Monday, June 28, 2010

The Glue Factory

Before the Defensive Specialist launches into today’s grand topic, it seems prudent to let the readership know a couple more nuggets about the ABL. Now you can take this one of two ways. 1) Wow, the Defensive Specialist is one plugged in dude or 2) Jesus, we’re really hurting for information if this is what this dude is passing off as inside information. Anyway, it’s a little bit of info that diehard fans will be totally interested in while others may yawn.

So the first bit of information is that all uniforms will be manufactured by Majestic whom many will know are the makers of Major League Baseball uniforms. The reason that information is interesting to the Defensive Specialist is that Majestic makes high quality products that look awesome and their additional clothing, like pullovers and fleeces, are probably the best on the market. At least we know that the teams will be wearing top quality gear.

The Defensive Specialist has received mixed reviews on the uniforms from varying sources with some teams looking big league and others a little on the disgraceful side. The Defensive Specialist is working hard to try to get some mock ups of the uniforms but is having limited luck so if any loyal readers happen to have some, fire them through and they can be posted here. If you’re an employee of the ABL, the Defensive Specialist will keep it anonymous (see the Defensive Specialist is always working for you).

Another cool piece of uniform information is that the team hats will be manufactured by New Era - which also provides hats to big league teams. This is great news because these hats are about 100 times better than anything teams were wearing last year. New Era just makes solid hats. Our teams will look and feel like professional clubs at the very least.

The last news item for today is the name of the Canberra franchise. You may recall the Defensive Specialist tossing out the ‘Capitals’ as a possibility last week while also suggesting that it was a rather boring option. Well, the Defensive Specialist is pleased to say that smarter people than him have spent countless hours conducting feasibility studies in order to come up with a name that really resonates with the baseball population. And that name is? The Canberra…….


Well at least they can have a fierce stallion as their logo and mascot!

In case you haven’t noticed, the Defensive Specialist isn’t overcome with excitement with the choice but it’s better than nothing… isn’t it?

Anyway, the Defensive Specialist is keen to hear the reader’s thoughts on those minor nuggets of information.

The other thing the Defensive Specialist wanted to discuss is the impact of the ABL on local baseball. Numerous people have asked the Defensive Specialist this question, however, it’s difficult to break it down without seeing a schedule so the Defensive Specialist is going to keep this one short. Any state that features senior baseball on Saturday is likely to feel the pinch because the best players will be drawn out of local baseball and onto the grander stage. Having said that, the Defensive Specialist suspects that the impact will not be as great because non-professionals are less likely to commit to the ABL due to real life work responsibilities. With an increase in games, the possibility of amateurs making themselves available decreases, thus keeping them in the local competition.

One thing that the Defensive Specialist knows is that the ABL will draw more kids into baseball so the impact in the long term is going to be a positive one. If you cast your mind back to the halcyon days of the early nineties when the ABL was pumping, there were unprecedented numbers of children playing teeball and moving onto baseball. If the ABL takes off like it did then, we can expect the junior ranks to swell again as kids have a league to aspire to and no longer have to waste their time dreaming of playing twenty/20.

One interesting point was made to the Defensive Specialist late last week. The league most likely to be impacted by the ABL is actually the NSW competition. The reason? The Canberra Colts. With proximity so close to Sydney and a limited pool of talent to draw from, the Canberra franchise will be gunning for players not quite ready to make the Sydney based ABL team. This means that NSW will be supporting 2 ABL franchises and the exodus of players will mean a bigger dent in the local competition. The Defensive Specialist has heard that practices are to be held in Campbelltown, which is kind of in the middle of Sydney and Canberra so obviously plans are in place to tap into the deep well of NSW’s available talent and use these players to compliment homegrown Canberra players.

The Defensive Specialist will have greater insight on the topic once the schedule is released and he can see how much time teams will spend away from home. In the meantime get busy drawing your best pony as the Canberra franchise is going to need a cool logo to make up for their new name!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Stinging Heat Bites Ace Bandit in the Capital

The Deep in the Hole inbox has taken an absolute pounding over the past few weeks with things like this

“One post per week – wow you must be busy”
“I thought you were meant to be Australia’s biggest baseball brain, can’t you come up with something?”
“Can you speak with some of your contacts and get some information on the ABL?”
“Defensive Specialist what are you wearing right now?”

