A STRIKEOUT KING; TYSON AND TIGER HAVE LOST THEIR BITE

June 19, 2010

Thomas Boswell of the DC Post wondered if Stephen Strasburg should go for “K’s” or groudouts.
“Eventually, there’ll probably be hundreds of approaches to analyzing career. But after his first 16 starts as a — three in spring training, 11 in the minors and
two in the majors — one largely unexpected, and not entirely welcome trend seems likely: Strasburg will be a strikeout king.
From the first inning they saw him against the Tigers in March, when the polished vets of Detroit seemed to hit the top half of every ball they swung at, the Nats were delighted that Strasburg’s sinker was far better than they’d known and seemed to elicit a high ratio of weak groundballs.
Wonderful, the brass concluded. That could, in theory, lead to lots of quick groundball outs, fewer pitches per inning, better total productivity and less arm stress. They’d just have to prepare the pitcher’s fans for the reality that he wouldn’t break Nolan Ryan’s season record of 383 strikeouts or the mark of 20 in a nine-inning game.
Before his first start, Nats Manager Jim Riggleman said: “Don’t expect to see double-digit strikeouts too often. He’s going to be more of a groundball pitcher, like Ubaldo Jiménez, than a strikeout pitcher like Roger Clemens or Kerry Wood [who both fanned 20 men in a game]. It’s better to get three outs on 12 pitches than three strikeouts on 18.”
But things haven’t worked out that way so far. They may. But 16 pro games, at whatever level, is not a meaningless sample and the quality of Strasburg’s stuff, and his results, seldom seem to vary much. Here’s the mythic magic and the paradox: He has four pitches and, basically, nobody can hit any of them, including the sinker that he now seems to be throwing almost 100 mph. On Sunday, in Cleveland, one of his change-ups was clocked at 93.
As a result of his overpowering arsenal, including a fastball that veteran ump Brian O’Nora said Sunday was the best he’s seen in the majors this season,
Strasburg’s results have been similar from Viera to Harrisburg to Syracuse to the Show. In all, Strasburg has fanned 99 men in 76 2/3 innings. By coincidence,
that’s one-third of a 230-inning season — typical of current top pitchers.
So, if you want to multiply that 99 by three, it’s not hard to envision Strasburg, by 2012-13 when he’ll be mature enough for such an innings load, fanning about 300 men in a year.
Only 14 hurlers have ever fanned 300 batters in a year.
What’s more startling, and perhaps even a touch alarming, is the way Strasburg’s fastball has jumped a couple of miles an hour in the majors, presumably from bigger crowds and adrenaline, so that he’s fanned 22 men in his first 12 1/3 innings, presumably an unsustainable nonsense rate. Why “presumably”? Because, so far, Strasburg has gotten 59.5 percent of his outs by strikeout.
If he maintained that pace for a 234-inning season, he’d strike out 410 men and demolish every known strikeout record while pitching 100 fewer innings than Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, Walter Johnson and Randy Johnson did in their prime season.
Because nobody in the Nats organization, including Strasburg, ever wants to see the number “400” mentioned beside his name — or probably even “300” — a method will probably be sought to avoid it. Try to be more like Jim Palmer, who only went for strikeouts when the game situation dictated. But there’s a
problem.
Since his first pro pitch, he’s fanned 43 percent of all the hitters he’s gotten out. When batters do make contact, it’s often a foul, usually adding a strike. Against the Indians, Strasburg walked five men — two more than he ever did in a college or pro game — and battled a hole in the pitching mound all game, twice having the dastardly slope re-landscaped. Yet, of the 23 batters he faced, only one “squared the ball up” solidly on any of his 95 pitches.
In fact, the Indians made less quality contact than the Pirates did last week. The lone exception was Travis Hafner, who hit a homer on (honest) a 100 mph fastball that moved in (like a cutter) instead of tailing away (like a sinker).
So, Strasburg’s “off” game in Cleveland only underlined the trend. Half of his 16 outs came on strikeouts. Again, that’s big magic or, perhaps, big mischief,
because such a percentage takes you into the 350-strikeout-a-year range. If you really want to root for Strasburg on Friday at home against the White Sox, maybe you should pull for seven innings on 100 efficient pitches with a dozen groundball outs and only a few measly strikeouts.
Oh, you don’t plan to do that? Somehow, I didn’t think so. Those ovations on every strike, with the crowd standing on two strikes, are pretty tough stuff to
resist. Cub fans can tell you. It was hard for Kerry Wood and Mark Prior to resist. Of course, it didn’t bother The Express or the Big Unit for more than 20 years each.
Just to show how remarkably “untouchable” Strasburg’s stuff has been so far, I reviewed all 314 starts of Koufax’s career. How many times, in a nine-inning
game, do you think he fanned more men than the 14 that Strasburg punched out in his debut?
Only four times.
“The Left Arm of God” fanned 18 twice and 16 twice, all in nine innings. He had extra-inning games in which he fanned 16, 15, 15 and 15. But that’s the grand
total: Mr. K had only eight games in his life with more Ks than Strasburg had in his debut.
And Strasburg threw only seven innings last Tuesday. What if he’d gone nine innings, as he surely will? In Cleveland, Strasburg struck out four men in the first two innings, thus starting his career with 18 strikeouts in his first nine innings on 124 pitches.
So, with a certain tilt of the head, Strasburg did in his first nine innings what Koufax was only able to do twice in his career — strike out 18 men in nine innings.
Also, in his first game, Strasburg had 14 strikeouts and no walks. In his whole career, Koufax, known for superb control in his peak years, had only one game with a 14-0 ratio and none better. That 14-0 ratio may be the true tip-off as to Strasburg’s true comparables. Only four rookies have ever had a game with 14-or-more strikeouts and no walks: Clemens, Dwight Gooden, Wood and Strasburg. Career wins: 354, 194 and 81. Take your pick.
Lest we go crazy after 16 peeks at Strasburg, and only two in the big leagues, note that Ryan struck out 19 men three times in one season and the Big Unit,
from 1999 to 2002, when he averaged 354 strikeouts, fanned more than 14 men nine times.
So, even with the rosiest-colored glasses, Strasburg isn’t unique. But it is starting to look — just starting, mind you — like his style may be most akin to the 11 pitchers in modern history who’ve fanned more than 310 men in a season — Ryan, Johnson, Koufax, Bob Feller, Rube Waddell, Sam McDowell, Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, J.R. Richard, Steve Carlton and, yes, Walter Johnson.
Will this ultra-high-strikeout pattern, one that nobody — even the Nats and Strasburg themselves — anticipated just one week ago, continue? Should we even want it to? No one knows. But you can bet we’ll be waiting, every five days, to find out.”

