Commentary

Stephen Strasburg by the numbers

Originally Published: June 9, 2010
By DJ Gallo | Page 2

Stephen Strasburg's professional career has been defined by numbers. The No. 1 overall pick. The record $15.1 million contract. The gaudy strikeout numbers. His ability to hit triple digits on the radar gun.

So let's take a look at his major league debut, by the numbers.

6:24: That's the time Strasburg first took the field for his pregame routine. Nationals fans heartily cheered. And although Strasburg's taking the field was indeed a momentous occasion, you can tack on the preceding sentence to pretty much anything he'll do for the next 15 years. For example: "Stephen Strasburg ate dinner at a Northern Virginia Applebee's. Nationals fans heartily cheered."

97: The first pitch of Strasburg's career was a 97 mph fastball to Pirates leadoff hitter Andrew McCutchen. The pitch was a good foot inside, and umpire Tom Hallion called it a ball. Nationals fans heartily booed. And you can tack on the preceding sentence to pretty much anything remotely negative done to Strasburg for the next 15 years. For example: "The Applebee's waitress told Stephen Strasburg they were out of jalapeno poppers. Nationals fans heartily booed."

101: Strasburg's fastest pitch in his debut hit 101 mph. However, his fastball averaged only 99 mph. So that means he often threw only 97 or 98 mph. Bust!

91: His changeup clocked in about 91 mph. The starter opposing him, Pittsburgh's Jeff Karstens, throws a fastball that touches 88 mph. Although, in fairness to Karstens, Strasburg's fastball also touches 88 mph. It just does so while accelerating on the way to 101 mph.

90: Delwyn Young will go down in history as the first major leaguer to hit a home run off of Strasburg. He deposited a 90 mph changeup into the right-field bleachers in the fourth inning to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead. Previously, his claim to fame was being confused with the highly touted prospect who threw a bat at an ump in the minor leagues. So this is much better.

100: Although Young hit the first home run off of Strasburg, Andy LaRoche had the first hit -- a sharp single to right in the second inning off a 100 mph fastball. LaRoche is a .233 hitter in 1,000 career at-bats, so this might go down as his claim to fame. Previously, it was being the teammate of the guy many people thought was Delmon Young.

40,315: That's the announced attendance for the game. So a few years from now, when the 40,316th person from the Washington, D.C., area tells you he was at Strasburg's debut, feel free to call him a liar.

94: Strasburg threw 94 pitches. But he doesn't remember many of them. "The only thing I really remember is the first pitch -- ball inside -- everything else is just such a blur," he said. "At one point, I lost track of how many innings I threw. I was like, 'You know what? I'm just going to go out there and have fun.' It's amazing." Wait, did I just accidentally quote former Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis when he threw a no-hitter on acid in 1970? Let me double-check … nope! That's Strasburg.

9: In compiling his 14 strikeouts, Strasburg struck out every batter in the Pittsburgh lineup at least once. Pirates shortstop Ronny Cedeno, who went down twice, said after the game: "It was nasty, all of it, everything he did. That kid is going to be the best pitcher in the National League." Ouch! The National League? I think Cedeno is saying that Strasburg is barely better than Carlos Silva.

7: Strasburg retired the final seven Pirates batters he faced. All by strikeout. He truly seemed to be better with the more pitches he threw. Baseball fans everywhere should be grateful Strasburg's manager is Jim Riggleman. Dusty Baker would have him throw 700 warm-up pitches before every start.

6: Thanks to Stras-mas, the Nationals are only six games out of first in the NL East. Is it insane to think they have a shot to win the division now that they have Strasburg? No other team in baseball will bring in a player of his ability before the trading deadline. Although the Phillies are hoping to get Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez back from wherever they went.

2:19: The game took only 2 hours, 19 minutes. For all the superlatives thrown at Strasburg, the thing I like best about him is that he works fast. He actually makes it possible to watch an entire baseball game and still be a normal member of society. Crazy, right? Two hours and 19 minutes of a Yankees-Red Sox game doesn't even get you to A-Rod's first at-bat. And that's when the Yankees are on the road.

4: If you think Strasburg's debut was a big deal, just wait until tonight when the No. 4 overall pick of the 2006 draft, Brad Lincoln, make his major league debut for the Pirates! Huh?! Yeah?! No, you don't care, do you? Oh well. Back to this Strasburg guy …

3: Strasburg was hit with three shaving cream pies by teammates during his interview on the field immediately after the game ended. This is an example of how Strasburg already has made the Nationals better. A week ago, they probably would have failed to hit their target with at least two of those pies.

2: Strasburg's next scheduled start is Sunday against the Indians. The Indians have two fewer wins than the Pirates. This could be ugly. Only two more months until NFL preseason games, Pittsburgh and Cleveland!

1: That's the position Strasburg was drafted in last June, of course. On Monday, the Nationals took Bryce Harper in the same spot. If Harper is going to trump Strasburg's debut, he'll have to hit five home runs, drive in 15 runs and announce he is using all the oil spilled in the Gulf for his eye black. Good luck, kid!

DJ Gallo is the founder of SportsPickle.com. His first book, "SportsPickle Presents: The View from the Upper Deck," is available from only the finest bargain book retailers. His next book project will be released soon. You can follow him on Twitter at @DJGalloESPN.


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