Nationals Baseball: He's that good

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

He's that good

Strasburg, I mean.  The rest of the staff may or may not meet expectations but Strasburg... he's as good as advertised, right? Even he thinks he's this good.  The Astros got some good cuts on him with runners on and his thought process isn't "Oh I'm getting tight.", it's "Oh I must be tipping my pitches.".

Where does Strasburg's first 20 starts rank (roughly) all-time? Pretty high. There are 273 guys that started their first 20 appearances* in recent times (at least since 1948 maybe a few before that).  Here's where Strasburg's stats rank

ERA : 2.35  (5th)
K/9 :  10.9 (4th)
BB/9 :  1.9 (7th)
HR/9 : 0.4 (18th)
H/9 : 6.8 (12th)

Pretty impressive . Not every great pitcher is included on this list, not even close, but a lot of very good starters are.  Seaver, Marichal, Mussina, Gooden, Glavine, Smoltz. Mark Prior and Kerry Wood.  Sabathia, Weaver, King Felix, Hamels, Lincecum, Verlander, Kershaw. Really this is a decent way to compare among contemporaries, not so much for even 20 years ago.

The most impressive stat to me though was K/BB.  Usually, young guys will have no problem striking out batters, but have a problem with control. Not only was Strasburg 1st, he was first by a huge margin. Strasburg sits at 5.625. 2nd was Andy Sonnanstine (he got hit and gave up homers - if you are wondering) at an even 4.00.  Then Prior at 3.85 and Greinke at 3.76.  The difference between 1st and 2nd, between Strasburg and the best out of these other 272 guys, is the same as the difference between the 2nd best guy and the 38th.

What about the career leaders in this stat that didn't make this list of 273?   Clemens was the best of the ones you'd probably look at, around 4.3, but he'd regress for a few seasons and 4.3 is still a good deal behind Strasburg. Pedro? Just over 3 in his first 20 starts.  Randy Johnson?  Maybe 2.5 area but wouldn't break 2.00 again until he was 29.  Schilling?  Under 2.50. Koufax? Not much past 2 if at all. Maddux, Halladay? Don't break 1.5, by my back of the envelope calculations.

The fact is the CAREER mark is 5.03 by a guy named Tommy Bond, who threw his last pitch in 1884. After him it's Schilling with a 4.38 mark, then Pedro, Dan Haren (who's suceptibility to giving up hits and the occasional long ball keep him from being elite) and Mariano Rivera are the only other ones over 4.00.

What does this all mean? It means we have never seen a combination of stuff and control at the beginning of a career as we are seeing from Strasburg.  It's quite possible, since these things tend to improve a bit over time, that we've never seen this combination of stuff and control ever, though I have a tough time wrapping my head around how it could get better.  Averaging 8 Ks and 0.5 BB a game? It's crazy how good Strasburg is, and it's mind-blowing how good he could be. 


*I couldn't get first 20 starts, only first 20 games.  And I didn't want to include relief appearances since thy can skew things like K/9...  I'll let you figure out if I'm failing baseball-reference or if baseball-reference is failing me.)

62 comments:

Strasburger said...

This is a cool collection of information Harper. He really is crazy good, and his composure for his status is unrivaled I think. It's amazing with a guy that has so much hype and actually lives up to that hype, that he is as modest as he is. He never talks about himself, never gloats. He only refers to how he wants to win for the TEAM. I think this needs to be a lesson for Harper. He is cocky, and he is completely unproven in the majors and even the upper echelon minors. If Harper can take a page out of Stras' book, guys on the team will respect him and want him to succeed. He needs to keep his mouth shut and we'll have a handful of very scary young guys.

Anonymous said...

Nice article Harper, and nice to see you say something positive about the team.

Kevin said...

Going back to Cali..... get some of that Stras-Burger!
http://westsideculture.mlblogs.com/2012/04/17/going-going-back-back-to-cali-cali/

Lee said...

