I was surprised that last evening at the Red’s game was not the real MC Hammer night. Similar to MC Hammer Night at Great American Ballpark last Friday, the stadium was jam-packed. People were excited. The atmosphere was wild. And the song “Can’t Touch This” should have been blaring through the loudspeakers. But we were in Cincinnati, and it was not the 1990 Nasty Boys doing the damage. It was Washington National’s rookie phenom Stephen Strasburg.
The kid clearly is on his way to a heck of a career. He throws gas and was still hitting 98 on the radar gun in the 6th inning. He can then mix in a very tough curveball that has about a 20 to 23 mph difference from the fastball. Then don’t even get me started on his changeup. Which he did not even need to use last night. Key word, need. Strasburg faced a Cincinnati Red’s team that has the top offense in the National League in front of a nearly sold out Great American Ballpark, which is a hitter’s park, and looked at ease.
How many guys who just turned 22 on Tuesday possess that type of composure? That type of moxy? Strasburg has no fear. And nor should he. He seems to understand that he is still just playing a game. The pressure has no effect on his performance. He knows the expectations are high. Maybe even too high. But he just goes about his business each and every day and continues to get better.
A Red who has been very hot of late is fan favorite, Jonny Gomes. Gomes was sitting on 99 career homeruns going into last night and is still looking for number 100. He thought it would be neat to hit his 100th homerun off of the rookie phenom. Well Gomes went 0 for 5 with 3 strikeouts.
Stephen did not have his best stuff going last night. He even talked about it in the post game interviews. But he also talked about how he can improve from last evening. And he and the coaching staff will be putting in work over the next few days so he can throw even better in his next appearance. He ended up going 5 and 2/3 innings, giving up 3 earned runs off of 7 hits. Not the best of nights for the young gun. But he did add victory number 5 for a pretty horrific Nationals team and got them their first win of the series against a very tough Red’s team.
My analysis on Strasburg:
– His fastball has outstanding velocity. When he is hitting the spots it will be nearly unhittable. Last night he was not hitting the spots and still kept a tough Red’s offense in check. I can only imagine how tough he will be on nights where he is really hitting the glove. I would like to see him incorporate the 2 seamer more especially as his career progresses. Yes, heat in the high 90s is very tough to hit. But imagine if he can bring it with a 2 seamer that has movement (he would be unhittable). Also a 2 seamer would give hitters a different look than just the straight 4 seam fastball.
– Strasburg also has the ability to throw a very solid curveball. This is a pitch that will only get better in time. He never has had an urgent need for a curveball during the course of his young career because he has such amazing velocity on his fastball. This pitch is already dramatically improved from when he made his MLB debut on June 8th. I can only imagine how frequently hitters are going to buckle at the knees as he becomes more and more confident in this pitch.
– Yes, Stephen has more than 2 pitches. He has a very tough changeup. Reds’ fans did not get to see this pitch much last night because he did not really need it. Scary I know. Imagine nights where he is clicking with the fastball, curveball, and the changeup. You mine as well go up there hacking at everything because he will be scary. This is another pitch like the curveball, that will only improve in time under Major League tutelage.
– I would love to see this kid incorporate a splitter or cutter in time. Maybe develop one over the course of this year into the offseason. If he had this pitch for next season, he would be hands down the top pitcher in the game. Give this kid 4 pitches. He would be scary. I do not think it is far-fetched to see Strasburg adding a cutter or splitter to his repertoire either. It can definitely be done.
I was thoroughly impressed by seeing Stephen Strasburg in person last night. The kid is the real deal and has a very bright future. I would not be surprised to one day see this guy end up on the Yankees or Red Sox. But for now, he is a gem that Washington can use to put some butts in the seats. And I do not blame people for wanting to go watch this 22-year-old sensation. You will get your moneys worth.
They should play MC Hammer’s hit single, “Can’t Touch This” every time Strasburg walks out to the mound. It will be a reoccurring theme throughout his entire illustrious career.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.