Remember where you were on June 8, 2010. That was the day where, more likely than not, the future face of the MLB debuted. His name: Stephen Strasburg.
Strasburg’s debut was probably the most hyped debut in the history of any professional sport. The craze over the 21 year old started when the Washington Nationals drafted him with the first pick in the 2009 first-year player draft. While many expected him to start the 2010 season in the majors, the Nationals, for good reason, decided to test him at double-A and triple-A. To say he mastered his tests would be an understatement. So, the Nationals decided it was time for Strasburg to make his mark in the show. That’s exactly what he did.
Strasburg made his debut against the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates; a good team to get your feet wet against, a AAAA-team. But, don’t let his opponent skew your judgment of his start. Strasburg dominated the Pirates in many different ways, with the only hiccup being a two-run home run by Delwyn Young.
In the much-anticipated debut, Strasburg pitched seven innings, allowing just the two runs. And just after his first start, Strasburg already finds himself in the Nationals’ record book. Strasburg struck out 14 Pirates, a Nationals franchise record for strikeouts in a game. Strasburg just missed out on the all-time record for strikeouts in a debut which is 15; however the two pitchers who hold that record both pitched complete games. One can assume that if pitch count wasn’t such a big part of today’s game that Strasburg would have broken that record.
The debut is huge for the Washington area. Not only did tickets sell out within a few hours of the news of Strasburg starting the game, but it seems that everyone in Washington was watching the game. The game was the highest-rated EVER, for MASN. Approximately 165 thousand households tuned in to see the young man make the Pirates look silly.
But what does this mean for Major League Baseball? It means that there’s a new sheriff in town. Roy Halladay is still “the man,” but soon enough, it won’t be his day. It will be Stephen Strasburg with the nastiest stuff in the majors.
Speaking of the stuff, it was amazing. I don’t know if it was just the camera angle, but I don’t believe I’ve seen so many breaking balls that made me say “whoa,” in one start. One pitch seemed like it was down the meat of the plate one moment, and then five feet later, it was in the outside batter’s box.
What makes Strasburg so lethal is his repertoire, which is unbelievable for a guy who was pitching in college just a year ago. He throws a 4-seam fastball which can touch triple-digits. He has a 2-seam fastball at just a couple ticks slower with great riding action. He arguably has one of the sharpest curveballs in the majors, at least based on his first start. And what’s most amazing, he has a 90 mile-per-hour changeup. Yes, a CHANGEUP in the 90’s, which sinks as much as it is fast. I would say that his overall game is better than the majority of pitchers who have already been in the majors for a few years. Remember that this guy isn’t very far removed from studying for midterms.
The majors need a guy like Stephen Strasburg. Most of the stars of the major leagues are hitters. There’s Albert Pujols, Evan Longoria, Joe Mauer, and a plethora of other star position players. But the best pitchers in the major leagues can barely hold that title. To put it in perspective, the person who never watches a game unless it’s a playoff game knows who those three guys are. But if you said Doc Halladay, they would be very confused. Strasburg gives pitchers an identity, and is a guy that everyone has already heard of if they have even just been surfing through the television channels and skipped by ESPN or the MLB Network.
Stephen Strasburg has already written the first chapter in what looks to be one of the greatest books in recent years. Only time will tell what his legacy will be. But let’s just sit back and enjoy it as much as we can.