Top 10 Fastest Pitchers in MLB history
Who can make a catcher’s mitt pop the loudest? We rank the 10 fastest MLB pitchers ever.
True story: When Mariano Rivera was a young up-and-comer for the New York Yankees, a guy on the Associated Press baseball desk was on the phone with a baseball writer at Yankee Stadium and kept hearing loud bangs in the background some 90 minutes before gametime.
“What is that noise?” was asked.
“That noise is the sound of Mariano Rivera throwing warmup pitches,” came the reply.
The sound of a baseball smacking into the leather of a catcher’s mitt is a sound every baseball fan cherishes, the type of sound whose memory can get you through a cold winter in any northern city where snow replaces grass in the winter months.
Well, for that matter, it can get you through the winter in the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico or any of the other Latin American hot spots where the American pastime has been adopted, and the game is known as beisbol.
To this day, there are debates in public parks in Havana, Cuba, about the most dominant pitchers of all time, and in Havana you want to be especially careful about what you are debating. Baseball is forever safe.
Who else has made catchers’ gloves pop the loudest over the years? Every baseball fan has a guy he fondly remembers from trips to ballparks across the globe, and nobody knows for sure who is the fastest thrower ever because radar guns did not exist in the 1860s when competitive leagues started popping up around America. But we do have libraries full of stories, and we have countless tales that have been told by grandfathers to grandsons about pitchers who threw the ball so hard, they had never seen or heard anything quite like it.
Radar gun or no radar gun, here are the Top 10.
Who threw the fastest pitch in 2023 MLB season?
Minnesota Twins closer Jhoan Duran uncorked the fastest pitch of 2023 and the seventh-fastest since pitch tracking began in 2008, a 104.8 mph four-seam fastball to Mariners third baseman Eugenio Suárez on July 20.
What is the fastest pitch ever thrown in MLB?
Nolan Ryan with a 108.1 MPH reading, according to the Doppler laser radar readings that were used in 1974.
Ranking the Top 10 Fastest Pitchers in MLB History
- Brad Lidge
Top Speed: 102 mph
Career Stats: 26-32 record. 3.54 ERA, 799 strikeouts
Years Active: 2002 to 2012
Teams: Houston Astros, Philadelphia Phillies, Washington Nationals
Nicknamed “Lights Out,” Brad Lidge recorded the final out of the 2008 World Series by striking out Eric Hinske of the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 5. He pitched collegiately at Notre Dame, and his 102 mph fastball was recorded in 2006 while closing a game for the Houston Astros.
- Matt Lindstrom
Top Speed: 102 mph
Career Stats: 17-21 record, 3.68 ERA, 327 strikeouts
Years Active: 2007 to 2014
Teams: Florida Marlins, Houston Astros, Colorado Rockies, Baltimore Orioles, Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox
A 10th-round draft pick by the New York Mets who was traded to the Marlins before making his major league debut, Matt Lindstrom’s 102 mph pitch was recorded in the Puerto Rican Winter League during the 2006-07 offseason. He recorded the same reading in 2007 against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
- Justin Verlander
Top Speed: 102 mph
Career Stats (through Aug. 5): 250-139 record, 3.24 ERA, 3,283 strikeouts
Years Active: 2005 to present
Teams: Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros, New York Mets
Back pitching for the Astros again after being signed by the underachieving 2023 New York Mets during the offseason, the 40-year-old was the second overall selection of the 2004 draft. Justin Verlander is the sixth player in Major League Baseball history to throw three career no-hitters and strike out 3,000 batters, and he is a nine-time All-Star. After missing two seasons because of Tommy John surgery, he returned in 2022 and proceeded to win 18 games with a sub-2.00 ERA on his way to leading the Astros to their second title.
- Brian Wilson
Top Speed: 102.2 mph
Career Stats: 24-25 record, 3.30 ERA. 407 strikeouts
Years Active: 2006 to 2014
Teams: San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers
Nicknamed “The Beard” and “B-Weezy,” Brian Wilson’s career was hampered by two Tommy John surgeries to his pitching elbow. He reached the major leagues in 2006 and had become the Giants' regular closer by the end of 2007. In 2010, he led the majors with 48 saves, which tied the franchise single-season record, while posting a 1.81 ERA.
- Jonathan Broxton
Top speed: 102.8 mph
Career Stats: 43-38 record, 3.41 ERA, 758 strikeouts
Years Active: 2005 to 2017
Teams: Los Angeles Dodgers, Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals
A 6-foot-4 reliever who grew up near Augusta National Golf Club, Jonathan Broxton could dunk a basketball with two hands but made his mark in baseball. He signed with the Dodgers for more than $600,000 and struck out Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals for his first career strikeout. Broxton recorded 96⅔ consecutive no-home-run innings from July 23, 2006, to Aug. 21, 2007. That was the longest streak in team history since the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958.
- Mark Wohlers
Top Speed: 103 mph
Career Stats: 39-29 record, 3.97 ERA, 557 strikeouts
Years Active: 1991 to 2002
Teams: Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians
A feared reliever for the great Atlanta Braves teams of the 1990s, Mark Wohlers’ 103 mph pitch was recorded during spring training in 1999. Along with Kent Mercker and Alejandro Pena, he pitched a combined no-hitter in 1991, and he finished his career with 119 saves.
- Joel Zumaya
Top Speed: 104.8 mph
Career Stats: 13-12 record, 3.05 ERA. 210 strikeouts
Years Active: 2006 to 2010
Team: Detroit Tigers
A fan favorite because of his power pitches and aggressive attitude on the mound, Joel Zumaya was a middle reliever and setup man who never developed a reliable off-speed pitch to keep hitters guessing. He injured his throwing arm as a rookie when he was a teammate of Justin Verlander’s and never fully recovered.
- Aroldis Chapman
Top Speed: 106 mph
Career Stats (through Aug. 5): 49-37 record, 2.47 ERA, 1,118 strikeouts
Years Active: 2010 to present
Teams: Cincinnati Reds, New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, Kansas City Royals, Texas Rangers
The current season is the 14th in the major leagues for Aroldis Chapman, a Cuban who defected while playing at a tournament in Rotterdam, Netherlands, on July 1, 2009, and signed a $30 million contract with Cincinnati six months later. He has been an All-Star seven times and won the World Series with the Cubs in 2016.
- Bob Feller
Top Speed: 107.6 mph
Career Stats: 266-162 record, 3.25 ERA, 2,581 strikeouts
Years Active: 1936 to 1941, 1945 to 1956
Team: Cleveland Indians
The Indians legend with the high leg kick pitched 18 seasons for the same team and reached 107.6 mph in 1946. Feller’s pitch would stand as the fastest recorded for 28 seasons. A prodigy who made his debut at age 17, his 2,581 career strikeouts were third all-time upon his retirement.
- Nolan Ryan
Top speed: 108.1 mph
Career Stats: 324-292 record. 3.19 ERA. 5,714 strikeouts
Years Active: 1966, 1968 to 1993
Teams: New York Mets, California Angels, Houston Astros, Texas Rangers
Ryan was a workhorse power pitcher who pitched 27 major league seasons and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999 on his first ballot after throwing seven career no-hitters.
Parameters of Ranking
The numbers are what they are, as they say. Although different technologies have been used over the years, these figures are recognized as the highest numbers ever recorded. But let’s not forget that baseball has been played professionally in the United States since the 1860s, and there was no technology to measure speed for more than 80 years. We will never have any way of knowing whether players in the late 19th century and early 20th century were throwing the same type of gas as Nolan Ryan.
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