Strasburg-mania was in full force last night.
It’s the debut everyone was talking about, Stephen Strasburg, and I was there. Seated near the field, just past first base, I had a chance to really see the vertical break on his pitches and their effects on batters.
This is the one everyone has heard of. Strasburg regularly broke 100 mph with his pitches in college. Then he signed with Washington and was throwing in the mid-90s all through AA and AAA. He had to either be lulling the competition into a false sense of security or just working on the rest of his arsenal, because his 98-102 fastball was back in full force last night. Hitters were completely embarrassed by it, no one could keep up, and I couldn’t move my eyes fast enough half the time. It’s that good.
His sinking fastball didn’t appear as often as it did in the minors, with brief appearances here or there. It should be noted that Stephen did not induce many grounders last night, so perhaps he wasn’t really using it or it wasn’t sinking all that well.
Here’s where things start to get dirty…and strange. When you have a guy who throws at 100 mph, his changeup can only believably be about 7-11 mph slower (these are numbers pulled out of nowhere, but they ring true for most pitchers I’ve seen). Strasburg’s changeup clocks in at 89-91. That’s faster than a Jamie Moyer fastball. That is most pitcher’s fastball. It creates a ball that will still throw batters, but if they do make contact, the ball will travel. Exhibit A: Delwyn Young. Everyone’s got their own opinion on the ball he hit, but from my vantage point it sure seemed like he just dropped the bat, almost like a golf swing, prayed, and got extremely lucky. His home run landed in the first row of the high RF, but it just kind of hung in the air. Not solid contact, but fast enough to just carry.
Some people call Strasburg’s curve a slider-curve (AKA slurve), which is an awesome word that I will use. This baby is filthy. It drops like a foot. I read an account of last night that described the umpire as being surprised at how this thing traveled. From my position off to the side it looked nigh-unhittable. I can’t even imagine what batters were thinking when they saw it. Absolutely brutal pitch.
If he continues to pitch this well, I fear for my Marlins. His stuff is just so good, I can barely believe it.
The ballpark was super excited for the debut, breaking 40k in attendance. They were loud and super into the game. It was a refreshing change of pace. I wonder how big the rest of his starts will be this year. I plan to see him in Baltimore later on this month.
I hope to see much more of this for the rest of the season.