldis Chapman maximize their effort and thus can throw pitches of over 100 miles per hour.

It almost seems that there is some type of imaginary boundary that prevents even the most elite pitchers from being able to pitch at speeds much faster than this. The main reason that pitchers struggle to throw the ball faster than 100 miles per hour is because once that speed is reached additional mass does not help you throw the ball any faster. It has been calculated that there are around 80 newton-meters of torque acting on the elbow of the pitcher when throwing a ball at 100 mph. If any more torque is placed on the elbow it would likely snap.

The Art of Pitching

When considering the speed of a fastball, one must also think about the mechanics and the science behind throwing the ball. First, when a pitcher throws a ball he knows that it will hit the ground eventually. It is simply the law of gravity. With this being said, a pitcher also knows that in order to make the ball go further before it hits the ground, he has to find a way to keep it in the air for longer. The way that you keep a ball in the air longer is to increase the angle of the throw. Even the fastest pitches can drop as much as 2 feet before it reaches the catcher.

This is the reason that the pitchers throw from a mound. The pitcher’s mound sits 10 inches above home plate. The slope is 6 inches from the front of the mound that comes to a point at 6 feet towards home plate. Even with this mound in place a pitcher still must aim a bit higher than where he wants the ball to go. Pitchers know that when the ball reaches an upward velocity of zero it will begin to drop.

Understanding the mechanics of throwing a baseball including the science of how to keep the ball where you want it are just a few of the things that go into pitching a ball over 100 mph. It is important to keep in mind just how difficult throwing a ball over 100 mph really is.

Consider the fact that the benchmark velocity of top pitchers is the 90 mph fastball. This pitch travels at a speed of 132 feet/second. This means that a batter has about 0.4167 seconds to react to the pitch. Increasing this speed to 105 mph borders on being unthinkable to hit, but it also explains why many pitchers are successful without hitting the triple digit speeds.

Since we know that many exceptional pitchers can reach speeds of over 90 mph, it provides a bit of a range to work with. Just like we know a person is not ever going to run a mile in 30 seconds, there are physical limits on how fast a ball can be thrown.

It comes down to simple physics. When a baseball is released from the pitcher’s hand it has about a sixth horsepower of energy. An hp second is the energy of a one horsepower motor running for a second. This could lift 550 pounds a foot.

If the throwing of a baseball takes .11 seconds, the average force behind the ball is 12 pounds. This is the equivalent of 40 Gs or 40 times gravity. This means that a pitcher is transmitting 1.5 hp to the ball. With his entire body in motion, the actual power is closer to 3 hp. It takes approximately 20 lbs of muscle in order to generate 1 hp, so 3 hp is generated by just using the upper body. This is where leg strength comes into play.

How Aroldis Chapman Throws a Fastball

When considering the history of baseball there have been many elite pitchers who have been able to throw 100 mph fastballs. Bob Feller and Nolan Ryan are two classic power pitchers that most baseball fans have at least heard of. Each of these pitchers have something in common, the fastball. These elite pitchers have perfected the art of throwing the ball as fast as possible, which makes it almost impossible to hit.

The question then becomes, how does Aroldis Chapman consistently throw over 100 mph? What does he do that these other elite pitchers did not? Throughout the history of baseball it has been seen that throwing a 90 mph fastball is typically good enough. After all, the reaction time to hit a ball going that fast has to be nearly perfect. This may be one of the reasons that we have not seen pitchers improving their speeds over time. That is until recently.

Aroldis Chapman is reinventing the game. He has shown that throwing a ball over 100 mph is possible and he does it with control. The way that he does this has a lot to do with his pitching style. When it comes to pitching a ball that fast it is all about how the body is positioned and used. As seen from the science above, it takes a lot of power to throw a ball that fast and this power cannot come from the upper body alone. The entire weight of the body must be used in order to get the torque needed to throw the baseball that fast.

When it comes to explaining how Chapman does it, one could say that he is very flexible throughout his hips and torso. In addition, it has been seen that Chapman has a lot of strength in his glutes, which he has learned how to use to his advantage.

While many people have long thought that arm strength is the most important thing for pitching, this is not really the case. The arm is actually relaxed throughout the pitching motion until the ball is released. When you watch Chapman closely you can see that when his front leg hits the mound, the leg, glutes, and muscles in the hip are contracted immediately and quite forcefully. This contraction of all of his lower body muscles drive a large amount of force up through his shoulder. Keeping his arm relaxed then creates a stretch in his throwing arm.

During the process, which happens quite quickly, Chapman will block off the opposite side of his body while flexing his trunk forward. This increases his stretch further, which results in a rapid release of energy through the throwing arm. The force then quickly propels the pitch towards the catcher at speeds that are breaking records.

When watching Chapman pitch it is easy to see that he is quite flexible. His entire pitching motion is more fluid than almost any other pitchers that you will watch. He uses his entire body to his advantage and this is how he is able to throw the fastest pitch ever.

Can Anyone Learn to Throw Like Chapman?

Like any great baseball player, Chapman now has a fan base wondering if they can learn to throw a fastball just like him. In short the answer is yes. Individuals who are looking to improve their fastballs can learn a lot from the way that Chapman pitches. His fluid movements are key to throwing a ball as fast as he does.

Chapman has shown that pitching is not all about arm strength and ability. Learning to throw a fastball takes the entire body. When training to pitch it is important to train the entire body from the arms to the feet as every muscle is equally important when it comes to the art of pitching.

As with any sport, practice makes perfect. Learning the art of throwing a ball consistently every time is the first step. Once you can throw a pitch consistently, you can then begin working on your speed. A strong, fluid, full body motion is what is necessary for pitching. Individuals who have strength, flexibility, and control will find that they can improve their speeds and accuracy with time.

Justin Arndt is the author of the upcoming book, Lose Weight Fast: Weight Loss Secrets of Professional Athletes. He is also the Senior Editor at https://loseweight.io.

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