Drew 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.