The Dynasty Guru Expert’s League Update – May 29th, 2014

I have been invited to participate in a fantasy baseball league composed exclusively of seasoned writers from the best baseball websites in the country. I will use this space to keep you updated on the league and my team in particular. I am competing against some of the best minds in the industry, so it would be a great accomplishment to win a championship in such a difficult league. So far it has been very exciting and my team is doing well!

The league is a dynasty league with 30 man rosters plus a 10 man minor league roster. We use a standard 5×5 rotisserie scoring system. We can keep 35 players each year. There are 20 teams which makes this experts’ league extremely deep and challenging. Including the Disabled List there are 850 rostered players! You can read all about how the league works here: The Dynasty Guru Experts League. The league has some neat features including the “Invisible Hand” draft slot bidding process so be sure to check out that link.

I wrote an article about my draft strategy here: My Draft Plan
I then wrote about how the draft played out and the players I selected: My Draft Picks

Here are the standings as of May 29th: Continue reading

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Aroldis Chapman: 2013 Flamethrower of the Year

Blazing Fastball Flamethrower of the Year Aroldis Chapman

Flamethrower of the Year

Although he faced stiffer competition than in recent years, Aroldis Chapman is the winner of the 2013 Blazing Fastball Flamethrower of the Year Award! This is the Cuban Missile’s 4th consecutive award, having won the title every year since breaking into the majors in 2010.

Not only did Chapman blow away the competition by throwing more 100+ mph blazing fastballs than anyone else, he also reached higher velocities than anyone else. Only Chapman reached 103 mph, which he did 10 times. One of his pitches hit a spectacular 104 mph! That was the 3rd time he has hit 104 mph in his career, something which no other pitcher has done in the PITCHf/x era (since 2008). Continue reading

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Good Hitters Strike Out More Than Bad Hitters Do?

The strikeout is the ultimate failure when batting. Nothing good can happen if you don’t hit the ball. How can you be a good hitter if you can’t even hit the ball? Its embarrassing.

Some major league hitters struggle mightily to make contact and avoid whiffing.

Strikeouts have been increasing rapidly in recent seasons. In fact, in baseball history a hitter has struck out 200+ times in one season 6 times and all of those have come since 2008.

Last year Chris Carter struck out 212 times in only 506 at-bats. Holy crap! But even though he whiffed so incredibly often, he still posted an OPS of .771, delivered a wOBA of .337 and had a wRC+ of 113. Which means Carter actually had a good season at the plate. He was an above-average hitter in 2013 despite striking out at an historic rate! How is that even possible?

(League average stats are .730 OPS, .320 wOBA and 100 wRC+)

Similarly, slugger Chris Davis whiffed 199 times but had a .286 AVG, .370 OBP, a whopping .634 SLG, a fantastic 1.004 OPS, an incredible .421 wOBA and an elite 167 wRC+ and finished 3rd in the MVP balloting.

Last year 6 players struck out 30% of the time or more: Continue reading

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Top 100 Prospects Update, September 2013

Top 100 Prospects 2013 2014 Byron BuxtonHere is an early look at the top prospects going into next year. Look here to find out how your favorite team’s minor league player development system is doing. Some teams have lots of exciting talent on the horizon (Twins, Cubs, Cardinals, Pirates), while other teams are going to have to look elsewhere for upgrades (White Sox, Dodgers, Tigers, Rays). If you play in a fantasy league these are the guys to grab before your competition gets them!

Players with an * are currently in the major leagues or have played in the major leagues, but they are still eligible for the 2014 Rookie of the Year. Which one of these guys will win the ROY next year?

