The limit to the fastball

Athletes are getting stronger all the time, thanks to scientific conditioning, and records keep falling. But the velocity of a baseball thrown really, really hard has not changed all that much since Walter Johnson’s days. 100 m.p.h., and maybe as much as 3 m.p.h. more, is as fast as anyone can throw it.

According to this article, that is close to the human limit. Muscles can indeed get bigger and stronger, which is why athletes can run, swim, and jump better than ever before. But throwing a baseball has to do not only with muscles but with ligaments and tendons. Those do not get stronger as muscles do, no matter how many steroids you take. Powerful muscle exertion can snap, tear, and over stretch them like rubber bands. The article says that throwing a ball 110 m.p.h. would be about the very most a human arm could take.

Well, the official record is 103, so there is room for a new flamethrower to throw even harder, before he blows out his arm.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://necessaryroughness.org Dan at Necessary Roughness

    Billy Wagner threw several 100 and 101 mph fastballs when I watched him play in Houston.

    There is another problem with throwing it that fast: if a batter can put a bat on it, it leaves the yard pretty quickly. :)

  • http://necessaryroughness.org Dan at Necessary Roughness

    Billy Wagner threw several 100 and 101 mph fastballs when I watched him play in Houston.

    There is another problem with throwing it that fast: if a batter can put a bat on it, it leaves the yard pretty quickly. :)

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Same thing goes for the long jump and high jump, I’m told; at about a long jump of 30′ or a high jump of about 8′ (?), the femur snaps, even with the highest bone density conceiveable.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Same thing goes for the long jump and high jump, I’m told; at about a long jump of 30′ or a high jump of about 8′ (?), the femur snaps, even with the highest bone density conceiveable.

  • Bruce

    It is good that there is a limit to these things. It means that more basic and interesting stuff, like skill and wits, gets to play a part in sports. When we finally tire of the ridiculous numbers of homeruns hit (I tired of it a few decades ago, but the American thirst for sudden excitement is unslaked), maybe we can get back to wonderful, strategic small ball. Back to an appreciation of the hit and run, the triple, the double play, the bunt as a function of testing a defense. I think we’re getting back to that already, as the steroid era seems to have hit a wall and hitters are finding–post HGH–that they need to learn to hit in a different way.

  • Bruce

    It is good that there is a limit to these things. It means that more basic and interesting stuff, like skill and wits, gets to play a part in sports. When we finally tire of the ridiculous numbers of homeruns hit (I tired of it a few decades ago, but the American thirst for sudden excitement is unslaked), maybe we can get back to wonderful, strategic small ball. Back to an appreciation of the hit and run, the triple, the double play, the bunt as a function of testing a defense. I think we’re getting back to that already, as the steroid era seems to have hit a wall and hitters are finding–post HGH–that they need to learn to hit in a different way.

  • Bruce

    Somewhat relevant to the topic: My wife’s cousin Danny Naulty, while pitching for the Twins in the mid-nineties, had gotten so muscular in his pitching arm that it had begun to pinch off a nerve, effectively making him unable to pitch. He underwent surgery to remove part of a rib, so that the muscle could continue to develop. Pretty gruesome, and testimony to what some people will do to maximize their body’s ability to perform.

    On a side note, he was recently on ESPN’s Outside The Lines. Now an evangelical preacher in Denver, he has admitted to taking steroids in order to be able to advance to the big leagues. “I never would have made it out of A ball without steroids” he said. It was the growing realization among pitchers that they had to get better to compete with increasingly stronger and quicker batters. And that of course begets a cycle of steroid use that doesn’t stop till Congress gets interested.

    Anyway, “scientific conditioning”–unfortunately–most often includes some sort of chemical additive.

  • Bruce

    Somewhat relevant to the topic: My wife’s cousin Danny Naulty, while pitching for the Twins in the mid-nineties, had gotten so muscular in his pitching arm that it had begun to pinch off a nerve, effectively making him unable to pitch. He underwent surgery to remove part of a rib, so that the muscle could continue to develop. Pretty gruesome, and testimony to what some people will do to maximize their body’s ability to perform.

    On a side note, he was recently on ESPN’s Outside The Lines. Now an evangelical preacher in Denver, he has admitted to taking steroids in order to be able to advance to the big leagues. “I never would have made it out of A ball without steroids” he said. It was the growing realization among pitchers that they had to get better to compete with increasingly stronger and quicker batters. And that of course begets a cycle of steroid use that doesn’t stop till Congress gets interested.

    Anyway, “scientific conditioning”–unfortunately–most often includes some sort of chemical additive.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Thanks for that update about Danny, Bruce. I am still proud to have one of his autographed balls.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Thanks for that update about Danny, Bruce. I am still proud to have one of his autographed balls.

  • Don S

    Regarding Dan Naulty, my son played for Calvary Chapel High School from 2001 – 2005, during the period when Dan was a pitching coach there, and was also, I believe, on the ministry staff at the church. Early on, he was still hoping to come back after the surgery, and in the meantime ran a pitching clinic for children, free of charge, during which all he asked was that the boys and whatever parents were present would listen to a short testimony and evangelistic appeal from him. He would then sign autographs, etc. My son used to help him with the clinics. A truly humble and godly man. I was not at all surprised that he was the one who stood up and took responsibility for his actions as a player in the aftermath of the Mitchell Report.

    Later, when he realized a comeback was not to be, he chose to go into full time ministry. God bless him in that and all he does.

  • Don S

    Regarding Dan Naulty, my son played for Calvary Chapel High School from 2001 – 2005, during the period when Dan was a pitching coach there, and was also, I believe, on the ministry staff at the church. Early on, he was still hoping to come back after the surgery, and in the meantime ran a pitching clinic for children, free of charge, during which all he asked was that the boys and whatever parents were present would listen to a short testimony and evangelistic appeal from him. He would then sign autographs, etc. My son used to help him with the clinics. A truly humble and godly man. I was not at all surprised that he was the one who stood up and took responsibility for his actions as a player in the aftermath of the Mitchell Report.

    Later, when he realized a comeback was not to be, he chose to go into full time ministry. God bless him in that and all he does.


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