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Hard to find any faults with Stephen Strasburg

Morning roundup

Stephen Strasburg finally gave the baseball world something to nitpick yesterday. He allowed nine hits - one fewer than he had in his three other starts - and four of them came with two strikes. His pitches are never exactly easy to hit, but is he making them easier to hit than he has to? Strasburg threw 75 of his 95 pitches for strikes. Was Strasburg actually throwing TOO MANY strikes? Can that even be a problem?

"I guess you could," Manager Jim Riggleman said. "But he really throws such quality strikes that that's not an issue at this point."

Before we get any further, let's make sure we understand how good Strasburg has been in four starts. He has a 1.78 ERA. He has 41 strikeouts and five walks in 25 1/3 innings, a ratio of 14.6 to 1 a ratio of 8.2 to 1. In three home starts, he has 33 strikeouts and zero walks. Opposing batters have missed 36 percent of the time they've swung, the best rate among any starter. He could win break point against John Isner. He could dress up as a Teddy and win the President's Race. There is nothing he has not done exceedingly well.

And yet ... yesterday, he gave up a run on two 0-2 hits that caught a little too much of the plate. Jose Guillen, who hit the winning run on an 0-2 fastball that was, in his words, "right down the middle," said Strasburg could use work on pitching far ahead in the count.

It's not like either Guillen's single or the one that preceded it, by Billy Butler on an 0-2 curve, were smoked. "The ball went off the end of his bat," Strasburg said of Guillen's game-winning single to right. "A matter of inches and he would have missed it."

Riggleman said Strasburg tried to miss the plate on both pitches. On the fastball Guillen hit, Strasburg wanted to elevate and try to make Guillen chase. "Instead of just trusting it and throwing it to Pudge's glove, I pushed it a little bit," Strasburg said. "It ended up causing me to do the opposite. It wasn't a bad pitch, but he was on it."

Strasburg was a tick off from his best stuff all day. His fastball hit 99 miles per hour once and was never above. The Royals missed 11 of their 49 swings, an excellent rate for most pitchers but about half of his previous swing-and-miss percentage.

The Royals were pesky, Strasburg was not at his very best, he pitched from the stretch a lot, it was 93 frickin' degrees out there, his team offered him no run support. And yet he allowed one run in six innings and struck out nine.

"With those things not going well for Stephen and that's all he gave up," Riggleman said, "that's a pretty special afternoon."

FROM THE POST

The Nationals are amazed by Stephen Strasburg and not afraid to admit it anymore, Boz writes.

The Natioansl could not support another dazzling performance by Stephen Strasburg and suffered a 1-0 loss to the Royals as their offense continues to spiral.

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Syracuse 2, Charlotte 1: Craig Stammen allowed one run on eight hits and a walk in 6 2/3 innings. Leonard Davis went 2 for 3 with a home run. Jason Bergmann struck out all three batters he faced in one inning.

New Hampshire 9, Harrisburg 4: Marvin Lowrance went 1 for 3 with a home run. Yunior Novoa allowed nine earned runs on eight hits and a walk in 1 1/3 innings.

Potomac was off.

Hagerstown was off.

Vermont 2, Tri-City 1: Chad Mozingo went 2 for 3 with two walks. Taylor Jordan allowed one run on four hits and no walks with four strikeouts in five innings.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

There is plenty of blame to go around for the Nats' weak offensive showing lately, Mark Zuckerman writes.

Dan Steinberg details Dibble-Knight I as each weights on the too-many-strikes question.

Stephen Strasburg has helped out the vendors around Nats Park, Thomas Kaplan writes.

By Adam Kilgore  |  June 24, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Stephen Strasburg  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Game 73 discussion thread: Nationals vs. Royals
Next: An important weekend for the Nationals

Comments

Just a quick observation on the Post's coverage this year. Its excellent -- the best that its been since Barry left. Thank you!

Posted by: raymitten | June 24, 2010 8:20 AM | Report abuse

I am 100% on Dibble's side. Strasburg gives up one run on a blooper and a soft liner and there's some idea that he's throwing too many strikes? Let's just say he missed his spot on the pitch to Guillen and leave it at that. If the Nats had scored 2 or 3, we'd all be talking about the 75-20 ball/strike ratio as an unbelievably amazing performance (which it was).