Ok, so one of the above emails may in fact be spam. Anyway, no matter which of the notes you believe to be true, the underlying theme is that people are A) hungry for more information and B) starting to doubt the Defensive Specialist’s chops when it comes to delivering information. Believe it or not, the Defensive Specialist takes his role as national baseball icon very seriously, so the Deep in the Hole scouting team was dragged into the Deep in the Hole boardroom with the implicit instruction to come up with a topic or topics that the Defensive Specialist could freestyle on.

A couple of less experienced scouts coughed up things like; “hey you had good success with the Bryce Harper post, why don’t you pick another draft phenom and write 1500 words on them?” or “how about a post on the schedule”. It’s moments like that when the Defensive Specialist’s brow furrows and he has to remind himself that not every individual is able to walk in his shoes and deliver above average performances at all times – especially when a little heat is applied to them. It’s what separates the Hall of Famers from the run of the mill guys, the ability to deliver under pressure.

Anyway, with nothing even remotely interesting being delivered to the table, the Defensive Specialist ended the session and demanded that the group reconvene in 24 hours. The scouting team was to pump their contacts for any slice of information that the Defensive Specialist could fashion into a solid post for the loyal Deep in the Hole readers.

24 hours later, the usually buoyant group was back in the Deep in the Hole conference room looking decidedly downcast. The Defensive Specialist went around the room, stopping at some of the most experienced members of the team. Not a single nugget to be found amongst the group. As the Defensive Specialist began rolling up his sleeves and figuring out how he was going to go this alone, Debbie the office administrator looked up from her note book and said “Hey DS, I found a link on a message board that may be interesting?”

Members of the room scoffed at the audacity of an office administrator trying to contribute to Deep in the Hole but the Defensive Specialist hadn’t just hired Debbie for her amazing ability to haggle down stationary suppliers’ prices.

The Defensive Specialist dismissed the room and had Debbie find the link. Debbie brought up her ‘favourites’ list and led the Defensive Specialist to the Baseball National Radio message board. From there she jumped onto a SA Baseball thread and straight to a post dated June 21, 11.01pm. The Defensive Specialist took one look at the post, dialed up a few trusted advisors for their opinion and came away fairly satisfied that the information in front of him was pretty damn accurate.

The Defensive Specialist looked at Debbie, extended his hand and immediately promoted her to Chief Operations Officer of Deep in the Hole.

So what did Debbie stumble across? How about a random post identifying a number of the new team names?

Now with any message board, there has to be an element of scepticism because there is no way to qualify who is saying what and how accurate the information is – hence the Defensive Specialist seeking some form of clarification from reasonably trusted sources.

Here’s the link to the board:

Anyway, the post supplied the following information regarding team names: 
  • Perth HEAT (this must surely be a no-brainer)
  • Adelaide BITE
  • Melbourne ACES
  • Sydney STING
  • Canberra (I have nothing)
  • Brisbane BANDITS (heard 1st hand from a few sources) 

The Defensive Specialist has also learned that we’re about 2 weeks away from this information being made official but isn’t it so much better when you find out earlier? It’s like sneaking a look at your Christmas presents!

So what are the Defensive Specialist’s thoughts on the names above? Well let’s assume that they are fairly close to the mark. First off, the only team that has cranked out something a little left of field is Sydney with ‘Sting’. The Defensive Specialist is assuming that some form of insect will be the mascot. The name isn’t too bad unless of course the team turns in a warm turd of a performance and all of a sudden you see fine publications (or websites like this one) referring to them as the Sydney Stink. The Defensive Specialist would probably prefer to see them call the ‘Stingers’. The Sting also sounds a bit like a netball team. At least the Stingers are an actual thing whereas ‘Sting’ is an act.

