On Sunday afternoon, with the Atlanta Braves trailing the Washington Nationals 6-4 in the seventh inning, Braves relief pitcher Mauricio Cabrera mowed down the heart of the Nats’ order, striking out two of the four batters he faced (including Bryce Harper) and allowing only one walk.
It’s his not-so-secret weapon that allows him to waltz into situations like this one and get out unscathed. Cabrera can routinely throw a ball over 100 mph, making it hard for even the world’s best hitters to make contact.
For all the Braves’ faults – at 45-79, there are a lot of them – they have something special in this 22-year-old flamethrower from the Dominican Republic. Since arriving on the scene June 27, Cabrera has pitched 25 1/3 innings, allowing just 20 hits and nine runs in his appearances.
He has faced 105 batters and struck out 23 of them, which, of course, says a lot about the effectiveness of that devastating fastball. Nearly every time he throws it, Cabrera’s fastball clocks in the triple digits, and when paired with a changeup that tops 90 mph and a slider that is closer to 85, he can be extremely confusing for hitters.
And that’s not even mentioning the sinker that can reach 100 mph as well, so even if a hitter knew there was a 100-mph pitch coming, he’d still have to guess whether it would come across the plate in a relatively flat line, or if it would fall off the table.
Believe it or not, Cabrera’s fastball has been the fastest, on average, in the entire league, and that includes Chicago Cubs reliever Aroldis Chapman. According to Call to the Pen, Cabrera’s fastball averages 100.9 mph, whereas Chapman averages 100.7 mph. It’s a small sample size, fewer than two months, but it says a lot about the special talent that has gone largely unnoticed in this forgettable Braves season.
Cabrera has pitched in more than half of the games Atlanta has played since his call-up, so if you’d like to see him for yourself and don’t plan to watch an entire Braves game, be sure to tune in for the seventh and eighth innings.
There will be a pitch speed reported in the on-screen scoreboard after each pitch, so watch that after each ball is thrown, and you’re bound to see quite the triple-digit show.Follow @Sean_Breslin