At different times throughout his major and minor league career, Matt Strahm has battled throwing strikes. His walk rate is down this year. I asked him what he attributes that success to. “Darren Balsley has been working with me. It has been about the glove-side command. When I get that command there, I feel like I can put my fastball where I want it. In all my bullpens during the spring, I don’t think I threw a single arm side fastball. I was concentrating on getting that glove side fastball. That was a big hurdle for me to get over this spring.” He made excellent adjustments and is very determined to get better. His location is where it needs to be as Strahm matures in the game of baseball.
In speaking more about Darren Balsley, I asked Matt about his slider and how Balsley has helped him with the pitch. “He showed me some video from the past of some sliders that I was throwing. You could tell by watching the video full speed that I was trying to place it. It is more important to get the batter to swing at the arm versus the pitch. These are all big league hitters. When they see something a little off, they take advantage of it. I jumped that hurdle and now throw the pitch with aggression.” The use of video is important in the game of baseball. Balsley saw that Strahm was babying the pitch a little and the adjustment was made to throw it with more authority.
Attacking the zone has been something I’ve heard both Balsley and Andy Green say when talking about Strahm. They clearly want him to trust his stuff. I asked Matt about these comments. This is what he told me: “When I was making those bullpen day starts, Andy just told me to not hold anything back. Attacking has always been my mentality when pitching, so it was not difficult to continue that mindset.” He is surely attacking hitters now without any issues. Strahm has made the adjustment and Green is content.
In the game of baseball, there are moments that can frustrate you. Especially if you are a pitcher. I asked Matt about these moments and how you remain calm during a time when things seem to be going wrong. “It’s a team game. There are nine guys there for a reason. When a broken-bat hit happens or an error is made, I try to relax. There are times where I don’t make a correct pitch and I get our team into trouble. Then Freddy Galvis bails me out with an unbelievable play behind me. It goes both ways. You cannot let that stuff snowball. Once you get frustrated, only bad things can happen.” Strahm clearly has the proper mindset for success. The game is a team sport and you cannot try to do everything yourself out there.
Matt is a right-handed hitter. He has yet to earn that first major league hit. I asked him if he fancied himself a good hitter and if he was looking forward to that first big league knock. “No (with a laugh). I couldn’t tell you if I was a decent hitter or not. I didn’t have the opportunity to play baseball year ’round like most since I grew up in North Dakota. I hit pretty decent, but then again, I didn’t face great pitching. I maybe saw 90 mph once in my life before getting to professional baseball. As far as looking for the first hit- when it comes, it comes. Right now I am just worried about pitching and getting healthy.” He isn’t focused on hitting, as he shouldn’t be. Still fascinating to hear his thoughts on swinging the bat.
There has been much talk about the fact that Matt Strahm could be used in the rotation eventually. I asked him about that, and if he had a preference as far as starting or relieving. “I honestly do not (have a preference). I just want to win ballgames and however Andy uses my is fine with me. I have busted my butt to learn that fourth pitch and I would enjoy using it in a starting role. But if they want to keep me in the pen, I am fine with that too. It does not matter to me.” A great answer from a man who just wants the ball.
He mentioned his fourth pitch and the fact he is cultivating it. I asked him what he viewed as his #4 pitch. “My slider is my fourth pitch. My last two outings the slider has been the pitch to go to. Hedgey keeps telling me that it is one of his favorite pitches to call.” It may presently be his fourth pitch, but the slider is quickly moving up the depth charts. It is a very useful pitch and now that he is throwing it with authority, it could be a huge weapon for Strahm.
On Friday, I asked Andy Green about Strahm potentially starting in the rotation for the 2019 season and this is what he said: “He definitely has a shot. His pitch mix plays in the rotation very well. We will just figure out where he is the best for us.” Green has said all along that when Strahm was ready, he’ll be given a shot to start consistently. In talking to Matt, it is clear that it will be 2019 for him. He needs to get his legs underneath him fully before going deep in games and accumulating a high pitch count.
I heard a rumor that he once hit triple digits on the radar gun a few offseasons back. I asked Matt about this and this is what he relayed to me: “I have never been aware of hitting 100. I hit 99 in some minor league games, but still chasing the triple digit.” 99 or 100. Who really cares? That is some real heat from the lefty and shows his upside when he gets his legs fully underneath him.
Baseball analytics are everywhere and I was curious if Strahm looked into numbers on himself. “I used to be a stat rat. This is the first year that I have avoided the numbers. I am a firm believer that if you go out there and take that one inning as only one inning, then you will look up and have better numbers. You cannot be stressing about the numbers. That one inning is all you can control.” He tells me that the numbers can be overwhelming at times. He now prefers to focus on each inning and not to try to digest everything at once.
My final question about Matt was in regards to Padres’ legend Randy Jones and if he ever had any interaction with the former Cy Young award winner. “RJ is walking around all the time. I always enjoy talking to him. He just tells me to throw that thing in there and let them hit it. He makes pitching seem so easy. He is very impressive.” Again, Strahm wastes no time to pick the brain of someone else. Jones had success at the major league level and there is a great respect for him among the Padres hurlers.
I found Matt Strahm down to earth and approachable. He was not shy about expressing his beliefs and has a great attitude about the game. The Padres may have found a very useful player for years to come. With the stuff he has, there are very high hopes for Matt Strahm.