This is why I like visiting your blog. The stories are always the same everywhere else. Read one, no need to visit the next site. "Ankiel's throw!" "Lombo. Clutch."

And while these were also highlights, I found myself wowed the whole time watching Stras and not the Caps in a playoff game. When he pitches, he is the story. Thanks for the stats Harper.

Anonymous said...

The scary (and kinda sad) thing is that he probably isn't as good as he was before his elbow blew out - his fastball has lost about 2 mph since the surgery according to fangraphs.com. His K/9 has fallen noticeably since (from ~12 to ~9).

michael k said...

Question - why wouldn't Clemens, Pedro, et al not make the list of 273?

I agree that k/bb is the most impressive. I couldn't believe he's TOP TEN in both.

Also I agree with Lee on what makes this blog so great. I have a friend that wanted to get into blogging but was concerned with competing with press-sponsored blogs with inside info. I offered this blog as an example of how he can add something to the discussion which they do not without having to compete for the story.

Donald said...

What's also scary is how good the rest of the staff is as well. Watching Edwin Jackson the other night was impressive, and he's our #4. Couple that with tonight's second 7 inning 2 hit performance from Gio. And next up, Jordan Zimmermann...

Section 224 said...

Been a team effort from the pitching staff all year, and I have to believe that they are feeding off each other. 1st in ERA, quality starts, BAA and 2nd in WHIP. That's some filthy stuff. And those stats include Clip's horrid inning the other night and Lidge's nightmare in Gio's last start. Filthy, just plain filthy.

Taylor said...

Harper, what do you think of Brad Lidge so far?

Harper said...

Burger - You'd hope Bryce would catch on, but isn't part of what makes Bryce fun is his being a jackass?

Anon - I'm not going to spin a bad team into a good one. I'm not Boz. Now is the first time they've are a legit better than .500 team, so now you'll see more positive articles.

Kevin - Thanks for reminding us no-hitter #1 is coming up.

Lee - Strasburg pitching is the "make plans" Nats games

Anon - Possibly, though maybe it changed his approach - still hasn't given up a home since coming back.

michael K - they had a relief appearance or two in their first 20 games. Like I said - I couldn't get their first 20 starts, only first 20 games. After than I grabbed those with 20 starts, left everyone else out.

Really it depends on why you want to blog. If you are doing it for practice writing, like if you want to go into sports reporting, doing game stories is actually probably the best thing to do. Sure you won't get the readers but that's not the point for you. If you want readers then yeah you've got to have some hook, but sometimes just a different voice doing game stories is enough.

Donald - There is no weak link in this rotation right now. At the VERY least, everyone can hold their rotation spot. That's all you can ask and more than most teams have. (and more positively it looks like a 1-2-2-3-4/5 rotation to me)

Sec 224 - It'll be interesting to see how they react when they don't pitch well a few guys in a row. It will happen - it's a long season and the Nats aren't going to have a team ERA under 2 - will it snowball or can they shrug it off?

Harper said...

taylor - He's ok, even as a closer. I don't think he's a guy you can bring in when you NEED one out. While he can get you that K, he doesn't have the control you'd like and has traded giving up a couple hits for giving up homers. But starting the inning with the bases empty? He has enough stuff to get out of it without things blowing up on him.

Everyone loves H-Rod but he's gotten his fair share of breaks and to me isn't appreciably better than last year. So I'm fine with the trading off saves thing Davey is doing.

(Really the best thing for the pen down the road would be Clippard and Storen being used in important situation and let H-Rod and Lidge start innings and close - but we all know that isn't going to happen. Storen will close. Baseball fans can't accept a better chance of winning overall, if it means a slightly worse chance of winning when up in the 9th. )

Run Yeti Run said...

Harper, not knocking your research skills, but it looks like Oswalt has a 6.0 k/bb through his first 20 starts? Unless I'm misreading the info at B-F

I should qualify- I loved the post, and I'm not trying to be nit-picky. I appreciate you taking the time to try and quantify Stras' place historically.

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