 

Player Team Age
1 Byron Buxton OF Twins 19.7
Best all around player in minors. 5 tool talent.
2 Oscar Tavares OF Cardinals 21.2
Lost his entire season to a severely sprained ankle.
3* Xander Bogaerts SS Red Sox 20.9
Elite hitter, playing 3B for Red Sox as September callup.
4 Miguel Sano 3B Twins 20.3
Elite slugger, plate discipline rapidly improving.
5 Archie Bradley RHP Diamondbacks 21.1
Breakout season boosts him to top pitching prospect.
6* TaiJuan Walker RHP Mariners 20.9
Dominant future ace.
7* Mike Zunino C Mariners 22.4
Projects as good but not great all-around catcher.
8 Jameson Taillon RHP Pirates 21.8
Potential ace, ready for the majors but needs an opening.
9 Carlos Correa SS Astros 18.9
#1 overall pick 2012 draft. Elite talent. Still very young.
10 Francisco Lindor SS Indians 19.8
Great glove, showing steady improvement with the bat.
11 Javier Baez SS Cubs 20.8
Excellent hitter, glove a question mark.
12 Gregory Polanco OF Pirates 22.0
Yet another top-notch young outfielder for the Buccs.
13 Addison Russell SS Athletics 19.6
Great athlete, could be a star.
14* Kevin Gausman RHP Orioles 22.7
Poor results in majors but should be a very good pitcher.
15 Mark Appel RHP Astros 22.1
#1 overall pick 2013 draft. Step below elite stuff.
16 Robert Stephenson RHP Reds 20.5
100mph Blazing Fastball. Great season in low minors.
17* Carlos Martinez RHP Cardinals 22.0
Elite velocity & stuff, small stature breeds injury concerns.
18* Michael Wacha RHP Cardinals 22.2
Excellent stuff despite brief time in minors. In MLB rotation.
19 George Springer OF Astros 24.0
Elite power/speed combo. Will he make enough contact?
20* Nick Castellanos OF Tigers 21.5
Good hitter, poor fielder.
21 Albert Almora OF Cubs 19.4
Future star for a loaded Cubs system.
22 Noah Syndergaard RHP Mets 21.0
Breakthrough season, from Blue Jays in R.A. Dickey trade.
23 Jorge Soler OF Cubs 21.5
Cuban defector, missed 2nd half of season with injury.
24 Kris Bryant 3B Cubs 21.7
Best hitter in 2013 draft. Promising slugger.
25* Travis D’Arnaud C Mets 24.6
Finally healthy after series of injuries.
26 Kyle Zimmer RHP Royals 22.0
Potential ace pitcher, nearly ready for MLB.
27 Jonathan Gray RHP Rockies 21.8
Some thought he should have been #1 draftee this year.
28 Corey Seager SS Dodgers 19.4
Made huge strides this year, Kyle’s brother.
29 Gary Sanchez C Yankees 20.8
Bat-first catcher, improving behind the dish.
30* Billy Hamilton OF Reds 23.0
Elite speedster, terrible 1st half season, better 2nd half.
31 Yordano Ventura RHP Royals 22.3
Hard thrower with high ceiling.
32 Aaron Sanchez RHP Blue Jays 21.2
Last Jays mound prospect left after trades w/ Mets and Marlins
33 Alen Hanson SS Pirates 20.9
Solid but slightly disappointing season, still possible star.
34 Lucas Giolito RHP Nationals 19.1
Back on mound after TJ surgery. Potentially elite ace.
35* Jackie Bradley OF Red Sox 23.4
Great glove, suspect bat.
36 Garin Cecchini 3B Red Sox 22.4