A name that could easily be applied to the Canberra franchise is the ‘Capitals’ obviously because they’re located in the nation’s capital. It is a little boring of course, but then again so are a lot of the people who live there (excluding all firework and porn manufacturers and distributors!).

The Adelaide Bite is weird, especially when you consider that their logo could very easily be a large set of teeth. Additionally any poor performance could see them being referred to as the Adelaide Shite (Although this is unlikely to occur in mainstream press, the Defensive Specialist pledges to use it liberally). Once again, ‘Bite’ is more of an action than a thing so the Defensive Specialist is assuming that some sort of fierce looking shark will be the mascot.

Brisbane Bandits? Not too bad, although it does hark back to the old days of the ABL and the name may in fact be a direct reference to the state’s longest serving premier – Joh Bjelke-Peterson who’s government was fairly corrupt. The Defensive Specialist doesn’t really have a problem with the team name as long as they don’t have a caricature of Joh on their caps.

The Melbourne franchise going with the “Aces” is kind of boring unless they have the players wearing dealers hats in which case it becomes quirky. It’s a safe choice and ties into the Victorian Aces name that they have been using for the Claxton Shield in recent years.

Perth have led the charge with nothing names. ‘Heat’ is just a weird team name and by that rationale, it is feasible to assume that Brisbane could go with ‘Humidity’ or Canberra ‘Cold’. The name has been around for nearly 20 years now so the Defensive Specialist is prepared to let it slide due to the historical significance. The Defensive Specialist will provide even more leniency if the logo can be updated to something a little less pre school and the team promises never to wear black vests with red sleeves again.

The Defensive Specialist is eagerly awaiting the official unveiling of team names (especially to see how accurate the message board poster was) and even more excited to see uniforms and logos. We’re not too far way from November so hopefully we can see some more information start to trickle out, or at least for Debbie to stumble across a couple more nuggets!

A special shout out to Liam Hendriks who was named to the World Roster for the Futures Game to be held over the All Star Weekend in July.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Is there a draft in here?

Ok, so there still isn’t too much happening on the ABL front and quite frankly the Defensive Specialist is scrambling for ideas and information to present to the loyal readers. The Defensive Specialist has the Deep in the Hole scouting staff out on the streets desperately searching for threads to pull and recently convened a meeting with the Deep in the Hole Board of Directors in the hope that someone could spit out a half-baked idea worth talking about in this forum. Alas that came to naught and had the Defensive Specialist considering withdrawing their retainers.

It got to the stage where the Defensive Specialist was considering hitting the Minor League Baseball website and searching for another prospect who’s tyres he could pump up in order to give the people something to read. Then it hit the Defensive Specialist! As is often the case, inspiration struck at the oddest time – on the toilet.

With information so scarce at the moment, the Defensive Specialist thought that today was the day to get radical and turn things on their head a little bit. We all know that local guys will play for their local teams but what if every player got tossed into a pot and general managers could draft their team fantasy style? It has kind of happened in recent years when teams were able to snap up players out of Canberra (with the Heat and South Australia hitting pay dirt by scooping up the likes of Nick Kimpton and Michael Collins who have been major contributors to both franchises).

So today the Defensive Specialist is going to try and determine the top 10 players in the league and the order in which they would likely be selected if a draft were to be held. The ultimate goal here is to figure out which player general managers would select to be the cornerstone of a team.

It’s important to set a few parameters and rules. 
  • The Defensive Specialist is assuming that each player is available for 100% of the ABL season. Often professional pitchers will be shut down for part of the off-season. For this exercise, we are assuming that all players are free to play the entire season.
  • The likes of Ryan Rowland-Smith, Grant Balfour and Peter Moylan will not commit to a full season (if at all).
  • The Defensive Specialist is only going to count down from 10 (although would be more than happy to open this up to building a full team if 4 other suitably knowledgeable pseudo General Managers would be interested and available to sit at the Deep in the Hole conference table and bang out a full draft) since the project could take about 3 weeks if the Defensive Specialist tried to assemble an entire squad.
  • The Defensive Specialist is evaluating overall value to the team based on past performance and projected output in the coming season.
  • Players do not have to be professionals. 

