So, what are we to make of this Strasburg kid?

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Strasburg debut windup.jpgDrew had the live blog and the recap last night, perfectly capturing the “I can’t believe what I’m seeing” aspect of all of this. And it was spectacular. I’m still not sure I believed what I just saw. The Superman exists, and he’s a National.

Due to the injustice that is Major League Baseball’s blackout system — which seems to think that Columbus, Ohio is in the Pirates’ home territory despite the fact that the Pirates have never, ever broadcast a game here — I was stuck watching the game a couple of hours after it ended on MLB.tv’s archive. I was still impressed — hell, dumbfounded — despite knowing exactly what was coming. Plus I could fast forward when the Nats were batting, which was nice.

I had it in my head today to compare Strasburg’s debut to those of other power pitching studs like Roger Clemens, Tom Seaver, Doc Gooden and the like, but really there’s no point. Strasburg outshined them all. This morning we’re reaching for freaks of history like Karl Spooner and his 15 strikeout debut. Such a thing perfectly explains the singularity of Strasburg’s performance yet simultaneously fails to do it justice.

Indeed, most of the focus last night was on the fourteen strikeouts.  And they were amazing, in no small part because 12 of his victims went down swinging. But it was less his stat line than his stuff that had me groping for words.

The velocity was obviously incredible. The MASN gun had him topping 100 several times, and even if you assume that the TV gun reads a little hot, he was definitely bringing it.  He wasn’t losing it, either, what with his final strike of the game to Andy LaRoche registering at 98.  And the fact that his changeup — consistently in the low 90s — is faster than most guys’ fastballs is probably a crime against humanity.

But the movement was even more incredible. It’s no trick to throw hard if all you want to do is throw hard. We’ve seen Kyle Farnsworth light up a gun before, after all.  Strasburg’s stuff is not the same thing. It’s not even the same ballpark. Nick Steiner at The Hardball Times threw it up on a chart last night and the results are pretty astounding. The tail on his fastball(s) is otherworldly. The drop on his changeup — like, five inches — is the stuff of legend.

I probably need to stop now lest I use up my monthly supply of superlatives. The highlights are all over the place. Here are all 14 of his strikeouts.  Strap yourselves in people, because we’re taking off on one hell of a ride.

Report: The Yankee Stadium charity is a secretive, self-dealing boondoggle

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The New York Times has a blistering report on the New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund. The Fund is the charity the Yankees created in 2006 as a means of making up for the negative impact the construction New Yankee Stadium had on the surrounding community, primarily via its taking over 25 acres of parkland.

The idea of the Fund was a good one: to distribute $40 million in cash grants and sports equipment, and 600,000 free baseball tickets to community organizations in the Bronx over four decades. And it has been distributing funds and tickets. As the Times reports, however, the manner in which it has done so raises some red flags. Such as:

  • Charitable donations have, in an amazing coincidence, often gone to other charities which share common board members with the New Yankee Stadium Fund;
  • Funds have gone to many wealthy groups in affluent parts of the Bronx far away from the Stadium while the area around the stadium remains one of the most impoverished in the nation. For example, a private school in a wealthy part of the borough and a rec center in a gated community have gotten a lot money that, one would think anyway, could be and should be devoted to organizations closer to the ballpark that are in greater need; and
  • There has been almost no transparency or oversight of the Fund. Reports which were supposed to have been submitted have not been. And no one, apart from the Times anyway, seems to care. The Yankees certainly don’t seem to. Indeed, as the article notes, the team has worked hard to keep the Fund’s operations out of its hands. They just got their new ballpark and write the checks and hand out the tickets. Everything else is someone else’s problem.

Cronyism in private philanthropy is not uncommon. As is a lack of oversight. Often it’s the best connected people who receive the benefit of such funds, not the people most in need. This is especially true in charities whose creation was not born of a philanthropic impulse as much as it was born of a need to put a good face on some not-so-good business dealings.

If the Times’ report is correct — and the lack of anyone coming forward to dispute it on the record despite the Times’ requests that they do suggests it is — it appears as if the New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund is one of those sorts of charities.

Who is the fastest sprinter in baseball?

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We’re not talking the 100 meters here. We’re talking practical baseball sprinting. That’s defined by the StatCast folks at MLB as “feet per second in a player’s fastest one-second window,” while sprinting for the purposes of, you know, winning a baseball game.

StatCast ranked all players who have at least 10 “max effort” runs this year. I won’t give away who is at the top of this list, but given that baseball’s speedsters tend to get a lot of press you will not be at all surprised. As for the bottom of the list, well, the Angels don’t pay Albert Pujols to run even when he’s not suffering from late career chronic foot problems, so they’ll probably let that one go. I will say, however, that I am amused that the third slowest dude in baseball is named “Jett,” however.

Lately people have noticed some odd things about home run distances on StatCast, suggesting that maybe their metrics are wacko. And, of course, their means of gauging this stuff is proprietary and opaque, so we have no way of knowing if their numbers are off the reservation or not. As such, take all of the StatCast stuff you see with a grain of salt.

That said, even if the feet-per-second stuff is wrong here, knowing that Smith is faster than Jones by a factor of X is still interesting.