Wilson Ramos cannot feel his left index finger. The Washington Nationals have unleashed the hardest-throwing starting pitching rotation in recorded history, hell on hitters and abusive to the catcher. Ramos has called, for the starters, about 400 fastballs. They smack his mitt against the index finger first. Eleven games in, it has gone numb. “Right here,” he said, laughing and pinching his finger.
Every time Ramos goes into his crouch with a Nationals starting pitcher on the mound and puts down one finger on his right hand — the universal symbol for fastball — the baseball rockets to him at a dizzying rate of speed. Through Monday’s games, the average fastball from a Nationals starter this season has zipped at 93.4 mph, according to FanGraphs.com, faster than any rotation since statistical services began tracking and recording pitch velocity in 2002.
When the Nationals chose Ross Detwiler over sinkerballer John Lannan to complete their starting five, they assembled the rare rotation with nothing but flamethrowers. Stephen Strasburg’s fastball this year averages 95.1 mph, according to FanGraphs. Detwiler averages 91.4. Edwin Jackson (93.8), Jordan Zimmermann (93.5) and Gio Gonzalez (93.3) land somewhere in between. Together, while posting an MLB-best ERA that dropped to 1.69 with Tuesday’s 1-0 win over the Houston Astros, they have formed the hardest-throwing rotation in recent memory, maybe ever.