Analysis of Stephen Strasburg’s First MLB Start

As many of you probably already know, Stephen Strasburg made his first career start in the major leagues yesterday against the Pittsburgh Pirates and he was dominant from the very first pitch to his very last one. We know that he struck out 14 batters over the course of 7 innings and his only runs allowed came off of a home run, but I will go in depth on how some of his pitches move and how he was constantly able to keep Pirates hitters off balance, as well as giving my observations when watching him.

First, lets introduce the pitches that Strasburg used last night. He features an overpowering heater which had a average speed of 97.5 mph, a sweeping curveball which had an average speed of 82 mph, and a 90 mph changeup that is faster than some pitchers fastballs. I will say that Strasburg has more movement on his pitches than any pitcher that I have seen. Lets see exactly how these three pitches move.

Strasburg’s fastball runs in to right handers and away from lefties. His fastball runs in to right handers an extra two inches more than the average right handed pitcher. His changeup is more of a sinker or splitter to me. It has negative vertical movement so it is going to have downward movement in the zone. Either way it looks very similar to his fastball coming out of his hand and it takes a similar path to the plate except for the fact that it seems to fall off the table before reaching the plate. His curveball moves down and away from right handed batters and down and in toward left handed batters. Left handed batters looked to struggle against his curve when it was thrown towards the inside part of the plate. His curveball is about 5 mph faster and has about 3 inches more drop than the average curveball.

Now that you know how his pitches move, lets look at how effective those pitches were yesterday. The first thing Strasburg was able to do was throw a large amount of first pitch strikes with the use of his fastball. For the game, he threw a first pitch strikes 66.7% of the time. He was able to get ahead in the count with fastball dominance and then was able to rely on his curveball and changeup later in the count. The reason why he did not walk anyone was because of his ability to get ahead in the count. He rarely ever fell behind 3-0 or 3-1 outside of the first couple of innings. His fastball was worth -3.04 runs, his changeup was worth .68 runs, and his curve was worth -.96 runs (the lower the number, the more effective the pitch was). His fastball was the most valuable, but that’s to be expected. His change is worth positive runs due to the home run he gave up. All of his pitches generated whiff% higher than league averages, as to be expected.

Some things I noticed about Strasburg was his ability to get better as the game went along. Or maybe it was the fact that the Pirates stopped trying. Either way, he was dominant after the 4th inning. After the 4th inning he was throwing strikes about 80% of the time. He also kept his fastball velocity in the mid to upper-90’s into the 6th and 7th innings. I also noticed that he works very quickly and does not give the hitters a lot of time to think in between pitches. I was impressed about his maturity level at such a young age and how poised he was in the most hyped start of his career. He also responded well after giving up a home run. One weakness that I could potentially see in Strasburg is his fastball command. He throws it more than any other pitch (63.8% of the time) and it is the most valuable pitch for many pitchers. I noticed that Pudge would set up on the outside corner or low in the zone and Strasburg would miss his glove by a large margin. The fastball would often run towards the middle and inside part of the plate. You might have been caught up in his dominance because he was facing the Pirates, but better offensive teams will rip that pitch if its located in the middle or inside part of the plate. That is something I think he needs to work on.

All in all, Strasburg was brilliant. He will be interesting to watch for sure and hes projected to face his rookie phenom counterpart Jason Heyward in late June. That will be a great matchup to say the least.

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