Will be a solid all-around hitter for contact and some power.
37 Max Fried LHP Padres 19.6
Young lefty with good stuff and control. Not hard thrower.
38 Alex Meyer RHP Twins 23.7
Tall hurler, injury concerns.
39 Joc Pederson OF Dodgers 21.4
Breakout season. Where will he play?
40* Dylan Bundy RHP Orioles 20.8
Was preseason #1 pitching prospect, recovering from TJS.
41 Jonathon Singleton 1B Astros 22.0
Poor defense, busted for pot, disappointing stats. Talented.
42* Trevor Bauer RHP Indians 22.6
Great stuff, hard velocity, poor control.
43 Kyle Crick RHP Giants 20.8
44 Clint Frazier OF Indians 19.0
45 Austin Hedges C Padres 21.0
Great on defense, bat is decent but could be a problem.
46 Raul Adalberto Mondesi SS Royals 18.1
Still very young. Son of former Dodger slugger.
47* Kolten Wong 2B Cardinals 22.9
Solid but unspectacular.
48 Jesse Biddle LHP Phillies 21.9
49 Lance McCullers RHP Astros 19.9
50 Andrew Heaney LHP Marlins 22.2
Flashes of brilliance.
51 Danny Hultzen LHP Mariners 23.8
52* Jacob Marisnick OF Marlins 22.4
53 Kohl Stewart RHP Twins 18.9
54 Eddie Rosario 2B Twins 21.9
55 David Dahl OF Rockies 19.4
Season lost to injury.
56 Henry Owens LHP Red Sox 21.1
57 Roberto Osuna RHP Blue Jays 18.6
58 Rafael DePaula RHP Yankees 22.4
59 Matt Barnes RHP Red Sox 23.2
60 Jake Odorizzi RHP Rays 23.4
61 Tyler Glasnow RHP Pirates 20.0
Burst onto the scene with breakout season.
62 Mike Foltynewicz RHP Astros 21.9
Tremendous gains in velocity.
63 Mason Williams OF Yankees 21.9
64 Rafael Montero RHP Mets 22.9
65 Maikel Franco 3B Phillies 21.0
Fantastic early season before tailing off.
66 Matt Wisler RHP Padres 21.0
67 Austin Meadows OF Pirates 18.3
68 Tyler Austin 3B Yankees 22.0
69 Joshua Bell OF Pirates 21.1
70 Jose Berrios RHP Twins 19.3
71 Anthony Ranaudo RHP Red Sox 24.0
72 Trey Ball LHP Red Sox 19.2
73* Michael Choice OF Athletics 23.8
74 Luis Heredia RHP Pirates 19.1
75 Stryker Trahan C Diamondbacks 19.4
76 D.J. Peterson 3B Mariners 21.7
77 Colin Moran 3B Marlins 20.9
78 A.J. Cole RHP Nationals 21.7
79 Rougned Odor 2B Rangers 19.6
80* Sonny Gray RHP Athletics 23.8
81 Clayton Blackburn RHP Giants 20.7
82* Matt Davidson 3B Diamondbacks 22.4
83 Jorge Alfaro C Rangers 20.2
84 Delino DeShields OF Astros 21.0
85 Taylor Guerrieri RHP Rays 20.8
Stock falls drastically due to TJS knife.
86 Bubba Starling OF Royals 21.1
Elite athletic ability but will he ever learn to hit?
87 C.J. Edwards RHP Cubs 22.0
88 Courtney Hawkins OF White Sox 19.8
89 Braden Shipley RHP Diamondbacks 21.5
90 Dominic Smith 1B Mets 18.2
91* Mike Olt 3B Rangers 25.0
Vision problems and terrible stats. Very old for prospect.
92 Dan Vogelbach 1B Cubs 20.7
Excellent bat but terrible defender.
93* Allen Webster RHP Red Sox 23.6
94* Christian Bethancourt C Braves 22.0
95 Brandon Nimmo OF Mets 20.4
96 Luke Jackson P Rangers 22.0
97 Hunter Renfroe OF Padres 21.6
98 Zach Lee RHP Dodgers 22.0
99 Eddie Butler RHP Rockies 22.5
100 Luke Sims RHP Braves 19.3

