July 22, 2010
Under The Knife
It's Strasmas in Cincinnati
From the stands, 98 doesn't look that much different than 89. That was the difference between Stephen Strasburg and Bronson Arroyo. To the hitters, it was a lot different. I sat in the stands, rather than the press box, because I wanted to get as close as I could without getting too close to the $250 scout seats. (That's a good thing, since Pete Rose was attending the game.) Strasburg's delivery is easy. In warmups, there are some jumps to it, things that you notice. I think his timing is just off a bit when he slows things down. The foot strikes a little bit before the elbow is in position, but that straightens out once he turns the dial up. Strasburg was living at 98 for the first few innings, but as he sweated through jerseys, he lost some, ending at 95 as his pitch count neared 100.
The word that comes to mind about his delivery is "easy." He doesn't look to be working. He had some grip issues and Ivan Rodriguez got a bit cute with what appeared to be a sign-stealing issue, but otherwise, every pitch looked the same. His changeup—the one that comes in at 90—actually looks like he's throwing a bit harder, if you can believe that. I can't look at his delivery and see any massive flaws, but we also know that, absent a high-speed analysis, no one else does either. Watching Strasburg's easy, repeatable motion and comparing it to Arroyo's, or Bill Bray's, or even Arthur Rhodes' double-pumping, long-lasting delivery, provides a lesson in efficiency. As I was driving home, I realized that Strasburg seems like the engine in the new Mustang—you've probably seen the commercials, 300 horsepower and still gets 31 mpg. Strasburg's like that.
One thing that I do think gets neglected is his pitch selection. Whether this is Strasburg, Rodriguez, or pitching coach Steve McCatty, there's no discernible pattern. He'll throw any of his pitches at any time, in any count. There's so much motion in all of his pitches that I can't imagine how a hitter can make solid contact at all, let alone do something good with it. A lot of the hits I've seen have been of the "oops" variety. He throws the ball hard enough that he does give up homers, but keeping hitters off balance—good hitters with good patience, like Joey Votto—is a real skill. The slurve he throws is just ridiculous. From behind the Reds' dugout, the two-plane movement is apparent. I would have liked to see the from-behind view, but motion that apparent has to be brutal from the batters' box.
While impossible to predict, I don't see Stephen Strasburg ending up in the body of a UTK column any time soon. At least I hope not. With a crowd of nearly 40,000 in Cincinnati on a warm Wednesday night, Strasburg's show is good for ball. He's the kind of tell-the-kids circus that baseball doesn't get very often, and as a starter, you can see when it's coming. Tim Lincecum and David Price are really the only two in the game that can do this, but even they don't bring it (the attendance, that is) like the Nats' ace has been. With only about 40-50 innings left on his meter this year, the chances to see the rookie campaign are running short, in the District and out. That limit might also cost him the RotY, which will be an interesting vote with several deserving candidates.
It says a lot when a fan near me was disappointed: "I wanted to see 100."
Carlos Gonzalez (bruised finger, ERD TBD)
There's some good news here though, in that Troy Tulowitzki played his first rehab game, going 1-for-2 and showing no issues with his wrist. Power is going to be the big concern, but having Tulowitzki back in any capacity is going to be a boost for the team. Forty days missed for a fractured wrist is pretty incredible in its own right.
Justin Morneau (concussion, ERD 7/30)
Ryan Doumit (concussion, ERD TBD)
Jacoby Ellsbury (fractured ribs, ERD 8/15)
Quick Cuts: Todd Helton is going to need at least a few games of rehab before the Rockies will activate him. He could be back by the weekend. ... Aaron Laffey insists he's not injured, but the Indians are getting an MRI on his "dead arm." ... David Freese dropped a weight on his toe. Ouch. That sets his rehab back three weeks. ... Rick Ankiel is expected back for the weekend series against the Yankees. It could come as soon as today. ... Yunel Escobar's start with the Jays isn't starting out well, because he's out with a bruised hand. The DL isn't likely, but a few more games out is. ... Homer Bailey threw a simulated game yesterday and will head to Dayton for rehab. He's likely to get starts to help Mike Leake and the staff rest. ... Ramon Hernandez is coming off the DL for the Reds. All that means so far is that Joey Votto will get a day off. ... Brett Anderson could get the start on Sunday for the Athletics.