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Strasburg wins MLB debut in lights-out fashion

Jun 8, 2010, 9:48 PM EDT

strasburg nationals park.jpgWe’ve been lucky enough to witness a multitude of impressive pitching performances this season.  Ubaldo Jimenez fired a no-hitter in early April and currently sits 11-1 on the year with a 0.93 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP.  Those are historically good numbers. 

Dallas Braden threw a perfect game on May 9 against the Rays, who have owned the best record in baseball for over a month.  He has a 1.09 WHIP.

Roy Halladay, long considered the cream of the crop in the American League, is 8-3 over his first 12 starts in a Phillies uniform with 77 strikeouts and only 13 walks.   He threw his first career perfecto in late May against the Marlins.

It has been a spectacular year for fans of dominant pitching, and let’s go ahead and add Stephen Strasburg’s name to the list of guys who are making it all happen.  The 21-year-old kid — that’s right, kid — out of San Diego State University struck out 14 batters on Tuesday night in his major league debut and picked up his first career win.  It should be the first of many.

Never has a pitcher struck out 14 batters without issuing a walk in a MLB debut.  His 94th and final pitch was clocked at 98 MPH on the Nationals Park gun and he hit 99 MPH regularly throughout the night.

To say Strasburg was impressive would be an understatement.  To say he’s “the real deal” would be spot-on.  His hybrid slider-curve looks like a different pitch every time he throws it.  His fastball has a foot of tailing action, even at 99 MPH.  His changeup, which is still in its infancy, looks like a potential long-term out pitch.  He pairs that all with a devastating sinker and he has an incredible amount of touch and feel for his entire arsenal.

This guy’s good.  This guy is real good.  The Nats may be years away from contending in the stacked-with-youngsters National League East, but that will change as Strasburg carves his way through opposing lineups, Ian Desmond grows into his role as the starting shortstop, and Drew Storen begins wrapping up games with confidence.  Maybe Bryce Harper will even get on the fast track.

The Nationals arrived in the nation’s capital in 2005 and finally moved into their new stadium in 2008.  But not until the night of June 8, 2010 did baseball truly get its welcome back to The District.

  1. Dan in Katonah - Jun 8, 2010 at 10:12 PM

    I made sure my daughters watched a bit of the game tonight so they could tell their kids some day. Simply awesome. Wish he were on the Mets…

  2. Old Gator - Jun 8, 2010 at 10:43 PM

    Stephen Strasburg is old enough to drink, vote, die in combat and pitch winning, nay dominant, baseball against a major league team. He is not a “kid.”

  3. adam - Jun 8, 2010 at 11:07 PM

    Holy crap. That kid is good. His curve ball is other worldly and completely unfair when paired with his other pitches.

  4. jcd - Jun 9, 2010 at 12:01 AM

    I was sure he would disappoint, and he exceeded all expectations. What a great night for baseball fans, especially the Nats fans, who’ve had so little cheer for. So happy for them that the rookie didn’t fall on his face.

  5. Cru11 - Jun 9, 2010 at 12:59 AM

    In recent memory, does anyone remember a time when 3 highly touted prospects (Strasburg,Heyward,Stanton) debuted within the same division in the same season?

  6. Preston - Jun 9, 2010 at 1:22 AM

    Probably more common than you might think. My first instinct was the NL West in 2007 – Lincecum and Justin Upton both debuted that year; Troy Tulowitzki actually debuted in 2006 but 2007 was his rookie year (same for Ubaldo Jimenez, who only threw 7.2 innings in 2006); Mark Reynolds also debuted in 2007, though I can’t remember how highly touted he was. Still in the NL West, 2006 saw the debuts of Matt Kemp, Chad Billingsley, Tulo and Jimenez, not to mention Chris Young (ARI). Now, quite this highly ranked is pretty special, but 3 top 10 or 20 prospects in a division in a year is probably not unprecedented, given that I came up with those in about 10 minutes only looking at one division.

