A new approach for Strasburg?

Stephen Strasburg will make his first rehab start on Sunday, less than a year after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

A Buster Olney ESPN Insider piece from Friday morning reports that Strasburg is willing to make changes, including some adjustments to his rehab that focus on upper-body strength. Olney also said that Strasburg will change his pitch mix:

During Strasburg’s brief window of professional baseball last summer, about 95 percent of the fastballs he threw were four-seamers—fastballs in the range of 97-100 mph, hard but with comparatively little movement.

At-bats against Strasburg tended to be longer—3.91 pitches per plate appearance. In the aftermath of his reconstructive elbow surgery, Strasburg has focused on throwing a two-seam fastball—a pitch with a lot more lateral movement.

Last summer, Strasburg threw 469 four-seamers and 153 two-seamers, which is more like 75 percent four-seamers as opposed to Olney’s number of 95 percent. Still, that’s a lot for a pitch that’s very flyball prone—Strasburg’s four-seamer generated a groundball less than 35 percent of the time it was put in play. The two-seamer had a rate of 47 percent, which is below average compared to the league average two-seamer, but is a better batted-ball option than the four-seamer.

Strasburg’s changeup and curveball were lethal last year (54 percent and 34 percent whiffs per swing, respectively), so going to the two-seamer early and the change/curve combo late could be nasty. As if Strasburg wasn’t nasty already.

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  1. topper009 said...

    Can someone please explain how taking steroids is considering cheating but Tommy John Surgury is not?  I mean didnt all the outrage come from the fact that Ruth and Maris couldnt take roids so McGwire had an advantage over them?  What about Strasburg’s advantage over Sandy Koufax.

  2. JQ said...

    Yeah… steroids is a choice, tommy John surgery is not if you wish to continue playing for starters. I don’t think anyone would call the destruction of elbow ligaments and tendons and resulting replacement an advantage. Also it doesn’t matter how hard you throw, if you can’t locate it or command it you’re screwed. And I’d take Koufax any day of the week over Strasburg (and I own Strasburg in a dynasty league). Koufax in his prime, you know what you’re getting. Strasburg post surgery is no sure bet, he could easily end up like Mark Prior – now tell me if that sounds like an advantage.

  3. RR said...

    Yep. Steroids are used exclusively for gaining advantage. And players who take them grow bigger and stronger. They hit and throw harder. There is no medically valid reason for a ball player to take them. Tommy John is purely reconstructive. It promises no advantage after the fact and, if you look at the stats, most pitchers return from the surgery somewhat diminished for the rest of their careers.

    How are the two things even related in your mind?

  4. RR said...

    Put another way: If Babe Ruth could have taken steroids he’d have hit 100 home runs per season in his prime. He’d be sitting on about 1500 of the things. If Cy Young pitched in a time when there was Tommy John surgery (and assuming he needed the surgery at some early point in his career – because, again, no one ELECTS to have Tommy John surgery), we would be probably be handing out Grover Alexander Awards to our pitchers at the end of each season.

  5. Jim C said...

    Relative to the idea that 4-seamers do not generate ground balls, they are not supposed to. 4-seamers are thrown to get popups and strikeouts. When you need or want a ground ball, you throw a curve or a two-seamer, something with downward movement so the batter is more likely to make contact with the top half of the ball.

  6. J W said...

    At-bats might have been slightly longer against Strasburg, but his pitches per inning were pretty low, because he didn’t walk batters and struck out a ton.  I’m not sure what added advantage there is to him throwing a pitch that ends with the ball in play a whole lot more.

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