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Rays Tales: Rookie pitchers join Rays' 100 club

You're always supposed to remember your first time, right?

For RHP Ryne Stanek, it happened while he was in college at Arkansas, and, like some other events back then, the details are a bit fuzzy, and with no cellphone photos to check.

"It happened a couple times but nothing regularly," Stanek said. "I heard about it after a game. We didn't have a gun on the scoreboard. Somebody said, 'Hey, you hit 100 (mph) like three times.' I'm like, 'That's cool, I wish somebody would have told me.' "

LHP Jose Alvarado has a bit more distinct memory of the first time he officially crossed into triple digits, pitching as a starter for the Rays' rookie-level Princeton (W. Va.) team at Bluefield, Va., on July 12, 2015, and seeing it flash up on the scoreboard.

"It was cool," Alvarado said, "because a lot of people in the stadium went, 'Wow, unbelievable.' "

Hitting 100 in college or the minors is one thing, but now the Rays' two rookie relievers, the Blaze Brothers, have joined an exclusive club — though not as limited as it used to be — of doing so in the majors.

"You can say that you've done it in The Show, and that's something," said veteran RHP Tommy Hunter, who has done it eight times, last in 2015. "These young guys are fun to watch. They just come up and let it eat."

Warning, speed trap ahead

Stanek hit the 100 mph mark in his second big-league game, just the seventh Rays pitcher to do so since 2008 when the data became accessible, tripling up three times to the Indians' Edwin Encarnacion in an at-bat that ended in a walk.

In his third game, he got an even more severe lesson that throwing hard isn't enough to be successful, when the Yankees' Matt Holliday turned around a 100.2 mph fastball for a homer that cost the Rays a game.

"It was something that you'd always look, like, wow, that guy throws really hard," Stanek said. "But as I've come to see up here, 100 gets out of the ballpark, too. So I'd rather be able to locate well over anything. … Whatever gets me outs. If (throwing 100) helps me get outs, fine. If I could give up a little bit to get more outs, I'm fine with that, too."

Pitching coach Jim Hickey said it's obvious just throwing hard doesn't guarantee success.

"Of course not, or all we would do is recruit velocity. Period. End of story," Hickey said. "The game is kind of going in that direction where you have the very high-octane one-inning relief pitchers, and it does allow you to probably get away with more misplaced mistakes, if you will.

"And if you're a hitter, it's tough. But you saw what Matt Holliday did. You get a ball out away from you, you can barrel it up and it travels. You've still got to pitch, that's for sure. Velocity is not the only element."

Headline news?

Per data from Pitch F/X and StatCast, there were 31 pitchers who reached triple digits 1,379 times last season in the majors, though two — LHP Aroldis Chapman (Yankees/Cubs) and RHP Mauricio Cabrera (Braves) — threw nearly 65 percent of the pitches. (Chapman throws so many that mlb.com's StatCast site has a filter to exclude him from searches.)

Hickey said the frequency, and increase in publicity for throwing 100 or more, has taken away some of the luster.

"I don't even notice anymore when I see the three numbers going up on the board," he said. "It's less of a big deal than it used to be because it's so public now, and everyone is aware of it. There was more of a mystique or a romance to it back when Nolan Ryan first hit 100.3 mph."

Rays veteran RHP Alex Cobb sees the extensive spread of hard throwers throughout the game but says — as someone who has never clocked even at 95 mph — that it's still a big deal to hit 100 mph.

"It's one of those marks that is so far beyond what even above-average people who can do something special can only dream about what it would be like," Cobb said. "I'm a dreamer, definitely.

"I'll text with (former Rays mate Jeremy Hellickson) that we're dying breeds. We're going to be something people tell stories about, that there used to be guys in the big leagues that only threw 90."

From the hitters' perspective

Facing pitchers capable of throwing 100 mph is hard enough physically since the ball gets to the plate even quicker, but hitting coach Chad Mottola said there are mind games involved, too. Especially when it's in big numbers on the scoreboard.

