Nationals Baseball: Fragile Strasburg or fragile arguments?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Fragile Strasburg or fragile arguments?

The role of stats, when used properly, is to provide an unbiased look at a player. Over time, we all become subject to our own prejudices, and thus we can reach conclusions that do not conform with reality. This is how the Lombos become Lombos. We decide something then form our opinions around that decision. We reinforce when we really should be questioning, constantly poking at our conclusion to make sure it's solid from all sides. The numbers can help you do that but only if you use them the right way.

One of the common refrains heard over the past couple years and especially this season is that Strasburg is a "hothouse flower". We've seen him break down after errors. We've heard him complain about mound conditions, about weather. He wilts. He collapses under pressure.

Ok that's the conclusion. But we got there the same way we've gotten to many places before, our own raw observation backed up by feelings and conjecture. What do the numbers say, or more precicsely what numbers would you like to look at to prove that there is an issue? Decide that first - see if the argument holds up.

If he wilts under pressure surely he'd collapse with runners in scoring position or in low-scoring games or in tight pressure situations late in games? Do we see that?  Do we see a significantly worse performance post errors or do we not? Is this consistent over years or just this year? If we do see an issue, are we sure it's because of what we think or could it perhaps be about something else?

The latter question - one of confounding - is important. One of the current questions about Strasburg is why is he pitching worse away than at home. The numbers bear this out - looking at raw stats (2.41 ERA home, 5.25 away - corresponding fancy stats agree) or looking at patterns. (sort by game score and see the home and away games segregate). But is there something else afoot? Well yes, if you note Strasburg has pitched terribly with Sandy Leon as his catcher. Sandy Leon was catching for his two worst performances, both away games. This doesn't resolve the home/away question but it moderates it. Make Sandy Leon the issue and if you pull him out of the equation and the home away splits are closer; 2.50 to 4.09.  The closer you get to even the more it becomes about random variation. This would make sense for a pitcher who's previous home/road splits show a very normal, very slight preference to home instead of a major issue.

This doesn't mean SOLVED! but it means what we were taking as a given requires a closer look. Frankly I do think the gap in the ERA and the segregation when you look at performance indicates something.

Ok so what about the OrKid?  Well he's dead-on with RISP (.712 opponent OPS) compared to overall (.711), and great when there are 2-outs with RISP (.606).  He's bad when the Nats don't score for him (.802), and hideous when it's "late and close" (.927), but scarily even worse when it's high leverage (.945). So maybe there's something here...

Yet last year he was worse with RISP and great "late and close". And that issue this year when the Nats don't score for him? Turns out this year it's this way for the entire team, making it seem like we're looking at the issue backwards. It's likely not that the Nats pitchers pitch worse when the Nats don't score, but the Nats stop scoring when staked to a big deficit. High leverage was also an issue for Strasburg in 2013, but not in 2012. It's tough to say there's a pattern of issues (or successes) here.

What about the error thing? His ERA in games where men reached base is 2.32. It certainly hasn't effected him in later innings. What about in the moment? Guys batting in the same inning post error this year have hit .278 with one XBH. Nothing at all strange here. But yet it persists.

The work I've just done is admittedly cursory but trying to be objective we've found little to suggest some sort of internal weakness. I suppose you could work it as - ok THIS YEAR he's mentally fragile and it may not show in all standard high-pressure sitiations but when they pressure is REALLY on he breaks - but that strikes me as fitting the data to your conclusion, rather than seeing what conclusions can be reached with the data.

Strasburg may in fact have an issue - but you don't know, can't prove, and can't even really see when looking at these past few years as a whole outside of "well I can read his body language". There is a disconnect between the talent and the result but trying to pin down a mental "fragility" issue does no one any good. If it is a fastball issue (speed? location? more likely a combination of both?) then that's what the focus should be on because the speed isn't coming back, not fixing his head. Especially not when the diagnosis is based on little more than what you've seen while lounging on your armchair.

 *Some more interesting Strasburg stat diversions for those inclined - following up the stuff I was looking at earlier in the season with his 2-strike issues (damn that target data isn't readily available). - what has changed about the Nats' pitching approach? Renewed focus on keeping runners honest. What's new in Strasburg's stats this year? An issue with men on first. How do we prove/disprove this? some sort of speed of runner adjustment combined with if the SB would matter score wise? Would the subsequent PAs be enough to really make a judgment?

38 comments:

Donald said...

