The greatest prospect of all time just became the greatest story in Major League Baseball. Let the superlatives and lofty comparisons fly: Stephen Strasburg has arrived and he has immediately made his presence felt.
As the 21-year-old took the mound on Tuesday night, it seemed impossible that he could live up to the massive hype heaped upon his shoulders by the expectations of fans, coaches, and analysts alike. But as he has done at every level that he has pitched, Stephen Strasburg simply dominated his opponents, blowing away major league hitters in the same ruthless fashion in which he did as a San Diego State Aztec.
His stat line alone is enough the warrant the comparisons to Nolan Ryan and the illusions to his status as the greatest Washington pitcher since Walter Johnson. In the seven innings Strasburg was allowed to work, he gave up two runs on four hits with both runs coming on a Delwyn Young golf shot on a solid changeup that was nearly in the dirt, but caught slightly too much of the plate.
That was Stephen's only mistake as the rookie racked up an eye-popping 14 Ks in his debut without walking a single batter. Of the 94 pitches Strasburg threw, 65 were for strikes. He set down the final 10 hitters he faced — the last 7 by way of strikeout — before manager Jim Riggleman let caution overtake enthusiasm and pulled his starter with a 4-2 lead over the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates, on the way to the first win of his career.
But the statistics in this case, no matter how gaudy, cannot come close to duplicating the violent beauty in watching Strasburg work on the mound. His fastball tore through the zone, reaching triple digits at times, as a gruesome combination of speed and movement that is uncommon in the most seasoned major league hurlers.