One of the first things you notice about Padres lefty Matt Strahm is his long, flowing hair, something he’s been working on almost as much as his location.
“It’s been about 18 months, I think we counted up the other day,” said Strahm of his aversion to shears. “I think a trim is here in the future.”
Strahm is still learning how to live with shoulder-length curls.
“I’ve never had long hair,” said Strahm. “What kind of led to it was when I blew my knee out I was in a brace for four months and just never went and got a haircut,” said Strahm. “I got through the awkward stage of long hair and just kept it ever since. It’s gonna stay I’ve just gotta clean it up a little bit.”
It definitely has not affected the performance on the mound for San Diego’s Samson.
“I think I do a pretty good job keeping it out of my face. No issues yet.”
No, the issues are reserved for opposing hitters. Now finally fully recovered from the torn patellar tendon he suffered, Strahm and his locks have very likely locked down a spot in the Padres starting rotation with his incredible Cactus League numbers. He’s thrown 9.0 shutout innings with 12 strikeouts.
Last year Strahm excelled as San Diego’s “opener.” On days where the several pitchers were scheduled instead of seeing how long a traditional starter could go, Strahm got the ball first and did enough for the Padres to want to see if he can move to a permanent starting role.
What they don’t know right now is how Strahm will fare when a lineup gets three or more looks at him in a game. Strahm, who was a starter in the minor leagues before Kansas City started using him out of the bullpen, believes he’ll do just fine.
“I’m going to come at you with all four pitches no matter what,” said Strahm, with one possible caveat. “Other than starting, maybe saving one of those for the second or third time through the lineup. But I’m an attack pitcher and that’s how I’m going to go about it.”
That ability to hold a pitch back and break it out later in a game is an important and interesting point. Strahm throws a fastball, a changeup, a slider, and a curve ball … and he throws them all for strikes.
For example, last June he made consecutive starts against the Cardinals and the Braves. Strahm’s line from those games:
@ STL: 3.0 IP, 0 Hits, 0 Runs, 0 BB, 4 K
@ ATL: 2.2 IP, 1 Hit, 0 Runs, 0 BB, 5 K
Those are similarly effective starts. However, he pitched those games completely differently. According to FanGraphs, against the Cardinals here’s how he deployed his arsenal:
Just five days later against the Braves, Strahm’s breakdown was this:
That diversity is impressive and it means he can attack a lineup based on what its weaknesses are. But for his part, Strahm doesn’t care whether he starts or opens or closes or handles long relief.
“I’m wired to be a pitcher so whatever one they want me to do I can do,” said Strahm. “I’m not going to put a finger on whichever one. My main goal is to help this team win and whichever one is going to get us to the playoffs is what I want to do.”
If that happens the biggest problem Strahm and his fantastic follicles will have is figuring out how to wash the celebratory champagne out of his hair.