- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Stephen Strasburg

The pitch: curveball.

Velocity: 80.1 mph. Frequency: 13% (48 pitches).

Movement: 12.8 inches horizontal, -47.5 inches vertical.

When thrown: 0-0 6%, 0-2 12%, 2-0 N/A.

Outcomes: 42% ball, 26% called strike, 19% in play, 7% foul, 7% swinging strike.

Value/100 pitches: 4.02.

Back story: Strasburg’s world-beating curveball originated in high school: “When I got to college the pitching coach there showed me that I should try and throw it like a fastball. That was one of the mental barriers that I had growing up, I always think, ‘I need to throw it like a football,’ or something like that but it’s better when I throw it like a fastball, just the way you grip it, it comes off a lot sharper, and it’s a little bit more deceptive to the hitter. …

“It’s different [now]. I think that’s mainly because of the seams. In college the seams are much bigger so that changes the way it breaks. I definitely had a bigger, harder break in college with those seams, but now it’s a little bit, I’d say it’s tighter but it doesn’t break as much.”

Jordan Zimmermann

The pitch: four-seam fastball.

Velocity: 94 mph. Frequency: 60% (1456 pitches).

Movement: -6.6 inches horizontal, -14.1 inches vertical.

When thrown: 0-0 68%, 0-2 66%, 2-0 77%.

Outcomes: 32% ball, 22% foul, 19% called strike, 18% in play, 7% swinging strike.

Value/100 pitches: 0.48.

Back story: Zimmermann experimented with a two-seam fastball, but never felt comfortable and stuck with the four-seam version. He arrived at Division III Wisconsin-Stevens Point throwing 86 mph. That shot up to 95 mph thanks to a heavy lifting program.

When the fastball is working “it feels like I don’t have to think about any mechanics. I just throw it. If I’m going to throw an outside pitch low and away, I feel like it’s going to be there every time. When it’s on, the control is unbelievable. I can throw it wherever I want.”

Gio Gonzalez

The pitch: curveball.

Velocity: 80.7 mph. Frequency: 28% (1662 pitches).

Movement: -8.1 inches horizontal, -48.1 inches vertical.

When thrown: 0-0 22%, 0-2 43%, 2-0 4%.

Outcomes: 42% ball, 16% called strike, 15% in play, 13% foul, 13% swinging strike.

Value/100 pitches: -0.06.

Back story: Gonzalez’s father, Max, taught him the pitch. They practiced in a narrow area by the side of their home, so, by necessity, the curveball was sharp, with plenty of vertical movement.

“He threw his magic in there. … If I ever go wrong on it, I ask him what I did wrong. He’s the one that knows all the answers. I’m like a student.

“I haven’t changed the grip and never will change the grip.

“I just figured it would be a pitch I’d need … I never thought it was going to be where everybody’s putting it.”

Edwin Jackson

The pitch: four-seam fastball.

Velocity: 95.1 mph. Frequency: 44% (1608 pitches).

Movement: -5.5 inches horizontal, -12.1 inches vertical.

When thrown: 0-0 63%, 0-2 40%, 2-0 75%.

Outcomes: 34% ball, 21% called strike, 21% in play, 19% foul, 5% swinging strike.

Value/100 pitches: -0.60.

Back story: Jackson throws a two-seamer, too, but is more comfortable with the four-seam pitch. Drafted by the Dodgers as a center fielder, his strong arm soon found a home on the mound.

“I’m a fastball pitcher. I’ve always been known for my fastball. The fastball was my favorite pitch to hit. Everybody wants to throw hard. Some are more fortunate than others. … It’s one of those things you don’t teach. It just happens.”

“You don’t really feel it (when the pitch is working). You just watch the reaction. You just watch the outcome.”

All statistics from 2011. Data via BrooksBaseball.net and FanGraphs.com. Vertical movement includes gravity’s impact. Pitch value calculated based on runs saved per 100 pitches; zero is average.

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