  7. zac - Jun 9, 2010 at 2:39 AM

    but that will change as Strasburg carves his way through opposing lineups, Ian Desmond grows into his role as the starting shortstop, and Drew Storen begins wrapping up games with confidence. Maybe Bryce Harper will even get on the fast track
    And you didn’t even mention Ryan Zimmerman, who is already a heckuva player. Those Nats might end up being something after all.

  8. jack sprat - Jun 9, 2010 at 3:25 AM

    The real news here is the District’s Daily Double. Strasburg and Bryce Harper will both be first ballot HOF, assuming no freak injuries or drug abuse. It wouldn’t entirely surprise me if each was top 10 all-time (player or pitcher) when all is said and done. Harper beggars belief, like Roy freaking Hobbs.

  9. Jim - Jun 9, 2010 at 5:27 AM

    I do remember…it happened this year in the NL Central with Leake…Garcia…and Castro. The NL ROY is going to be a tough race this year!

  10. Florida727 - Jun 9, 2010 at 7:09 AM

    Another reason to hate Bud Selig… the MLB Network did such a fine job of ‘advertising’ the free airing of Strasburg’s debut, it was by sure happenstance that I flipped to it in time to catch the 7th inning. Of course, ESPN didn’t do baseball any favors. Not once did their “Bottom Line” reference the game being televised, nor did any of their expert analysts mention it. I guess since it could conflict with their precious PRE-game NBA coverage, they couldn’t do the fans THAT injustice, could they? No advertising on MSNBC.com to let Internet users know the game was being shown for free. Couple that with David Stern and Gary Bettman having NBA and Stanley Cup games ON THE SAME NIGHT and it makes you think the best qualification for running a major sports league as commissioner is being an idiot…

  11. don1331 - Jun 9, 2010 at 8:48 AM

    Can any one say Walter Johnson?

  12. Curious George - Jun 9, 2010 at 9:16 AM

    Strasburg and Bryce Harper will both be first ballot HOF… It wouldn’t entirely surprise me if each was top 10 all-time

    Just as long as your expections are reasonable.

  13. ed from tampa - Jun 9, 2010 at 9:20 AM

    Dominant for one night against the Pirates. I’m not trying to take anything away from his bebut – it was historic – but let’s not get ahead of ourselves and say he’ll be a first ballot HOF’er (let alone the 17 year old the Nats jsut picked #1). I hope he continues to do well, but beating the Pirates is like beating the Orioles right now. Not uncommon, and not such a great indicator. Let’s wait at least one more start before we coronate him the best pitcher ever.
    Florida727 – there was no NHL game last night. don1331 – comparing a single game to Walter Johnson is as silly as saying Bryce Harper will be a HOF’er at this point. Let’s all keep some perspective…

  14. Sorry - Jun 9, 2010 at 9:24 AM

    The kid will be good for a while, several years, then he will brun out. 150 wins tops – no one ever debuts this young and lasts. And don’t bother telling me “he is different”. You can’t pitch in the majors at 21 and have a long career. And lets face it – the Nats will ride him heavy, he will get a lot of stress on that arm quick
    Probably 4 or 5 years at the top of the game, then he is toast. Seen this story dozens of times

  15. Curious George - Jun 9, 2010 at 9:27 AM

    Let’s wait at least one more start before we coronate him the best pitcher ever.

    Two more starts. He gets the Indians next.

  16. The Rob - Jun 9, 2010 at 9:41 AM

    “You can’t pitch in the majors at 21 and have a long career.”
    Roger Clemens went 9-4 as a 21 year old. Nolan Ryan went 6-9 as a 21 year old. Greg Maddux went 2-4 as a 20 year old and 6-14 as a 21 year old. Pedro Martinez went 10-5 as a 21 year old. I think all those guys had pretty good and LONG careers in the majors. I’m sure I could find 10 other examples if you wish, but I’m sure you’ll cut your losses at this point.

