East Notes: Knuckle-Curve, Roberts, Strasburg

In an interesting piece for FOX Sports, Dan Rozenson of Baseball Prospectus looks at the increasing proliferation of knuckle-curveballs around the game, and suggests that the pitch could be a better weapon than a traditional hook — especially for hard throwers — due to its more fastball-like release point and typically greater speed. While A.J. Burnett of the Phillies is one of the game’s better-known practitioners of the pitch, many others are less well-publicized and have only recently been identified in the PITCHf/x system.

Here are a few more brief notes from the game’s eastern divisions to start off the morning …

  • When Brian Roberts joined the Yankees as their starting second baseman, he not only left the only organization he had known (the Orioles) but stood to replace one of the game’s best players in Robinson Cano. Adapting to his new environs and dealing with that pressure may have explained some of Roberts’s early-season struggles, writes Brendan Kuty of NJ.com. “I think it was more self-inflected than anything,” Roberts said of his slow start. “You try hard, I think. I’ve always said it’s got to be hard for guys to switch teams all the time. I was always so comfortable. It was like riding a bike every year.”
  • The Nationals are increasingly setting loose ace Stephen Strasburg, writes Tyler Kepner of the New York Times“I mean, he’s our horse,” said manager Matt Williams“He’s a guy that can go 120 [pitches].” While Strasburg’s fastball velocity is down and his results have lagged somewhat in the early going — thanks in large part to giving up lots of early runs — he is striking out batters at a ridiculous 12.2 K/9 rate and advanced metrics love his work. Strasburg has thrown 47 1/3 frames through his first eight starts, which lags Adam Wainwright‘s league-leading 58 innings in as many outings. But if the 25-year-old can continue working late into games, he could well make his first push past 200 innings. That could deliver a big bump in arbitration earnings for Strasburg, who netted a relatively modest $3.975MM in his first trip through the process.

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