Biggest MLB Flamethrowers of All Time

Josh BenjaminCorrespondent IMarch 26, 2012

Biggest MLB Flamethrowers of All Time

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    As baseball fans, nothing fires us up more than a pitcher who can throw the ball at a ridiculously high speed. 

    Why do you think we all went crazy over Stephen Strasburg (pictured)? I don't know about you, but my money's on the fact that he struck out 195 hitters in 109 innings during his final season at San Diego State University. If those numbers don't scream high velocity, I don't know what does.

    Sure enough, Strasburg isn't the only fireballer us fans have come to know and love over the years. Who can forget the electrifying nature of Nolan Ryan's "Ryan Express," or Randy Johnson's intimidating height that only made his fastball even scarier?

    Thus, as the weather turns warmer and baseball season begins, let's take a look at some of the biggest MLB flamethrowers of all time.

10. Mark Wohlers

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    Wohlers may be the man kicking off the list, but that doesn't take away from the fact that his velocity put him in the record books. 

    His 6'4", 207-pound frame made him an intimidating presence on the mound, and to date he his the third-fastest recorded pitcher in baseball history. During a 1998 spring training game, his fastball clocked in at 103 miles per hour.

    The hard-throwing righty's time in the spotlight may have been brief, as he had three productive years as the Atlanta Braves' closer before arm problems robbed him of his velocity. Still, he finished his career with 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings, and that's respectable no matter how you look at it.

9. Ryne Duren

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    There's no doubt that Ryne Duren was a hard thrower, and his one-time manager, Casey Stengel, said it best: "I would not admire hitting against Ryne Duren, because if he ever hit you in the head you might be in the past tense."

    Sure, Duren could throw hard and he could strike people out, too. For his career, his K/9 was a respectable 9.6. The problem with Duren was that his control was awful, as his 1.41 career WHIP shows.

    Still, his velocity combined with his unpredictable control made him one of the most intimidating arms of his generation.

8. J.R. Richard

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    A stroke cut J.R. Richard's career short, but his rocket arm helped him become one of the game's most dominant pitchers over a two-year stretch. From 1978-1979, Richard struck out an MLB-leading 616 hitters and had an MLB-best 9.8 K/9.

    Throw in the fact that he was 6'8", 222 pounds, and that's one pitcher I wouldn't ever want to face when up at bat.

7. Stephen Strasburg

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    OK, so Strasburg only has 17 career starts under his belt. Still, the numbers don't lie. 

    With 116 strikeouts in just 92 career innings and a remarkable 11.3 K/9, his 6'4", 220-pound frame is just the icing on the cake as to why this flamethrower has a long and great career ahead of him.

6. Walter Johnson

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    One of the first power pitchers in baseball history, Johnson was the first member of the 3,000 strikeout club and was the only member until Bob Gibson joined in 1974.  

    In a 21-year career, he struck out 3,509 hitters in 5,914.1 innings, and while that may not seem like much by today's standards (Johnson only had 5.3 K/9 for his career), he was a pitching god in his day.

    He may have been relatively small at 6'1", 200 pounds, but he certainly lived up to his nickname, "The Big Train."

5. Bob Feller

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    Known as "The Heater from Van Meter" (a nod to his birthplace of Van Meter, Iowa), Feller's fastball was officially clocked at a then-record 98 miles per hour. He finished his career with 2,581 strikeouts, a number that may have been much higher were it not for three years spent in the military during World War II.

    On top of that, legend has it that Feller's fastball was once clocked at 107 miles per hour. Whether it's true or false, it's quite impressive that someone just six feet tall would have that kind of velocity.

4. Randy Johnson

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    Forget Randy Johnson's 6'10" frame, 4,875 career strikeouts or his MLB-best 10.6 career K/9. The Big Unit's status as a flamethrower can be summarized in just one legendary video.

3. Nolan Ryan

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    Ryan pitched for 27 years, and even in the latter stages of his career, his velocity was at or around 100 miles per hour. He may have appeared slim at 6'2", 170 pounds, but Ryan could throw hard, and on top of that, he packed a mean punch.

    When he retired in 1993, he was the all-time leader in strikeouts with 5,714 and his K/9 was an incredible 9.5. Throw in his seven career no-hitters, and he's one of the best flamethrowers in baseball history.

2. Bob Gibson

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    At 6'1", 189 pounds, Bob Gibson didn't exactly look intimidating. He would later make hitters regret their laid-back approach to him, as he would use his explosive velocity to back opposing batters off the plate. In 1974, he became just the second member of the 3,000 strikeout club.

    Gibson may have only led the NL in strikeouts once, in 1968, but his fierce and competitive nature along with his blazing fastball make him one of the best in this department.

1. Aroldis Chapman

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    Chapman's MLB career may still be in its early stages, but his 105 miles per hour fastball doesn't lie. When it comes to flamethrowers, nobody scares me more than this young right-hander.

    If he becomes a starter, other teams will collectively go, "Uh-oh..." when it comes time to face him. Once that happens, the sky's the limit.