Posted by: jcj5y | June 24, 2010 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Reposting from previous:

What's wrong with the Nats' bats? Maybe the fact that they're swinging them.

In the last three series, here's the number of walks the Nats have gotten:

Detroit - 3. That's not for one game, that's the total for all three freakin' games.

Chicago - 5.

KC - 8.

So, a lousy 16 BBs in the last nine games. I suspect the scouting report for their upcoming series against Baltimore amounts to, "Pitch them anywhere except in the strike zone - they'll swing at it."

I swear, next time I see someone swing at the first pitch after the previous hitter walked on 4 pitches, I'm going to throw something soft, warm, and steamy at the TV.

Posted by: gilbertbp | June 24, 2010 9:02 AM | Report abuse

At the moment the only fault Stras has is the team he is playing for.

Awaken ye bats or this will be a long summer.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | June 24, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Good analysis, as usual. However, I believe the K/BB ratio is 8.2, rather than 14.6. Still very good, of course.

Posted by: Snopes1 | June 24, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

The Nats bats will always be crappy when we have more than 1 of Nyjer Morgan, Adam Kennedy, Willie Harris, or Will Nieves in the lineup. We should also break up the 3-4-5 hitters.

Posted by: PAskinsfan17 | June 24, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Dibble's a knothead. A hitter shouldn't be able to put the bat on the ball on an 0-2 count and runner's in scoring position. I saw a couple of hitter's get consecutive 0-2 pitches on the plate. Not saying Stras didnt't pitch great, just something a 21 y/o will learn at the ML level. JZimm was similar, throwing strike after strike and giving up a few 0-2 hits. Young pitchers with great stuff can get guys out just by throwing strikes until they reach the ML's.

btw, did I mention Dibble's a knothead?

Posted by: pwilly | June 24, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

In talking about the percentage of pitches that are strikes, keep in mind what gets classified as a strike in these pitch counts. Any pitch that the umpire does not call a ball is a strike. Called strikes, swing and miss, foul balls and any batted balls whether they result in hits or outs are all strikes in these pitch counts - whether the pitch happens to be in the strike zone or not. So basically the ratio of strikes to balls is a misleading statistic. Sometimes a pitcher CAN throw too many strikes, if enough of the strikes he's throwing end up as base hits. But as Jose Guillen, Boswell and Ray Knight have pointed out, a few balls placed in the mix at the right points in the count can set up later pitches to be the kind of strikes that turn into outs and not base hits. The only time a pitcher absolutely HAS to throw a strike is when he has a three ball count on the batter. Until then, when he has the choice to not throw a strike there are times when he needs to exercise that option and not throw a strike. Smart pitchers - like, say, Livan Hernandez - know this. Strasburg is still learning it. He did throw too many strikes yesterday. At least nine too many, by my count.

Posted by: nunof1 | June 24, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

runof 1- so KC is going to swing at all nine of those wasted pitches and K as opposed to runing the count 1-2, 2-2 then swing at the next strike? He pitched a 1-0 game. Be happy.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | June 24, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

I suppose, in theory, a pitcher could throw too many strikes. But that's simply not what happened yesterday with Strasburg.

Livan Hernandez throws off the plate more frequently because his stuff gets crushed if he's in the strike zone too much. Strasburg does not have that problem. He in fact does throw balls out of the zone to get swings and misses with two strikes, and he did so yesterday. From the replay I saw at the stadium, Butler's hit was on a curve out of the zone. It was a good piece of hitting/luck. I'm not saying he was perfect with every pitch---the Gullien hit was on a ball that just didn't go where he wanted it to, as Strasburg explained after the game. But to say that because he gave up 9 (mostly weak contact) hits he should throw more balls is the wrong conclusion.

Posted by: jcj5y | June 24, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

One of Boswell's books - or was it George Will? - cited a manager who hated to see a pitcher "waste" a pitch on 0-2. As far as he was concerned, being ahead 0-2 meant the pitcher had four shots at throwing a perfect pitch, i.e., painting the corners or just a tiny bit off.

