Hardest-Throwing Free Agent Relievers

Thanks to the average fastball velocity data available at FanGraphs, we can make all kinds of fun lists.  Today we'll compile the hardest-throwing free agent relievers (minimum 20 innings in 2010).

1.  Kyle Farnsworth – 94.9
2.  Jesse Crain – 94.8
3.  Kerry Wood – 94.4
4.  J.J. Putz – 94.0
5.  Jose Contreras – 94.0
6.  Joaquin Benoit – 94.0
7.  Guillermo Mota – 93.9
8.  Frank Francisco – 93.4
9.  Rafael Soriano – 92.9
10.  Jason Frasor – 92.8

Bobby Jenks gets an honorable mention, as he'll top the list at 95.0 if he's non-tendered.  The White Sox had a ridiculously hard-throwing bullpen this year; Matt Thornton is at 96.1 but we assume his option will be picked up.  Also of note: the Cardinals' Mike MacDougal (94.7) just missed our innings cutoff.

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37 Responses to Hardest-Throwing Free Agent Relievers Leave a Reply

  1. jwsox 5 years ago

    dont forget sanots…yes he is a lock for a tender but he was throwing in the upper 90’s as well

    • Then you add Sale whose at 99. If you think about it we had Jose, JJ, Jenks, Thornton, Macdougal, all these guys were on the white sox at some point.

    • YanksFanSince78 5 years ago

      I think the fact that he’ll probably be tendered is why he isn’t on the list.

      • Yeah wasn’t trying to name all members of their bullpen. Just noticed while doing this list that they really owned the overall rankings.

  2. YanksFanSince78 5 years ago

    I would like to see the Yanks bring Woods back. Obviously his $10 mil option should probably declined and despite me previously not wanting them to commit to him beyond 2011 it might be wise to offer him a 1/year $6 mil deal (w/ incentives) and maybe a vesting option for 2012. He’s performed well as a Yankee handling the 8th inning role and it would be good to always have a backup closer in case Mo’s age catches up w/ him via injuries. I thought he might not be able to handle the NY pressure it seems as if he’s adapted well.

    • shysox 5 years ago

      They should bring Tiger back for another season.

    • I think the idea that some players can’t handle playing in NY is overblown, especially by Yankee fans because it makes them feel good about their town/situation being “different” (ie. better) than any other. If it were up to Yankee fans they’d pass on a lot of good players because of some mystical insight into players psyche has led them to think that they wouldn’t fair well in NY. Kerry Wood has been around the block a time or two. He’s spent most of his career in a large market where the media followed his every move for a bunch of die hard fans. He’s started high pressure games, relieved high pressure games, comeback from injury, thrown one of the best games in major league history, appeared in the playoffs multiple times, won a major award (ROY) and faced more than his share of adversity, etc etc…. Yeah, I think he can handle playing for the Yankees, even if Yankee fans aren’t sure.

      • Slopeboy 5 years ago

        Agreed about Wood. But that idea about not everyone can play in NY is not overblown. Many players will tell you that it’s a fact. Both teams included, some players are not acccustomed to the huge and constant media scrutiny and the fans harassment when they don’t perform. There are lots of examples of players not playing well, leaving and playing better elsewhere because the atmosphere is not as compressed.

        • cubs223425 5 years ago

          He called it overblown, not untrue.

          It might be tougher to deal with the New York pressure more than any other place, but it’s not like the second someone arrives there, he is toast because he hasn’t dealt with pressure.

          Heck, being on a team whose eccentric fan base has been begging for a ring for over a century isn’t exactly a cakewalk. Playing for Boston is rough as well.

          It might be tougher in New York, but it’s not something that will cripple the majority of ballplayers.

      • LOVE IT!

    • I’d like to see him back, but he can get closer money elsewhere, and that’s cash we’re not willing to spend.

    • TapDancingTeddy 5 years ago

      I see tons of support for Kerry Wood in this thread. But I think he walks too many people, and has had the benefit of being limited to two outs sometimes. That forces Mariano to get four-out saves at age 40.

      I think too many people remember what he used to be, and what he was projected to become. If you only look at his time as a reliever, he’s rather pedestrian, and shouldn’t command more than 3-4 million.

      • theyankeefanatic 5 years ago

        i agree with this statement…if the Yankees were to go with a free agent reliever J.J. Puts might be a better option…

        • Slopeboy 5 years ago

          The name is Putz like what he is. Guess you didn’t see him with the Mets.

  3. moonraker45 5 years ago

    I’m surprised that Frasor limped on to this list. His velocity was pretty low at the beginning of the season in comparison to where it normal rests.

  4. basemonkey 5 years ago

    Yes, yes, the White Sox bullpen was a real standout in this dept this past year. I remember thinking, “Every guy in the 6th inning and onwards is a rocket-thrower. What’s going on?!?!”

