LADY AT THE BAT: Guest Post: An Englishman's Take On Stephen Strasburg

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Guest Post: An Englishman's Take On Stephen Strasburg

With the World Cup going on right now I thought it would be interesting to note that there are still people overseas who enjoy our National Pastime. Here's a guest post written by George E., an English baseball fan:

Number 37 on your scorecards and number 1 in your hearts, Stephen Strasburg is an amazingly talented rookie pitcher for the Washington Nationals who, in his major league debut, struck out 14 in 7 innings of work while only giving up 2 runs.
For all intents and purposes, with petty grievances aside, it was the best debut by a starting pitcher of all time, and even exceeded the massive amount of hype leading up to Strasburg’s first pitch.

The 21 year old Californian kid is already profoundly admired and favored to win a slew of Cy Young awards and to be the next great pitcher. He has Nolan Ryan’s swagger and a similar pitch selection, Roger Clemens’ arm strength, and the ability to command corners like Tom Glavine while throwing at tremendous speeds with movement, ala Pedro.

In terms of a big league pitcher, Strasburg has the kind of stuff naturally that guys like Beckett have to consistently work out or else they’ll lose it. It’s really a shame that Strasburg will be playing—at least the next few years—in the National League with the Reds, Rockies, Marlins, Braves and the like.

How great would it be if this kid was in the AL East instead of the NL East and facing off against the Boston Red Sox or, even more dangerous, the New York Yankees?

With interleague play, Strasburg will eventually see the Yankees. And he’ll undoubtedly face off against the AL’s best once he becomes a habitual starting All Star. But folks want to see it now.

If you enjoy gambling, lay down your money on Strasburg to best the Yankees’ lineup. Put the list of online slots sites away and hit up a sportsbook. Why? Well, it has to do with command first and foremost.

Strasburg can consistently hit tripe digits on the gun, and get in the high 90s as the innings progress without showing any fluster. And while you might be thinking that the Yankees’ batters can get around the ball—and you’d be right—you still have to remember that Strasburg’s fastball isn’t like a country heater. It’s moving and is deadly accurate.

Strasburg has the gift of long fingers and a powerful shoulder. This allows even his four-seam fastball to legitimately move. Imagine swinging at something coming at you 100mph. Then imagine that what you’re swinging for isn’t even there.

Oh, you’re still not ready to bet on Strasburg vs. the Yankees? You’re checking out that huge list of websites to play roulette at instead, aren’t you? Shame on you! We haven’t even broached the changeup yet.

Stephen’s change is a fastball for corner painters. He switches from mid to high 90s and then comes back with the same movement, same location, and same motion but with a ball in the mid 80s. Yankees’ players are in the lineup to hit the ball, not to draw walks. They’re going to come around on his changeup early and put the ball in play.

Strasburg might not earn 14 strikeouts against a lineup like New York’s, but his changeup will cause a string of weak pop flies and ground outs. And it’s the same thing with his sinker ball coming in nearly as quick as his fastball. He commands his sinker so well that it acts like Clemens’ split finger mixed with Johnson’s slider. Yes, it’s that vicious. And yes, it actually sinks. Batters are lucky to put this in play past the infield.

The only real iffy pitch vs. the Yankees would be Strasburg’s curveball. Good hitters are said to make a living off of poorly located fastballs that weren’t fast enough, but their real bread and butter is the hanging curve.

However, Strasburg has a curve that makes Nolan Ryan’s look like a two-seam fastball. It breaks off 12 to 6 right on top of the plate, and he can actually move it out to the corners to cause knee-breaking whiffs. But since this is the hardest of all pitches to command, it’s no sure thing that Stephen could work this into his repertoire effectively.

One thing’s for certain, though. It’s going to be great to watch when Strasburg finally faces the Yankees.

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