So lets get the draft started. The Defensive Specialist is going to work in reverse order from 10 – 1 with rationale to follow.

Narrowly missing the top 10 – Joel Naughton, Stefan Welch, Josh Spence, Brendan Wise, Travis Blackley, Drew Naylor.

The Defensive Specialist asked Mrs Defensive Specialist her thoughts and her unequivocal response – Techno Tim Auty.
Moving right along.

10 – With the 10th selection in the inaugural Deep in the Hole talent draft, the Defensive Specialist selects….. Paul Mildren. With Mildren you get a left-handed staff ace with a proven track record at the Claxton Shield and professional level. Mildren gobbles up innings and provides his team with a genuine opportunity at a win. Unfortunately, you can only use him once per series, which in the Defensive Specialist’s opinion lessens his value. Would you prefer one quality outing per series or an impact bat? The Defensive Specialist knew you’d see his point of view.
9. With the 9th selection in the inaugural Deep in the Hole talent draft, the Defensive Specialist selects…..Liam Hendriks. Once again, the Defensive Specialist is loathe to put a pitcher so high on the list but Hendriks has a live arm and has shown that he has what it takes to deal on the Claxton Shield level. Hendriks possesses a fastball that jumps at hitters and has shown plus control which keeps runners off base and reduces the risk of damage. Hendriks also scores points for his elaborate entrances on and off the field with a convoluted hop, skip and a jump technique for getting over the base lines.
8. With the 8th selection in the inaugural Deep in the Hole talent draft, the Defensive Specialist selects…..Tim Cox. Arguably the most dominant starter in the league over the past couple of seasons, Cox provides a staff ace who can be relied upon to keep his ballclub in the contest. Cox’s repertoire includes a sneaky fastball and a dirty change up that enables him to keep line ups off balance. 
7. With the 7th selection in the inaugural Deep in the Hole talent draft, the Defensive Specialist selects…..Mitch Denning. Readers of Deep in the Hole will be well aware of the Defensive Specialist’s man crush with Denning’s swing. It’s just very pretty. Denning had a monster year in 2009/2010 hitting .391 while hitting in the middle of the NSW lineup. His value lies in what is to come – to the Defensive Specialist astute eye he is continuing to develop and with more experience his power should blossom and he will grow into a feared slugger.

(no picture available)

