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 “new” 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 Brooksbaseball.net):

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

2010

2011

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

2010

2011

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.

We hoped you liked reading Stephen Strasburg Returns: A Pitch FX Review by Jeff Zimmerman!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs




Jeff writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

newest oldest most voted
Black_Rose
Guest
Black_Rose

I saw the game. Good job Ted Lilly for striking out 9.

max
Member
max

Yeah, what was up with that. I didn’t even know 9K’s in 5IP was possible for Mr. Lilly.

Bip
Guest
Bip

After the first inning, Lilly had three K’s and Strasburg had 0.

MikeS
Guest
MikeS

You mean somebody played, even PITCHED, in this game other than Strasburg? I never would have known.

gu03alum
Guest
gu03alum

I was at the game and Lilly didn’t look great in spite of the 9 strikeouts. He was getting behind in the count and had a high pitch count. He did work a long at bat against Strasburg before grounding out which is better than his teammates seemed to do at the plate.

Barkey Walker
Guest
Barkey Walker

Did you see how awful his first swing was? I laughed out loud, then noticed his 0.083 BA.