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Stephen Strasburg’s fastball averaged 96 mph last night

Sep 7, 2011, 2:14 PM EDT

Los Angeles Dodgers v Washington Nationals Getty Images

Stephen Strasburg was dominant last night in his first start since undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery almost exactly 12 months ago, shutting out the Dodgers for five innings.

Strasburg averaged 96.7 miles per hour on his four-seam fastball and 95.1 mph on his two-seam fastball, which is pretty amazing considering that Justin Verlander leads all big-league starters in average fastball velocity this season at 95.0 mph.

However, as hard as Strasburg was throwing last night it was actually slightly below his pre-surgery average of 97.3 mph. And that’s by design, as the former No. 1 pick told Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post:

I think I’ve come to the realization that I don’t have to throw 100 to get guys out. Fastball command, I think, is better than it was before. I think it’s just because I’m not trying to dial it up every time.

If the pitch isn’t well located, they’re still going to hit it. I’m still focused on commanding all the pitches, throwing strikes, climbing the ladder, working inside-outside. I’m really trying to be a pitcher out there. I’m not trying to go out there and light up the radar gun every time.

Of course, that’s easy to say when dialing things back a bit still involves throwing 96 miles per hour in your first big-league appearance in 12 months. And as Kilgore notes Strasburg topped out at 98.7 mph on an 0-2 fastball he blew past Aaron Miles.

Strasburg struck out four of the 17 batters he faced last night and also racked up 29 strikeouts in 20 innings while rehabbing in the minors. New ligaments and all, that’s one hell of an arm.

  1. dlevalley - Sep 7, 2011 at 3:05 PM

    I think the most amazing stat of last night:
    Ted Lilly: 5.0 IP, 105 pitches
    Strasburg: 5.0 IP, 56 pitches (!)

    • madhatternalice - Sep 7, 2011 at 3:34 PM

      Ted Lilly: 9 Ks.

      That first inning really did him in, pitch count wise.

      • natstowngreg - Sep 7, 2011 at 9:31 PM

        The Nats strike out too much. A significant part of their offensive ineptitude.

  2. clydeserra - Sep 7, 2011 at 3:35 PM

    From what I understand the control is a bigger concern than velocity. He was aces with that as well.

    And why did he feel he had to dial it up for Aaron Miles?

  3. crookedstick - Sep 7, 2011 at 4:19 PM

    Maybe the Nats were still giddy over Strasburg’s performance. This little nugget was just sent to Dodger radio affiliates after it had already been announced the game was rained out:

    “The Washington Nationals cancelled the game tonight without permission of MLB. The game tonight may be played as scheduled. They will make a decision in the next 30 minutes. I will let you know as soon as we get any information.”

    • natstowngreg - Sep 7, 2011 at 9:27 PM

      This wasn’t the Nats doing. The teams agreed to postpone and play a doubleheader Thursday, but MLB HQ tried to get the teams to play the game. The same folks behind the Yankees and Orioles starting a game after 11:00 last night.

  4. hateradeonrocks - Sep 7, 2011 at 5:42 PM

    thats all well and good but strasburg as dominant as he was did not look good last night IMO. He did not have the same drop on his breaking ball and his fastball doesn’t move nearly as much as it used to

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