What can the Dodgers offense do to beat Stephen Strasburg?
How did the Cards get to him?
That’s what I wanted to know, so I looked at his worst start of September, a five-inning no-decision against the St. Louis Cardinals in which he allowed two runs and three hits, while allowing a home run and walking four.
Sure, that’s not the worst start I’ve ever seen, and I’m sure if you’ve seen any Dodger games over the last decade you’ve seen plenty worse, but I still feel it is important to see what he did in this start.
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First of all, he labored through it, needing 99 pitches to get those 15 outs, though 38 of those came in the first inning and 26 more came in the third inning. So maybe he’s at his worst in the early innings, and he settles in later on.
That doesn’t seem to be it based on his season numbers. He’s limited opponents to a .205/.262/.355 triple-slash line in the first three innings of his starts this season, and his 127 strikeouts to 26 walks put him at an even better pace than his season-long rate of K/BB.
Ok, so if we can cross that off the list, maybe he’s worse when he falls behind in the count. He seems to walk a decent number of hitters, so that may be the prescription, to get a hitters count and either walk or hit a home run.
In fact, all of the runs Strasburg has allowed in 2019 when behind in the count have come off of 11 home runs. Strasburg also has a far worse K/BB rate after falling behind in the count at any point in the at-bat, as evidenced by the K/BB rate hovering just above 2.00 in these scenarios.
Does that explain all of the ways to be successful off of Strasburg though, just to get ahead in the count?
If you look back at the first and third innings of that Cardinals game though, his strike percentage was right around 60%, much lower than the 70%-80% he was within for the remainder of his outing. Really, the goal seems to be to take balls off the plate so that you can have a chance at hitting a strike. If you can get him behind in the count, maybe he’ll need to throw more fastballs, which are the worst of his three main pitches.
That will likely be the key. If the Dodgers can get ahead in the count, they’ll need to sit fastball and take unless they get it, even if the change up or curveball falls in for a strike. Take until you get that fastball, take in general. Knock him out after five innings, make him throw more than 60% strikes, do whatever you can to make him labor through a road game in what will be a hostile environment against hitters who thrive in the late innings off of bad bullpens.
If the Dodgers can do all of that, their odds of winning should be higher than they have been at any point in this series.