Here at Blazing Fastball we love pitchers who can pound the catcher’s mitt at 100 miles per hour. But imagine how the hitters feel about it. Standing in the batters’ box facing that screaming missile has to be intimidating even for the best sluggers in the world. So it is no wonder that hitters very rarely hit a home run off a 100+mph pitch.
In fact it has only happened 3 times since PITCHf/x records began being kept in 2008. That is nearly six full seasons worth of games and a total of 1,772 Blazing Fastballs thrown. That means a 100+mph pitch gets jacked only once every 600 chances. Pitches of less than 100mph get deposited in the seats roughly once every 100 chances. Big difference.
The first player to hit a Blazing Fastball into the seats was Paul Konerko on June 26th of 2010. It came on a 100.0mph heater thrown by Cubs right-hander Andrew Cashner. Konerko is a veteran slugger with 431 career big flies, so there is no shame for Cashner in having his pure heat turned around so quickly. The downside is that it gave the White Sox the lead in the bottom of the 8th inning in a crosstown matchup and the Southsiders went on to win the game in front of a raucous crowd. The ball traveled a whopping 419 feet over the wall in left field. Watch the video here:
Konerko was drafted in the 1st round of the 1994 draft by the Dodgers. He broke into the majors with the Dodgers in 1997 but only played 8 games. He played another 49 games in Dodger blue in 1998 before being traded to the Cincinnati Reds for All Star closer Jeff Shaw. This was a memorable trade because it happened just a couple days before the All Star game and Shaw was the Reds’ only All Star that year, so due to the trade the Reds ended up with nobody at the All Star game even though there is a rule that every team must be represented in the Midsummer Classic. Shaw wore a Dodger uniform at the game even though he had never thrown a pitch for them. Konerko went on to play in only 26 games for the Reds before being traded again. It turned out that the Reds had another excellent young first baseman named Sean Casey. Neither player could field another position, so the Reds had to make a choice. They chose to keep Casey, who went on to be a fan favorite in Cincinnati. The Reds traded Konerko to the White Sox for Mike Cameron, whom they later traded for Ken Griffey Jr..
Konerko went to Chicago and put together a great career that might get him inducted into the Hall of Fame some day. In 2009 Konerko and Jermaine Dye hit back-to-back home runs which were the 300th career home runs for both of them, the only time in baseball history that has happened. In 2010 Konerko was hit in the face by a pitch from Twins pitcher Carl Pavano, he refused to leave the game and hit a home run off Pavano in his next at-bat. How is that for revenge? That says something about Konerko’s toughness while saying something else about Pavano’s fastball. Konerko is a 6-time All Star.
Andrew Cashner was a flamethrowing rookie reliever for the Cubs that 2010 season. He only managed to throw 2 Blazing Fastballs that year (hey, 99% of pitchers didn’t throw any) and one of them left the yard thanks to Mr. Konerko.
Cashner was a 1st round pick in the 2008 draft. He pitched three seasons in the minors and only gave up three home runs total. Cashner missed most of the 2011 season with injuries, then was traded to the Padres for the 2012 campaign. He managed to launch a very impressive 61 Blazing Fastballs that season, which was the 3rd highest total in baseball. One of those missiles even reached 102.0mph! But once again Cashner ran into a little misfortune as you can see by watching this video:
(click the box below to see the video, this one wouldn’t embed)
That’s right, Cashner also gave up the 2nd home run blasted off a 100mph fastball. This one was 100.5mph, which makes it the fastest pitch ever hit for a home run in the PITCHf/x era. Like the earlier homer by Konerko, this crank also came in the bottom of the 8th and gave the opposing team the lead. This time the batter was Cardinals’ infielder Tyler Green, a light-hitting utility player who has hit only 17 career home runs spread over 5 years. This homer was the 9th of his career and traveled 404 feet the opposite way to right-center field.
Tyler Greene was a 1st round draft pick in 2005, but has not had a distinguished major league career. He has only played 228 games, mostly with the Cardinals but has also played for the Astros and White Sox. He is currently playing for the Braves AAA team. But he will always have this career highlight to boast about. None of his more illustrious teammates ever jacked a pitch as fast as he did.
The most recent Blazing Fastball shot was whacked off a 100.2 mph screamer hurled by the King of Speed. Yep, Mr. 105 himself got taken deep by Jose Lopez of the Cleveland Indians on June 13, 2012. His blast off Aroldis Chapman traveled 414 feet and measured 104.2mph off the bat. It was one of only 4 homers hit by Lopez last year, but he does have 92 in his career. Watch the impressive shot:
(click the box below to see the video, this one wouldn’t embed either. I blame MLB.)
Jose Lopez is a native of Venezuela and came up through the Seattle Mariners system, reaching the majors in 2004. The 2nd baseman made the All Star team in 2006 (where he pinch-ran for the aforementioned Paul Konerko and scored the tying run). Lopez was still with the Mariners in 2010 when he pounded three home runs in one game. He later had brief stints with the Rockies, Marlins, Indians (where he took the Cuban Missile deep in impressive fashion) and the White Sox. He now plays for the Yomiuri Giants in Japan.
Aroldis Chapman has thrown 471 Blazing Fastballs of 100+ mph in his career, so it is not too surprising that someone finally hit one over the wall at Great American Smallpark. Chapman remains the only human to have thrown 104 mph (3 times) and 105 mph (once) in a real MLB game. Chapman has given up 13 home runs in his career, but only one on a Blazing Fastball. Only one of those homers was hit by a lefty (Luke Scott), and nobody has taken him deep twice. Only Albert Pujols is a star player and the rest are relatively obscure hitters. Four of the 13 blasts he has allowed have been of the walk-off variety.
Who will be the next hitter to accomplish the feat? Which pitcher will serve it up?