As Parkes touched upon in today’s linkdump, both Stephen Strasburg and Dustin McGowan made their long-awaited returns to the mound last night. Two similar-style pitchers at very different places in their careers. How did they look? Pretty good, pretty damn good in the end.
Using Pitch F/X, let’s examine their arsenals after their extended time on the so-called shelf.
What They Threw
Using pitch f/x’s spin and velocity measurements, we get nice, discrete groupings which indicate pitch types rather clearly. The pitch types are circled and noted above. Strasburg’s pitches are red, Dustin McGowan’s blue.
Strasburg is primarily a four-pitch pitcher: two fastballs, an insane changeup and a big curveball. He put all four of those pitches on display last night though he mostly stayed with the two fastballs. Jeff Zimmerman of Fangraphs notes his four seam fastball had slightly less downward motion and his changeup featured a little bit more arm-side run that last season.
Strasburg only threw a handful of curves last night, the bulk of them missing the strikezone. His velocity was basically the same and, as you can see, pretty much out of this world.
McGowan’s repertoire is very similar with a slider thrown in for good measure. The pitch f/x alorythim only identified one two-seam fastball from McGowan last night but, watching the game, it seemed he threw it more often than that. McGowan threw his change only to lefties and his slider exclusively to right handers, as one might expect.
In the Zone
Using the strikezone plots, we can see the approach by each pitcher. Separated by batter handedness, we can see two distinct approaches from each pitcher. McGowan battled a bit of wildness while Strasburg stayed within the zone much more.
A reminder about these strike zone plots: they are from the catcher/umpires perspective. The strikezone is an approximation based on the rule book “standard.” The legend should reveal all secrets.
McGowan gave up most hits down in the zone, the kind of thing you expect when you face the best offense in baseball. The pitch Reddick hit over the right field fence was not a bad pitch by any stretch of the imagination. A curveball at the knees simply caught too much of the strikezone. More often than not, that pitch is hooked foul into the right field corner. Tip your cap to Josh Reddick in this case.
McGowan got his swinging strikes on change ups down and away to lefties and sliders off the outside corner to right handers. Par for the course, as it were.
Stephen Strasburg might just have a future as a big league pitcher. Facing the Dodgers means a couple fastballs down the pipe get hit for a double and a single rather than ending up in the seats when you face the BoSox, but still a great outing in the rain by Strasburg.
The fastball whiff against the lefty was a 99 mph fastball that tied Aaron Miles into knots. Great stuff from Strasjesus, embarrassing the Dodgers like that. As if this storied franchise hasn’t suffered enough.
In all, a great night for fans for power pitching and stories of redemption. Dustin McGowan’s journey to back to the big leagues is well covered territory today but it just shows that elite talent gets all the chances in the world to succeed. Stephen Strasburg reaffirmed his place as one of baseball’s greatest arms and a must-see for any baseball fan.
Pitch f/x data courtesy of Joe Lefkowitz’s database.