The Jeremy Guthrie Award for Surprising Velocity

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Now with more Jeremy Guthrie!

This happened Wednesday night:


Whoopsie-doodle. That has to be embarrassing. But it got me interested in one Tommy Hunter. And because I didn't want to take the time to click my bookmark to Baseball-Reference.com and type Tommy Hunter's name, I typed Tommy Hunter's name into my browser's search bar and clicked the Baseball-Reference.com result that came up. You pick up time-saving tips like that when you spend most of your day on the Internet.

When you google Hunter, this is what comes up:

Screen_shot_2013-08-14_at_4


My, oh my, this guy's just full of surprises. But the most surprising thing I learned about Hunter on this day was this:

Screen_shot_2013-08-14_at_5


No idea. I knew that he was pitching well in a relief role this year, but I didn't know he could touch 98. I thought he was a Bronson Arroyo-type, painting corners and dooking the room up, and that his success had more to do with him aping Sergio Romo instead of Craig Kimbrel. But Hunter's fastball is the 10th fastest among all relievers this season.

This means he's a Jeremy Guthrie Award winner. This is an award presented to pitchers who throw much, much harder than you think. Hunter regularly throws in the mid-90s now. Goodness. Let's take a look at the five finalists for the Jeremy Guthrie award this season:

5. Tommy Hunter
Average velocity: 95.7 m.p.h (10th)
See above. He is today's poster boy for reliever-to-starter conversions, along with Luke Hochevar. The extra two or three ticks on a fastball is the difference between struggling starter and dominant reliever, and you wonder why no one thought of it earlier.

4. Justin Masterson
Average velocity: 93.3 (13th)
I knew that Masterson threw mostly fastballs. But they were two-seam fastballs. That is, sinkers. Which don't go as fast as the four-seamers, by definition. A good, hard sinker comes in at 91 -- quick enough to make the hitter react quickly and shatter bats, but not necessarily a swing-and-miss pitch.

Masterson throws a hard sinker, apparently. A hard, hard sinker. A hard, hard, hard sinker. Harder than Yu Darvish's average fastball. Faster than Clayton Kershaw, Matt Moore, and Edwin Jackson. Tied with Max Scherzer. That's a quick sinker.

3. Bud Norris
Average fastball: 92.4 (25th)
It doesn't sound that fast, but consider that, on average, every team in baseball has just one qualified starter who throws as hard as Norris. Some teams don't have one at all. And the 92.4 m.p.h. is just an average. Look at the velocity charts. He's touching 95 with some regularity, no big deal.

The odd thing is that his velocity is actually in decline. The Orioles are supposedly considering Norris for a bullpen slot next year when the rest of their rotation is healthy. Maybe he's the next Tommy Hunter. That would make as much sense as Tommy Hunter.

2. Jason Hammel
Average fastball: 92.7 (t-19th)
First off, Hammel is also an Alex Fernandez All-Star because his name sounds like a left-hander's name. Would it be that way if Cole Hamels didn't exist? Probably not, but that's a question for the philosophers who will pick over our bones.

Hammel has made eight career starts against the Giants. I've almost certainly watched all eight, though let's round down and say that I watched six. That's probably about six hours of just Hammel. Pumping mid-90s fastball in after mid-90s fastball. And it never registered. It took a spin around FanGraphs to realize he throws the ball harder than almost every other starter in baseball.

That's probably his fault, not mine. For shame.

1. Jeremy Guthrie
Fastball velocity: 92.7 (t-19th)
Maybe this list should be renamed "I Guess I Don't Watch a Lot of Orioles Games, Everyone." Four of our five finalists have Oriole ties. That could be the new Moneyball -- get a bunch of pitchers with sneaky, underrated velocity. But since we spoiled the top spot by naming it the Jeremy Guthrie Award, let's make it a tie.

1. Henderson Alvarez
Average fastball: 93.3 (would be 12th if qualified)
The thing about Alvarez and his 97-m.p.h.-touching fastball is that he doesn't strike anyone out. Here's the company he keeps: a bunch of Twins, sinkerballers, and Kirk Rueter. Except Alvarez throws harder than almost anyone in baseball. Harder than Jonathan Papelbon and Joe Nathan, harder than Matt Cain, Felix Hernandez, and CC Sabathia put together.

Well, maybe not put together. But Alvarez throws hard. And unless you're a Marlins or Blue Jays fan, you might not have known that. He gets the Jeremy Guthrie Award this year.

So does Guthrie. His 10th straight! His family must be proud.

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