Jesus Takes the Mound
Wednesday, June 09, 2010 | Author: Mad Typist

So, the savior of DC baseball - one Mr. Stephen Strasburg - finally made his major league debut last night. Jokingly (though maybe not so much) referred to as "Jesus" by both the media and his own teammates, Strasburg rampaged through the minor leagues before quickly being pulled up into action. This was the first Nationals game I ever bothered to tune into; I was forced to watch on TV since DC fans awoken from their apathetic slumber regarding local baseball and actually sold out the park in advance for once.

How did he do? By all accounts, he exceeded the already lofty expectations that had been piled on him. Already in his first game he broken a Nationals pitching record (sort of, see this link for the long version) by recording 14 strikeouts - granted that might be an indictment of the Nationals pitching over the years more than anything, but still, that's pretty impressive. Even more impressive is that he threw exactly zero walks, which I've personally never seen in all my years watching baseball.

Here's a stat for comparison (again, courtesy of the link above):
"Only five other pitchers since 1900 have had a 14-strikeout, zero-walk game in ANY game, at any point in their careers, in which they went seven innings or less. Those five: Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Javier Vazquez, Mike Mussina and Brad Penny. We're guessing you've heard of them."
What struck me most about his style was the speed with which he pitched. By that I do not mean the velocity of his fastball (impressive as it was), but rather the minimal time he took in between pitches. He didn't fidget on the mound at all - just start his wind up almost immediately after receiving the ball back from Pudge. Of course, allowing only 4 batters to reach base the whole time certainly helped - no need to check the batter at first really, just focus on the next pitch.

I also liked the aggressiveness he showed. Again - zero walks and 70% of his pitches were in the strike zone. He was pretty much DARING the Pirates to hit the ball. There wasn't a ton of trickery - the balls were there in the strike zone for the taking, though the Pirates looked stymied by the combination of blazing fastballs and vicious curves and breaking balls. After giving up two hits in a row (one of which was a HR), he was calm and collected enough to finish out the inning, and then went on to strike out out the last 7 batters IN A ROW.

By all rights, it was an almost perfect debut (sullied only by a 2 run homer). Granted, he's got a long way to go before he can truly live up to the expectations foisted upon him (after all, one does not justify the "Greatest Pitching Prospect EVER" label in just one night). He's going to have bad days, he's going to pitch against teams that are not fucking terrible (after all, I think even I could blow some strikes past the lowly Pittsburgh lineup), he's going to have nights when the umps are feeling stingy or he's just not feeling it. But overall, it looks like the hype is for real.\

With the Nationals drafting yet another wunderkind, Bryce Harper (a.k.a. "Baseball's LeBron" or "LeBryce" as people calling him), things may finally be looking up for this lowly franchise. In retrospect, having back-to-back 100+ loss seasons may have been the best thing to happen to the club in a long time.


*picture from Nationals website
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