Strasburg returns

Stephen Strasburg returned to the majors on Tuesday and threw five innings (only 56 pitches) against the Dodgers. He allowed two hits, walked no one, and struck out four. You could say that he was “pitching to contact” more (considering he struck out over 12 per nine innings last year), which was the report we got earlier in the year. However, the report was that he was going to move to his two-seam fastball over his four-seam fastball did not pan out in this start:


























2010 9/6/11
Four-seam 44% 55%
Two-seam 14% 21%
Curveball 17% 13%
Changeup 25% 11%

He threw more fastballs Tuesday than he did last year, but still, there were more than twice as many four-seamers as two-seamers, resulting in a rather airy 4:6 groundout to flyout (including one infield pop) ratio.

Now, for what many were probably looking for: Strasburg’s velocity. Coming back from Tommy John surgery is commonplace these days, but it’s still a serious surgery. Here we go:


























2010 9/6/11
Four-seam 97.4 96.4
Two-seam 96.8 95.7
Curveball 82.3 80.4
Changeup 89.8 89.6

He looks to be down about one mph, but remember that these velocity numbers are not adjusted for weather conditions (it was rainy and in the 60s on Tuesday; colder temperatures have an inverse relationship with velocity). I wouldn’t be concerned about the velocity drop yet; we’ll have to see a few more starts from him before we make judgments. And let’s remember, throwing “only” 96 mph in the rotation isn’t really so bad.

It’s notable that Strasburg’s velocity took a little bit of a hit after a long offensive inning during which he had to run the bases. His last fastball of the second inning was 97.5 mph, and his first fastball of the third inning was 93.2. Presumably the delay caused part of his overall velocity decline.


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Mitch
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Mitch

So the Nats have a potentially historically good strikeout pitcher and they want him to “pitch to contact?” Didn’t Bill James prove years ago that high strikeout pitchers essentially throw no extra pitches per inning since pitching to contact leads to (shockingly) more contact, which leads to more hits, longer innings, and more pitches, etc.

Next year they’ll be telling Bryce Harper to choke up and slap the ball the other way, since that is PLAYING THE GAME THE RIGHT WAY.

Dan in Philly
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Dan in Philly

I simply cannot imagine a 90 MPH changeup…

Lucas Apostoleris
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Lucas Apostoleris

Mitch, I don’t know if I understand it, either.  If he does wind up throwing his two-seamer more, that would lead to more groundballs, which would certainly be a plus.  Maybe two-seamers early in the count and curves+changeups to finish the hitter off?

Jim C
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Jim C
The Nationals do not have a great track record so far with their pitchers, following the standard practice of limiting throwing, limiting innings, and leading, as usual, to catastrophic injuries. I’m happy to see the Rangers and some others going against this stupidity. Of course there should be reasonable limits to how many pitches are thrown in a game, especially high-stress pitches, such as with the game tied or close, and runners in scoring position. But the general idea of limiting pitches and work makes as much sense as limiting the swings a hitter takes, or limiting the number of… Read more »
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Dave R.

Wonder if McCatty’s experience with Billy Martin plays into this? He threw for Billy Martin Oakland in the late 70’s, when Billy completely burned out that staff (Norris, Langford, Keough, McCatty). None of those guys made it to age 30 in the majors.

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Kyle Boddy

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