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Giger: Strasburg has ‘stuff’ dreams are made of

Commentary

April 12, 2010
By Cory Giger, cgiger@altoonamirror.com

Filthy stuff. Just absolutely filthy, and as good as any pitcher in the major leagues has right now.

Stephen Strasburg averaged 98 mph on his fastball Sunday. For some perspective, there have only been a handful of pitchers in Blair County Ballpark history to hit 98 - Ian Snell, Matt Capps and Dustin McGowan of the Blue Jays come to mind - and that's what Strasburg averaged.

He fired it in a few times at 100 mph, which I don't recall anyone ever reaching at BCB.

The statistics come courtesy of the Inside Edge scouting service, which tracked all 82 of Strasburg's pitches in his pro debut. Some further results from his five innings of work:

* He threw 60 fastballs and 17 curves.

* He threw 64 percent of his pitches for strikes.

Fact Box

Strasburg inning by inning

A detailed look at Stephen Strasburg's pro debut Sunday. Speeds are estimates, based on Curve's speed pitch sign in right field being 2 mph slow as previously researched.

First inning

Pitches R ER Hits Ks BBs

24 1 1 2 1 1

Retired first two batters before giving up 2B off wall to Presley and RBI 1B to Durham; struggled getting fastball over for strikes; hit 99 mph consistently; good command with curve

Second inning

Pitches R ER Hits Ks BBs

8 0 0 0 2 0

Unhittable; seven of the eight pitches were fastballs, six at 99 mph and one at 100

Third inning

Pitches R ER Hits Ks BBs

15 0 0 0 2 0

Threw good mixture of fastballs and curveballs for strikes; hit 100 mph three times; threw best curve of the day to Hernandez for a knee-buckling called strike two

Fourth inning

Pitches R ER Hits Ks BBs

24 3 0 2 2 1

Walked Watts with one out, then 2B Martinez dropped ball on potential double play; struck out Ford on 83 mph curve for second out; couldn't escape jam as De Los Santos singled up middle to score Watts, with Harrison coming home on throwing error; lost concentration against opposing pitcher Owens and grooved fastball that went for RBI 1B

Fifth inning

Pitches R ER Hits Ks BBs

11 0 0 0 1 0

Cruised through his final inning, again mixing up fastballs and curves; his final pitch of the game was a 99 mph fastball that got Durham to ground out

-- Cory Giger

* His curveball averaged 83 mph.

Those numbers are excellent, but he only threw a first-pitch strike to 11 of the 22 batters he faced. That's not good.

Strasburg allowed four runs - one earned - on four hits while striking out eight and walking two.

But enough with the stats already. Can the guy actually pitch?

Absolutely.

"His stuff was the best stuff I've seen so far," said Curve outfielder Alex Presley, who drilled a first-inning double off Strasburg. "You don't want to fall behind him because you'll get his changeup or his slider, and his breaking ball is really good. Then you have his fastball in the upper-90s, so that's a lot to have to defend against."

The speed pitch sign at BCB wasn't working at the beginning of the first inning Sunday, but it didn't matter. It was easy to see Strasburg was bringing it.

When the speed pitch glitch got fixed, it consistently showed 97 the first three innings, with some 98s mixed in. Keep in mind, that outfield sign is 2 mph slow, so 97 was really 99, and 98 really 100.

The best thing Strasburg has going for him is he already realizes he can't just rear back and throw it by hitters all the time.

"They can show you time in and time out they can hit a good fastball if you leave it out over the plate," he said.

That's just what Presley and Miles Durham, who had an RBI single, did in the first inning, when Altoona's hitters stretched Strasburg out to 24 pitches.

"At the beginning, Steven was a little anxious, and once he settled down he threw the ball very well," Harrisburg manager Randy Knorr said.

Strasburg was downright awesome in the second and third (see inning by inning breakdown) before struggling in the fourth. His defense let him down by botching a double play, and the Curve cashed in with three unearned runs.

"I think we gave him a pretty good run for his money," Curve manager Matt Walbeck said.

Walbeck went on to add, "Strasburg looked good. His velocity was good, and he has other pitches to go along with his fastball."

Strasburg appeared to get a little frustrated at times in the first and fourth innings when he couldn't get the fastball over for strikes.

"It's all about just hitting your spots," he said. "When your mechanics are a little bit out of whack and you're sped up a little bit, that's the hardest thing to do."

He lost some zip on his fastball - about 3-4 mph - in the fourth inning when the Curve scored three times for a 4-0 lead.

"Especially with guys on, I like to work the ball down," Strasburg said. "I was really trying not to overthrow."

That's a good sign. A young pitcher with a blazing fastball may always want to throw it by hitters when he gets into a jam, but that's seldom the best strategy.

The rest of Strasburg's repertoire is plenty good enough that he can turn to other pitches, if he so chooses.

"Just trust my stuff, bottom line," he said of what he needs to learn. "Don't try to be too perfect. That's exactly what I'm going to try to do."

Harrisburg's defense let its pitcher down, but the offense rallied to give him the victory in the nationally televised game.

Strasburg seemed more proud of his first-career hit, an RBI double to right in the fifth, than his first victory. He played college ball at San Diego State - where his manager was Tony Gwynn - and he had a message for one of the game's all-time greatest hitters.

"He didn't give me an opportunity [to hit], but I'm sure he's eating his words right now," Strasburg joked.

Strasburg realizes he has things to work on and seems content being in the minor leagues, despite knowing full well he has big-league stuff.

He could step into the majors right now and dominate a batting order on a given day. At the same time, if he struggles with his fastball command the way he did at times Sunday, he could get ripped in the bigs.

There's so much more to becoming a great pitcher than merely having great stuff. But if he continues to fine-tune the stuff he showed Sunday, Strasburg will have an outstanding chance to achieve greatness.

Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and cgsports12@aol.com.

 
 

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