Hard to find the flaw in that logic.

Posted by: gilbertbp | June 24, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Soooo, thats it, the Nats are going to have SS in the TR suit on one of his off days, win the race, then, off with his head to a roaring crowd...I like it!!

Posted by: cokedispatch | June 24, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

It's so ridiculous to think that Strasburg had anything to do with the loss yesterday. The guy gives up only one run and loses. I guess next time he'll just have to pitch a perfect game, and hit a home run if he wants to win.

Posted by: rgibson25 | June 24, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

"runof 1- so KC is going to swing at all nine of those wasted pitches and K as opposed to runing the count 1-2, 2-2 then swing at the next strike?"

You're missing the point. A big part of pitching well (as opposed to simply blowing batters away with your stuff) is keeping the hitters off balance, not knowing what to expect next. Because if they know what to expect next, they can sit on that pitch and no matter how good it is they still may well hit it. If they know that on every two strike count Strasburg is going to come in with a strike even when he doesn't have to, they can sit on that pitch. He needs to mix things up, throw out of the zone sometimes, or no matter how good he is he's going to get hit sooner or later. And as a bonus, yeah he might get some swinging Ks as batters fish for stuff out of the zone. But that's not why you do it.

Posted by: nunof1 | June 24, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

"Relax, all right? Don't try to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls -- it's more democratic."

Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) in "Bull Durham"

Posted by: evansf | June 24, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Here's one: at 0-2, the hitter doesn't have the luxury of subtracting pitches, or zones--anything "too close to take", he shouldn't be taking. Most of the time, most hitters are not going to make good contact on a ball well out of the strike zone, so even if they do make contact, they'll usually foul it off, at best. Once in a while (once a week, if he's lucky) he'll dump a gork over some infielder's head. Good hitters, in fact, will foul off a pitch they can't hit--bad hitters put them in play, almost always for outs.
But a pitch over the plate has a much higher chance of getting squared up, especially by good hitters (like Guillen, or Ray Knight), and that can be much worse than a ground ball with eyes, a bloop, a bleeder, a dying quail, a Texas-leaguer.

So why throw an 0-2 pitch where it can get hit hard if you miss your spot? It's like stealing 3rd with no outs--if you make it, fine, but you'd better make it. Usually not worth the risk.

******************
One of Boswell's books - or was it George Will? - cited a manager who hated to see a pitcher "waste" a pitch on 0-2. As far as he was concerned, being ahead 0-2 meant the pitcher had four shots at throwing a perfect pitch, i.e., painting the corners or just a tiny bit off.
Hard to find the flaw in that logic.
Posted by: gilbertbp | June 24, 2010 11:03 AM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 24, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

The other flaw there is, don't look at the pitch from the outfield camera, in replay, from your sofa--look at it from the batters box. You've got maybe a quarter to a third of a second to decide what the pitch is, and where it's going to be when it gets to you. That's why Dibble harps so much on pitching so that if you miss, you miss low and away, or up and in, not out over the plate. Because these major league hitters are pretty good, and a pitch just off the plate might be a ball, but still be very hittable.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 24, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

When life gives Stephen Strasburg lemons, he uses them to throw strikes.

Posted by: SorenKierkegaard | June 24, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Yesterday's game was a perfect example of why won-loss records are worthless. In my book, SS is 3-0.

Posted by: thelonghaul | June 24, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Make that 4-0. Shouldn't have had a no decision in the White Sox game.

Posted by: slewis1 | June 24, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Is there a stat that represents a teams support of a pitcher, such as runs scored by the pitchers team per innings pitched, or support runs/earned runs given up?

Posted by: joeking1 | June 24, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Allow me to pile on in criticism of the W/L record record for pitchers.

There is something wrong with any stat that a player can get (or lose) while they are sitting on the bench.

Posted by: KenNat | June 24, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

"Is there a stat that represents a teams support of a pitcher, such as runs scored by the pitchers team per innings pitched, or support runs/earned runs given up?"

