Q. 98.3 MPH, eh? Does Stephen Pryor throw the hottest fastball in organized baseball?
A. The hottest the Mariners have ever seen, him and the young Randy Johnson. The 98.3 he averaged in his debut, that would theoretically lead both leagues in fastball velocity. Henry Rodriguez averaged 98.0 MPH last year; a grand total of four (4) other guys including Chapman, Bard and Jordan Walden were at 97 or better. Note carefully that Pryor averaged 98.3 despite a multi-inning outing, warming up twice, all that stuff.
Q. Does the fastball have "life" on it, or is it just real fast?
A. We quipped in the shout box that the velocity was the 3rd best thing about his fastball... here, gentlemen, is the best thing:
A typical 4-seam (extra-fast) fastball swerves armside 5", and rises 8". Stephen Pryor's fastball does not run armside; relatively speaking it cuts in on lefties, and it rises 11". A lot of the time it rises 13-14".
You'll remember that the secret to Mariano Rivera's cutter lies solely in the fact that he gets such drastic "hop" on it, along with extra length. This is the very definition of "late life." Also Brandon Morrow's fastball -- whatever you want to say about Brandon Morrow -- has dramatic late rise on it, and that's why the catchers tell you "Wow! Brandon Morrow's fastball gets to the last 5 feet and it just EXPLODES!"
These are two completely separate issues. One - Pryor's fastball is 96-100 MPH. Two - his fastball is turbocharged in the last 10 feet.
You say, "no way." Read it and weep, chump.
Q. Do the other 100-MPH relievers have this hop?
A. Daniel Bard gets 8-9" rise, about average, though Bard's heater does cut in to LHB's nicely. You might have heard that Bard's fastball is a little bit hard to square up.
Henry Rodriguez gets 9-10" of rise, really nice hop, and roughly average armside run.
Chapman's lefty fastball actually sinks a bit compared to typical ML fastballs. He gets really good armside sail.
Jordan Walden's heater is similar to Pyror's, not quite so much .... he gets 10" of rise but he also gets a lot of armside sail. It is the "cutting" action into LHB's, added to the 10-12" rise, that gives Pryor's heater a Rivera-style shape. The cut in gloveside is what keeps these pitches off the barrels of the bats.
Joel Hanrahan's fastball doesn't cut and rise like Pryor's, Kelvin Herrera's doesn't ... Nate Jones we just saw tonight and he looks awesome, but his fastball is fairly straight. It is safe to say that the life and hop on Pryor's fastball is very special, probably unique.
Q. How does Pyror get this hop and life?
A. He gets on top of the baseball. Like he gets on top of the ball as well as anybody in O.B. It's bizarre to see somebody powerflush a fastball down at the ground in front of home plate, and still get 100 MPH on it.
You probably remember SSI's sermonizing about Brandon Morrow. Morrow throws better, the closer his fingers point to 12 o'clock, which he has been doing more and more. When Morrow's fingers drop to 2 o'clock, even close to 3 o'clock, it's like his fingers undercut the ball and sail it, giving a floating action.
Pryor's natural motion gets him way, way on top of the ball. The intersection of 99 MPH with a downhill release, that is inflammable. Roger Clemens used it at 92-93 MPH, in his 30's, to rack up nine thousand Cy Youngs.
We've got the hop and life as the "secret drop of poison" here, the #1 thing about the heater, and the deceptive high front side, over-the-top downhill motion as #2. We've got the tongue in cheek a bit on that last. You can put the 99 MPH second on the list.
Is Dr. D sounding as though he likes Stephen Pryor's fastball at all?