Stephen Strasburg has been a solid starter this season (for the games he’s been healthy) which comes big for The Nationals, in the way of minimizing home runs. Strasburg has been consistent in the year of the home run.
With billboard players like Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger wreaking havoc on pitching crews in both leagues. Strasburg allowing only 14 home runs all season is quite the performance; that’s in the span of a little more than 156 innings pitched.
I remember when Strasburg stepped on the scene in 2010 he stunned the league with his consistent heat. His four-seam fastball clocked 98 mph on command and struck a chord of fear around the majors. He was a notoriously fastball oriented pitcher, but within the next 3 seasons hitters adjusted and could really drive him deep (when they connected). He slumped a bit in the years following, his ERA raising a couple points. The expectations for this season weren’t set very high, and his consistency has put doubts to rest. Seeing him bounce back with his newer dynamic pitching approach must be must music to Nationals fans everywhere.
In his last 6 starts, he’s let one ball fly over the wall. All while he’s faced Miami slugger Giancarlo Stanton twice and contained his swings to the ballpark. Where in seasons past Stanton has taken him long more than a few times.
Earlier this month he also went head to head with Phillie’s deep ball ringer Rhys Hoskins and held the squad for a solid 6 innings. Hoskins, might I remind you, hit 18 homers in a span of 36 games. This game alone was up for grabs for most of the duration.
It goes without saying he’s won the other games, going 5-1 in his last 6 starts. But what did he do to his style?
In Strasburg’s career, 77% of his home runs allowed were from his fastball. That’s a whopping 22% above this year’s average, that’s cause alone for a shakeup. If you look at this season you can see his fastball usage dropped substantially from 61% to a level 52%. He hasn’t given up his fastball, in fact, he gears most at-bats so the batter expects heat coming in with 2 strikes on.
Now we can see him expanding his menu with his batters, putting a slider and curveball in there to cleanse their palettes. On top of the versatility- he’s worked to refine his curveball, which has been a huge help for him.
“It’s one of the best in the game if not the best,” pitching coach Mike Maddux said of the pitch. “If you’re not looking for it, you’re going to have trouble driving it.”
He’s fallen back to his fundamentals and he’s proven his capability this year. I, for one, am very excited to see Strasburg foster his ability even more as well as his recognition on the national stage.