Yes. It's called wins and losses. You get one win for every time your team scores enough runs for you, and one loss for every time it doesn't.

Posted by: nunof1 | June 24, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

nunof1, you are clueless. You should preview your post before you submit.

Posted by: joeking1 | June 24, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

joeking1, you are wit-impaired. Go rent a sense of humor.

Odd, too, that - given your screen name.

Posted by: nunof1 | June 24, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

joeking1, for someone with your screen name you surprisingly lack a sense of humor. Perhaps you could rent one somewhere.

Posted by: nunof1 | June 24, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Riggleman's to blame for this loss and a bunch of others with his "trying to get guys at bats" philosophy. This isn’t Little League, it's the National league! Guys will get at bats by pinch hitting which happens way more often than in the American league. They'll also get at bats when a starter needs a day off and when there are injuries.

If you do have someone on the bench who is coming through like Morse .390/.457 and starter like Nyjer Morgan .244/.308 who is not, THEN you make a change. There is no (good) reason why Bernadina can't lead off and play CF and let Morse start in RF. Nyjer needs a break or some help to get back to form (and learn how to drag a bunt down the first base line). Playing everyday and contributing to a loss is not the way to work it out. You only do that with established veterans. This is Nyjer's first full year as a starter and teams are on to him. This is NOT a slump!

You’re lead off hitter is too important to let them keep failing in games that count.
Here’s Nyjer’s stats and how the Nat’s record has fallen with them.

April AVG/OBP .274/.374
Nat’s Record 13-10

May AVG/OBP .223/286
Nat’s Record 13-16

June AVG/OBP .224/.259 Nat’s Record 7-14

See a pattern?


Finally, if you’re going to put someone in for Guzman, and, you're trying to “get guys at bats”, why is Kennedy .235/.318 getting almost 3 times as many at bats (153) than Gonzalez .278/328 (54)?

Posted by: Kolchak | June 24, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

His stuff is so electric that it is hard to argue that anyone in the entire league has better stuff

Posted by: Bious | June 24, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

The Night Stalker makes good points. Facts are always good to have.

As for vendors -- I bet the guys in the park who walk the aisles are doing the best. Nobody wants to miss too much of the game standing in lines at the food stations.

Posted by: fischy | June 24, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Hey, does anyone know why Detwiler didn't start last night? With the opening in the staff, I was looking forward to seeing how Stammen (at AAA) & Detwiler (at AA) did in their outings yesterday and saw that Detwiler didn't pitch. He's also not scheduled today (unless that's wrong on the Harrisburg site) and I believe John Lannan is scheduled to go Friday. If anyone has any insight into why he's apparently being skipped, I really would like to know. I hope he's not hurt again--that would be bad. I'm really looking forward to seeing him back in the majors.

Posted by: curlyWfan | June 24, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

The "Kid" as i like to call him is something special the Braves fan's here in the A-T-L can't wait for monday night where they think they're going to rock his world, whatever!! i told my co-workers you have no idea what you guy's are in for. The game yesterday was dissapointing to say the least and i'm of the mind that Rick Eckstein approach with some of these guy's is a little bit off, and Riggs needs to wake up, MIKE MORSE!!! OKAAAAYY!!! now i've said it, and hopefully Riggs will catch the collective drift.

Posted by: dargregmag | June 24, 2010 6:49 PM | Report abuse

"Hey, does anyone know why Detwiler didn't start last night"

Check the Nationals Farm Authority link over to your left...

"Harrisburg LHP Ross Detwiler was reportedly scratched with a back issue"

Posted by: joebleux | June 24, 2010 8:29 PM | Report abuse

>Finally, if you’re going to put someone in for Guzman, and, you're trying to “get guys at bats”, why is Kennedy .235/.318 getting almost 3 times as many at bats (153) than Gonzalez .278/328 (54)?
Posted by: Kolchak

These points are overblown, what you're looking at is a bunch of mediocre players that can be swapped out for one another, and the more at-bats ANY of them get, the more likely it is that they will be exposed because basically none of them are starting material. People need to hang this mess on Rizzo, not Riggleman - he's just the messenger. I don't know what he's doing with Morse either, but one guy isn't gonna change this team's production that much. They've got four second basemen, no right fielder, hardly any bench, no backup catcher for a 38 year old. But let's face it - Kennedy, Gonzalez, Harris, Morgan, Morse and Nieves all have something in common. They're cheap. This team's not gonna get any better until they get some real players in here.