* means player has appeared in the major leagues.

Almost all of these youngsters will make it to the major leagues. Most of them will be good starting players. About 20 of them will make at least one All Star team. A couple of them will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame someday!

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Only 3 Players Have Hit Home Runs on 100mph Blazing Fastballs

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.

Paul Konerko Home Run 100 mph Blazing FastballIn 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 100 mph blazing fastball

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 home run 100 mph fastballTyler 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 Cleveland Indians Home RunJose 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.Aroldis Chapman Cincinnati Reds Blazing Fastball 100 mph

Who will be the next hitter to accomplish the feat? Which pitcher will serve it up?

 

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What is PITCHf/x and Why Should I Care?

PITCHf/x strike zone trackerPITCHf/x is the most awesome new technology in baseball. It is transforming how the game is watched, how it is understood and even how it is played. We have all seen the strike zone graphic that shows us where the pitch crossed the plate. Each network has their own version of it, but they are all based on the PITCHf/x data feed. But this is just one of many, many amazing things PITCHf/x can do.

PITCHf/x gives us extremely accurate data about every pitch thrown in every MLB game. It tells us the precise speed of the pitch, whether it was a strike or a ball, what type of pitch it was (fastball, changeup, slider, knuckleball etc.), how much it curved and in what direction it broke.

The PITCHf/x velocities are much more accurate than the radar gun readings we have gotten for years. The system is so accurate than it can tell you exactly how many times a curveball rotated on its way to the plate. It can tell us how much a slider slid down to a tiny fraction of an inch.

Every single MLB pitch is recorded and all the results of the play are recorded too. So for example we can do a search to see exactly how many pitches of 100+mph have been thrown by Aroldis Chapman in home games against the Brewers since 2011.  Or it can tell us if Felix Hernandez’s release point has changed by an inch over time. Or we can look up how many split-fingered fastballs Homer Bailey threw in his two no-hitters.

This type of information was unavailable to us until 2008 when PITCHf/x was installed in all 30 MLB ballparks. Prior to 2008 there is no data for the velocity, pitch type, location and result of most pitches thrown. This type of information is not recorded in box scores and nobody was keeping such detailed records in a form accessible to the public. Want to know how many 100+mph pitches Nolan Ryan threw? So do I. But we will never know because he pitched before PITCHf/x came to town.

The PITCHF/x system uses 2 cameras mounted high above the field down the baselines, one on each side. The cameras take about 30 snapshots of the ball on its way to the plate. The cameras are routinely calibrated to ensure their precision and accuracy (unlike radar guns). There is also a third camera in the outfield that is used to adjust the system for each batter’s individual strike zone based on their height and batting stance.

One important way that major league baseball uses the PITCHf/x system is to evaluate the performance of umpires. I am sure that one day not too far in the future all ball/strike calls will be made by the PITCHf/x system. It has helped to standardize strike zones from umpire to umpire across the league and help eliminate criminally bad umpiring like this:

Eric Gregg screwing up the 1997 National League Championship Series.

Want to know what pitches your favorite pitcher throws and how much they break? Here is one of many types of charts you can use to learn about a pitcher from PITCHf/x:

PITCHf/x graph

Teams use this type of information to scout, grade and develop pitchers. You can learn what a pitcher throws, how good his stuff is, what pitch he likes to throw in certain counts, if his stuff his getting better or worse over time, the effects of a change in mechanics or a new grip, or how hot/cold weather or high/low altitude affect the movement of pitches.

Hitter Heat Map PITCHf/xOne aspect of PITCHf/x that has made a big difference on the field itself is the heat map. Each hitter has a different swing and approach that enables him to hit certain pitch types in some zones with much more authority than in other zones. Opposing pitchers can study these heat maps to identify holes in a hitter’s swing that can be exploited by a savvy pitcher. Many coaches feel this is a major reason why scoring has been gradually declining over the last few years. Pitchers know exactly how to pitch to every batter to get him out!

I have only scratched the surface of what PITCHf/x can do. It is really mind-boggling what this system is capable of. If you are interested in playing with it yourself go to www.brooksbaseball.net and have some fun!

Trivia Answer: In my last post I asked a trivia question. “How many pitchers have been confirmed by PITCHf/x to throw 100mph at least 100 times?”.

