Stephen Strasburg plans to utilize his slider/cutter less in 2017, according to a report by MLB.com’s Jamal Collier. The right-hander was sidelined in August and September with a strained flexor mass in his right arm and believes his chronic elbow issues stemmed from an increased usage of the pitch during the 2016 season.
Strasburg debuted his slider back in 2014, but didn’t start incorporating it into his regular routine until 2016. Brooks Baseball estimates suggest that the slider accounted for 17.16% of the 28-year-old’s pitches, ousting his changeup as the second-most common pitch in his repertoire. Whether his decision will bring his curveball and sinker usage back up from their all-time low totals in 2016 or whether he’ll simply lean a little harder on his change remains to be seen. One thing’s for sure, though: Strasburg doesn’t want to eliminate his newfound pitch entirely, as he credits it with his ability to get more outs early in counts (via Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post).
It’s a proactive move for the right-hander, who appears to have returned to full health after multiple stints on the disabled list. He’ll resume his throwing program in January and, barring any unusual setbacks, should be good to go by spring.
The Giants placed outfielder Hunter Pence on the 10-day disabled list with a right thumb sprain, per an official announcement on Friday. Pence initially sustained the injury during the club’s home opener on April 3, when he dove to intercept a line drive double from Robinson Cano and jammed his thumb. Weeks of playing through the pain hasn’t worked, so he’ll take a breather while the Giants give outfielder Mac Williamson a chance to start in left after getting called up from Triple-A Fresno.
Pence, 35, wouldn’t pin his recent struggles on his injury, but it’s clear that he’s having difficulty finding his footing this year. He slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 through 61 plate appearances in 2018, collecting just one extra-base hit and two walks during the Giants’ dismal 7-11 stretch. While it’s far too early in the season to make any final judgments, it doesn’t look like the veteran outfielder will be replicating the .275+ average, 4.0+ fWAR totals of years past (at least, not anytime soon).
Williamson, meanwhile, has gotten off to a hot start in Triple-A. Prior to his call-up this weekend, the 27-year-old batted an incredible .487/.600/1.026 with six home runs and a 1.626 OPS through his first 50 PA. A hot Triple-A bat doesn’t always survive the transition to the majors, but the Giants will use all the help they can get — especially as they take on the AL West-leading Angels this weekend.