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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Scouting Report, Stephen Strasburg

What is there for me to say that hasn't already been said about the most-ballyhooed pitcher in the history of college baseball, the #1 pick of the 2009 draft? The one who made the biggest debut in baseball history, and did nothing to disappoint, striking out 14 hitters in seven innings (walking zero). He's made five starts in the majors, has a 2.27 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 48 strikeouts to seven walks (five of which came in one game) in 31 2/3 innings. His K rate is a ridiculous 13.64/9, and his FIP is ridiculously low (1.59) as a result of a high BAPIP (.358).  He gets to an 0-2 count 29% of at bats, which is the best in the majors. Why is this important? Major league hitters slash stats are .172/.203/.254 when they are 0-2 in the count. Be mindful of his pitch count, as he has not thrown more than 95 pitches in a game this year.

Repertoire: His four-seam fastball sits in the upper 90s and touches 100 mph for an average speed of 98 mph. It's his main pitch to both right-handed batters (45 percent of the time) and left-handed batters (39 percent of the time).  His two-seam fastball also sits in the upper 90s, with an average speed of 96 mph. It has nasty sink for a pitch thrown that hard and nine inches of tail. And although it's classified as a two-seamer, his grip (and he calls it) a "one-seamer." He uses this pitch to induce a lot of ground balls. His circle change-up comes in around 90-91 mph and has good depth. His change-up has been rated a perfect 80 by some scouts (highest is 80). Like all his other pitches, Strasburg's curveball is thrown hard, averaging 83 mph.  It already has been compared favorably to Adam Wainwright's curve (ask Beltran if it's one of the best in the league)...Strasburg prefers the curve against righties (31 percent of the time) much more than lefties (14 percent of the time). Strasburg also classifies the curve as a "slurve." His curve has been rated as a 70+ on the scouts 80 scale, so he has three plus-plus pitches, which is almost unfair.

Here is some outstanding work by Mike Fast at the Hardball Times (must read if you want to be completely fascinated/a geek like me, including Pitch/Fx data)
Strasburg likes to start off right handers with a four-seam fastball or a curveball, and if he gets Strike 1, he really likes to go the curveball, throwing it two-thirds of the time at 0-1. He brings out the change-up as his strikeout pitch, though he will also throw it at 1-0 or 1-1. When he gets behind in the count, he relies on his four-seamer, as do most pitchers.

Strasburg starts left handers with four-seam fastballs, two-seam fastballs and an occasional change-up. Whereas to right-handed batters, he uses the curveball early in the count, to lefties he's more likely to use it when he gets ahead in the count. His change-up, on the other hand, does not really get used as a strikeout pitch to left-handed batters; instead he tends to throw it as the second or third pitch in the at-bat. With two strikes, left handers are fairly like to see a four-seam fastball from Strasburg (53 percent four-seamers vs. 8 percent two-seamers), but earlier in the count the two-seam fastball is just as likely (35 percent four-seamers vs. 33 percent two-seamers).
An amazing 37 percent of his change-ups and 21 percent of his curveballs result in swings and misses, more than twice the league average of 15 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

He obviously has some of the best stuff in baseball, and he just needs to continue to work on his control and staying healthy. He has shown nothing to dismiss the notion that he is a "once-in-a-generation" player, and Kevin Goldstein (BP Prospect maven) said in a chat this week "No pitcher in baseball matches his stuff on a scouting level." That sums this scouting report up pretty well.

Kick your feet up and enjoy watching one of the top pitchers in baseball work.

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