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In recent years a Major League Baseball outfielder recorded the fastest-thrown ball during game play — faster even than the top miles per hour hurled by the hardest-throwing pitcher. It begs the question: overall, how fast do MLB outfielders throw?
An MLB outfielder can throw as hard as 105.5 mph. While average outfielder throw speeds are not yet computed, the general consensus is that typical outfielders throw in the mph range of high-80s to low-90s; and many often throw balls in the high-90s or even crack 100 mph.
While baseball experts and fanatics have found fascination in how fast pitchers throw — starting in the 1970s when new technologies allowed measurement of moving targets — caring about how fast outfielders throw is a recent development. It began in earnest at the start of the 2015 season, when MLB engaged Statcast to measure outfield throw speeds.
Fastest Outfield Throws Ever
New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks (through the 2020 season) is king of fast outfield throws. Not only did he set the 105.5 mph record in April 2016, he had previously set the record at 103.07 mph, which then was topped by Carlos Gomez of the Houston Astros who recorded a 103.1-mph laser late in the 2015 season.
To get an idea of the upper range of MLB outfielder throws, consider this progression of the record as it was established during that first Statcast season of 2015:
- 97.4 mph by Carlos Gonzalez
- 98.0 mph by Aaron Hicks
- 98.0 mph by Byron Buxton
- 98.5 mph by Jason Hayward
- 98.9 mph by Adam Jones
- 99.5 mph by Leonys Martin
- 99.5 mph by Dariel Alvarez
- 100.2 mph by Carlos Gomez
- 100.4 mph by Kevin Kermaier
- 103.07 mph by Aaron Hicks
- 103.1 mph by Carlos Gomez
By the very next season, 2016, records were set to last several years. It begs the question: will Hicks’ record ever be broken?
Regarding average outfielder throw speeds, while the MLB’s new Statcast technology records a great range of baseball statistics including individual throw speeds, it has not gotten to average throwing speeds by position overall.
The general consensus among baseball statistical watchers, former players and casual fans is MLB outfielders typically throw at full strength at mph levels ranging from the high 80s to low 90s. However many top 100 mph rather consistently.
For instance, one report tagged Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger with a “maximum arm strength” at 101.1 mph in 2019. That season, he was one of only three outfielders to crack 101 mph with tosses from the outfield. Going further with infielders, the same report had Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. with a 91.8 mph “average maximum effort arm strength” that same season.
Outfield Throw Speeds Pre-2015
As mentioned, recent-year attention to MLB outfielder throw speeds is aligned with the kickoff of Statcast in 2015. The metrics it provided indicates only who recently logged the fastest outfield throws. But what about prior to 2015?
Without having any electronic data to prove it, a list of the fastest-throwing outfielders in history probably would include some or all of the following:
- Roberto Clemente
- Vladimir Guerrero
- Ichiro Suzuki
- Dave Parker
- Dave Winfield
- Al Kaline
- Dwight Evans
- Willie Mays
- Carl Furillo
- Shoeless Joe Jackson
- Bob Meusel
- Ellis Valentine
- Jesse Barfield
- Raul Mondesi
- Bo Jackson
Some even note that Babe Ruth, during his outfielding days with the Yankees, had a stupendous arm — he threw out 204 base runners over the course of his career.
Side Note on MPH Gauges
When Hicks set the record throw in 2016, it was considered the fastest throw in history because it topped two 103.9-mph fastballs by Yankees pitcher Aroldis Chapman. That changed years later because baseball seems to continuously tinker with the readings of the “guns” used to measure velocity.
Not only have speed guns over the years varied in the mph readings they deliver (some would call one a “slow gun,” the other a “fast gun”), some engineers have figured out that it depends on where the reading was taken while the ball was in flight.
Someone determined that Chapman’s previous record of 103.9 was gauged at the midway point between the ball’s release from his hand and the catcher’s mitt. However, thrown balls lose velocity as they travel forward. Therefore, someone determined that if his record tosses were gauged at the moment the ball left his hand, Chapman’s speed would have been 105.8 mph.
On that note, for years Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan was thought to be the first to crack the 100 mph barrier — and he held that distinction for many years. Yet today some speed gun analysts suggest his fastest thrown balls may have hit 108 mph.
Does the velocity of balls thrown from the outfield really matter?
Answers probably vary, but most baseball insiders would say accuracy, and maybe even outfield throwing fundamentals and strategy, are equally important.
After all, what good is a ball thrown at 105 mph if it misses its target — the receiving fielder at a base — by 10 or more feet?
There’s also the matter of fundamentals, and a big question:
how can outfielders throw faster than pitchers, who are trained to throw as hard as possible?
The answers are that much of the success of an outfielder’s throw depends on how he approaches a ball before catching it. This helps get his body in a better position to throw, and to build momentum toward the target.
How can an outfielder throw faster than a pitcher?
Two reasons: running start, and use of a crow-hop. Pitchers must begin from a stationary position, with a foot on the pitcher’s rubber. Good outfielders will get a solid running start before grabbing the ball, then crow-hop — a sort-of small-quick jump — before uncorking his arm and unloading the throw.
What was the most-famous outfield throw in MLB history?
Baseball fans will probably argue this forever. For the sake of providing an answer, let’s say not one but two tosses from Pirates right fielder Roberto Clemente during the 1971 World Series. One from the warning track prevented a run, the other from the right field line nailed a runner at third base. These were notable because of the stakes involved (world championship play), and how many people witnessed that arm on television.
Where do the outfielders with the strongest arm play?
Typically in right field, due to the longer distances from the key targets of third base and home plate. (Usually the fielder with the weakest arm is placed in left field, due to its close proximity to third base).