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The 5 Best Fastballs of 2021

A look back at the five best fastballs from 2021.

Welcome to the pitch review series, where I’m taking a look at the best pitches of each pitch type from 2021! Today, we’re taking a look at the top five fastballs from last year!

If you’d like some more details on this series, take a look at the top five changeups article (and also just in case you want to see some pretty awesome changeups). Also check out the rest of the series so far, including:

Anyways, here are the top five fastballs from 2021!

 

5. Logan Gilbert

 

There will be a handful of guys in this article where you’re like, “duh, of course he has one of the best fastballs in baseball.” But, at least for me, Logan Gilbert was not one of those guys.

Gilbert’s first full season in the majors didn’t turn out super great, posting a 4.68 ERA through 119.1 innings, but that also came with a 3.73 FIP, 3.87 SIERA, and a decent 25.4% strikeout rate.

Gilbert really relies on this fastball, and with good reason. Not only does it miss a few bats (a 10.5% SwStr rate is nothing to sneeze at for a fastball), hitters don’t typically make super hard contact with it, as the pitch had just a .304 wOBA against it last year.

He’s also got a pretty decent slider, which posted a respectable 31.3% chase rate, a really good 18.1% SwStr rate, and a solid .304 wOBA against. Though command was a bit of a problem, as hitters also had a really nasty .258 ISO against the pitch.

But where Gilbert gets into trouble is his changeup, which got absolutely tattooed last year, with a .460 wOBA and .318 ISO against. That’s just gross. It did have a 16.4% SwStr rate though, so there’s that I guess?

I like that Gilbert has a really good fastball as a foundation, and the slider looks like it definitely has potential as a putaway pitch. He just either needs to improve on that changeup or ditch it, because if hitters keep smashing it like they did last year, he’s going to have some problems.

 

4. Jacob deGrom

 

Literally the least-surprising entry on this list, Jacob deGrom would probably be top of the list had his season not been shortened by injury.

deGrom’s fastball is ridiculous. Topping out at 102 mph, the pitch serves as a swing-and-miss pitch (14.4% SwStr rate last year), and a great setup to his other filthy pitches.

What’s especially insane is that the .215 wOBA against that deGrom’s fastball had last year was the worst of his repertoire. A .215 wOBA against is the worst pitch in his arsenal, he’s just unreal.

 

3. Max Scherzer

 

Another “no duh” answer. Even at 37 years old, Max Scherzer is still pumping gas and killing it on the mound.

What’s really impressive to me is that, despite the fact Scherzer located his fastball in the strike zone a lot (62% of the time), it still got a lot of swings and misses (13.4% SwStr rate). Even though it was “hittable” as far as location goes, hitters were still whiffing right through it all the time.

And even if they did make contact, they weren’t doing a ton with it, as hitters had a .275 wOBA against Scherzer’s fastball last year.

As for the rest of his repertoire, here’s a fun fact that just shows how good Scherzer is. Last year, not a single pitch he threw had a wOBA against worse than .295, and every pitch he threw had a double-digit SwStr rate.

Amazing that he and deGrom are teammates now.

 

2. Freddy Peralta

 

After two seasons of bouncing around as a mediocre starter and reliever for the Brewers, Freddy Peralta suddenly turned in a ridiculously good season in 2021, posting a 2.81 ERA with a 3.12 FIP and 3.40 SIERA alongside a 33.6% strikeout rate through 144.1 innings.

There had been some signals that Peralta might have made some changes in 2020. Coming into the season, he added a new slider that worked pretty well and became a pretty solid strikeout pitch. But we saw just 29.1 innings of work from Peralta in 2020, most of it as a reliever, and even his 2.41 FIP and 2.81 SIERA could have been explained away by a very small sample size.

But Peralta took that slider and absolutely ran with it, and it worked beautifully, posting a 32.2% chase rate, 20.3% SwStr rate, and a .229 wOBA against.

The addition of that slider is what I think took Peralta over the edge. That made this already solid fastball even more effective, and ultimately the pitch posted a .265 wOBA against and even a 12.9% SwStr rate, which is really good for a fastball.

Now, all that praise for his slider aside, I don’t want to forget about his curveball either, because that worked pretty darn well for Freddy last year too, posting a .180 wOBA against alongside a solid 12% SwStr rate.

In short, I think what Peralta did last year is pretty legit. Is he a sub-3 ERA guy consistently? I don’t think so. But I could see him being pretty close, provided he keeps it up with this fastball/slider/curveball combo.

 

1. Carlos Rodón

 

I’ve been a Carlos Rodón fan for a long time. When I first saw that slider he throws, I fell in love, that pitch is a beauty. But I’ll be honest, I was losing faith in the guy. I thought he was a bit of a one-trick pony who had a killer slider but couldn’t control his pitches enough to really be effective.

Thank the sweet baby jeez I was wrong, because hot damn what a season Rodón turned in. A 2.37 ERA, 2.65 FIP, 2.96 SIERA, 34.6% strikeout rate and, most importantly, a career-low 6.7% walk rate. You love to see it.

The slider was there for Rodón last year, as it often is, with a 33.5% chase rate and 17.5% SwStr rate, but it was his fastball that really changed things.

Last year, Rodón added around two ticks to his fastball, topping out at 100.7 mph (the highest of his career) and the pitch worked wonders. Weak contact? You bet, with a .264 wOBA and .136 ISO against.

Did it work as a swing-and-miss pitch? Believe it or not, yea, with a 32.8% chase rate and 13.8% SwStr rate. Honestly, those numbers would be pretty decent for a curveball or a slider or a changeup, but for a fastball? Especially one that was thrown in the zone 60.4% of the time? That’s ridiculous.

 

Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter and @EthanMKaplanImages on Instagram)

Ben Palmer

Managing editor at Pitcher List. Lifelong Orioles fan (which can be....painful at times) and a Ravens/Wizards/Terps fan. I also listen to way too much music and watch way too many movies.

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