Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
June 17, 2004
BASEBALL: The High Hard One

I'm really looking forward to the new Neyer/Bill James book on pitchers; ESPN had an excerpt the other day that's worth a few arguments on the best fastballs of all time (link via Baseball Primer).

Looking at Rob Neyer's overall list of the best fastballs, I might rate Robin Roberts - who was the best pitcher in baseball for several years throwing nearly nothing but fastballs - ahead of Clemens, even though Clemens in his early-90s prime was a better pitcher (he's not so shabby today, of course, but since 1996 or so the heater really hasn't been his strikeout pitch).

Personally, I'd say the two best fastballs I've ever seen in my lifetime - on their own merits, as opposed to how they set them up with other pitches - are Mariano Rivera's cut fastball and Dwight Gooden's heater in his prime. Gooden's high riser was a classic "oh, that's just not fair" pitch even when the hitter was looking for it, let alone when he set it up with the big arching curveball. (Of course, Nolan Ryan's fastball was plenty intimidating, but Ryan was also quite wild at his peak). Gossage isn't far behind, though.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:04 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (1)

My problem with Neyers reasoning is that he seems to completely ignore his own definition of what makes a good fastball. He asked himself "Was this pitch so good that he could, and often did, get hitters out using this and very little else?"

Couldn't you etch that on Ryan's tombstone? His fastball was wild, but he did managed to ride it to 324 wins and 5714 strikeouts.

Posted by: Richard at June 17, 2004 12:31 PM

Ryan's greatest success came after he developed a curve and learned to use his fastball to set it up. I wouldn't say that he rode his fastball to all of his wins and strikeouts.

Posted by: WD at June 17, 2004 1:39 PM

Mariano's cut fastball has got to be just about the most effective single pitch anyone has ever had - it's so good that he's largely abandoned the also-overpowering high rising fastball he was throwing when he was setting up Wetteland.

I'd guess that at it's peak, Ryan's fastball was about as tough as Gooden's - faster, but with perhaps a bit less movement. Randy Johnson's is obviously also up there.

I was slightly young to have seen him at the time, but I gather that in the early days of his career, Vida Blue's fastball was a very close match for Gooden's, too.

Posted by: Jerry at June 17, 2004 1:47 PM

Ron Guidry (who I love) makes the 1975-79 list. I thought he was using a great slider, 'though with a name like Louisiana Lightning, who knows.

These folks say his bread and butter was the slider, too.

And how does Mariano not make any of these lists? Recount!

Posted by: Tom Maguire at June 17, 2004 3:48 PM

Best fastball of all-Jamie Moyer. (hehe)

Posted by: John Salmon at June 18, 2004 12:08 PM
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