Aug 30, 2010, 11:17 AM EDT
Joel Zumaya amazingly never ceased being the hardest-thrower in baseball even while battling all kinds of arm injuries over the past few years, averaging 99.3 miles per hour with his fastball both this season and last season.
However, now that Zumaya is sidelined while recovering from July elbow surgery the “hardest-thrower” title is vacant and R.J. Anderson of Fan Graphs writes that Angels rookie reliever Jordan Walden may be ready to claim it.
Called up last week, Walden has made three appearances, faced 13 batters, and thrown a total of 50 pitches. Of those 50 pitches 36 have been fastballs and they’ve clocked in at an average of 98.9 miles per hour. I watched in awe as he repeatedly cracked triple-digits in his big-league debut against my beloved Twins last week, but was surprised to find that his minor-league numbers aren’t nearly as jaw-dropping.
He moved from the rotation to the bullpen this season, posting a 3.44 ERA, .277 opponents’ batting average, and 41/24 K/BB ratio in 50 innings between Double-A and Triple-A before the call-up. Those certainly aren’t terrible numbers, but managing just 41 strikeouts in 50 innings while opponents bat .277 sure seems odd given his incredible fastball velocity and seemingly solid slider.
Consistently throwing strikes appears to be Walden’s biggest issue, but if he can harness his raw stuff while continuing to pump 99-mph heat at hitters from a low arm angle he sure looks like a potentially dominant late-inning reliever. And he may just be the hardest-thrower in baseball, at least until Aroldis Chapman and his mythical 105-mph fastball arrive in Cincinnati later this week.
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