The Fox drama “Pitch” seems pretty believable.
In the show —which has been makingheadlines as much for its interesting premise as its unusual suggestion that a woman could make it to major league baseball —Ginny Baker has risen through the ranks of the San Diego Padres’ minor league system and has gotten the call to pitch in the Bigs.
Several times in the show’s second episode, “The Interim,” Baker — played flawlessly byKylie Bunbury — claims that her fastball tops out at 87 mph. That seems pretty high.
The average major league fastball, by most accounts is somewhere between 90 and 92 mph. Topping out at 87, while below average, is not a huge hurdle for a pitcher. In Baker’s case on the show, she has an above average screwball. Many MLB pitchers rely on breaking pitches, knuckleballs or other secondary tosses to make a sub-speedy fastball less of a hindrance.
But whether or not Baker, with an 87 mph fastball, could succeed in baseball is not the curious part of the premise. It’s whether a woman can actuallythrow that fast at all.
The GuinnessBook of World Records creditsLauren Bodenwith the fastest female overhand pitch ever recorded at 69 mph. Other studies cite the fastest underhand pitch thrown by a ladies softball player capping at around 75 mph.
The fictional Baker’s fastball is well faster.
However, in a recent interviewJenniferRing,a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, told Scientific American that a woman can throw faster than that.
“The best girl fastball pitchers pitch in the 80s,” Ring told the publication.”The thing that makes it easier for girls to succeed as a pitcher on a boys’ or a men’s team are a couple of things. One is that you really have to be fast, you have to run fast and you have to have a big arm if you’re going to be an outfielder. The pitchers can win with off-speed stuff. So the girls who are the best pitchers can hit their spot, can throw off-speed stuff. They can’t compete with men throwing in the 90s at this point, although it may be coming.”
Is the premise of “Pitch” too outrageous to believe? Not totally. But it would make Baker one of the most spectacular and unusual athletes we’ve ever seen.