    • johnsilver 5 years ago

      Last year with Boston also (2009) when it was worth a crap with Bard, Papelbon, Ramirez a Delcarmen before he lost 3-4MPH from his 95-97mphFB, then this year rolls around, Ramirez can’t get anyone out, MDC can’t throw a decent FB and Papelbon forgets how to save a game.

      • AceGunderson 5 years ago

        I can’t believe how drastic the change was when Ramirez went to the Giants. He became a very reliable presence in a good bullpen. It makes me think how many mediocre AL pitchers could be completely different pitchers in the NL…but that can’t be all there is to it, right?

        • ugotrpk3113 5 years ago

          Sure – Ask Javier Vazquez about that whole AL/NL difference.

  5. myname_989 5 years ago

    Jose Contreras was a really solid pick-up on the cheap. Wouldn’t mind seeing him return at a similar price.

  6. Gumby65 5 years ago

    With a few on that list, it goes to show “hard” doesn’t always mean “good”.

    • rbeezy 5 years ago

      See “Jesse Crain & Kyle Farnsworth” wouldn’t trust them at all in late inning role.

      • cubs223425 5 years ago

        Farnsworth shut down SF in Game 2, albeit in shaky fashion.

        • He hit a guy, walked a guy, and got out of the inning of a double play that Glaus botched (even though he made it). Don’t think that counts as “shutting them down.”

      • Farnsworth was actually pretty good this year.

    • Backup_Slider 5 years ago

      I’d love to see the Swing Contact % stats (overall, inside zone, outside zone) limited to just fastballs thrown by those guys. Some likely throw a very straight hittable fastball, whereas others have more movement and miss more bats.

  7. Brian Wilson? Though he threw much harder to the end of the season he was throwing 98 MPH and was absolutely filthy

    • shysox 5 years ago

      I thought this article was titled “Hardest-Throwing Free Agent Relievers”. Silly me.

  8. cubs223425 5 years ago

    I would love to see the Cubs bring back Kerry Wood. They still have no real veteran depth in the bullpen, with the only established guys being Marmol and Marhsall. Grabow is a mess, and every young guy that has gotten s shot (Cashner, Samardzuja, Atkins, Berg, Caridad, Stevens, Gaub, etc.) has been inconsistent and unreliable.

    Bringing back Kerry gives them a solid guy for the 8th and insurance for Marmol, while allowing the young guys to work in mostly non-pressure situations and ease into their long-term roles.

    • shysox 5 years ago

      He’ll probably do bad like most players do when they sign with the Cubs through free agency.
      IE: Milton Bradley,Soriano (1 good year)

      • cubs223425 5 years ago

        You hit the nail on the head. Soriano only posted a 2007 WAR of 6.9, a 4.3 in 2008, and a 2.9 in 2010. He’s been a pretty good player for 3 of his 4 years, but he’s only been good for one year.

        And Marlon Byrd and Ted Lilly were just awful.

  9. Backup_Slider 5 years ago

    Matt Lindstrom would top this list if he is non-tendered, which is certainly within the realm of possibility (AVG fastball : 95.7 MPH).

  10. shysox 5 years ago

    There wasn’t anyone in the White Sox bullpen that couldn’t hit 97 MPH this year. Putz, Linebrink, Thornton, Pena, Santos, Sale, and Threets are all hard throwers.

  11. YanksFanSince78 5 years ago

    It might be tougher to deal with the New York pressure more than any other place, but it’s not like the second someone arrives there, he is toast because he hasn’t dealt with pressure.

    Heck, being on a team whose eccentric fan base has been begging for a ring for over a century isn’t exactly a cakewalk. Playing for Boston is rough as well.

    No offense to anyone but I would say there is a world of difference between playing for a team that is usually expected (or demanded of) to win vs a team that is almost always expected to lose. This is not to say that Cubs fans, organization and players don’t WANT to win or at various times in their history felt they were good enough to win, but really….if a Cubs team were to lose, how shocked would anyone be?

    As for the NY pressure, sometimes failure is often misconstrued as implosion because of the NYC bright lights. SOmetimes a guy just sucks or is caught in a bad time in their careers and sometimes they can’t handle adversity under the bright lights of NYC. I think Javier Vazquez is somewhere in between those two worlds. JV 1.0 sucked due to a tired arm. JV 2.0 has weaker stuff and no confidence. We’ll see if he can bounce back w/ someone else in 2011. That will be a true barometer as to his metal.

    • TapDancingTeddy 5 years ago

      I agree about the pressure factor. Sometimes it is just a bad time in a player’s career, and Vazquez is a perfect example of that. From May 1 to July 31, three full months, 8-4 with a 3.66 ERA. But the whole time he was looking for a plus 90 fastball and couldn’t find it. Eventually, he imploded. Sad, because he wanted to be here and erase the memory of 2004 when his arm went dead.

    • crashcameron 5 years ago

      ed whitson
      the big unit
      and famously, Kenny Rogers. even Ruby couldn’t take his love to this town

      YFS78, you’d know the full list better than any of us

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