Almost from the time Straily stepped on a high school baseball field, people have been telling him to go away.
He never listened. Even after he did not make his Springfield, Oregon high school team as a freshman. And eventually, he became the team's top pitcher.
"I've been told too many times that I didn't have what it took to be a baseball player," Straily said. But the righthander has made the long, difficult transition from an overweight, soft-tossing teenager to a successful professional pitcher.
Dan spent a year at Western Oregon after being spurned by Oregon State, but he sought a better fit. He found that fit at Marshall after playing with a couple of Thundering Herd players in a summer league.
"I really wanted to play Division I baseball," Straily said, "and nobody else would open their doors. So I got my release from Western Oregon. When I left, they told me I'd never be able to play at a high level. That motivated me."
Straily flew across the nation to Huntington, W.Va., where he walked on with the Marshall baseball team. "I'd never been east of Idaho before," he said. "I'd never even been on an airplane."
In two years in the rotation, he went 9-7, 4.28 ERA and drew the attention of the Athletics. They called Straily's name in the 24th round of the 2009 draft. (Casey Tefertiller-Baseball America-9/02-11)
Straily always has struggled with his weight, but at Marshall he packed up to 250 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame and pitched at 240 as a junior.
"I realized it was unhealthy to be that young and that overweight," Straily said. So he embarked on intense physical training program and dropped to 214 pounds. With his new physique came improved velocity.
Dan is a very hard worker. He is very coachable and a real student of the game. He is relentless in his desire to learn more. He's always asking questions, studying hitters and working on game plans.
During the offseason before 2012 spring training, Straily sold shoes at a sporting goods store in Eugene, Oregon.
In 2012, Straily claimed the overall minor league strikeout title with 190 between two levels: Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento.
In December 2012, Dan and his wife, Amanda, were married. The couple honeymooned in the Caribbean, and it was the first true vacation of Straily's life.
"I was on the beach," he said, "and really had to learn how to just relax."
Straily also took up yoga, saying, "I don't know if it’s working, but my muscles aren’t tight all the time."
In the spring of 2013, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Straily as the 6th-best prospect in the A's organization.
After the 2015 season, Straily sought help for his decreased velocity and lack of effectiveness. Upon the suggestion of Astros pitching coach Brent Strom and bullpen coach Craig Bjornson, Straily picked his "doctor." It was Kyle Boddy, a pitching doctor, if you will.
First, it was off to the biomechanics lab to analyze Straily’s delivery, and some tests to measure the movement and spin rate on his pitches. The doc came back with good news.
“I brought everything back and I said, ‘You know, your breaking ball is actually fine. I think that problem will go away if you throw 94 and sit 92,’” Boddy said. “And [Straily] said, ‘Alright, perfect.’ So we were on the same page from the get-go.”
Straily’s prescription included a new weight-lifting regiment and a revamped throwing program, featuring a steady diet of weighted balls. At the Driveline Baseball headquarters, Straily used the weighted balls for drills like the pivot pickoff throw, which helped strengthen his shoulder, reclaim lost range of motion from after the injury, and feel once again like he was getting behind the baseball when he threw off a mound.
“It really cleans up their force application,” Boddy said, when asked the benefits of the pivot pickoff drill. “They’re really good at figuring out how to transfer all of what they’re generating in the trunk and the torso into the ball in their arm. There’s often a big disconnect between the two and these drills help them feel that again by creating resistance.”
Studies conducted at Driveline have shown that when fastballs drop below 90 mph, pitch break and spin rates fall off dramatically, relative to other speeds. A pitcher who once sat 96 can lose 3 mph off a fastball and survive. A pitcher like Straily, who only ever sat 92, cannot withstand such a decline.
“The first thing you see from guys who lose velocity is that they start not throwing strikes, not because of any mechanical problem they have, but because they’re just like, ‘Oh, shit, I’m throwing 88, I don’t want to throw anywhere in the zone,'” Boddy said.
It might seem counterintuitive, but the increase in velocity could actually be the key to Straily harnessing his walks. Boddy invoked the name of Barry Zito, who consistently posted poor walk rates despite above-average command, for fear of working inside the zone too often with his mid-80s fastball. With Straily’s velocity well into the 90s again, the thought is that the same hesitation will be gone. With a little extra zip on the heater, perhaps Straily can rein in the homers. And he has -- keeping the ball in the park in 2016. (August Fagerstrom - FanGraphs - April 1, 2016)
Between Opening Day and the All Star break in 2016, the appropriately-named Redsland, California pitcher went 6-0 with a 1.90 ERA over eight starts, with the Reds winning all eight. And Straily gave up two or fewer runs in all eight.
Dan's talent started to blossom at an early age, and by the time Straily was in high school, there were clear signs he could play at a higher level. To Steve Straily, Dan's father, all his son needed to do was stay focused on his big league dream.
"Honestly, I told him in high school that he's got the tools," Steve said. "He's just got to make it happen." Dan certainly made it. Straily says that his father was with him every step of his baseball journey. Steve was Dan's coach in Little League in Pendleton, Ore., and he was by his side through high school. In June 2017, at Pittsburgh, Steve drove from his home in Virginia to watch Dan pitch against the Pirates.
