Four starts, 21 innings and 159 fastballs into the 2014 season, 25-year-old right-hander Stephen Strasburg's fastball velocity has dipped from a career average 95.7 mph to 94 mph so far this season, down from an average of 95.2 mph in 2013, 95.8 mph in 2012, 96 mph in 2011 and 97.6 mph in 2010.
The Washington Nationals' '09 no.1 overall pick underwent a surgical procedure at the end of the 2013 campaign which removed bone chips from his right elbow, which was, of course, reconstructed in late 2010 when he had Tommy John surgery after tearing his ulnar collateral ligament. So far this season, opposing hitters, who hit for a .244 AVG against Strasburg's heater last season, have a .371 AVG on his fastball.
It was the lack of command of his fastball that hurt Strasburg last night when the Miami Marlins knocked him around, scoring six runs on eight hits in just 4 IP before he left the game in Marlins Park.
"They came out swinging again and they hit the fastball," Matt Williams said when asked to diagnose Strasburg's issues on the mound in Miami. "So, I'm thinking it's fastball command, throwing the ball where he wants to. It looked like the ball was up tonight. They put good swings on him though."
In an appearance with Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier on 106.7 the FAN in D.C. this afternoon, Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo was asked if he thought the dip in velocity might be tied to Strasburg's attempts to save something to go deeper into games or was perhaps an issue related to his recovery.
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"I think the velocity is just a by-product of ...you know, it's a building process," Rizzo said. "And his velocity is good. His stuff is good. His command has been off. He's the first one to admit that. Yesterday the lack of command didn't fester itself in the way of walks, but he certainly got too much of the plate, especially with his fastball to some really good, young, aggressive fastball-hitting players and they squared a lot of them up last night and it ended up being a short night for Stras and put us in a hole early."
• Check out the rest of Mike Rizzo's interview on 106.7 the FAN in D.C. below:
Mike Rizzo: "We have the ability to reach down and get very talented players that are close to Major League ready." http://t.co/JybINXc2Lt— 106.7 The Fan (@1067thefandc) April 16, 2014