The fastball is the most-thrown pitch at any level of baseball, hands down. Whether a four-seam or two, the old #1 is often the go-to pitch in critical situations. A four-seamer is the straight heat. The two-seam fastball will sacrifice velocity for movement proportional to the arm with which it’s thrown (a right-hander’s two-seamer will move to the right). Let’s take a closer look at this classic pitch and you decide which Brewer’s pitcher has the best fastball.
Each year more major league teams boast of pitchers who regularly hit triple digits on the radar gun. For instance, in September of 2010, then Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman recorded the MLB’s fastest recorded pitch at 105.1 MPH. This pitch earned Chapman the Guinness World Record for the fastest recorded pitch. Likewise, during the 2019 season, St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Jordan Hicks regularly hit well over 103 MPH with both his fastball and sinker.
In fact, MPH is the most popular stat when analyzing pitching, but the PutAway percentage tells a more complete story. This is the rate of two-strike pitches that results in a strikeout. Conversely, while not recording triple-digit MPH, four Brewer’s pitchers possess a fastball which leaves many batters walking back to the dugout.
A big right-hander from Mississippi, Brandon Woodruff enters the 2020 season as the Brewer’s default starting ace due to an overhaul of the pitching staff in the offseason. This is not to say he hasn’t earned this position. Woodruff’s performance in 2019 showed good potential for the future. He posted a 3.62 ERA and career highs in innings pitched (121.2), wins (11), and strikeouts (143). This earned him his first all-star appearance in July.
As a starter, Woodruff’s repertoire includes five solid pitches. In 2019, he threw his four-seam fastball at a rate of 38.3% with an average speed of 96.3 MPH. Accordingly, batters hit for an even .200 average off this pitch and it accounted for 78 of his 143 strikeouts as well as a PutAway 24.7%. Woodruff’s four-seam fastball is scouted as above-average. It boasts of excellent speed and results in a significant number of swings and misses.
Adrian Houser emerged as a solid option during the Brewer’s 2019 season, starting 18 games and finishing the season with 111.1 innings pitched and 117 strikeouts. He is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery in 2016. Most importantly, Houser looks to build on last season’s success where he earned seven wins with a 3.72 ERA.
The big right-hander delivered his four-seam fastball at a 31.3% clip in 2019. This averaged 94.5 MPH and hampered opposing hitters with a .203 battering average against. 49 strikeouts were the result of Houser’s four-seam fastball and it totaled a 23.4% PutAway rate. It scouts as a high-quality pitch with above-average velocity. This pitch generates a solid number of swings and misses due to its sinking action. In addition, Houser also relies heavily on a stellar sinker at a 36.1% delivery rate.
Future Brewer’s starter Freddy Peralta was rewarded with a 5-year/15.5 million-dollar contract after the 2019 season. This cemented the Brewer’s belief in his long-term potential. While his 2019 statistics were subpar (5.29 ERA in 85 innings pitched), Peralta recorded an eyebrow-raising 115 strikeouts. Peralta looks to fill the open fifth starter spot. To achieve this, he must show improved control and the ability to baffle hitters in the later innings.
Truly, at this point in his career, Peralta’s pitch resume looks more like that of a reliever. He brings a four-seam fastball, a changeup, and a curveball. Peralta leaned heavily on his curveball in 2019, letting it rip a whopping 77.7% of the time. This pitch clocks in at a middle-of-the-road 93.6 MPH and resulted in .267 batting average against as well as a 22.1% PutAway rate. Above all, Peralta’s fastball is a valued complement to his sharp curveball which reports a higher than average swing and miss rate.
Perhaps the best fastball on the Milwaukee Brewers belongs to reliever Josh Hader. Coming off back-to-back all-star appearance, Hader built upon his 2018 season in which he won the NL Reliever of the Year award. As a multi-inning relief option, he totaled stunning 138 strikeouts in 75.2 innings pitched. Hader’s 37 saves in 2019 were a career-high to go along with a 2.62 ERA. Hader lost a contentious arbitration hearing with the Brewers in the offseason. And trade rumors continue to swirl as he looks to continue his late-inning success in 2020.
Typical of a relief pitcher, Hader brings just two pitches to the mound- a four-seam fastball and a hard-biting slider. Hader’s fastball runs in at a blistering 95.5 average MPH. In 2019, it was thrown at a rate of 82.9%. Hitters tallied a minuscule .167 battering average against this pitch and rated an excellent 34.5% PutAway rate. Hader’s fastball is one of the most respected in the NL and scouts with above-average velocity and movement. Yet it results in a higher-than-average rate of fly balls and has gotten Hader in trouble in the past.
Bring the Heat
Pitching was clearly a primary focus for the Brewers after the 2019 season. With a solid core of starters, dependable relievers, and Hader poised to close, all signs indicate an improvement from 2019. In conclusion, the Brewer’s pitchers will not be breaking any land speed records, but their fastballs are nothing if not effective. There’s a reason fictional Cleveland Indian’s manager Lou Brown called for “the heater” from Ricky Vaughn against the Yankees with the playoffs on the line (Major League, 1989). A fastball strikeout brings fans to their feet and is the classic, century-old challenge of pitcher versus hitter. The upcoming season will showcase these hurlers and possibly decide which Brewer’s pitcher has the best fastball.