I asked Casey Blake today to tell me some secrets he has about hitting fastballs and he said, smiling, “I’m not gonna give away some of my secrets.”
Regardless, I asked him a couple questions about hitting fastballs, and basically he said this:
Hitting a 90 mph fastball with a lot of movement is harder than hitting a 95 mph fastball with medium movement.
But hitting a 100 mph fastball, regardless of break, is harder than both.
His exact words were “100 is 100, man.”
Casey Blake, mind you, is well past the age of 30, but still does well against fastballs. If Blake were Indiana Jones, 100 mph fastballs would be his snakes.
I then asked him who has the hardest fastball to hit in the majors, and he said after a mild hesitation Josh Johnson. Interestingly, Johnson doesn’t have the raw speed that Blake hates (why’d it have to be 100 mph fastballs??), but that’s mostly because of his use as a starter.
There’s a huge difference between what a pitcher hits on a radar gun in a vacuum and what a pitcher hits on a radar gun in the middle of a full season.
Johnson’s fastball averages in the mid-90s, which is almost tops among the majors, but its his movement that drives batters nuts.
11 vertical inches is INSANE movement, almost wiffle ball-esque. Then couple that with the two-seamer’s 10 inches and slightly more horizontal movement and, well, that’s a hard-ass pitch to hit.
That Aug. 1 game was against the Padres, who seemingly hit Johnson well because he had trouble locating (4 walks in 5.2 innings tied a season high).
Fortunately, Blake hasn’t had to face Jonathan Broxton who, in his better times, has Johnson’s movement AND 100 mph.