Certain Numbers Still Open Eyes.

Aroldis Chapman Touched Triple Digits in his Debut.

The headline at Sports Illustrated reads, “Justified Hype.”  This is after a two-inning Spring Training debut for Aroldis Chapman.  Chapman if you recall is the Cuban pitcher who defected last year, and was granted free agency.  The left-handed Chapman had pitched in the World Baseball Classic, but a wild bidding war for his services never materialized, and he ended up in Cincinnati.   I’m not going to say he was forgotten about, but until he hit the mound, it wasn’t a name that a lot of baseball people were throwing around.  He wasn’t getting half the attention of Steven Strasburg.  But, a couple good innings, and one 100 mph reading on the radar gun, and Chapman has already fulfilled the hype, and we are talking about a rebirth of Reds baseball.

Is this going too far?  Of course it is.  Everything is hyperbole and overstatement at this point.  Even the scouts get in the mix.  These guys like being quoted, I’m sure.  So, how do you get into the article?  You make insane comparisons and projections based on two innings.  “The best arm I’ve seen since Herb Score.”  A classic scout quote.  Drop a reference to a pitcher most fans have never heard of.  (Score was a dominant left-hander whose career got derailed after being hit with a line drive 50 years ago)  There’s no doubting Chapman’s gifts.  They stare you right in the face.  By all accounts he did look devastating, but this is a guy who the day before most people assumed would be spending some time in the Minor Leagues.  Now, he’s part of a new Reds nucleus that could lead them back to prominence.  I wonder how much rests on that one number, 100 mph.

Would people have been as excited if Chapman threw 96?  I don’t think they would have.  It would have almost been a disappointment.  This was his calling card, the 100 mph fastball.  A lot doubted he could deliver, but when he did, the hype explodes.  It’s still a powerful number in sports.  A 100 mph pitch isn’t something you see every day.  The difference between 99 mph and 100 mph is cavernous.  I remember when I was a kid, I think Guinness listed Nolan Ryan as having the fastest pitch ever at 101 mph.  I never saw such a number, but there it was in the book, and since then every time someone hits 100 mph on the gun, it’s an occasion for celebration.  I marvel at its staying power.

Other sports numbers have been made obsolete.  A 300 yard drive for example is nothing.  The long hitters now pound it out there 330, 340.  But, that doesn’t carry the same weight that 300 yards did in the eighties.  Or, a 4.4 second 40 yard dash.  Four-four is still fast, but you see guys like Chris Johnson running 4.2something, and 4.4 doesn’t sound so impressive, and 4.2 doesn’t sound so mythical.  Numbers fall by the wayside all the time in sports.  1,000 yards rushing is long dead, but 100 mph fastball can still turn heads.  It sure did in Arizona.


11 thoughts on “Certain Numbers Still Open Eyes.

  1. From the perspective of a major league hitter, is there much difference between 96 and 100? 98 and 100? I mean, to me it all sounds dang fast.

    • there’s definitely a difference between 96 and 100.

      but, 100 mph can be easily hit, its about movement, and change of speeds, etc.

      but, 100 is dang fast, and you are getting to the point where some major leagues even would have trouble handling it, at least on a consistent basis.

      you know, most hitters hit off the fastball so the harder you throw that, the less time it gives them for recognition, etc.

      • on a good day.

        the rest of the time its just a steady 75 mph with different arm slots.

  2. i read somewhere that they changed where they measure the speed of the ball from sometime fairly recently. it is now closer to the point of release than back in the day. i think it said that nolan ryan’s record would have recorded something like 104/5 if that measurement was used then. just something to think about.

    also, on the topic of the meaning of certain numbers in sports, and interesting case is the 4 minute mile. it is an interesting case where that is still the ultimate goal for a lot of people, even though it isn’t that rare anymore. my friend broke 4 for the first time a few weeks ago, running 3:58. obviously a huge accomplishment, and he was really pumped. 3 of my other friends are all hoping to do it this year, and i think they might quit the next day (or at least at the end of the season) if they did it.

    well, 20, yes 20, NCAA athletes ran under 4 minutes this indoor season. they only take 16 to the championship meet. so you can run under 4 minutes and not even have a shot at a national title. pretty crazy. yet, that number still means a lot to people.

    that bit of track talk was for BK. i know he is a big fan.

  3. I think part of the obsession/impressiveness of the 100mph heater is there’s really not a whole lot left innovation wise that can change it. There was an article (ESPN the Mag i think) that talked about how there are new drivers, more weights being used, better training, et al that really affects every other measure in sports-but a fastball is stagnant largely b/c the human arm can’t physically take much more. At something like 108 the ligaments in your arm literally pop off the bone and you’re dunzo. So 100 mph fastball is still significant b/c its something you can’t train someone to throw or give them a new wind up or tool to throw, b/c their body most likely can’t handle it. Interesting article, wish i could find it.

    And yes, track is enthralling. The Human Nascar without the crashes. How could people not enjoy watching it?

  4. i just booked a flight to Vegas and will bet $1000 on the Reds to win the World Series. I mean, with Chapman hitting a 100 mph and their core of Joe Oliver behind the plate, Barry Larkin at short..etc.

  5. Hahaha.

    The Reds have been cranking out possible phenoms for years. Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns, Jay Bruce.

    we’ll see how they manage.

    Cueto and Chapman is the new Koufax and Drysdale.

  6. Wait a minute….I’m site you are working on this, but the browns just released derek Anderson. Delhomme and DA are unemployed. I feel sick

  7. Yeah, Grossy covered that while you were pacing the hallway in a white walled waiting room Mr. Kraft.

    Also, I still think the Yanks should have ponied up the money for this guy. I’d rather see him than Javey Vasquez 2.0 or whatever.

  8. Haha, well…

    I’d wait a bit before regretting not signing the guy.

    could end up being a good deal for the Reds.

    PS, strasburg also good in his first start, but he’s definitely going to the minors it looks like.

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