Monday, June 29, 2015

Not So Overly Detailed Analysis of Another Strasburg Start

After Stephen Strasburg’s last start, I broke down into some detail the positives we had seen in Strasburg’s performance, along with a few negatives, in his first start back from the DL. Strasburg, of course, made his second start yesterday, and the results were again very positive. This time around, Strasburg went seven innings, striking out nine, and giving up only 2 earned runs. Let’s take a quick spin through the numbers to see how this start matches up to his previous one.

Strasburg again relied heavily on the fastball, going to his heater just shy of 60% of the time. He again flashed the velocity we have come to associate with Strasburg, averaging 97 MPH with the pitch and ramping it up to 99 MPH at times, according to PITCHf/x. After throwing only 4 change ups in his last start, Strasburg went to his signature pitch 18 times against the Phillies. For Strasburg to succeed he will need this pitch and he had a great one on Sunday. Mark Zuckerman snagged this keyquote from Strasburg, who said after the game Change-up is starting to come back to me.  I’m starting to execute it a lot better and more consistently.” It took one start, but it looks and sounds like Strasburg has found his confidence in the change up. Strasburg had every reason to be confident in the pitch, as he racked up swings and misses on the pitch at a nearly 40% clip.

Strasburg’s return to the change didn’t result in a drop off in use of his curveball, however. According to PITCHf/x Strasburg threw 20 curves and 10 sliders. While Strasburg has experimented with a slider, he pretty much scrapped it after some terrible results last season. He might have been going back to the pitch this start, but the speed on the pitches classified as sliders by the system matches up with his curveball, so it looks to me that he threw 10 curveballs that didn’t break as much his others. While Strasburg’s change up was on in this start, it looks like the curve wasn’t at 100%. As I said last week, the hardest thing to do after a long break is consistently control off speed and breaking pitches, so it might still be another start or three before we see Strasburg throwing both this change and curve with authority.

After using the fastball as his put away pitch last week, Strasburg mixed it up more against the Phillies, recoding three strikeouts with the fastball, four with the curve, and two with the change up. Strasburg had great success with the fastball last start by keeping the pitch up in the zone. He wasn’t as consistent working up the zone this start:

I would like to see Strasburg make a concerted effort to keep the fastball up and on the edges, but at 97 MPH, he can afford to be around the zone a little more, especially with an effective change up. He did a good job of spotting his curves/sliders on Sunday, although there were a few hangers in there, as we surmised above:

In the end, Strasburg allowed only 4 hits, all off of fastballs he left in the zone. Of course, Strasburg gave up the one home run to Jeff Francoeur of all people. In reality, it was actually a pretty good pitch. A 95 MPH first pitch fastball to a light hitting outfielder that pretty much hit its spot:

For whatever reason, people will love to hate on Strasburg. But, since returning from the DL and apparently getting his mind right, Strasburg has looked impressive. As the Nationals continue their struggle with injuries, he will have to shoulder a heavy load to make up for a depleted lineup.

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