In the 2016 Major League Baseball playoffs, fans looked on as Chicago Cubs flamethrower Aroldis Chapman helped the team win its first World Series since 1908. Chapman regularly threw pitches over 100 mph, and he is part of a larger trend across the league. Pitches over 100-mph are being thrown much more often now than ever before. In 2016, there were 1,350 more of these pitches than in 2008.
How can this trend be explained? It’s possible that professional athletes are continuing to evolve, aided by technological and training developments. It’s also possible that more of an emphasis is now being placed on high-velocity pitchers. As analytics have become more and more prevalent in baseball, pitchers that can strikeout a lot of hitters have become more and more valued. Throwing harder tends to lead to more strikeouts.
Regardless of why pitches are getting faster and faster, the trend is undeniable. The growth rate of 100-mph pitches might slow down a bit, but we shouldn’t expect many slow pitches in the MLB moving forward.