Another solid start for Strasburg

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Stephen Strasburg just finished his fourth start in the Arizona Fall League (he was lifted after five innings of the Phoenix Desert Dogs’ game with the Surprise Rafters). And the Washington Nationals’ No. 1 pick was strong again.

Strasburg threw 68 pitches in five innings, allowing one run on four hits while striking out six. I’ve been following along on MLB’s Gameday program, and from the data displayed there, Strasburg lit up the radar gun today—he hit 100 mph on four of his first six pitches, even touching 101 a couple times. He showed some craftiness with the pitch, too; his last pitch of the day was a 90-mph offering (probably a two-seamer) that dropped through the strike zone, striking out Jarrod Dyson after four straight fastballs all in the high 90s.

He didn’t throw off-speed as much today; by my count, he threw 12 sliders and just one changeup in five innings. That’s not surprising, since fastball command is something Strasburg still needs to work on. The fastball ratio (81%) is John Lannan-like, which isn’t surprising since Lannan is as close to an archetype of the Nats’ pitching philosophy as you’re ever going to find. We’ll see Strasburg throw off-speed more as he goes along, but my guess is today’s goal was to work on the fastball. He threw 43 pitches for strikes, which is a little underwhelming, but was keeping the ball down in the zone more than he has. The only extra-base hit he gave up — a fifth-inning double to Brandon Laird — was on an elevated fastball.

But with the velocity, along with the ability to work quick and change speeds, that Strasburg displayed today, the Nats have to be happy with his progress. Aside from one bad start in Arizona, he’s proving he can excel among the top prospects in baseball.

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