Nationals Baseball: I'm sorry he's not a god

Thursday, April 25, 2013

I'm sorry he's not a god

Stephen Strasburg is 26th in the NL in ERA. He's had one bad start. In his last three games he's throw 333 pitches toward a 2.37 ERA. The Nats have scored 9 runs for him in 5 games, while they have bungled their way to allowing 4 unearned runs. The three earned runs he gave up last night were a good part his fault, but also some bad luck and some brain lock by his fielders.

Stephen Strasburg hasn't pitched like an ace. I'm not saying that. But he's pitched very well.  Using fancy stats you could argue he's been the most effective pitcher on the team (I won't do that but I will say that he's pitched as well as ZNN - just the team is finally scoring for ZNN)  If you are going to rank the player-level reasons the Nats have started below .500 Strasburg's "issues" would be somewhere between #15-#20 probably.

And yet you get nonsense columns like this, basically blaming Stras for giving up runs in the first because the precious psyches of the Nats batters can't possibly handle the idea of scoring runs in a slump if they have to do it from behind.
Strasburg fell behind four of the first five Cards hitters, had to throw strikes on the hitter’s terms and saw the game lost when it had barely begun. The worst thing a team in a hitting slump can endure is an early deficit before it even gets to bat. 
The Fantastic Four could travel to the microverse and still couldn't build a violin small enough to play the sad song the Nats hitters deserve. 
“You saw it. Weak contact, what can you do,” Strasburg said. Most pitching coaches of the last 100 years would say, “Throw strike one.” Then hitters will not get a free chance to look for a specific pitch in a particular zone and drop an ugly duck snort over the infield.
THIS is the mindset of the Nats fan right now. It's getting ugly.  It's getting to the point where you start to turn on someone because it has to be someone's fault.  You can't just keep them off-balance, Strasburg! You have to get them all out all the time! Don't you see that's the only way!!!

You want to blame Strasburg, fine. He's not doing what he needs to. The blame right now is basically "Not Bryce, not Ross, not ZNN".  But if he's your first target for blame, if the first place you go is your #1 pitcher because he's only pitching like a #2 pitcher, you really need to try again.


Pumpkin Escobar said...

Welcome to DC

BenDen said...

Completely agree with the general argument of this post. A hard-luck 1-4 with a 3ish ERA is arguably one of the brighter spots on this club so far. In listing the Nationals problems this is nowhere near 1.) Unforgivably bad defense and 2.) Zero production from spots 1, 4, 6, 7, 8

Bringing the discussion off-topic a bit, is anyone else fed up with Strasburg's post-game? When he's not making out-right excuses, he's speaking in such vague terms that it makes you wonder if he's even looking critically at his starts.

He seems to blame a lot on 'unlucky contact' or appears baffled by the singles that consistently fall. Compare that to Harvey's recent post-game analysis where he explains where he made the mistake with Kemp's fastball, acknowledged that his changeup was working well but had trouble with late movement on his fastball. Even JOKED that he was hoping a gust of wind would tail that fastball away from Kemp. He gave an honest assessment of his work that day, explanations for what went right and wrong, and MOST IMPORTANTLY seems to have a clear idea of where he can improve his game for the next start.

You don't get any of that from Stras. You get the same "yea everything felt good, just some guys got some contact, can't believe they all fell in, that's just baseball"

Regardless of the merits/content, my PERCEPTION of the two pitchers is like night and day.

Anonymous said...

Columns like this are why I've stopped reading Boz altogether. He's become less of an analyst and more of an overreactive fanboy with frequently off-base analysis.

Hoo said...

I thought Boz's column was good. Shows that SS isn't throwing first pitch strikes. That gets him in trouble. Shows pretty clear data points on percentage of first pitch strikes and the results when SS does and doesn't.

Nats have numerous problems and everyone from players to manager are pressing and making even more mistakes.

