Former Dodgers Cy Young winner, current MLB analyst, and one-time LBS favorite player, Orel Hershiser, was one of the many national media members on hand in Washington D.C. to cover the MLB debut of Stephen Strasburg that surpassed all expectations. The ’88 World Series MVP joined Mike and Mike on ESPN Radio the next morning as a guest and was incredibly impressed with Strasburg. After lavishing heaps of praise upon Strasburg, Hershiser was asked if he saw anything of concern. Hershiser, a former pitching coach, did note that Strasburg may have been tipping pitches:
“I thought he might have been tipping his pitches on certain things. I had some pitches at times and actually relayed that and passed it on. I think that he will watch that as he goes. No hitter in their right mind will try and steal pitches off of him when he’s throwing 98 miles per hour unless they’re 100% sure. There were times when I gave away pitches I think in the ’97 World Series against the Marlins and got hit pretty good, and I know we had Doc Gooden’s pitches in the ’88 playoffs with the Mets but we didn’t get the two runs off him and beat him 2-1, so we knew it was coming but still it was almost impossible to hit. When a guy throws 98, you don’t want to ‘he did that and now it’s going to be a fastball’ or ‘he did that and now it’s going to be a curveball’ because he does the opposite and it’s going to kill you.”
Despite the impressive results, it’s quite plausible that Strasburg was tipping pitches in his debut. Like Hershiser said, when you have that kind of stuff, batters can know what’s coming and still not be able to hit it. I remember reading about Johan Santana tipping his pitches around the time of his Cy Young dominance with the Twins — people still couldn’t hit his change despite knowing it was coming. However, these are the little things that make it rougher the second time around a pitcher has to face teams and the stuff that makes up the “book on a player.”
By the way, because I’m sure you were curious, Hershiser was the Game 1 and Game 5 starter in the ’97 World Series and lost to Livan Hernandez both games, giving up 13 earned runs in 10 innings. He had gone 18.1 innings in his three previous playoff starts that year giving up just five runs, so clearly the Marlins had his number.
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