"There is something to the mental side when you see the triple digits," he said. "It speeds you up, and that's what you have to fight. And the fact is that more guys are doing it, so unfortunately we're getting more reps. So at least the mental side is getting better."

Of some consolation, Mottola and several Rays hitters said that not all 100 mph pitches are the same, making some — usually the straight over-the-top ones — reasonably hittable. Chapman, not so much.

"It's still not easy," CF Kevin Kiermaier said, "but there are some 100s that are somewhat comfortable, and there are some that are what everyone else thinks one is like, and it's just not fun to even attempt it. … You're like, 'Come on, this isn't even fair.' "

Draft rumblings

MLB.com's latest mock draft still has the Rays taking Louisville LHP/1B Brendan McKay with the No. 4 pick June 12 but also pitches North Carolina prep LHP MacKenzie Gore as an option. … ESPN's Keith Law also pegs the Rays for McKay and says they "would do cartwheels" if he gets by the Twins, Reds and Padres. … Baseball America has them taking California prep SS/CF Royce Lewis. … Former Rays OF Fernando Perez will be the team draft rep at MLB Network's New Jersey studio.

Rays rumblings

Congrats to radio dynamic duo Andy Freed and Dave Wills, who last week passed the 2,000-game milestone. … Noting their improved play, ESPN's Buster Olney called the Rays "the ultimate sleeper team in baseball." … Oddsmakers at bovada.com, however, upped their odds of winning the World Series from 66-1 on May 3 to 75-1. … DH/LF Corey Dickerson is clearly deserving statistically of election to the AL All-Star team, but he's going to need a lot of help in the mlb.com online voting, trailing Nelson Cruz (Mariners), Edwin Encarnacion (Indians) and Matt Holliday (Yankees), and competing with legendary Albert Pujols (Angels). … A Baseball Prospectus piece merging multiple metrics to find the most average pitcher in the majors settled on Rays RHP Matt Andriese. … The Rays are marketing Saturday's doubleheader vs. Oakland as a 2-for-1 concept, but charging $26 for the cheapest ticket doesn't seem like much of a bargain.

The Rays' 100 club

Seven pitchers have reached triple digits for the Rays, going back to 2008, when Pitch F/X and StatCast were available, noting this might be different from what's seen on TV and stadium boards:

NameTimesMaxDateOutcome
Fernando Rodney33101.45/21/13Double
Ryne Stanek7100.86/2/17Midcount
Jake McGee5100.95/28/14Strikeout
David Price4100.48/9/10Strikeout
Jose Alvarado3100.55/24/17Midcount
Edwin Jackson2100.59/8/08Strikeout
Kyle Farnsworth1100.56/13/11Midcount

Source: baseballsavant.mlb.com

Maxing out

Top speeds registered by some current Rays pitchers:

RHP Jumbo Diaz101.66-6-15
RHP Tommy Hunter100.89-22-12
RHP Ryne Stanek100.86-2-17
LHP Jose Alvarado100.55-24-17
RHP Chris Archer99.97-19-15
RHP Danny Farquhar98.38-11-13
RHP Alex Colome97.77-27-16
RHP Brad Boxberger96.68-24-14
RHP Erasmo Ramirez96.68-13-13
RHP Matt Andriese95.97-17-15
RHP Jake Odorizzi95.48-14-16
RHP Alex Cobb94.95-27-14

Trending up

A year by year look at MLB's 100-mph pitches

YearPitches 100-plusPitchers doing it
2008618
200925715
201044018
201129612
201239715
201346517
201456316
201589734
20161,37931

Note: In 2016, 64 percent thrown by Aroldis Chapman and Mauricio Cabrera

Source: baseballsavant.mlb.com

Rays Tales: Rookie pitchers join Rays' 100 club 06/03/17 [Last modified: Saturday, June 3, 2017 9:40pm]
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