  17. paul - Jun 9, 2010 at 9:55 AM

    Zero walks. That’s what surprised me the most. Even if the kid had 3-5 walks nobody would care.

  18. Fecteau - Jun 9, 2010 at 10:28 AM

    I noticed someone mentioned something about the opposition… the Pirates. I hope people aren’t going to say that this event wasn’t special because it was against the Pirates. Granted, they could very well lose against some AAA clubs, but Strasburg struck out each batter AT LEAST once and 2 per inning pitched. He most likely would have earned the record for K’s in a pitching debut if he pitched just one more inning!
    And did you see his curve ball? You couldn’t hit that with a tree trunk!!! Lets hope that everyone acknowledges that it was a very good game, against a sub par team, but pretty dominant. Let’s rather than call him the next sure fire HOFer, let’s watch the next few games and see how he does against tougher lineups.
    We can most all agree that exciting times could very well be ahead for Washington baseball fans. This is a team WITHOUT their now top minor league prospect as he was JUST drafted. Hopefully having Strasburg selling out games will allow the Nats to afford signing a guy like Harper…

  19. Stu W - Jun 9, 2010 at 10:29 AM

    The at bat I was most impressed with, and I forget the unlucky soul, is the guy he struck out after falling behind 3-0. Really showed some grit. As did his turning it up a notch after he got the lead.
    Time will tell on this guy, but his curveball/slider is impressive. I’m most impressed with the way it leaves his hand. At least from TV, it’s indistinguishable from his fastball for at least 2/3 of the way to the plate. His hands are so huge that he can simply slow the ball down 10 MPH or so through grip alone. That makes it pretty devastating to batters. I’d describe it as a violent pitch.
    I’m not a Nats fan, and I’m certainly not a Pirates fan, but this guy got me to watch both of those teams for a night. That’s saying something.

  20. Fecteau - Jun 9, 2010 at 10:38 AM

    Good point, stu, I think the last time I watched the Pirates play was when Andy Van Slyke was relevant…Oh yeah, I did watch a game to see Jason Bay play…

  21. Theo - Jun 9, 2010 at 11:42 AM

    The Pirates weren’t swinging wildly at bad pitches, they were swinging at pitches that every batter from Seattle to Tampa will take cuts at. The balls move around like Barry Sanders, and they do it at 95 mph. You can smoke a cigarette on the curve ball — no point in swinging. Batters on streaks will be sitting games out when Strasburg pitches. When he finds himself dazed, he can go upstairs to buy time to get right — no one is going to crowd 98 high and tight. No one. It’s silly to think that the Pirates, which happen to be one of MANY teams significantly below .500 that the Nats will face, aren’t representative of what Strasburg will do. They are. Unless the Yankees and Sox are changing League lodgings, Strasburg will be feasting no less than 85% of his games. And in all games, unless the DH comes over, he’ll be dealing to pitchers a few times per as well. So let’s give it up, get in line, and be happy he’s clean, probably can’t spell HGH, and makes us all ashamed that we ever allowed ourselves to say we didn’t care about guys on juice. We do care, and we should care. This guy has me happy about baseball again. Like I was when I was on Walt’s Little League team back in 1970.
    One last thing: what was really neat about last night’s game (the competition itself) was how his teammates held him up as soon as the Pirates touched him up in the middle. They didn’t let the kid worry for one second — dingers, two run lead, done. Letting the relievers salt it away made it, somehow, a team win. Can you believe that?
    Loved it.

  22. Mark McGwire - Jun 9, 2010 at 11:52 AM

    The kids on JUICE I tell ya, he is JUICED to the GILL!!!!!!

  23. Sorry - Jun 9, 2010 at 12:47 PM

    You left out Mark Fydrch!
    Nolan Ryan averaged 114 innings picthed before age 25. My point was that the Nats will ride him heavy and burn him out. It’s an old article, but it says it better then I ever could
    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1068416/1/index.htm

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