Filtering by Tag: Stephen Strasburg

Average at their Worst

The 2014 Washington Nationals have a four game lead in the NL East. Ryan Zimmerman has barely played this season and all but three regulars (Desmond, Rendon, Werth) have spent time on the DL. To add even more onto the pile, both Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg are in the midst of the worst seasons of their young careers. The amazing thing about them though is that they are both right around league average. Bryce Harper's .698 OPS doesn't look good and it isn't good and it especially isn't good for a player with the talents and abilities of Bryce Harper. It is worth pointing out that Harper has a .722 OPS since the All-Star Break, but that still isn't good for him, but it is better than the MLB average OPS of .704. So in the middle of this terrible, injury riddled season Bryce Harper has basically been a league average hitter. If this is the worst that it gets then that is pretty good.

What makes it so disappointing is that we've seen Bryce Harper at his best, and his best was amazing. In the first month of the 2013 season Bryce Harper was unstoppable. He put up a batting line of .344/.430/.720. It looked like Bryce Harper was on his way to an MVP caliber season, but then he bruised his ribs on the fence in Atlanta and not much later ran head and knee first into the right field wall of Dodgers Stadium. Since that time Bryce Harper hasn't been the same. Bryce Harper hit nine home runs in April 2013 and in the ten months since he's hit 15.

Both knee and hand injuries can sap power. Bryce Harper is only 21 years old and that comes with all the benefits of having the physical characteristics of a 21 year old. Bryce Harper is going to recover. He is going to get better and at some point in the future the terrible 2014 season will be a distant memory.

The same can be said for Stephen Strasburg, but Strasburg isn't having anywhere close to as bad a season as Bryce Harper. Putting advanced stats aside and just looking ERA Stephen Strasburg's 3.68 ERA is better than the MLB average ERA for a starting pitcher of 3.89. An MLB average pitcher is a solid number three in most rotations which makes Strasburg a solid number two. For a 25 year old pitcher making $3.975 million that is pretty good. If Stephen Strasburg didn't have the hype of Stephen Strasburg or the name Stephen Strasburg then people would be pleased with having a pitcher that good, that young, and for that little amount of money in the rotation.

But as with Bryce Harper there have been a ton of expectations placed on Stephen Strasburg and if you're looking for patience, sports fans are the wrong people to ask. Also like Harper we've seen Strasburg pitch better. We've seen him go out and completely shut down opposing offenses. He hasn't done that this season. Strasburg has allowed two or fewer runs in twelve starts, but only two of those have been shutouts. Looking back at 2012 Strasburg allowed two or fewer runs in 17 games and in six of those he threw at least six shutout innings.

Despite all this Stephen Strasburg is still better than average by ERA and by advanced stats Stephen Strasburg is having almost as good of a season as he had in 2012. A well above average BABIP can be credited with some of it and the perception that anything less than the best for Strasburg is a failure can be blamed for the rest. As a 25 year old starting pitcher making just under $4 million Stephen Strasburg has been very good, but for someone expected to be in contention for the Cy Young every single season Strasburg hasn't.

If 2014 ends up being the worst season of Strasburg's career and he was still better than average then Stephen Strasburg is going to be a great pitcher. Perhaps even everything he was expected to be. It is important to remember that neither this season nor Stephen Strasburg's career have reached their conclusion and a lot can change by the time they do.

Roy Oswalt and the Nats

Because of the way theWashington Nationals have played this season many people have compared the 2013 Nats to the 2010 Nats. That couldn't be further from the truth. There was a point in time when that team was hanging around .500 but they did so because players like Pudge Rodriguez, Cristian Guzman, and Luis Atilano over performed in the early part of the season. If anything 2013 is the opposite of 2010. The Nats have reached basically the same point, hovering around .500, by massive under performance. The last day that team was at .500 was May, 31 after beating Roy Oswalt and the Astros 14-4. It was all downhill from there and on the morning of June 20th that team was seven games under .500.  Through May 31 or the time the team was .500 or better they hit .259/.334/.413 with a roster few would describe as better than the 2013 Nationals. After that date they hit .246/.311/.379. If anything the massive turnaround that team suffered should give Nationals fans hopes. If a team hovering around .500 with a terrible roster can finish the season with 93 losses can't a great roster hovering around .500 finish the season with 93 wins. 

The point of bringing up 2010 was only partly to poke holes in everyone's favorite myth. There is also the Roy Oswalt factor. Oswalt was the pitcher the Nats beat on the last day he was .500 and not only did they beat him they destroyed him. They ended up winning 14-4, but there was an even bigger story from the 2010 season involving Roy Oswalt and the Nats. Heading into the series against the Astros it was very clear that Oswalt was going to be traded, and the Nats were hovering around .500 and needed an Ace. They also happened to have Stephen Strasburg in the minors, and one former GM thought it would be a brilliant idea for the Nats to trade Strasburg for Oswalt, because as Nats fans heard time and time again with the Strasburg shutdown last season, "Winning isn't guaranteed and teams have to take advantage of the opportunities when they arise." With the Nats facing Roy Oswalt tonight now is a fun time to relive the exciting memories of Steve Phillips saying it would be a great idea to trade Strasburg for Oswalt.

 

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Deleting the Adjectives: Stephen Strasburg and Strikeout Rate

Like Anthony Rendon, my new column is making its triumphant debutthis week. This will mostly be a space for research and statistics based analysis, but we won’t get bogged down in the numbers, they’re just meant to illuminate a small part of the game that may go unseen. So now let’s get on with the show.