Great post. I've said for a while that I think the notion that Straburg can't handle errors was overblown. I think it's as much a body language thing as anything. Stras looks like it bothers him. Then he pitches and sometimes gets out of the inning and sometimes gives up a hit. People ignore the times he gets the outs and use the hits to reinforce their impressions. Znn doesn't react so much. Then he piches and sometimes gets out of the inning and sometimes gives up a hit. But people ignore the hits because that doesn't reinforce their impressions.

I think the most meaningful stat on Strasburg this year is how hard his fastball is getting hit. It's just not been an effective pitch this year. Is that because velocity is down? Or location is bad? Or people are sitting on it because his curve and change are so devastating?

JWLumley said...

Harper, totally agree about continuing to question. Strasburg has baffled me because the stuff seemed so good and didn't match the results. Still, what all of this seems to point at to me, is fastball issues. His fastball sucks. His two seam fastball is full of awful-sauce and even worse. When he gets behind in a count, or his curveball isn't crisp, he gets lit up like Lindsay Lohan on an extended Vegas Vacation. What's more, if his command is a bit off, he is also susceptible to getting touched on the fastball. My hypothesis is because he throws it so hard, he generates a lot of the power for hitters, which I believe, but can't prove, may lead to increased homeruns. (I understand flyball to homerun ratios, but all 4 dingers on Friday had hit speeds over 100 MPH coming off the bat). I really believe that if another team views Strasburg as an ace, the Nats should deal him this offseason for as much as they can get.

Bjd1207 said...

@JW - You've espoused the bad-fastball theory before and I certainly agree that the numbers seem to show the case pretty clearly.

A couple thoughts though why I haven't completely subscribed. First, pitch speed matters very little in the speed off the bat. I'm trying to remember the article that spelled it out but its something like every mph of pitch speed only adds 1/10 of a mph off the bat. It's much more dependent on hitter batspeed and 'sweet spot.' I'll see if I can dig up the article. But basically the difference between a 100mph fastball and 92mph fastball is less than 1mph off the bat. Second, I think you may be onto something with the 'flatness' or 'straightness' of his 4-seamer. Unless he can paint the corners with it, it's very hittable by major league hitters. And with righties scared of the wipeout slurve (whatever you wanna call it, it's looked like both this year) and lefties scared of the changeup (as they should be) I have to imagine just about every hitter us up there thinking "if its straight, swing hard"

JWLumley said...

@Donald I haven't dug too deep into it, but the pitchf(x) seems to indicate that at least some of his problem is location. Strasburg misses in the middle of the plate a lot. There was also a good Grantland article about the lack of deception in his motion and about how the ball always comes out of the same spot. I really think he needs to throw 97 for his fastball to be effective. Not much deception, location or movement is still effective if it's hard enough.

Anonymous said...

Is Strasburg's fastball bad? Overall the advanced metrics actually think Strasburg is elite, not ok, fair, or poor. He's 3rd in the league behind Kershaw and Felix in xFip, which is one of the two most reliable ERA predictors. He's 4th in SIERA (behind Sale), which is the other best ERA predictor.

Has Strasburg given up a lot of hits on his fastball this year? Yes, absolutely. But giving up hits is not the best way to evaluate a pitcher. Generating "weak contact" - the ability of a pitcher to convert batted balls into outs at a rate better than league average - is not something a pitcher has the ability to control. Pitcher BABIP fluctuates wildly year-to-year but tends to normalize at .290-.300 over the course of a career.

Strasburg's BABIP is .340 this year. His career mark is .302. Last year it was .263. He's been unlucky this year by almost the same amount he was lucky last year.

Almost all of this variation shows up in his fastball because batters rarely make contact with the change or the curve. His overall batted ball profile looks strikingly similar this year to his prior years.

If we believe that this is the new normal for Strasburg - a very hittable fastball - then what's the reason? A .5 mph drop in velocity makes an above average pitch every year prior to this one all of a sudden become one of the worst fastballs in baseball? What's the basis for that conclusion? OPS against relies on hits, which is a function of BABIP.

Strasburg's fastball is probably getting worse and almost certainly has seen it's peak. My eyes agree with the conclusion that it's been crushed this year. But it's far too early to say he has a fastball problem. I bet his ERA for the rest of the year is much closer to his xFip (2.53) than his ERA (3.68).

Anonymous said...

Oh hey there reason! Learn a two seamer from stammen and he'll be nasty again. I honestly believe this is the worst the kid can be - doesn't mean he'll be an ace, but not a terrible floor.

JWLumley said...

