In last week’s Weekend Preview, I wrote about what promised to be the most interesting dynamic in the weekend’s huge Texas Christian - San Diego State series: TCU’s contact-first approach against SDSU’s lethal pitching staff. TCU won that battle, scoring 29 times the last two games, striking out just 6 times to take a huge lead in the Mountain West Conference.
Friday, however, backed TCU into a wall and forced them to take the final two as Steven Strasburg continued his trend of dominating anyone and everyone. The Aztecs star pitched his second one-hitter of the season, walking one and striking out 13 on 115 pitches to notch his sixth victory. I wrote at length about Strasburg previously, following the right-hander’s 23-strikeout game on April 11. Strasburg is, 13 months away, the overwhelming favorite to be drafted first overall next season. In other words, move over Tim Lincecum, papa’s got a brand new bag.
At 6-4, 220, Strasburg has a fantastic pitcher’s frame. At 97-99 mph, he has one of the nation’s best fastballs. With a 99-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio, you can see that the kid has good command. Throw in a lights-out slider, and, well, why don’t I let Jim Schlossnagle tell you about him. I talked to TCU head coach Schlossnagle yesterday, and the veteran coach certainly invoked hyperbole talking about the San Diego State star.
“He’s as good as I’ve ever seen in college,” Schlossnagle said. “I recruited Mark Prior, and I saw him pitch in Omaha in 2001. And I coached David Price on the Team USA in 2006. In my 18 years in college coaching, the guys for me are those guys, Prior and Price.
“He’s every bit as good as those guys. Power arm, and I don’t want to say plus, but he can command the strike zone. He commands that outer corner, that down and away to right-handed hitters. And he’s got great use of that breaking ball, and it’s really good.”
According to Schlossnagle, Strasburg’s worst time to home plate was 1.13 seconds, meaning the times the team was able to get a hit, walk or error, it was rather impossible to run on him. I asked the head coach what he’s going to tell his hitters if TCU runs into Strasburg in the Mountain West Tournament, which the Horned Frogs will host in one month.
“The big thing when you’re facing a good pitcher is you have to be ready to handle failure because you’re going to have a lot of it,” Schlossnagle said. “You’re going to have very limited opportunities to score. Just fight like crazy to put the ball in play.”
This season, Strasburg has struck out approximately 40% of the batters he has faced. To Air Force, BYU, Cal State Fullerton, and the teams unfortunate enough to draw him in the postseason: good luck fighting.