The addition of a new pitch is one of the most well-worn tropes of Spring Training — a pitcher adds something to his repertoire that purports to solve all the problems that pitcher had the previous year. Most of the time, this isn’t news, because it happens all the time, and quite often, the new pitch never sees the light of Opening Day. But any small piece of trivial information surrounding Nationals’ fireballing ace Stephen Strasburg is liable to create buzz in and around the Natsmosphere. So here at Serious Jammage, we have decided to chronicle the development of Strasburg’s new pitch, the slider.
From Strasburg himself:
“It’s just a work in progress. It’s something that I’ve been messing with. I’m just trying to get a feel for it. I’m not going to dump any of my other pitches. But I’ll just have something in the back pocket.”
So why add to what is already one of the most impressive repertoires in the major leagues? Pitching coach Steve McCatty has the answer.
“It’s going to be something [Strasburg] can use to run the ball in on left-handers,” McCatty said. “And, in my mind, it’s a work in progress, obviously. It’s not going to be something that he uses a lot. We don’t know. We’ll see how it plays out. It looks pretty good, though.”
Strasburg debuted the slider in his first spring appearance on Tuesday, but that game was not televised. The slider made its television debut today on MASN, and we’ve compiled GIFs of all the sliders Strasburg threw in this three-inning appearance.
SLIDER 1: 1st inning, no on, no out, 1-2 count on Peter Bourjos
SLIDER 2: 2nd inning, no on, one out, 0-1 count on Keith Butler
SLIDER 3: 2nd inning, no on, one out, 1-2 count on Keith Butler
SLIDER 4: 3rd inning, no on, one out, 0-0 count on Peter Bourjos
So four sliders in, and there’s still (obviously) a lot we don’t know about this pitch. Strasburg threw it against only two hitters, and never got a chance to use it as a weapon against a left-handed hitter (which according to McCatty, is the reason the pitch exists). We saw signs that the slider could make Strasburg more effective, but the pitch is still very much a work in progress.