After an epic 15-strikeout performance, Washington Nationals hurler Stephen Strasburg pitched a game for the ages. What is his ceiling?
On a shower-filled afternoon, Strasburg punched out 15 Padres over seven innings. By far his best game of the year, he scattered three hits and a walk in shutting the Friars out. In 108 pitches, he drew 16 swing-and-miss strikes while throwing 76 overall.
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Strasburg’s decision to work only from the stretch in Spring Training is pure genius. In 10 starts this year, he has pitched at least seven innings seven times. Knowing he needed to simplify his pitching style has made him a true ace from the two-hole.
Brooks Baseball tells the story of his stuff. Saturday, Strasburg mixed an 81-mph curve with a four-seam fastball topping out at 97. A fastball so devastating, 38 of the 46 he threw were strikes or 82.6 percent. If it was not for a 27-pitch first, he would have gone longer. In the seventh, his last, he retired the side on eight.
Strasburg’s May is good. Winning four of his five starts, he fanned 43 in 32.1 innings with a WHIP of 1.113 and an ERA of 2.78. The slash line against him is beautiful, reading .207/.276/.339.
Ricky Keeler and Drew Douglas share their thoughts on the game:
After a flexor tendon strain shut him down last September, Strasburg is again on full form. Aside from the decision to ditch the windup, he meshes well with new catcher Matt Wieters. He goes to the hill and pounds the strike zone. In 1051 pitches, he has a strike percentage of 68. You win games with those numbers.
For all the expectations of being the overall first pick in the draft and big contract coming off Tommy John surgery, this is the Strasburg everyone hopes to see. When he is on, he is one of the sport’s most electric pitchers. A guy who takes no prisoners and shows hardly any emotion.
This game felt different. Coming off a dominant performance over the Atlanta Braves where he pitched into the eighth while fanning 11, Saturday’s effort reads as a pitcher in tune with what he wants to do.
Go back to his decision to ditch the windup. On average 53 percent of the time the bases are empty. Adjusting to something that huge takes time. Yet, his pitches get speed and bite without all the spin from his body. A marvelous thing.
A combination of a healthy Max Scherzer and Strasburg sends shivers down the back of Nats opponents. With the bullpen improving, what those two could do over a best-of-seven series is scary.
A wonderful thought to behold.