And Stephen Strasburg made one last night in about the most impressive way possible. It's pretty hard to think of anybody in recent history with a debut to match Strasburg's 7 inning, 2 ER, 14 K victory on 94 pitches last night. He did not walk any batters, threw first pitch strikes to 16 of 25 batters and had 65 strikes out of his overall pitch count. Other than a borderline mistake to Delwyn Young to give up a two run homer, he was thoroughly dominant. Granted, it's the Pirates, and they gifted Strasburg 3-4 strikeouts by swinging at eye level rising fastballs, but the talent is undeniable.
The closest comparison I can come up with is Kerry Wood's 20 strike out gem five games into his major league career. Wood's effort was a better overall game, but it wasn't his first game out of the gates, so your mileage may vary.
Having watched the game, when he's on, Strasburg clearly has some of the best, if not the best, stuff in the game, right now. His four seamer just explodes on hitters in the 98-100 mph range, with some nice, Pedro-esque, late movement. His change up (I think), the pitch Young got a hold of, is also A+, with good sink. I say I think because he throws it hard enough (88-92) that you could conceivably call it a sinker.
The slurve is just devastating, as if Strasburg has a string attached to it that he yanks a few feet before it gets to the plate, creating a strong downward movement that dives down and a little away from right handers. It tended to come in between 79-82 mph and was almost always a strike, which denies hitters the ability to lay off it's late movement in hopes of coaxing a ball. The only hard breaking pitch that I can remember with similar, if less extreme movement, was John Smoltz slider while he was in his prime.
As horribly tempting as it must have been for Jim Riggleman to send Strasburg out for the 8th and give him a shot at a complete game, the Nationals wisely elected to put Strasburg back into the bubblewrap. Had it been Dusty Baker, we'd be reading lots of articles about how the Nats are going old school letting Strasburg throw lots of pitches like the good ol' days of Dizzy, Rapid Robert, and Nolan and young pitchers are a bunch of sissies who should be throwing 130 pitches a night.
The Nats kids glove treatment of Strasburg is the right thing to do. There's some fairly strong speculation that Strasburg complicated and violent motion is an injury waiting to happen and, imo, that slurve or slider, with it's dramatic snap, is one of those power breaking pitches, like Mike Scott's splitter, that we should enjoy while it lasts. On the upside, Strasburg's almost inhuman ability to throw strikes with a powerful late moving fastball will allow him, like Roy Halladay, to just pound hitters with the heater and only use the breaking stuff as an out pitch.
Strasburg is scheduled to face the Indians at 1:05 on Sunday and while most of ya'll have probably given up on baseball for dead, I'd urge the remaining adherents to find a bar with a MLB package and catch the game. Because I'm recommending it, he's probably going to get rocked, but his pure stuff, right now, is something to behold.