"He could throw that speedball by you, make you look like a fool, boy."
I’ve dabbled in some pitching in my day. My rag-arm bears this out. Boy, I could put that ball wherever I wanted. Pinpoint accuracy—including some rib cages.
But speedball? I wish. Unfortunately for me, those pitches to the ribcage were lucky to induce a half-hearted wince. I was fortunate to ever touch 80 on the ol’ radar gun.
Had I been a lefty, I might have been able to call myself “crafty” and advance further, but reality is hard to confuse.
In an Alice-in-Wonderland Looking Glass kind of way, there’s a kid on the other side of the mirror out San Diego State way whose speedball has me pulling to the far right lane of the Autobahn. The very far right lane.
To put a little flavor on the spit, let me throw out this nugget before I go on: in a game last season, the 19-year-old sophomore threw a pitch 96 mph…on the last pitch of a complete game.
Speedball, thy name is Stephen Strasburg, a right-handed junior pitcher for the Aztecs of San Diego State University. If you haven’t already heard the seams sizzling, you will soon enough.
If size does indeed matter, put him down for 6’5” and 225 pounds. He’s considered by many experts to be the prospect, a near lock to be the top pick with a bullet of a fastball, likely going to the Washington Nationals.
Did I mention his aspirin has been unofficially clocked at 104 mph? That’s rarefied air, baby. The only other canon officially in that club is Detroit’s Joel Zumaya (104.8 in 2006).
Yes, speed kills, especially when it comes with an overdose of control. And the boy has some control. In 2006, while pitching 210 innings, he walked just 45 while whiffing 316. Many consider a 2:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio industrious. This 2006 stat is 7:1. And that’s with a fastball that arrives home quicker than Brad when Angelina beckons.
In the life-isn’t-fair category, Strasburg has a “slurve” that chops a good 15 mph off his heater. That’s the devil in Brooke Burke clothing, people!
In a game last year against Utah, the kid threw a one-hit, complete-game shutout. Nice performance. Oh, and he struck out 23 batters. He fanned the sides in the first, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth innings.
The Utes came into the game batting .322. I’m not so good with math, but figure in batting just .038 against Strasburg to calculate their batting average for the next “Go Utes!” stat sheet.
The Aztec warrior finished 2008 with a 1.57 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings. Opponents hit just .181 against him.
This stuff makes my head spin. Even worse, in all honesty, if I was given the choice between unlimited access to the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders locker room or Strasburg’s stuff, I’d have to pick the latter. Oh man, would I!
Coming to a radar gun near you, Stephen Strasburg.