Strasburg loses in (probable) final start of NCAA Career

As you have no doubtedly heard by now, UVA touched Strasburg for 2 runs early and held on against San Diego State’s impotent offense to take the first game of the Irvine regional 5-1.  Strasburg’s final line from the box score: 7ip, 8 hits, 2 runs (both earned) 15ks, 0bbs and between 118 and 120 pitches (i’ve seen it reported differently).  On the face of it, that line would be defined as “dominant” but watching the game, you got a different feel.

Here’s some thoughts from my house (watching along with me were a very happy UVA alum and a fellow baseball fanatic):

  • Where was Strasburg’s fastball?  The hardest ball he threw all night was also the biggest mistake of the night: a 98-mph gopherball 6 pitches into the game that UVA’s Phil Gosselin absolutely tattooed to left center.  He hit a ball 30 feet over the 380 sign.  The San Diego paper said he “sat at 97″ most of the night, but that’s not what we saw.  I saw glimpses of 97, mostly 94-95.  No awe-inspiring 99 or 100 as we’ve been hearing all year.

    Its possible Strasburg didn’t have his best stuff.  Its possible he was mixing speeds to keep the UVA hitters off balance.  And its possible Gwynn told him not to go 100% so he could throw on sunday or monday if needed.
  • Despite not really touching the upper limits on the radar gun, his average fastball on the night was still 94 mph, which would put him among the elite in the majors.  Daniel Cabrera led the league last year with an average fastball at 96.

  • Strasburg’s first two innings showed he’s human.  Perhaps Gosselin guessed first pitch fastball and got lucky.  But Strasburg showed some shakiness by throwing a couple wild pitches and muffing the infield grounder.  His team certainly didn’t help; his catcher looked like every other pitch was gonna get away from him and he didn’t do the best job “framing” some of Strasburg’s pitches.  Luckily for both sides, the umpire seemed to have a strike zone that extended several inches to either side of the plate.

  • 48 pitches to get through the first two innings, before settling down and going the next 5 innings in 70 pitches, with lots of his outs by strike outs.  Only later in the game did Strasburg start to resemble the amazing pitcher we’ve heard about all year.

  • I counted 2 perhaps 3 hard hit balls.  Most of the 7 hits were infield hits or well placed pokes through the infield.

  • San Diego State was exposed, badly.  Their 3-4-5 hitters; 0-10 with EIGHT strikeouts.  Their #3 hitter took the golden sombrero with 4 Ks on the night.  The couldn’t touch UVA’s #3 starter; Its hard to see them finding their bats against the aces of these top ranked teams.

  • For an interesting comparison of “spins” of the game, here’s four looks:, the Washington Post, the San Diego Union-Tribune and the Charlottesville Daily Progress.

    Summary: it was great to see him throw, and I don’t think he did anything to jeopardize his #1 overall draft pick, but I wonder if he cost himself some money/bargaining position points with the first two innings.


  1. #1 by Eric - May 30th, 2009 at 09:21

    Have the scouts factored in the competition he normally faces when labeling him the best pitching prospect of all time?

  2. #2 by Nate - May 30th, 2009 at 10:00

    UVA’s offense averages something on the order of 8 runs per game, so allowing them two runs through 7 innings is no cause for panic. Strasburg struggled early, then settled in and dominated. That’s the kind of adjustment you like to see from a young pitcher.

  3. #3 by Greg - May 30th, 2009 at 10:17

    Granted this is collegiate baseball, also have to take into account the metal bat factor.

  4. #4 by Wallyball - May 30th, 2009 at 10:21

    I didn’t get to see the game, but saw the highlights, so maybe I don’t have enough data for this. But to me, Strasburg is in exactly the same spot as before the game. The part about best prospect ever .. is kind of meaningless hyperbole. He was an excellent power pitching prospect going in, the best in the country right now, and he is still that. Tony Gwynn has been saying all along that he is going to have to learn to pitch more at the next level, and he seems to be exactly right.

    The Nats definitely need to take him #1, sign him (my guess is that it still is between $20-25m) and give him a little time in the minors before bringing him up.

  5. #5 by joNAThan - May 30th, 2009 at 11:24

    Please don’t mention Daniel “where did my fastball go” Cabrera again! On to Strasburg, I echo many of the comments above, he is still the #1 pick. His other pitches aside from the FB looked fine to my untrained eye. I do think the metal bats account for some of the hits and as someone noted on Nats Journal, his catcher wasn’t that good and any Nats catcher would have prevented the wild pitches.

    He is going to break a lot of wood bats.

  6. #6 by DJ - May 30th, 2009 at 14:20

    I don’t know why anyone would be discouraged with the start. He was hitting 94-97 constantly, facing one of the top hitting teams in the nation and showed he can settle down after a shaky first two innings. He didn’t have his best stuff, but 15 k’s and 2 earned runs in 7 innings … that’s fine by me.

  7. #7 by Jeff E. - May 30th, 2009 at 17:15

    wooden bats in NCAA with the money they draw makes sense. I said this to two co-workers who were berating the overpaid atheletes: would you say that if your son could throw 10 MPH…shut the two females up real quick!

  8. #8 by Jeff E. - May 30th, 2009 at 17:15

    100 mph!

  9. #9 by Ronny - May 30th, 2009 at 20:47

    Have y’all ever thought of the fact that when we sign Strasburg he will probably be pitching to Derek Norris. I think it’s very important him and Stras get use to eachother.

  10. #10 by Jeff E. - May 31st, 2009 at 09:43

    Brian, when is Bobby Williams going to clear out the dead wood @ AAA and move up the kids to AAA/AA??? Time to excelerate the learning curve. And when is Colin Balaester going to get back to NatPark??? perhaps a trade will be his saving grace to get back with St. Claire??? glad you enjoyed Maine- great place!

  11. #11 by otf - June 1st, 2009 at 08:00

    Go Hoos. To be really superficial for a second, UVa finished with the 6th-best record in a 12-team ACC this regular season, so perhaps as good a one-game example of what Strasburg’s season would’ve been like in a top conference like the ACC … if Strasburg threw anything CLOSE to a 2.57 ERA in a dozen ACC starts with the peripherals he’s had (19.3 K/9!) he would be the #1 pick and a huge sensation. He wouldn’t have a 13-1 record, but who cares? His WHIP would go down a bit with ACC-level defenders behind him as well, I think. Incredible weekend from the Cavs, by the way, gave up 2 runs in four games to win the Hardest Regional Ever. If WKU manages to beat Ole Miss tonight, there’s a super-regional in Charlottesville.

  12. #12 by VladiHondo - June 1st, 2009 at 08:53

    That super regional in Charlottesville will be tough, since its also Reunions weekend – would not many hotel rooms around for HIlltoppers.

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