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Stephen Strasburg Pitch Types

Stephen Strasburg made his second Arizona Fall League start this afternoon. Gameday, as they do with many rookies, had some troubles with his pitch types. The fact that he threw 90 mph change-ups didn't help either.

My own classifications are somewhat tentative, as this is one game from one park. And there are differences between the Peoria installation and Surprise. There's three or four inch difference in release point height, so I'll wait until a game in Surprise for the 2009 first rounder before doing these up in full detail.


Strasburg threw 36 heaters in today's outing. I'm not sure of the two- and four-seam split yet -- right now I think he threw five sinkers, but that's not for sure. In any case, the fastballs from Strasburg came out of his hand at no less than 95, maxing out around 99.6. He sat around 97/98, which is nasty.

This was clearly an off day for Strasburg, so don't make too much of this. Only 48% of his fastballs found the strike zone. Even though hitters took a lot of fastballs in the zone (53% !) his B:CS ratio landed at a hefty (for a fastball) 2.7.

Despite control issues, the whiff rate of .143 against his fastball (swing rate .389) was pretty good, and he got the ball in play on the ground (.667). Still, each ball in play resulted in one base, on average, for an even SLGCON of 1.000.

Off-Speed and Breaking Pitches

Strasburg throws a curveball and a change-up, with the latter not getting much action in college ball (IIRC). Thursday's game saw 10 change-ups and 14 curveballs out of Strasburg. The changes ran from 88 to 92, which is often the fastball range for some starters.

Beyond the speed gap of 7 or 8 mph (very nice), Strasburg's change "sank" about six inches relative to the fastball, which is brutal. If he's hiding that thing at all, yikes. If today was any indication, he was. He kept it out of the zone (30%), but every one he threw for a strike yielded a swing. Two of the seven balls were chased. Of the five total swings, three found nothing but air. Two made contact, on the ground, which still didn't work out well. Both were singles.

Strasburg's curveball isn't a big yakker, but has much as five inches of top-spin induced sink, resulting in a one foot difference from the fastball. It's also thrown in the low 80s, making it pretty vicious.

So, it has good enough snap, above average velocity and, my favorite, he threw 11 of 14 in the strike zone. Six of the 11 were watched by the batters (B:CS ratio of 0.6) and half the swings (six) resulted in whiffs. But, two were left up and in the middle of the plate, and were subsequently sent out of the ballpark for home runs.

Just a Bad Day

Strasburg had bad luck, which he actually made on his own. He hung two curveballs, and paid the price. But not every hung curve is hit, and it remains to be seen if he continues to do that with any regularity. The ground balls that turned into hits were probably more or less out of his hands (relatively speaking). The fastball command was clearly a problem.

So, next time out (hopefully in Surprise), I'll be looking for four things:

  1. Distinguishing sinkers from fastballs
  2. Fastball control
  3. Curveball command
  4. Outcomes of balls in play

And I'll also be enjoying one of the most exciting pitching prospects of recent memory.