You don't have to throw 90 mph to succeed -- or do you?

Is it possible any more to play at the highest levels (Div 1, pros) without a 90 mph fastball?

And is it wrong that so much emphasis is placed on speed above most other attributes with young pitchers?

I don’t know.
There are always outliers.
I went to two games this past weekend between two solid D1 programs (Nevada and Fresno St). There were two pitchers that scouts were paying attention to. The first was a left from Fresno St who got shelled (7 earned in 4 innings, 2 BB, 2 HBP), but, the guns were on every pitch and all the scouts were taking notes. The second was a big RHP (6’ 4", 240 lbs). They were gunning him and taking notes for a couple of innings then sort of stopped. No other pitchers drew their attention other than a pitch here and there and someone writing a quick note…probably their name. The two guys that had their attention were the two hardest throwers of the weekend that pitched (a total of about 10 or 11 pitchers that I saw). The LHP was sitting 87-90, mostly working in the 88 range. The RHP was 88-91 mostly sitting 89 ish. A lot of these guys are huge guys, three of the pitchers were listed at 6’ 6". None of them threw 90 however. One of the big RHPs a 6’ 6" guy was working 82-84 range and was very effective. Scouts were just chit chatting while he was pitching. Even though the LHP got hammered there was a lot more interest in him than the RHP who was working in the same velo range but was effective, a 1 hitter through 5 innings.
So, yeah, I think you can play D1 ball as a RHP and be mid 80s (83-86). I saw more than half the pitchers in these two games working there. As for pro ball, that is another animal.
Despite what You Tube and Perfect Game and various other online sources would have everyone think, I believe a true hard thrower, a kid that is sitting high 80s to 90+ is still pretty rare. Those perfect game sites list their peak velo…so they list a kid at 90 when he may have been gunned there once ever. Read further down and you’ll see he is sitting 86. I think the obsession with velo is because it is the quickest way to get attention, it is easy to understand and measure. As for the scouts…they will report and scout what their bosses ask for. If you’re a RHP and throw 85, you better be remarkable in another way to get a pro scouts attention.


The problem is that so many coaches, managers, etc. are so wrapped up in this whole notion of speed, speed and more speed that they refuse to consider anything else, and if a pitcher doesn’t throw 97 or faster he might as well forget about it and go home. There seems not to be any room nowadays for the finesse pitcher who hardly breaks 90 but who has a good repertoire of breaking stuff and the control and command to go with it!

And on the other hand…
The story goes that a major league manager had heard of a pitcher down in the minors who was supposed to be something sensational, and he sent one of his scouts down to watch him pitch a game. The pitcher was indeed sensational. He pitched a perfect game, and only one batter got so much as a loud foul off him. The scout took notes and reported back to the manager, who sent back this reply: "SIGN UP THE GUY WHO GOT THE FOUL—WE’RE LOOKING FOR HITTERS!"
Can’t win 'em all.

Check out Ross Mitchell who pitches for Mississippi State University. He tops out at around 72-73. He has been a great pitcher for them for 3 years. He was a big part of their run to the D1 college world series runner up finish in 2013. He starts, middle relief, closes. I think he may even do the pre-game field prep.

.828 winning percentage (24-5), a 1.93 career ERA
ERA drops to 1.86 (10-3) in 36 career SEC contests (10 starts)
Has held opponents to a lifetime .217 average
One of two pitchers in SEC history (Alan Johnson, 2003) to be SEC Pitcher of the Week three times in the same season

here’s a link to his career stat/info sheet:

Really well said fearsomefour. I’m on board with your gut instinct that high 80s to low 90s is still a rarity in the game. I played D3 ball and most starters sat around 81-85. I watch the CWS every year and am always surprised at how few D1 pitchers throw much harder than that. A baseball looks and even sounds different when moving at about 88+. Has that extra wow factor.

1 Like

When I played, many moons ago, I was a natural, true, honest-to-gosh sidearmer with a consistent release point and a devastating crossfire. I wasn’t what you’d call particularly fast, but I had a slider that hit 86 miles an hour, and when I would crossfire it—a big strikeout, or a weak dribbler to the first baseman who would make the putout himself, and that batter would go grumbling back to the dugout with only a futile AB to show for it and a mouthful of invectives, imprecations and just plain cusswords. And all I would say was “You’re just a lousy hitter!” That slider was my #1 pitch, and I built my repertoire around it, and I won a lot of games and rescued plenty of others and had a ball doing it.