Among my baseball friends, I freely admit that I'm a National League guy. Being a fan of the San Francisco Giants, most of the games I watch are based in the NL. It's just how it goes. But, while I understand that some sort of baseball is being played in other parts of the country -- I've heard rumors of something called the "American League" -- I tend to stick with what I know. And what I know is pitchers hitting ninth, managers often doing weird (and stupid) double-switches, bunting (oh lord, the bunting), and other various NL-related tomfoolery.
It's just how I was raised.
But, while I love to follow the NL, I do occasionally tune in to American League games. And recently while tuning in to AL baseball, I stumbled upon a Royals game. Specifically, I stumbled upon Kelvin Herrera coming out of the Royals' bullpen. Even more specifically, I stumbled upon Herrera's fastball.
According to PITCHf/x, in 2012, only two pitchers have thrown a fastball at 102 miles per hour or greater: Aroldis Chapman (five times) and Herrera (once). Think about that for a second. One-hundred-and-two miles per hour. I've never even driven that fast.
The 102 MPH Club:
Aug. 11, 2012: Aroldis Chapman, 102.7
Aug. 11, 2012: Aroldis Chapman, 102.6
July 14, 2012: Aroldis Chapman, 102.4
Aug. 21, 2012: Aroldis Chapman, 102.3
April 14, 2012: Kelvin Herrera, 102.2
July 24, 2012: Aroldis Chapman, 102.1
So, after watching this skinny, totally normal looking Royal come out of the bullpen and throw a few fastballs that registered at 100 on the radar gun, well, I was intrigued. I was fascinated. I was hooked on Herrera.
For the uninitiated, Herrera's season looks like this: 254 batters faced, 12 walks, 61 strikeouts, 2.53 ERA, 2.61 FIP. By FanGraphs -- which grabs its numbers from the PITCHf/x system -- Herrera's average fastball of 98.6 mph is the fastest average fastball in the game this season. On his heels is Aroldis Chapman at 97.8 mph, of course. While Herrera is capable of throwing extremely hard, he's also doing something else: He’s generating a ton of groundballs. Among qualified relievers in baseball, Herrera's groundball rate (GB%) of 58.5 percent is 16th best in the majors. Impressive stuff for a 22-year-old in his first full season of baseball.
Even though a lot of things haven't gone right this year for the Royals -- Eric Hosmer's disappointing year, Jonathan Sanchez being allowed to commit pitching crimes against humanity -- Herrera's season (and fastball) are like tasty croutons in a yuck salad.
He's the reason why baseball always surprises, because there's always something that's going to catch your attention.
I know I'll be watching and hoping for just a few more 100s, 101s, and maybe even a couple of 102s.
Chris Quick writes about the Giants at Bay City Ball.