"My passion for baseball truly does come from my family, and from my dad," Dan said. "He played in high school, played in college and then played some independent-ball type stuff."
"Dan worked real hard and never wanted to give up," Steve said. "He's dedicated to what he does. One of the things I talked to him about early on was -- you've got to give 100 percent all the time or you'll never make it. He's done that all the way through college."
Dan was born in Redlands, Calif., and the first baseball game he attended was at Dodger Stadium when he was 2 years old. Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza was his favorite player growing up, and Dan's first MLB recollections in person were at Angels games. Dan moved to Oregon when he was in elementary school, and he'd go to Seattle to watch the Mariners, especially when the Dodgers were in town.
To Steve, words can't describe his emotions when he eventually got to see his son pitch in the big leagues. Dan debuted with the A's in 2012. You don't have to remind Steve of the day or the result of facing his first batter, who was Brett Lawrie of the Blue Jays. "Aug. 3, 2012," Steve said. "His first pitch was a strike. The first batter he faced was a strikeout. It was just phenomenal to see him do his thing."
Steve was a talented player in his own right growing up, playing in high school and college. He continued playing in Southern California in a men's senior league. Once, Steve's team faced Dan's squad in a scrimmage.
"He did everything he could for me in baseball," Dan said. "We had a batting cage and a pitching mound at our house, when we lived on some acreage. It was a lot of fun." (Frisaro - mlb.com - 6/15/17)
June 2009: The A's chose Straily in the 24th round, out of Marshall University in West Virginia. He signed for a bonus of $12,500, via scout Matt Ransom.
July 4, 2014: The Cubs sent pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the A's, acquiring Straily and SS Addison Russell (the A's top prospect at the time).
January 19, 2015: The Astros sent OF Dexter Fowler to the Cubs, acquiring Straily and INF Luis Valbuena.
March 28, 2016: The Astros sent RHP Straily to the Padres in exchange for catcher Erik Kratz.
April 1, 2016: The Reds claimed Dan off waivers from the Padres. It only cost the Reds the major league minimum of $512,100.
- Jan 19, 2017: The Reds traded Straily to the Miami Marlins for RHP Austin Brice, CF Isaiah White and RHP Luis Castillo.
|Birth City:||Redlands, California|
|Draft:||A's #24 - 2009 - Out of Marshall Univ. (W. Va.)|
Straily has an 89-92 mph 2-seam SINKER, a 90-95 mph 4-seam FASTBALL, a plus 82-84 mph SLIDER with good depth that gets him swings and misses, a below average 73-77 mph CURVEBALL he almost never uses anymore, and a very good 82-85 mph CHANGEUP that is a true weapon vs. lefthanded hitters with its armside run.
The slider and changeup are strikeout pitches and his two best offerings. And he throws that change with the same arm action and hand speed that he has on his heater. That lethal changeup drops and glides, leaving hitters swatting at it. (May, 2016)
- 2016 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 46.3% of the time; Sinker 4.6% of the time; Change 18.3%; Slider 26%; and Curve 4.7% of the time.Dan mixes up his pitches well. He has a very good pace to his game and commands all five of his pitches. He keeps hitters off balance and uncertain where the ball will be diving.
So he now has an impressive strikeout rate because batters have trouble making contact with his stuff. (May, 2016)
His fastball plays up because he consistently locates it down in the zone with good downhill plane.
Straily's competitiveness and poise help his stuff to play up.
"In 2012, I learned the difference between throwing strikes and throwing quality strikes, and the ability to stay focused for a whole game. That's something I struggled with before. I couldn't focus for more than maybe five minutes at a time. I don't know why, but things always seemed to fall apart after the fifth inning, and to push through that wall and figure out some things really allowed everything to click and finally come together," Dan said in 2013 spring training.
In 2016, Reds manager Bryan Price said of Straily, "I really believe it is deception (that gets Dan such good results). "I really don't think hitters see him as well as they see other pitchers. His velocity is not overwhelming, but there are a lot of swings and misses on his fastball -- a lot.
"At one time he was a 4-seam pitcher or he was a 2-seam pitcher, and now he can use both. He has opened up that full arsenal to both left-handed and right-handed hitters. He is not going fastball-changeup to lefties and fastball-slider to righties.
"I don't think hitters see any of those pitches terribly well," Price continued. "My feeling is that it is difficult for hitters to see his release point, and it is difficult for them to recognize the spin on his pitches. And for a guy who throws 90, his slider comes in at 82, and there is a lot of speed differential But you get a lot of guys swinging at the slider like it is a fastball. There just is not a lot of recognition.
"And he has a changeup that has a bottoming, downward action which is also a good swing-and-miss pitch." (Hal McCoy - Reds Report - September, 2016)
Good 2016 stat: Straily’s 4.3 WAR, according to Baseball Reference, was 21st among all major league starters in 2016. Jose Fernandez had 4.2 WAR.
Bad stat: Along with Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, Straily led the NL with 31 home runs allowed.
- As of the start of the 2017 season, Straily had a 27-21 career record, a 4.24 ERA having allowed 70 home runs and 391 hits in 451 innings.