Most problems could be expected to resolve over the season except a)Espi's bat and b) Haren. Right now though Nats bats w/o Zim rely on pitchers to be super-awesome. Pitchers were super awesome last year and doing twice in a row is tough. Except for Ross, who is just super-duper awesome and now unflappable.

Jay said...

You are absolutely right, of course, that Stras isn't really even on the list of Nats' worries right now. But I think you're creating a bit of a straw man with the Boz piece. Boz says "Until he gets his 0-0 phobia fixed . . . he's going to be a very good pitcher who doesn't go as deep into games as he'd like." I don't really agree that the first inning turned on failure to throw first-pitch strikes. But I think Boz is simply trying to figure out why Stras isn't living up to his own high standard.

Harper said...

PE - Thanks. Where the nearest bathroom?

BD - I think he's not a great interview. He knows the issues but he goes through everything when the public doesn't want to hear everything. They just want you to acknowledge your specific problem and how you'll deal with it. Not how it fell in relation to everything else. He probably won't learn that but rather just say less and less over all. Some guys just aren't made for the media.

Anon - you still have to read him there is still a lot of good stuff in there such as what Hoo says below.

Hoo - The structure of the column was really good. Pull out all the facts and you have a fascinating column. But the framing of it was "THIS IS WHY WE LOST" which is misleading.

Harper said...

Jay - like I said, everything in there is fine and good but then tied up in the bow of underserved blame I just don't get. You can feel a palpable tension toward a guy that's been pretty good and Boz is feeding it.

Strasburger said...

I hate when the media writes panic articles like this.

Here is the bottom line: Stras played one shaky inning where a few things didn't go his way. After that, he was absolutely dominant.

The bats aren't going, but they will get going. It's pretty sad to see such insane hysteria over 11 losses, truly.

These guys are in a funk, and mentally in a bad place right now, but they will get through it.

Jim H said...

In my mind - and it may only be in my mind - it's that this team is playing scared. Instead of pitchers picking up their teammates after errors or bad plays, key hits are surrendered, and the situation made worse. When the pitchers get into trouble, the fielding goes into panic mode, prone to the bobble instead of the sure-handed pickup.

This team needs to play with some arrogance, and dare teams to make the big play; not help them.

But hey, it's early.

Jim H said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Froggy said...

The team is fine. A couple injuries and yes, guys have been pressing a bit hard. The only real issues I see are Haren, and Storen. I have faith that Storen will turn himself around soon and maybe not be the dominant guy he sorta was last year, but better.

Haren on the other hand...uh boy.

The bright spot to me is Henry. I like his shorter stride and quicker turnover and I think it's helping him not think so much and just throw strikes.

The bats will start to come around...we'll be fine. Except every fifth day when the $13,000,000 man pitches. Phew!

Nattydread said...

Not one of Boswell's best articles. But using Strasburg's disappointing start as a symbol of the Nats sluggishness is fair.

Boswell's observation about SS's attempted switch to pitch-to-contact/efficiency is spot on. It has back-fired, for a number of reasons, and it has frustrated him.

Strasburg-FoF is "losing" games in spite of his talent. Same can be said for the team as a whole.

blovy8 said...

Well, like it or not, Strasburg is supposed to be one of the top 5 pitchers in baseball or at least the league, and he hasn't pitched that way yet this year. Now it's easy to argue that he doesn't NEED to be all that to win, but that's the standard for the "generational" talent that he is. It's also backwards for a guy trying to pitch to contact to start a batter off with strike one less than he has in the past.

It's similar to the discussion of Zim's defense vs. Desmond's. We expect Zim to be top 5 defensively at third, and he's not, we don't expect that of Desmond, just like we don't expect Zimmermann to be an ace and strike out a guy per inning, even though his minor league stats and fastball speed could give you that impression.

blovy8 said...

It just struck me that Haren can at least have a future in Japan. He's got the slew of fastballs, 4-seam, 2-seam, split-finger, and the hesitation front-leg windup! He'd be a good fit for the no-DH Central League.

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