Saturday, June 19, 2010

Stephen Strasburg

Okay, I'm convinced.

In the first inning, he let Juan Pierre reach first because he was late getting off the mound to cover. Visquel dumped a gorp down the right field line that somehow wound up being a double. Men on 2nd and 3rd, Rios grounds out to drive in a run, and that was it

Strasburg mowed down the next 11 Sox or something, including 8 Ks.

Sox pitcher Gavin Floyd was so late catching up to a Strasburg fastball that he looked like he was actually trying to go to the opposite field for a single, but his astonished look as he stood on first told the tale. Sox pitchers don't swing the stick very often, and when they do they usually suck. Floyd's single was the second hit off Strasburg all night.

Strasburg struck out 2 more Sox, bringing his total for the night to 10. That, added to the 22 guys he struck out in his first two starts, gave him the all-time record for strikeouts by a rookie in his first three starts. He left after throwing 85 pitches, and the Nats still trailing 1-0.

In the bottom of the inning, Adam Dunn jacked a double to the track to drive in I Don'tremember, and it was tied 1-1.Strasburg would not be the pitcher of record, but holy shit. The Sox pushed one across in extra innings to win 2-1, but holy shit.

Here's my half-assed scouting report on Stephen Strasburg. He has a fastball that he locates well, and it's coming at 98-99-100 mph. He has a curveball that starts at 1 O'Clock and hits the catcher's mitt at 7. I'd say it moves at least 18 inches. He throws that at about 82-83 mph. It buckles knees. And, he has a change-up , a CHANGE-UP!!!, that he throws 91 mph. He throws all three for strikes.

The Sox are a fastball hitting team. Konerko, Rios, Quentin, Ramirez, Beckham, and shit even AJ can crack a fastball once they get it timed up. Any major league hitter can eventually time up any fastball given enough at-bats. If all you have is heat, you won't make it in the bigs. Ask Nuke.

The thing about Stephen Strasburg is that he's crafty. He saw quickly that the Sox were fouling fastballs straight back, and so he went away from the heat on 1-2, 2-2, and 3-2 counts ( I'm not sure he went full on anybody now that I think about it, fucker only threw 85 pitches and 55 or 60 of those were for strikes.) It was at that point the Sox batters just started guessing, and guessing wrong.

Holy shit.

Assuming he avoids injuries, a really big assumption cough Mark Prior cough, the thing that's going to make Stephen Strasburg the dominant pitcher in the National League for the next decade or so is his change-up. It's ridiculous. It's embarrassing. It's like watching guys waving at Bruce Sutter's split-finger back in the 80s, before anybody had figured out what the fuck they were seeing. Missing the pitch by 4 and 5 inches. Remember, it's coming at 91 mph. So at first it looks like a big fat BP fastball. It's relatively flat, as if rolling along on a table. But about 2 feet before it crosses the plate, falls off the table. The bottom falls out of the thing. Quentin took one hack at what he thought was a thigh-high pitch, and yet Pudge had to dig the thing out of the dirt.

I saw Kerry Wood strike out 20 Houston Astros one day. His pitches that day were 99 mph heat and a slider that started over the plate and wound up 8 inches outside to righties. Kerry Wood's arm eventually turned to jell-o. I saw Mark Prior dominate an entire league for most of 2003 before his arm exploded. I saw Dwight Gooden go 24-4 in his second year ('85 I think) with an ERA around 1.9. I saw Bruce Sutter develop that split-finger as a cub, and finish his career embarrassing people with it as a cardinal (sorry Atlanta, those last 2 years don't count.)

If I had to describe Stephen Strasburg after watching him last night in DC, I'd say he has Gooden's fastball (or Nolan Ryan's if you prefer), he has Prior's curve, and his change-up has basically the same effect as Bruce Sutter's split-finger.

Nobody's entirely unhittable, but this 21 year old kid is damned close.


MichaelRyerson said...

I'm a believer. But at 21, he's facing the minefield of injuries, major, minor, chronic or just burned out, that derail the kids. Ya can't see it coming. Although he has this working for him: he's got four out-pitches and can spread the workload around. He's fun to watch, will have at least a decent career and, good lord willing (nods to inky), a shot at the Hall.

Schmutzie said...

Yeah, I know what you mean about injuries. When Mark Prior landed at Wrigley I was certain his mechanics were so perfect that he'd be a horse for 12-14 years. 15-20 wins every year. An anchor.

Calf injury led to minor change in delivery led to elbow led to triceps led to shoulder led to blah blah blah. You can never predict how great a player, especially a pitcher, will ultimately be. All you can go by is how they look at first, and at first look this kid has potential to win 20 every year for the next decade. Unless...

MichaelRyerson said...

And here we are a couple of months later and the kid's on the DL and they're talking possible Tommy John surgery. Shit. Shit. Shit. I don't know the particulars but I wonder if they're happy they put all those innings on that young shoulder. Sold a lot of tickets and the kid could end up being the answer to a not-too-interesting trivia question. Brutal.

Michael said...

Thought of our earlier discussion here as soon as I heard...

Always have to add that "if he stays healthy" caveat when talking about young pitchers.

I still say that Mark Prior's collapse is the most surprising example. I had that kid pegged as a 10 year workhorse, and kabloooey.

Strasburg has that same 12-6, "inverted W" arm slot when he throws his curve. Breaks like a son-of-a-bitch but stresses the elbow to the extreme.