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Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Rapid Reaction: Strasburg's dazzling debut

By ESPN Stats & Info

Stephen Strasburg's debut was among the most hyped in MLB history. And it was also one of those rare moments when an athlete's performance lived up to the considerable hype swirling around him. Let's put his performance into context.

The MLB record for strikeouts in an MLB debut is 15, shared by Karl Spooner (1954 Dodgers) and J.R. Richard (1971 Astros). And he did it all with just 94 pitches, 65 of which were strikes. Of his 24 batters faced, Strasburg fired a first-pitch strike to 16 of them. He induced 41 swings and 18 of them missed Pirate bats.

Strasburg retired the final 10 hitters he faced, including the last seven and eight of the last nine by strikeout. The last pitcher to strike out seven in a row in their MLB debut was Sammy Stewart for the 1978 Orioles.

Strasburg struck out the side three times (2nd, 6th and 7th innings). No Pirate hitter reached base after Delwyn Young's 4th-inning home run. Every Pirate starter was struck out by Strasburg at least once.

His fastball caught everyone's attention as it averaged 97.9 MPH tonight according to Inside Edge, but he used it for just half of his 14 punchouts. His curveball was responsible for four of his strikeouts, and his changeup for three.

He is the first pitcher with 14+ strikeouts without walking a batter in his MLB debut. Forget about the amazing context that this came in his MLB debut, but with this performance he joins an elite list of starters to put up those numbers in ANY game while pitching seven or fewer innings. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Strasburg joins this list of pitchers to do that in the modern era of baseball (since 1900): Brad Penny (2007), Javier Vazquez (2003), Randy Johnson (twice in 2001), Mike Mussina (2000) and Roger Clemens (1997).

In fact, Strasburg has already equaled the great Nolan Ryan with one career start featuring at least 14 strikeouts and no walks... and he did so in 772 fewer career starts!

And long-time Washington baseball diehards may have been reminded of another famous Washington hurler after witnessing Strasburg's effort on Tuesday. Take a look at the numbers during his debut compared to Walter Johnson's first MLB game for the Washington Senators way back in 1907. Strasburg and the Nats defeat the Pirates 5-2, while Johnson and the Senators lost to Ty Cobb and the Detroit Tigers 3-2.