6. With the 6th selection in the inaugural Deep in the Hole talent draft, the Defensive Specialist selects….. Nick Kimpton. Kimpton set the league on fire during the 2008/2009 season putting up ridiculous numbers while winning the Helms Award as the most valuable player. Kimpton’s game has been unbelievably consistent over the past 2 seasons both offensively and defensively although his numbers did drop somewhat in 2010. His ability to hit high in the order and man centrefield makes him all the more appealing to the Defensive Specialist.
5. With the 5th selection in the inaugural Deep in the Hole talent draft, the Defensive Specialist selects….. Tim Kennelly. The Perth Heat slugger blossomed into a legitimate run producer in 2009 / 2010, anchoring the heart of the Perth order and providing a presence. Kennelly played most of his Australian baseball in rightfield where he demonstrated an above average arm. In the professional ranks he spends time behind the dish which in the Defensive Specialist’s mind makes him extremely valuable with the flexibility he provides and puts him ahead of his team mate Kimpton.
4. With the 4th selection in the inaugural Deep in the Hole talent draft, the Defensive Specialist selects…..Michael Collins. Collins took the Claxton Shield by storm last season, featuring amongst the league leaders in most offensive categories. Collins hit .417, while drilling 6 homeruns (admittedly 3 of those came in one game) and driving in 19. Collins established himself as a middle of the order masher and continued his red hot form in the professional ranks where he tore apart A ball pitching before being promoted. Offensive minded catchers are a rare commodity and much like gold, when you have a chance to get it, you don’t think twice.
3. With the 3rd selection in the inaugural Deep in the Hole talent draft, the Defensive Specialist selects…..Justin Huber. First basemen with power don’t grow on trees, so when you find one, you grab a hold with both hands. There have been some questions regarding Huber’s health and availability this season, but if he plays he is a valuable commodity in that he provides an intimidating presence in the 3 or 4 hole. Currently playing in Japan and earning about 40 million yen, Huber would be a huge pickup for any ABL franchise.
2. With the 2nd selection in the inaugural Deep in the Hole talent draft, the Defensive Specialist selects…..Trent Oeltjen. A speedy table setter at the top of your lineup can often set the tone for your ball club and Oeltjen would be a major pick up for any franchise. Oeltjen didn’t play in the 2009/ 2010 Claxton Shield competition, but fans of the game will remember the difference he can make when his game is on as the 2007 World Cup demonstrated when he went nuclear and hit .523 to lead the tournament. The Defensive Specialist puts great weight in spinal defence – meaning catcher, second, short and centrefield. Oeltjen plays a solid centrefield, which enhances his Deep in the Hole value.
1. With the 1st overall selection in the inaugural Deep in the Hole talent draft, the Defensive Specialist selects…..Luke Hughes. As the Defensive Specialist sees it, any time you can find a legitimate 3 hole hitter, who commands the strike zone and has power to spare, you snap that guy up and build your team around him. Hughes has demonstrated legitimate pop and the ability to handle being the focal point of a lineup. Additional upside includes his ability to play both third and second base and to run a little bit.
So that’s the Defensive Specialist’s top 10 list and lets be honest, it’s a dandy. Of course it’s extremely subjective and the Defensive Specialist is more than happy to hear from the readers with their opinions. Hit up the inbox or the comments section with your take on the most franchise building worthy candidates. Lets just hope that something starts to happen on the ABL front so that the Defensive Specialist can stop amusing himself with these activities.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

On the tools over the summer

With the US college baseball season heading towards the World Series, the Defensive Specialist thought it was an opportune time to highlight to the Deep in the Hole fans what players get up to in the summer months. There are numerous summer leagues throughout the US that provide college players with the chance to continue honing their craft for an additional 40-70 games. When you combine that with the 50-60 games they get during the season, you have college athletes playing baseball for nearly 100 games per year which is outstanding for their development.

In order to get a clear picture of how summer baseball breaks down, the Defensive Specialist has turned to US correspondent Brandon Harmon for an in-depth look into American summer leagues:

Summer collegiate baseball is a bit of an unknown to the average baseball fan, yet could be the most exciting amateur baseball being played. An opportunity for the best college level players, who aren’t eligible for professional baseball to play baseball the way it is supposed to be played; with a wood bat. Most people associate college baseball with high runs, colder spring weather, and the unmistakable “PING!” that a metal bat produces. Summer baseball though is more of what the traditional baseball fan has come to expect, baseball played in warm weather with a wood bat.

Summer ball is a great opportunity for college players to showcase their talents and to experience a new part of the country with players from different schools. Summer teams have a large pool of players to choose from since student-athletes who play at a 4 year level college are not eligible to sign professionally until after their 3rd year of school is completed. Summer teams are allowed a maximum of four players from one school, so each team usually has a very diverse roster with upwards of 15-20 schools represented on one team. Teams assemble their rosters by reaching agreements with college programs, basically it’s a first come - first serve process of obtaining players for the summer. It is not uncommon for rosters to have 2-3 players from traditional powers like Arizona St. and Texas, teamed up with players from small Division 3 schools. So not only is it great for the fans to see top level talent but provides an opportunity for lower level college players to prove they can play with the supposed best players in the country.

Within the last ten years more and more collegiate summer leagues have popped up around the country. The Cape Cod League and Alaska Baseball League were the traditional powers but similar leagues across the country have followed their model and tried to emulate their success. Some of the more successful leagues that have become prominent in recent years are the Northwood’s Baseball League in the upper Midwest in the states of Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, and one team in Canada, the West Coast League in the Northwest in the states of Washington, Oregon, and one team in Canada, the New England Collegiate League in the upper Northeast in the states of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, other popular leagues are the Coastal Plains league which is in the two Carolina’s and the Texas Collegiate League located in Texas. Along with the popular leagues there are numerous smaller leagues and also independent summer teams that play different competition throughout the summer.

