Washington Nationals star Stephen Strasburg has shifted his gameplans, focusing on movement and off-speed to get the job done.
The start of the Washington Nationals season has been troublesome. They currently sit at 12-15 and 3.5 GB of the Phillies division lead. However, one bright light has been the starting pitching. Stephen Strasburg is one of the reasons why.
Nationals fans have always loved Strasburg. From the moment he was drafted they knew he would be a star.
He began his career lighting up batters with a 100 mph fastball that left the stadium speechless and left hitters helpless. As time passed, we watched that 100 mph lightning rod turn into a Fastball that averages 93.5 mph, according to Baseball Savant. However, despite the velocity decrease, he has remained effective.
The first change Strasburg has made to his game is pitch usage. He noticed that he doesn’t have a sit-down fastball like he used to, so he made a change.
His fastball usage has dropped by an eye-popping 20% this season, replaced almost entirely with a sinker. The reason is that they both are about the same velocity on average, so if you can throw a pitch just as hard as your four-seamer but with a downward movement, you can use that to your advantage.
The next significant change that Strasburg has made is the almost complete elimination of his slider from his arsenal.
Back in 2017, he was striking out 18% of batters with his slider, per Statcast. Now, he has decreased use to about 2% total. This notable drop in slider usage stems from a few reasons.
Opposing teams are crushing his Slider. In 2019, opponents have a 75% hard hit% against the pitch. That is almost a 50% increase in how hitters are doing against the slider in just one year. It may be a bad sign that hitters are doing well against his slider, but Strasburg has adjusted accordingly. As mentioned earlier, he barely throws the pitch anymore.
It may be safe to say that the days of 100 mph four-seamers and devastating Sliders are over for Strasburg, but his productivity isn’t.
According to FiveThirtyEight, who has been tracking and analyzing total game scores for every major league start this season, Strasburg has a top 5 “game score” in the National League.
He is still the same pitcher we knew when he struck out 14 batters in his debut game all those years ago; he is just going about it a different way.