Now that we know PITCHf/x has only been in existence since 2008 we can eliminate pitchers who only pitched prior to 2008. That leaves us with Aroldis Chapman (471 times), Joel Zumaya (310 times), Henry Rodriguez (228 times) and Kelvin Herrera (100 times) as the only pitchers to throw 100mph 100 times or more. Bruce Rondon, Bobby Parnell and Justin Verlander are getting closer by the day.

Baseball is also developing HITf/x and FIELDf/x systems that will revolutionize the study of hitting and fielding by generating tons of useful and interesting information just like PITCHf/x has done for pitching. We will get velocities and trajectories of balls in flight that will enable us to develop new ways of evaluating hitters and fielders and it will help us come up with some awesome trivia questions too!

 

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Does Aroldis Chapman Have a Challenger?

Aroldis Chapman 100mph Blazing Fastball PitcherAroldis Chapman has dominated MLB with the league’s hottest Blazing Fastball ever since he burst on the scene in 2010. Not since the days of Joel Zumaya has the Cuban Missile faced a contender for his title as Flamethrower of the Year. But now a potential challenger has arrived. A young phenom named Bruce Rondon is blasting some serious heat for the Detroit Tigers.

To join the Blazing Fastball 100+ Club a pitcher must be able to throw 100 miles per hour. That is some serious smoke. So far this season only 14 players have been able to reach this elite threshold.  The chart below shows how many Blazing Fastballs they have thrown:

2013
# of Pitches (mph)
100+
101+
102+
103+
104+
Aroldis Chapman
125
48
14
5
1
Bruce Rondon
88
41
9
Henry Rodriguez
30
9
3
Kelvin Herrera
19
2
Trevor Rosenthal
13
1
Gerrit Cole
8
1
Nate Jones
7
Fernando Rodney
4
Jose Dominguez
4
Matt Harvey
2
Nathan Eovaldi
1
Danny Salazar
1
Greg Holland
1
Carlos Martinez
1
# of Pitches
304
102
26
5
1
# of Players
14
6
3
1

1

Tigers Bruce Rondon throws 100mph blazing fastballsAroldis Chapman’s 125 pitches of 100+mph give him a big lead over Rondon, but the catch is Rondon has gotten his 88 in only 22 innings! Rondon spent most of the 1st half of the season in the minor leagues. He really started firing Blazing Fastballs at the beginning of July. If he keeps up his current pace he could potentially surpass Chapman before the season is over.

Chapman stands by himself as the only pitcher who is man enough to fire seeds at 103 and 104 miles per hour, but even there Rondon is giving the Missile a run for his money. Rondon has topped out at 102.8mph twice so far. Does he have a little bit left in the tank to possibly hit 104?

Rondon is not the only newcomer to the 100+ Club this year. In fact there are 7 more.

Gerrit Cole throws 100mph Blazing FastballsPirates rookie Gerrit Cole was the 1st overall pick of the 2011 draft after a stellar career at UCLA. He is a rare starting pitcher who can hit triple digits with his heater.

Jose Dominguez is a rookie reliever for the Dodgers who managed to hit 100 mph 4 times in 8 innings before landing on the Disabled List. Hopefully he will be back soon.

Young phenom Matt Harvey seems like he can do it all on the mound. The potential Cy Young winner has hit 100 mph twice so far.

Nathan Eovaldi is a 23 year old starter for the Marlins. Indians hurler Danny Salazar is another flamethrowing 23 year old rookie. St Louis righty Carlos Martinez is only 21 and weighs 185 pounds but he can pound the catcher’s mitt.

Greg Holland is having a fantastic season as the Kansas City Royals’ closer.

How many of these guys can keep throwing smoke long-term? How many were a flash in the pan? Not too many arms can sling heat over and over for years. Only 4 pitchers have been confirmed by PITCHf/x to throw 100mph at least 100 times. Can you name them? Check back soon to find out the answer. Meanwhile, take a guess in the comments section below.

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