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The Day Jesus Couldn’t Walk On Water (How Strasburg got tagged for six runs)

The phenom hit a road bump.

Making his first start since Jul. 21, Stephen Strasburg got chased from the game in the fifth inning Tuesday night after allowing six runs on six hits and two walks.  The 22-year-old only lasted 4.1 innings and struck out a career-low four batters en-route to the worst start in the young pitchers career.

Strasburg and the Nationals chalked the poor performance up to nothing more than a little bit of rust, stating that missing two starts made it hard for the powerful righty to find his spots. However, Nats fans across the DMV have to be feeling a little bit of concern after the seemingly invincible Strasburg first went down with shoulder tightness at the end of July, and in his return looked like a meer mortal on the mound.

Jesus just didn’t walk on water.

The most alarming, and perhaps most perplexing thing about Strasburg’s start last night is the fact that he threw his changeup so infrequently. The right-hander only threw it four times in 84 pitches last night, a far cry from his 16.9 percent rate he usually throws it. What’s so confusing is that the changeup is arguably his best pitch aside of his smoldering fastball. In fact, many consider the 90 MPH changeup he unloads on batters to be unhittible, and FanGraphs backs that claim up showing that it is his second best pitch according to his 3.1 runs above average Pitch Value.

Clearly this wasn’t a simple oversight…There had to be a reason Strasburg wasn’t throwing his changeup. It could simply be that he was falling behind in the count and didn’t want to throw it unless he was ahead…of course it could also have something to do with his shoulder, but there is no evidence of that.

The good news for Nationals fans is that according to PitchFX Strasburg’s movement on his pitches was only slightly off last night, and the numbers tend to back up that he, in fact, may have just had trouble placing his spots. He only threw his fastball for a strike 72% of the time, and his two seamer only crossed the plate at 66%. His real loss of command however was on his “off speed”pitches. His curveball only landed for a strike 46% of the time (which may have been by design), and his change only registered as a strike 25% of the time.

A look at his velocity and movement show he was pretty close to normal last night:

Fastball:

Last Night: AVG. SPEED- 97.47 | AVG H-Break -5.26 | AVG V- Break 8.29
This Season: AVG. SPEED- 97.6 | AVG H-Break-5.80| AVG V-Break 7.70

Curve:

Last Night: AVG. SPEED- 82.08 | AVG H-Break -7.94 | AVG V- Break -7.44 
This Season:  AVG. SPEED- 82.30 | AVG H-Break-6.90| AVG V-Break -7.30

Two Seamer:

Last Night: AVG. SPEED- 95.85 | AVG H-Break -8.63 | AVG V- Break 4.71
This Season: AVG. SPEED- 95.80 | AVG H-Break-7.30| AVG V-Break 5.20

Changeup:

Last Night: AVG. SPEED- 89.3 | AVG H-Break -6.38 | AVG V- Break -0.37
This Season:  AVG. SPEED- 89.7 | AVG H-Break-6.90| AVG V-Break 0.1

Strasburg will take the hill again in four days. Based on what we’ve seen from him in the past, he will come out with something to prove, which should prove exciting to Nats fans everywhere.

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