The Cape Cod League continues to be the premier league in the country, located in Massachusetts on the Cape Cod which is a popular vacation destination. Traditionally the Alaska Baseball League would challenge the Cape Cod for the top position but has slipped in the last few years and is now one of 2nd or 3rd best leagues. Both leagues continue to have the most recognition among fans of amateur baseball in the states. The Cape Cod League continues to produce future big leaguers year in and year out, in the 2009 season 217 Cape Cod alumni were on Major League rosters including stars like Lance Berkman, Ryan Braun, Jacoby Ellsbury, Todd Helton, Tim Lincecum, Evan Longoria, Mark Teixeira, Chase Utley, and Barry Zito. When watching any of the 10 Cape Cod League teams, a spectator can expect to be watching some of the best amateur talent in the country and most likely see 4-5 future big leaguers in each game. The Alaska Baseball League is comprised of 6 teams and is another league with Major League pedigree with alumni like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Randy Johnson and Tom Seaver. Current big leaguers like Jason Giambi, Michael Young, and JD Drew all called the Alaska League home for a summer. The Alaska League is also home to what many would consider the most famous summer team of all time in the Alaska Goldpanners located in the city of Fairbanks. The Goldpanners just celebrated their 50th anniversary and are a traditional summer power with 192 MLB alumni to the team’s credit. The Goldpanners are also home to one of the most unique baseball experiences that any fan can have in the “Midnight Sun Game”, since Alaska has on average of 20 hours of daylight a day due to the summer solstice season, the Goldpanners play their annual game which starts at 10:30 at night and is played without the benefit of artificial light. ESPN recently came out with their “Baseball Top-10 must see events”, and summer collegiate baseball was well represented with the Cape Cod Baseball League opener being #1 on the list, and the “Midnight Sun Game” ranking #4 on the list. (Link:

Compared to the regular collegiate season, summer collegiate baseball is a more fan friendly experience. Many teams run regular promotions and try to emulate a minor league experience for both their fans and players. One of the biggest draws for fans in the summer is that teams can serve beer at games, unlike colleges which are restricted by NCAA rules. The Northwood’s League which plays a grueling 70 game season in 76 days (which is about 20 games more than most summer leagues), is probably the most fan friendly experience with 12 of the 16 teams drawing an average of at least 1,000 fans a game. The Madison (WI) Mallards of the league regularly draw over 5,000 fans per game. Players in most leagues are very accessible for fan interaction and readily sign autographs after games.

For the players the chance to get a new experience is something they most likely will never forget. Most summer teams provide host families for the players to live with for the 2-3 months that they are with the team. These relationships with new teammates and host families are usually lasting friendships that extend past the 3 month season. Most teams also do their best to provide opportunities for players to experience new things that their region has to offer on the teams off days. Those activities could include a whitewater rafting trip, sky diving, trip to Fenway Park, or a simple one day getaway to a host families lake cabin, all things that make the experience that much more enjoyable.

Many people would consider the summer collegiate baseball circuit to be the perfect mix of great baseball and fun times. Players who aren’t playing under the pressure of living up to a contract, but also playing hard to prove that they one day can earn that spot in professional baseball. For fan’s it’s an opportunity to see some of the future stars of tomorrow when they are still in a position to meet them, and interact with them. Nothing beats baseball being played under the lights on a hot a summer night, with wood bats the way the game was supposed to be played. So in towns across the country like Wenatchee (WA), Newport (RI), Green Bay (WI), and Bend (OR) great baseball is being played in the summers, and a great opportunity to enjoy the great game of baseball.

