“I didn’t do anything special besides throw hard today.”
While technically correct, Jordan Hicks’ reaction to the freakish feat of physical strength he unveiled Sunday might be the understatement of the century. As a rookie, Hicks has garnered attention around the league this season for his tendency to pitch baseballs at triple-digit speeds. But in a five-pitch strike out of Philadelphia’s Odubel Herrera in the ninth inning Sunday, Hicks raised the bar he himself had set.
104. 105. 104. 105. 103.
Within the same at-bat, Hicks registered the five fastest pitches thrown in the major leagues this season. Though the second pitch of the sequence missed catcher Francisco Pena’s glove wide left, it was clocked at 105.0 mph. Two pitches later, Herrera fouled one off at 105.1 mph—tied for the fastest pitch ever recorded in MLB.
Back on July 18th, 2016 Aroldis Chapman missed the strike zone with a 1-2 fastball clocked by Statcast at 105.1 mph. Chapman hit triple digits a total of five times during that JJ Hardy at-bat, but none of the other pitches were thrown as hard as Hicks’ softest pitch Sunday against Herrera—a mere 103.7 mph.
So not only did Hicks unload a historically fast pitch, but he did it multiple times. This was no fluke. Jordan Hicks is pushing the boundaries of human capabilities to a point we’ve never seen before. What was it about that plate appearance, at that moment, that enabled Hicks to reach back for a little extra juice on his fastball?
“Odubel, hmm.” Hicks said with a pause, “He just takes forever to get into the box, to be honest. It kind of amps me up a little bit, I bring it against him.”
Jordan Hicks goes 105, 104, 105 and 104 mph. ????????— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 20, 2018
And, Odubel gets the well-deserved participation trophy, getting 1b on the dropped 3rd. ?? pic.twitter.com/IMQrTyDuHy
Despite that he actually ended up on first base after the third strike got away from Pena, Herrera officially saw his 45 game on-base streak end when Hicks struck him out. While it should be noted that Hicks also theorized the crowd’s standing ovation for Jack Flaherty while Hicks made his way to the mound might’ve fed the adrenaline for his eye-popping outing, the idea that Herrera spurred the extra velocity with his batting routine is a lot more fun.
“It doesn’t really irritate me, it’s just kinda like, why…? Just get in the box, you know what I mean?” Hicks smiled. “It’s all good, though.”
Mike Matheny doesn’t have to worry about squatting down the catch 105 at this point in his baseball career, but that doesn’t mean he can't appreciate what Hicks is doing from the dugout.
"Looked awful fast,” Matheny said, before a reporter told him the official velocity numbers from Statcast. “105, huh. 105 is pretty hard.”
What’s unique about Hicks—besides, of course, that there’s a cannon attached to his right shoulder—is that he doesn’t elicit this otherworldly velocity by the conventional means of a 4-seam fastball. His pitches are often described by Statcast as sinkers.
He’s got 105 with movement.
“I watched a couple pitches yesterday and they look like they’ve got the movement of a change up,” Matheny said. “The depth, the run.
“We’ve been using him a good little bit. To find that rhythm of what he needs to do to prepare, and then come in and pound the strike zone... He’s making really nice strides forward.”
Outside of a hiccup Thursday, Hicks has been stingy with the runs he allows. His ERA for the season stands at 2.05, and though he has plenty of room to grow in avoiding walks and missing bats, what he has been able to do with his wicked fastball at age 21 this season—his first taste of professional baseball above Class-A—has been downright impressive.
“It’s weird because whenever I try to throw that hard and then I come back and take some off, it feels really different,” Hicks said. “I don’t know, I can’t really explain it.”
So there you have it: not even Hicks can articulate what it’s like to throw 105.
And if he can’t, the rest of us will surely never know. At least we get to watch him do it.