George Diaz wrote in the Orlando Sentinel about one similarity between Tiger Woods and Mike Tyson.

“I have no idea whether Tiger Woods and Mike Tyson ever crossed paths. Perhaps they shared a let-your-freak-flag-fly moment back in the day when Tiger was masquerading as a family man and Tyson was just masquerading as, ahem, himself.

But I do know that Iron Mike can be a cautionary role model for Tiger. Their stories carry similar plot twists. Both were icons in their sport. They were alpha dogs who preyed on fear. And they both crashed. Hard.

Sure, there was love on the rocks, too, as Robin Givens and Elin Nordegren can tell us. But it’s the competitive scars that were the most damaging. Tyson and Tiger have both been exposed as bullies who don’t know how to respond when life kicks them to the curb.

For Woods, that defining moment began in the driveway of his Windermere home on Thanksgiving weekend last November. For Tyson, the date was
Nov. 9, 1996 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

Tyson was defending his WBA heavyweight title against Evander Holyfield, who seemed to be on a suicide run. There were major concerns about his health and his heart. Some people feared that Holyfield might be carried off the ring in a body bag.

Instead, Tyson’s career got fitted with a toe tag. Dead and buried, because Holyfield stood up to the bully — pushing, elbowing, punching — completely
disrespecting the Tyson brand of violence Referee Mitch Halpern stopped the fight in the 11th, with a discombobulated Tyson on the ropes. In the infamous rematch, Tyson bit Holyfield’s ear and was disqualified. Things continued to unravel for Tyson from there, reducing him to a comedic punch line in The
Hangover.

I firmly believe the ear bite was Tyson’s way of running away — the bully had been exposed as a coward.

It’s not hard to connect the dots with Woods, give or take a few body blows. The beatdown of Tiger Woods continues as he limps to the U.S. Open at
Pebble Beach this weekend.

The swagger is gone from the swoosh. There is no reason to fear a guy who finished 19th at the Memorial in Dublin, Ohio, or the guy who dropped out of the TPC in Ponte Vedra because of neck pain, or the lost soul who had three-putt bogeys on consecutive holes at the Quail Hollow Championship. He’s not the same guy who won the Open by 15 strokes a decade ago — a record that still stands for a major championship.

Unless he is able to mount a competitive charge, Tiger is irrelevant to all his challengers on the course. He is average at best. Tiger has never done average.

The Tiger mystique, much like the Tyson mystique, has vanished.

There is a mixed reaction from the gallery. A good number of folks would love to see Tiger rally and return to form, while the other unforgiving group
celebrates his bad karma, because it’s the ultimate payback for all of his sins.

Athletes are all about egos. Tiger and Tyson tapped into that energy and obliterated the competition. Michael Spinks once took a look at Tyson in Atlantic City and checked out in 91 seconds. Golfers paired with Woods on Sunday always had to glance behind their backs, knowing Woods was going to make a charge in the final round. Now, they just look back to see how far behind he is on the leaderboard.

The thoughts swirling in Tiger’s head can’t be very happy-go-lucky. His marriage appears to be in shambles, even though Tiger insisted it’s “none of your business” when asked by a reporter during a news conference Tuesday.

Fair point. But the business of golf remains very pertinent to the viewing public. Woods has now gone seven consecutive majors without a victory — he’s missed two tournaments altogether after knee surgery.

There are other things on the mend right now for Tiger. The weight of all his personal baggage remains heavy. It is relentless.

The beatdowns will continue unless Tiger, unlike Tyson, figures out a way to fight back.”

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2 Responses to “A STRIKEOUT KING; TYSON AND TIGER HAVE LOST THEIR BITE”

  1. Toe Rings said

    In a Janurary press conference Tyson also bit Lewis on the leg. Toe Rings

  2. Tiger rallies, Johnson zips ahead at Open…

    PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Dustin Johnson plays his ideal at Pebble Beach no matter what month, no matter what stage. Hours after Tiger Woods came to life in the U.S. Open with his ideal round of the year to get into contention, Johnson turned in a prime-t…

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