by Darren Fenster
In Game One of last October’s World Series, the Kansas City Royals pedaled reliever after reliever into a 14-inning instant classic against the New York Mets, all throwing in the mid-to-upper 90’s. That was, until Chris Young entered the game in the top of the 12th, showing the baseball world and aspiring Big League pitchers everywhere that you don’t, in fact, need to have eye-popping velocity to successfully compete at the highest level of the sport.
Pitching out of the bullpen for three scoreless frames, striking out five while earning the win, Young hit 90 MPH on the radar gun in that game. That’s significant because it was the first time he did so since 2009. And he only touched 90. Once. For the past 12-plus years, Chris Young- who stands at 6’10” tall- generally has made his living as a Major League pitcher by throwing his four-seam fastball in the mid-to-upper 80s, one that averaged 86 MPH for the 2015 season.
In the age of velocity that baseball seems to be living in right now, that aforementioned fact begs the simple question of, “how?” How does Chris Young do it?
Velocity is a gift. Granted, a gift that can be developed and improved through hard work and dedication, but not one that most baseball pitchers at most levels of the game are blessed with. Velocity is magnified on television every night and at ballparks every day so much so, that many up and coming pitchers may get discouraged when the realization comes that they don’t have it and haven’t been blessed with the ability to throw a ball as hard as the next guy. Scouts love velocity. College recruiters love velocity. Professional coaches love velocity. But plain and simple, not every player who toes the rubber will be able to throw 90 miles per hour.
But the ability to throw the ball hard is just one piece of the puzzle to get a hitter out.
Allard Baird, currently a special assistant in the Red Sox front office, and former GM of the Royals, once said “tools are great. Everybody loves tools. But if you cannot translate those tools into usable baseball skills that can help you perform and your team succeed, then those tools are worthless.” Velocity without the ability to throw the ball over the plate may win you a stuffed animal on the boardwalk, but it won’t get hitters out. Continue reading