Many thanks to Brandon for taking the time to lay it out in great detail. The Defensive Specialist has been a big fan of the Cape Cod league for a number of years now as it has been a breeding ground for Major League talent. Lets hope we can get a few more of our Aussie college players working on their game over the summer in this hot bed.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Time for the Main Course

The Defensive Specialist knows that he’s been offering up puff pieces on upcoming Major League draft picks of late and unfortunately with news from the ABL a little on the slow side, you’re about to get another serving of useless information.

Well it’s not really useless since it’s about perhaps the most hyped prospect ever to appear in the big leagues – Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg was the Washington Nationals first overall pick in last year’s draft (signing for a lazy 15 million) and after two months in the minor leagues he’s being summoned to the Major Leagues to make his debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates on the 8th June.

So why is the Defensive Specialist taking up your time talking about him? Simply because he is being touted as the saviour of the moribund Nationals despite never having thrown a pitch in the Major Leagues. He’s so ballyhooed in fact that the Nationals, who average 21,343 per game have already sold out his first start against a team that has a win loss record of 23-33.

Much like Bryce Harper (who’ll likely be drafted by the Nationals as the number 1 pick on the same day), the Defensive Specialist just thought you needed to know about Strasburg since he is an unbelievable mix of physical tools and baseball ability.

Strasburg was born on July 20th, 1988 and was kind of a non-prospect when he showed up at San Diego State University (hitting legend Tony Gwynn is the head coach). Strasburg even admitted that he wasn’t in shape and didn’t have a work ethic and it wasn’t until the strength and conditioning coach got on his case that he started to figure it out. As a sophomore Strasburg went 8-3 with a 1.57 earned run average with 133 punch-outs in 97 innings. That year he also struck out 23 hitters in one game. His junior year was even sicker with a 13-1 record, 1.32 ERA and 195 strikeouts in 109 innings. 
So what powers these performances? To start with he’s a big old horse – 6 feet 4 inches and 220 pounds. On top of that he dials his fastball up to 100mph (works consistently 95-97) however, what’s different about his fastball to most other flame throwers is that his has movement – tailing back into the plate against lefthanders. He has uncanny control of the fastball, consistently keeping it down in the zone.

Strasburg possesses a hellacious breaking ball that strikes fear in the heart of right-handed hitters. He snaps it off at around 80 mph and once again has amazing control over the pitch, locating it wherever he likes. Strasburg’s changeup vacillates between a plus pitch and an above average pitch (oh to have that problem). He throws the pitch at 88-89mph (Greg Maddux got by with a fastball at that velocity) and does a solid job of selling it with a fastball arm action (and hence fooling hitters).

So that’s the repertoire.

The scary thing is Strasburg’s control. Normally when you stumble across an ox that throws fuel, it typically comes at the expense of command. With downright filthy stuff and control Strasburg becomes a tough ask for hitters.

Strasburg commenced his professional career in 2010 at the double A level. That’s normally a tall order for a college guy but he made short work of it by posting a 1.64 ERA and striking out 27 in 22 innings. The next stop was triple A where he went 4-1 with a 1.08 ERA and 38 K’s in 33 innings.

The obvious question is, “why did he even go to the minor leagues?” Well the Nationals spun a tale suggesting that he needed to work on holding runners on base (which is amusing since he was so dominant that he didn’t allow a great deal of base runners) and a few other assorted items. The reality is that by holding him in the minor leagues to now it delayed his arbitration clock meaning that the Nationals wont have to shell out the big bucks for a few years longer.

Monday night sees Strasburg toe a big league rubber for the first time. How will 45,000 people in the stands affect him? How will big league hitters adjust to his stuff? How will the weight of expectation influence his performance? From all reports he is a fairly level-headed guy, but we’re talking about a whole new stage to perform on now.

The Defensive Specialist is a huge fan of big fastballs and an even bigger fan of pitchers who know how to use them. It will be intriguing to see how the best hitters in the world approach their at bats against a guy with unbelievable stuff. It will be fascinating to see how Strasburg attacks hitters and whether or not he can control his adrenaline and get the job done. He has major league stuff, now its time to see if he has a major league mentality.

No matter what, the phenom is here and dinner is served!