July 31, 2021

Stephen Strasburg: It Was Bound To Happen

August 29, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Almost three months ago, Nationals Stadium was filled for the first time in it’s existence. Not because the Nationals were playing well, but because the most sought after prospect in baseball, Stephen Strasburg, was set to make his debut.

The day was June 8, 2010. The opposing team was the Pittsburg Pirates. If the uniforms and players’ faces were unidentifiable, you would have thought that it was game seven of the World Series. And with all the excitement, nobody was let down.

Strasburg finished the game after throwing seven innings, and striking out 14 batters while walking none.

Regardless of that electrifying debut, Strasburg was recently diagnosed with a torn ligament in his arm, and will likely have Tommy John surgery. Although that procedure has been proven successful, and he has a good chance of returning at full force, this should be a big wake-up call for all organizations.

The day following Strasburg’s debut, I wrote an article foreshadowing the future of Strasburg’s career as determined by his debut. Here is an excerpt from that article:

“Last night, Strasburg threw 11 pitches at 98 miles per hour, 12 at 99 miles per hour and two at 100 miles per hour…If Strasburg is going to continue throwing at this speed as a starter, he will have arm problems.”

How did I know this? Simple: I made it a priority not to let the excitement blind me of reality. As a Yankees fan, I don’t care if the Nationals win or lose, and I have no interest in selling tickets. That objective view allowed me to observe this event through a realistic lens. But looking at the numbers, it is concerning that I was rare in predicting this.

If you look at a breakdown of Strasburg’s pitches this season, you find that over 83% of the pitches he threw were either a fastball or a curveball, 58% of which are fastballs. Furthermore, the average velocity on his fastball was over 97 miles per hour.

Now, I am not a doctor, but pitching like that cannot be healthy. Not too long ago, my baseball coaches were former baseball players, and they used to tell the pitchers to do two things to avoid soreness in their arms: don’t overthrow, and avoid throwing curveballs. I’m guessing Strasburg missed that practice.

You also would have thought that the Nationals would have wanted to protect their star. However, they allowed him to throw over 90 pitches in eight of his 12 games, and over 95 pitches in six games. That’s not protection if you ask me. The Nationals prolonged this anti-medical pitching mentality, and failed to end it. And now they are paying for it.

As I said, this should be a heads up for all organizations. Selling tickets should not be your primary view, especially considering it could ruin a young kid’s career. Fans should be more hesitant to carve out plaques in Cooperstown, and should instead observe the game objectively. And, more importantly, the fans should teach the coaches to do likewise.

You can e-mail me at jess@jesskcoleman.com or follow me on Twitter@jesskcoleman.

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