Posted by: Brue | June 24, 2010 8:58 PM | Report abuse

Soooo, based on fan comments: The problem is Riggleman/Rizzo/Epstein/Morgan/Dunn/too many 2B/no RF/old catchers/no bench/bad defense/weak SP depth. I probably overlooked some points in there, but who's counting (not me).

The fact is, the team has a much better record right now than it did a year ago; They're in an offensive funk right now, but are closer to having a day-to-day competitive team than they have been since arriving in DC, imo.

Hindsight & pointing fingers is easy & might be part of being a FANatic; Lord knows, I've called out some bad performances in the past. I'll probably be labelled as a 'Pollyanna' for this, but some of us need to lighten up a little in placing blame & just enjoy the ride for what it is, wherever it leads.

Posted by: BinM | June 24, 2010 10:37 PM | Report abuse

"Harrisburg LHP Ross Detwiler was reportedly scratched with a back issue"

A back issue of what? Playboy, Field & Stream, Bon Appetit, The Economist, Aviation Week and Space Technology, the Daily Racing Form? Inquiring minds want to know. You better believe if this was Strasburg they'd be telling us all, including what page he was reading at the time he got scratched.

Posted by: nunof1 | June 25, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Hey BinM, careful with slinging the FANatic around. That strikes a little close to home!

I'm enjoying the ride (aside from that nasty losing streak) and looking forward to the batters breaking out of their slump. Not quite ready for heads to roll, like some of the rest of the pitchfork-wielding mob.

Posted by: faNATic | June 25, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

The truth is since the 20-15 record the Nat's are 12-25 more reflective of Acta's tenure than of Riggleman's attempt to turn this franchise around, error's,poor starting pitching,bad fundamental's has been the norm since the team was five games over .500.Mike Rizzo's offseason moves are responsible for this team being 8 games under .500 the Marquis disaster,the raggedy arm Chin Ming Wang, the Duke's fiasco and not having a viable bat out of RF although Bernadina is doing the best he can, it's more Rizzo than Riggleman imho, Riggs just uses what he has to work with Rizzo while a good guy has backed Riggleman and the team into a corner with these offseason moves.The fact that this team flirted with first place and was five games over .500 is more of a tribute to Riggs and his ingenuity than anything else.

Posted by: dargregmag | June 25, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

nunof1, there might be little comfort in this, but my baseball sensibilites scream that you are dead right in your approach to expanding the strike zone.

Posted by: Sunderland | June 25, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, I didn't think that BinM's description sounded much like you, FaNATic. I suspect that no personal reference was intended.

As for Detwiler's back issue, I would have guessed Inside Pitch, myself.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 25, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Hello? Anybody home at WaPO? Company picnic today?

More info on Detwiler and his "back issue" would be helpful, being as how he was the only one of Rizzo's "cavalry" who was actually on the horizon. But our rotation for the last two weeks of the season still looks to be really strong!

Posted by: CapPeterson1 | June 25, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

I'm calling Post of the Day, here.
And I don't want to know what he was scratching.
******************
"Harrisburg LHP Ross Detwiler was reportedly scratched with a back issue"

A back issue of what? Playboy, Field & Stream, Bon Appetit, The Economist, Aviation Week and Space Technology, the Daily Racing Form? Inquiring minds want to know. You better believe if this was Strasburg they'd be telling us all, including what page he was reading at the time he got scratched.

Posted by: nunof1 | June 25, 2010 10:01 AM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 25, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

At least he didn't have an issue scratching his back.

Posted by: Section506 | June 25, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Well, he *is* a male, right? And he *was* reading the back issue and all. So, I'm guessing that he was probably scratching his...um...never mind. I won't go there. :-)

btw, new post up.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 25, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

those paper cuts can be *really* uncomfortable, is all I'm sayin.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 25, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

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