Stephen Strasburg Returns: A Pitch FX Review

Tonight, Stephen Strasburg returned from Tommy John surgery to make his season debut for the Nationals. Here is a look at his Pitch FX speeds from tonight compared to one of his starts from last season.

Date Pitch Type: FF FT CH CU
08/15/10 Top 99.3 96.8 91.8 84.4
Average 97.6 96.6 90.2 83.0
09/06/11 Top 98.7 97.1 91.5 82.0
Average 96.7 95.1 89.5 80.4

It can be seen that his average fastball speeds are about 1 MPH slower tonight than last year. The change is nothing to worry about, especially for a pitcher that has a fastball that averages 97 MPH.

The most noticeable change was a β€œnew” off-speed pitch. His changeup was not breaking down as much today. This season, the average horizontal break was -9.4” and the vertical break was 5.3”. Last season the values were -7.7″ for the horizontal break and 0.0″ for the vertical break. Also, the changeup is closer to the same plain as his fastball. This difference can be seen in the following two images (thanks to

Note: It can also be seen that his fastballs are not drop as much as they did last season.



The difference in the changeup is due to a different spin axis on the ball has seen from these two graphs.



From the few cut-ins I saw of the game, there was no mention of a new changeup grip. It has a new spin and break compared to the one he threw last season.

Strasburg is throwing a bit slower this season than last. Also, he looks to have added a changeup that breaks down less. As a whole, he seems back in form and the results tonight seemed to speak for themselves.

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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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