What can the Dodgers offense do to beat Stephen Strasburg?
What Does He Throw (That Is Hittable)?
Does Strasburg allow hits, and runs, ever? Yes, of course. Does that happen often? Well, not exactly. He’s allowed three runs or less in every start since he allowed four runs on August 14, and he still won that game. He has not had a noticeably poor start since allowing nine runs back on August 3 against the Diamondbacks. Yeah, it’s basically been two months since Strasburg got rocked.
That’s not to say the Dodgers have no shot at getting to him, it’s just that he is locked in at the moment. Of course, all it takes to end that is one start, but he definitely is not at a low point at the moment.
Why has he been so successful in general? His fastball is fast, and his offspeed pitches both move a lot and are notably slower than that fastball. He’s a classic power pitcher. But, he’s one who walks multiple hitters almost every start, 20 of his 33 starts to exact.
That is a lot of walks, and it just so happens the Dodgers like to walk. The Dodgers have the fourth-best walk rate in all of baseball, which is part of what has made them so successful this season. Many of you will be frustrated by this, because the team has chased so many pitches out of the zone this postseason, and that is 100% valid.
In order to beat Strasburg, the Dodgers will have to buck this trend, which is much easier typed than executed. And yet, if any team would be able to do this, it would probably be the Dodgers, especially if Strasburg decides to stray away from the offspeed pitches that served him so well in Game Two.
After that game, Fangraphs’ Dan Szymborski noted how many offspeed pitches Strasburg had unfurled, and how unusual that was for the righty:
"Perhaps the most interesting difference in last night’s game compared to his previous starts against the Dodgers was that Strasburg was far more reliant on curveballs and changeups. 61% of Strasburg’s pitches were his curve or his change, a number only beaten this year by an August 20 start against the Pirates. Strasburg’s 15 swinging strikes in Game 2 on curves or changeups almost matched the 16 he totaled in his other two starts against the Dodgers. While he still pounded the Dodgers high on fastballs as in previous starts, there was a lot less hard painting of the outside edge for righties and inside edge for lefties. Strasburg was more content to send the Dodgers fishing, which they did quite happily and ineffectually."
Strasburg’s offspeed pitches are obviously good. Fangraphs has pegged both the curveball and the changeup to be more valuable pitches than his fastball. And yet, the fastball is usually his bread and butter pitch precisely because it sets up those offspeed pitches so well. Notably though, in the regular season this year, Strasburg threw the fastball less than 50% of the time, the first season he had done so in his entire career.
And while his changeup usage saw only a slight uptick, the curveball was used much more, and was much more effective as well, than ever before in his career.
So what pitches are hittable?
That’s harder to say. All three of his main pitches have positive pitch values above 8, meaning they are solid pieces of his arsenal. He also throws all three over 20% of the time, meaning you are unlikely to find a pitch he doesn’t have success with.
He has allowed a home run per nine innings this season though, so someone is getting to him every game on average. But how?