Aroldis Chapman, Carlos Zambrano, And Baseball At Extremes

CINCINNATI, OH: Carlos Zambrano #38 of the Miami Marlins pitches against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Reds came from behind to win 6-5. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

What's the fastest pitch so far that's been hit for a hit? What's the slowest pitch so far that's been swung on and missed? Read! Or watch. But click, either way.

When one is bored on the Internet, he seeks out ways to become unbored. Yesterday, I chose to become unbored by looking at Aroldis Chapman's season statistics. Chapman's 2012 numbers aren't exactly porn, as I wouldn't be embarrassed to be caught looking at them by my mom, but Baseball-Reference could probably charge for each page view. I'd still click around until my finger hurt.

It's interesting the connections your brain will make. You're not aware of most of them, but as I was scrolling through Chapman's game log, I found myself wondering, "what's the fastest pitch that's been hit for a hit this year?" Chapman throws really fast, see, and he doesn't allow many hits. It was a reasonable thing to wonder.

From there, I couldn't help but wonder about the opposite extreme. What's the slowest pitch that's been swung on and missed this year? It's not the exact opposite, but it's a good-enough opposite, and below you can watch the answers, or read about the answers, or both.


This probably won't come as a surprise, but the fastest pitch hit for a hit was thrown by Aroldis Chapman. It was thrown to Danny Espinosa on May 12, in an 0-and-2 count in the eighth inning. According to PITCHfx, it measured 101.5 miles per hour. The pitch and hit:


Not exactly what I was hoping to find. I was hoping that something really fast would've been hit for an impressive line drive or at least ground ball up the middle. Instead we have an infield single that didn't cross the mound. But the fastest pitch hit for a hit is the fastest pitch hit for a hit, and Espinosa was credited with a hit after putting a 101.5mph heater in play. It counts, for our purposes.

This is notable for two more reasons. One, PITCHfx clocked the ball at 101.5 miles per hour at the start. PITCHfx also measures end velocity -- the speed of the ball when it crosses the plate -- and Chapman's heater had an end velocity of 94.0 miles per hour. Among 388 pitchers with at least ten innings, 54 have thrown fastballs averaging at least 94 miles per hour, out of the hand. Max Scherzer has averaged 93.8. Joe Nathan has averaged 93.9. Jose Valverde has averaged 93.7. Chapman's fastball was 94 miles per hour after passing through about 55 feet or so of air.

Two, Chapman's throw to first:


Let's pause that:


Danny Espinosa hit an Aroldis Chapman fastball. Danny Espinosa subsequently got hit by an Aroldis Chapman fastball. Danny Espinosa will think twice the next time he considers hitting an Aroldis Chapman fastball.

If you're unsatisfied with this infield single, Nick Markakis hit a line-drive double off a Kelvin Herrera fastball measured at 100.5 miles per hour. And Tyler Greene, as you remember, hit a home run off an Andrew Cashner fastball measured at 100.5 miles per hour. Those were better hits than Espinosa's. But the pitch to Espinosa was faster, so.


Did you have a name in mind? Jamie Moyer, perhaps, or Barry Zito, or R.A. Dickey? Maybe Livan Hernandez or Vicente Padilla? Those guesses would be wrong. The pitcher who threw the slowest pitch to be cut on and missed so far was Carlos Zambrano. And the pitch was thrown to Joey Votto, at 60.9 miles per hour.


Now we watch that again, closer and slower:


Zambrano has long thrown a curveball, but lately his curveball has averaged about 70 miles per hour. This curveball was that average curveball minus nine, and it was thrown in a 1-and-2 count in a one-run game. To one of the very best hitters in the world, in a hitter-friendly ballpark. Zambrano has never hidden the fact that his blood is 98 percent testosterone, and that's because he has balls the size of cantaloupe. Jock straps come in small, medium, large, extra-large, and Carlos Zambrano. That's enough about Carlos Zambrano's testicles.

If you wanted to read too deeply into things, it looked like Zambrano was grinning when he took his sign:


It isn't true, because Zambrano kept making that face before most of his pitches, but if I hadn't told you that, you would've believed the first thing I said. Amazingly, this two-strike lob that was cut on and missed wound up pretty much in the middle of the strike zone:


It's only Joey Votto, nothing to worry about. What do you think, Joey Votto?


But what do you really think, Joey Votto?


Said Zambrano after the game:

Two hitters before Bruce went deep, Zambrano got Joey Votto to swing through a 61-mph curve for his sixth and final strikeout.

"He's got a quick bat," Zambrano said. "Sometimes I do that to hitters with a quick bat with two strikes. I don't do that too often because they can pick it up."

Zambrano's pitch speeds in 2012:


You see the pitch to Votto, all by itself. Zambrano has also thrown a two-strike curve to Ike Davis at 61.9 miles per hour, and a two-strike curve to Jimmy Rollins at 62.9 miles per hour. Zambrano's pitch speeds in 2011:


Zambrano's slowest pitch in 2011 was 66.4 miles per hour. Slow, to be sure, but not nearly as slow. All last season, Zambrano didn't go with the same sort of pseudo-eephus.

But he's done it in 2012. On the eighth day of April, he did it to Joey Votto. It worked like a dream.

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