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The Royals have quietly put together the hardest throwing bullpen in baseball

Fastballs for days

Dylan Coleman #65 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Detroit Tigers during the bottom of the eighth inning at Comerica Park on September 25, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan.
Dylan Coleman #65 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Detroit Tigers during the bottom of the eighth inning at Comerica Park on September 25, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan.
Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

Throwing a baseball hard is, essentially, a prerequisite to be in Major League Baseball. Yes, there are outliers. There always are. Yes, velocity itself does not fully explain what makes a good baseball. How a fastball spins and how it plays off a pitcher’s full arsenal are also important. However, all things being equal, throwing a fastball, well, faster is better than throwing it not as fast.

This is especially true in the realm of the bullpen. When you don’t have to have worry about saving yourself for pitches 80 through 100, and when you don’t have to worry about your full arsenal, you tend to focus on your best pitches and throwing the crap out of them.

Kansas City Royals fans have been blessed with seeing some elite fastball work out of the bullpen over the past decade. At his peak, Kelvin Herrera’s fastball averaged over 99 MPH. More recently, we’ve seen Josh Staumont max out at 102 MPH. And while top-end heat is certainly fun, the Royals will showcase something else this year: the hardest throwing bullpen in baseball.

How did we get here? Quietly, but we’re here nonetheless. Let’s quantify it a bit with some numbers.

In 2021, there were 182 relievers who pitched at least 40 innings. Of those, 88—just under half—had an average fastball velocity of 95 MPH or more, and 17 were lefties. Last year, no team had more than five relievers meet both the innings and average velocity threshold, and no team had more than two lefties who both requirements.

This year, the Royals are looking to match both tops from last year, with two 95 MPH lefties and five total 95 MPH relievers.

Royals Relievers Bringing the Heat

Name Handedness 2021 Average Velo 2021 Velo Rank
Name Handedness 2021 Average Velo 2021 Velo Rank
Dylan Coleman R 98.3 MPH 7th*
Jake Brentz L 97.0 MPH 25th
Josh Staumont R 96.7 MPH 35th
Scott Barlow R 95.3 MPH 75th
Amir Garrett L 95.0 MPH 84th

Jake Brentz, Josh Staumont, Scott Barlow, and Amir Garrett should—if they stay healthy and perform relatively well—repeat in 2022. As for Dylan Coleman, well, he struck out 41.5% of batters in Triple-A last year and notched seven strikeouts in 6.1 September innings last year. He will be an important cog in that bullpen this year.

Will the 2022 Royals bullpen be good, though? That’s a little more complicated. This group is likely to struggle with command, which is a dangerous thing to play with. Furthermore, as I said earlier, fastball velocity is not a ticket to great performance. Other factors are at play; throwing harder is good, but you have to pitch to get batters out.

However, thanks to all these flamethrowers, the bullpen has a kind of raw upside that it hasn’t had in years. It’s hard to succeed in the ‘pen if you don’t have a good fastball. These guys all do. At the very least, it’ll be fun to watch.