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Is Chapman MLB's top fireballer? Not anymore

@_dadler
April 22, 2019

Jordan Hicks is throwing unparalleled fire right now. The Cardinals' 22-year-old reliever has by far the fastest fastball in the Majors in 2019. And he dialed it up to his highest level of the season in Sunday's series finale against the Mets. Hicks' game-ending strikeout of Juan Lagares: a sinker

Jordan Hicks is throwing unparalleled fire right now.

The Cardinals' 22-year-old reliever has by far the fastest fastball in the Majors in 2019. And he dialed it up to his highest level of the season in Sunday's series finale against the Mets.

Hicks' game-ending strikeout of Juan Lagares: a sinker clocked at 104.2 mph. That's by far the fastest pitch thrown in MLB this year.

The second-fastest? 103.7 mph -- also by Hicks, also on Sunday. So were the third-fastest (103.0 mph), fourth-fastest (102.8 mph) and fifth-fastest (102.4 mph). In one day, Hicks filled out the entire Top 5 Fastest Pitch leaderboard. And it doesn't stop there. Hicks has thrown all of the 15 fastest pitches in baseball this season, and 22 of the top 25.

His fastball is averaging over 100 mph -- 100.5, to be exact. He's the only pitcher in the Majors with an average fastball velocity in triple digits.

Highest avg. fastball velocity, 2019
1) Jordan Hicks (STL): 100.5 mph
2-T) Jose Alvarado (TB): 98.3 mph
2-T) Tayron Guerrero (MIA): 98.3 mph
4) Ryan Helsley (STL): 98.2 mph
5) Felipe Vazquez (PIT): 98.1 mph

There are only three pitchers who have averaged a 100-plus mph fastball in a season during the pitch-tracking era, which goes back to 2008: Hicks, Mauricio Cabrera and, of course, Aroldis Chapman.

Hicks averaged triple digits as a rookie last season, too. If he keeps up his velo through the rest of 2019, he'll join Chapman as the only pitchers to average triple-digit heat more than once.

100+ mph avg. fastball velocity in a season
Pitch-tracking era (since 2008)
Jordan Hicks (STL), 2018: 100.4 mph
Aroldis Chapman (NYY/CHC), 2016: 101.0 mph
Mauricio Cabrera (ATL), 2016: 100.7 mph
Aroldis Chapman (CIN), 2015: 100.1 mph
Aroldis Chapman (CIN), 2014: 100.9 mph
Aroldis Chapman (CIN), 2010: 100.2 mph
Hicks: Averaging 100.5 mph in 2019

Chapman has the single-season velocity record, 101.0 mph, and he's averaged 100-plus mph four times. But he hasn't done it since 2016, and his velocity is sitting at 97.5 mph this season. That's left a window open for Hicks to seize the velocity throne.

Hicks and Chapman have been linked by their velocity ever since Hicks reached the big leagues. They're the only two pitchers to throw 105 mph. They're the only two pitchers to throw 104 mph more than once. For any velocity plateau you want to examine, it will likely be Chapman and Hicks, and then everyone else.

Hicks' 104.2-mph pitch to Lagares on Sunday is tied for the second-fastest strikeout pitch in the pitch-tracking era. Chapman is No. 1, with a 104.4-mph strikeout while with the Cubs on Aug. 7, 2016.

But Hicks might take over that top spot someday soon. Consider that, this season, he's thrown more than half of all 100-plus mph pitches in the Majors: 45 of 85 entering play Monday. The Marlins' Tayron Guerrero has the next most, with 17; Chapman has three.

Since his debut in 2018, Hicks has also thrown more than half of all of MLB's triple-digit pitches: 704 of 1,405. Guerrero is again second with 214 -- Hicks has over three times as many -- and Chapman is third with 180.

Right now, Hicks is on a level alone, above even Chapman. Maybe the new generation of flamethrower is inheriting the crown from the old one.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.