Breaking Down Stephen Strasburg’s Dominant Performance

As Washington Post beat reporter Adam Kilgore said, aside from the Nats’ loss, last night was as good as a baseball game could possibly get in April. He couldn’t have been more right. Two teams who missed the playoffs last year were battling for first place in the Nationals League. Arguably the game’s best starter, Stephen Strasburg, was going head-to-head against the game’s best hitter, Matt Kemp. And a mega-prospect, Bryce Harper, had a serious impact on the game in his MLB debut. 

It was one of those few showdowns that actually manage to live up to the hype. One where the stars performmed, and a new team claimed first place as their own. 

Lost in the crazy finish of the thriller, however, was that Strasburg had arguably his best game of the season under the lights in Los Angeles. The phenom of 2010 took the mound knowing that he had to stop the Nats’ two game skid, and did absolutely everything he could to earn the club the win. In seven full innings of work he allowed just five hits, walked none, and earned nine strikeouts. 

What really helped Strasburg dominate the game was his re-found control. One of the things that makes the 23-year-old so special is that not only does he have some of the best stuff in the game, but when he is on, he throws all of his stuff in the zone for strikes. This keeps him ahead of batters, which is key, because the only way you can hope to hit a guy with that type of mind-bending stuff is to get a hitters count and wait on hope for a fastball. 

While Stephen’s overall control has not been anything close to a problem this season (he’s allowed just six walks in five starts), he has had at least one inning during most of his starts where he’s struggled to find the zone. Even when he was able to escape from those innings unscathed, it forced his pitch count up and made him change his approach against batters later in the game. 

Saturday night, he simply just rolled. 

Some Numbers From Last Night’s Outing:

-  Of Strasburg’s 101 pitches, 72 crossed the plate for a strike. He threw his fastball and curveball almost exclusively, each landed in Ramos’ glove as a strike 73% of the time. 

- He never threw more than 19 pitches in a single inning. In the fourth inning, he threw just nine pitches, six of them strikes. 

- Just four of Strasburg’s pitches were between 93 MPH and 83 MPH. 68 of his pitches were above 93 MPH, and 30 were below 83 MPH. That’s just stupid, and nearly impossible to hit. 

- His max speed was 99 MPH, his minimum speed was 79 MPH. 

- Matt Kemp struck out twice against him, once looking an once swinging. Both K’s came on challenge fastballs.