So far this season Stephen Strasburg has been striking out batters at a rate of 21.4%. For the typical pitcher that in and of itself is fairly unremarkable, the MLB average is around 18.5%, so 21.4% is solidly above average while not being spectacular. However, for Strasburg, a pitcher with a career K% of 30.4%, it is a startlingly low rate.

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A Glimpse of Things to Come

Seeing Stephen Strasburg picked to win the Cy Young should come as nosurprise to anyone. He did finish 2012 tied with Gio Gonzalez for the best FIP in the majors at 2.82 and led all starters with a staggering 11.13 K/9. There are arguments that can be made that when Stephen Strasburg is pitching he is the best pitcher in the NL and among the best on the planet. The same argument cannot be made for Bryce Harper as an outfielder. Based on stats he finished seventh in the NL in fWAR and tied for eighth in wOBA with Jay Bruce and Garrett Jones. No one is picking Jay Bruce or Garrett Jones for their MVP. In all of the NL Bryce Harper's .352 wOBA ranked sixteenth.

In 2012 Harper was the sixteenth best offensive player in the NL and the seventh best outfielder. While this is impressive for a 19 year old it is not enough to make one think Harper is an MVP candidate. There is name was alongside Joey Votto, Ryan Bruan, Matt Kemp, and Buster Posey as a player people not only thought would be among the best in baseball, but the best in an entire league. It is rare for so many people to pick a player that needs at least a .150 jump in OPS to even be considered, and it is even rarer that said player performs like an MVP on Opening Day.  ​

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The Nats Ceiling is Scary

...the blackness of space illimitable; unimaginable space alive with motion and music, and having no semblance of anything on earth. --H.P. Lovecraft The Music of Erich Zahn 

​Welcome to 2013 where Washington Nationals fans can stare into the void of unimaginable heights. Nats fans stand at the base of the mountains of madness ready to ascend in search of some forbidden knowledge. For the Washington Nationals on paper are the best team in baseball, but that is if everything goes according to plan, and all the Nats players play to their career averages. There are of course other options. Frightening and scary options. Options that should lift the spirits, but instead bring great fright. It is a siren's call. Beautiful music from an unknown source to lure us to stare at the sky and attempt to discover where it ends. 

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Are the Nats Set for Opening Day

Early this week Davey Johnson made the announcement that Henry Rodriguezwould be in the Nats bullpen and that Zach Duke would be the only lefty in the Nats bullpen. The reason that Johnson gave was that you don't want to give up on a talent like Henry Rodriguez. Anyone that has seen him pitch on one of his good days can attest to just how talented he is. Henry Rodriguez is second only to Stephen Strasburg when it comes to pure stuff. The issue hasn't been with the 100 MPH fastball, the hard biting quick diving curve, or the drop off the table 91 MPH change-up. The issue with Henry Rodriguez is that no one, including himself, is ever quite certain of where his pitches are going. ​

In 2011 Henry Rodriguez was inconsistent but his final numbers were good with a 3.56 ERA, 3.24 FIP, 9.59 K/9, and 0.14 HR/9. In 2012 the number that really changed was the HR/9 as it rose from 0.14 in 2011 to 1.23 in 2012. Overall for his career Henry Rodriguez has a 0.50 HR/9 so 2011 was a bit low and 2012 a bit high. If Henry Rodriguez can get that under control then he is a useful reliever even without lowering his walk totals, but his career 5.83 BB/9 is bad. It is very bad. As are his 34 career wild pitches in 126 games. If Henry Rodriguez can ever harness his stuff he will be one of the best relievers in baseball, and if he can be healthy and back to 2011 that is still more than acceptable for the seventh man in the bullpen. ​

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Treading Water

Much has been discussed about the 'premature' shutdown of Stephen Strasburg, as the Nationals head into the last month of the regular season with a commanding lead over the Atlanta Braves for the top spot in the NL East. I won't inundate you with links for the thoughts, and opinions of many who have weighed in on the matter; a bit of googling or 30 seconds of listening in to the sports talk radio show of your liking will give you all of the fodder you need to keep abreast of the situation. In the end, the decision to keep Strasburg at what many consider to be a pedestrian 160ish innings for the season, postseason be damned, rests with but a handful of people; those people will continue to toe the company line, and say that this decision was done with the best of intentions, not only for Strasburg, but for the collective futures of those affiliated with the Nationals.
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Gio Gonzalez and the Cy Young

Last night, before Gio Gonzalez's shutout start against the Cubs, I was looking at the NL WAR leaders for pitchers. At the top were five names; Clayton Kershaw, Stephen Strasburg, Johnny Cueto, Gio Gonzalez, and Robert Allen Dickey. Looking at other stats and a few things stand out. Clayton Kershaw is already at 199 innings, Strasburg and Gio haven't pitcher nearly that many innings, and if it wasn't for the knuckleball it would be a lot easier to go ahead and give Dickey the Cy Young.

Looking at some of the other names on the list and it is amazing that Cueto has put up the numbers he has in Great American Ballpark, and while Strasburg and Gio have pitched the fewest innings they lead the NL in FIP at 2.64 and 2.76 respectively. More importantly and maybe most importantly Gio Gonzalez is now tied atop the NL in WAR after his dominating start last night, and as unimportant as wins are as a stat Gio is also tied atop the NL in that. Gio also has the second highest K/9 behind teammate Stephen Strasburg. 

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