Interesting story over at the Wall Street Journal: it seems Stephen Strasburg’s pitches have so much movement on them that they’re frequently deking umpires into calling pitches balls that really are strikes. There are lots of neat quotes from the umps and examples of previous pitchers who had this problem such as a young Dwight Gooden and Jeremy Bonderman.
And while I’m sure some of you will take issue with umpires calling pitches based on where they expect them to go based on where they actually go, the problem makes sense. People are conditioned to comprehend things based on what came before. If you’re seeing something unprecedented, your mind is going to try and fit into some old box before it can make sense of the new thing. A big curve that starts way the hell out of the zone? No way that comes back, your brain thinks. It’s understandable.
But it’s also a little terrifying. I mean, if the umps in the article are right and that they’ll eventually adjust and stop missing calls with Strasburg, it suggests that he will be even more dominant going forward, doesn’t it?
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw entered Wednesday night’s start against the Marlins without having issued a walk in his previous three starts. In fact, his last walk came on April 3 when he issued a free pass to Paul Goldschmidt with the bases empty and two outs in the bottom of the first inning. All told, Kershaw was on a streak of 26 walk-less innings before he took the mound at home to take on the Marlins.
Kershaw started off Wednesday in character, striking out the side in the first inning. He issued a walk in a tough second inning, but escaped without allowing a run. Kershaw walked two more in the third and again danced out of danger. In the fourth, Kershaw walked Lewis Brinson to load the bases with no outs and — you guessed it — didn’t end up allowing a run. His errant control finally came back to bite him in the fifth when Kershaw issued back-to-back two-out walks, then served up a three-run home run to Miguel Rojas down the left field line. His night was done when he completed the inning. Five innings, three runs, five hits, six walks, seven strikeouts, 112 pitches.
The six walks Kershaw issued over five innings marked his first six-walk outing since April 7, 2010 when he issued six free passes to the Pirates in 4 2/3 innings. The only other time he walked as many was on August 3, 2009 against the Brewers in a four-plus inning outing. Kershaw hasn’t even walked five batters in an outing recently — the last time was September 23, 2012 against the Reds.