@Bjd That's good to know. Perhaps it's one of those old baseball sayings rooted in nothing trapped in my mind along the lines of "let the pitcher supply the power". I think you're absolutely correct though that just about everyone is up there sitting dead red, hoping if they get the change or a hanger they'll catch it out front. I think it might also explain why he gets so many swings and misses on fastballs up: because it's what hitters are sitting on, but even a straight fastball is tough to hit when it gets high enough. In some ways, Strasburg is the classic thrower who needs to learn how to pitch. To me, he's the biggest indictment of McCatty in that there's a lot there to work with and it would seem that he should be further along by this point.

Bjd1207 said...

@Anon - I expect you would have made that same bet (that ERA is closer to xFIP for the remainder) prior to the start in Atlanta too...

Bjd1207 said...

Here's a good one:

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/pitch-speed-and-quality-of-contact/

Anonymous said...

@BJD - yes I absolutely would have made that bet pre-ATL. I think there's a reasonable chance that his ROS ERA will be closer to 2.53 than 3.68 even if you include the Atlanta start.

One reasonable conclusion at this point might be that his fastball is getting worse, but not that it's fallen off a cliff. The numbers don't bear that out though. Fangraphs pitch values have his fastball values at 5.3, 4.6, and 6.4 runs above average for 2010, 2012, and 2013 and at -11.0 for 2014. The poor performance of his fastball this year isn't the continuation of some trend. It's an enormous difference in the value of a pitch. I think that strengthens the case that this is all just noise.

JWLumley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JWLumley said...

@Anon While I agree with what you're saying to an extent, this year follows a pattern for Strasburg over his career where the numbers against his fastball have progressively gotten worse although not on a completely linear basis. Pitch values is one thing, but the wOBA's against his fastball were: .276, .235 (SSS), .333, .325, .353. While it may not be neat and tidy, .333 is worse than .276 and .353 is worse than .333. Also, the value of his two seam fastball (which he's thrown more often) has gotten progressively worse peaking at 2.11 and now down to -7.74.

Where I really disagree is in the two seam fastball. The OPS against that pitch is over .900. Basically hitters are Mike Trout against it. You can't explain that away with BABIP. There's also the issue of Strasburg's lack of deception in his motion. The more players see him, the better they pick him up.

Here's the Grantland article: http://grantland.com/the-triangle/pitchcraft-stephen-strasburg-the-flawed-prodigy/

Anonymous said...

@Lumley: I've read the Grantland article and I think it makes some sense, but I tend to side with the DIPS say.

I have two problems with using wOBA against to evaluate a single pitch. One is that wOBA depends on defense, so if you take DIPS seriously, you think wOBA against is misleading for all the reason batting average against or OPS against is misleading. You're absolutely right that a .365 batting average against with a more normal slugging percentage against would be easier to explain away to luck than what's happened to Strasburg - it's not just singles that have been finding holes but balls have been getting crushed. However, I would think something like wOBA against for a single pitch would take a really long time to normalize. It considers only fastballs in which the batter makes an out or puts the ball in play, right? I would think that a few homers or bloop doubles (bloops do become doubles sometimes) could really affect the number if the sample size isn't really really large.

Froggy said...

Great post Harper. You were reading my mind about the difference in performance depending on who is behind the plate. I've wondered aloud as to who is calling off whom during games with anyone but Ramos calling Stras's games. I've also noticed since last year that Strasburg can't pitch on the road where last year where he went 3-5 / 4.50 / 10 dingers, and is even worse this year 1-8 / 5.25 and 11 homers. Granted some of it corresponds to unluckyness and periods where the bats went ice cold and there were some injuries. But when Stras gets hit he usually gets shelled pretty good it seems.

Question I have is how much sample size do you need before you just admit it and adjust the rotation so Srasburg pitches primarily home games? Seems like this is off-limits management territory when discussed amongst baseball purists. Something tells me MW wouldn't dream doing something so drastic as it doesn't fit in his 'buck up kid' management style. Does anyone know of cases where managers have done something similar?

Jay said...

I think location is what is killing his fastball. I posted the other day that Strasburg was a basket case bc he said "I'll try to miss down next time instead of up". The point wasn't he needs to toughen up, rather it worries me that he seems somewhat lost about what's going on. I followed the Atl game on MLB.com and all of those pitches were in the middle of the plate. IMO it doesn't matter if you throw 97 if you throw it right down the middle. I think he should go back to the slider next year. It's a hard pitch that keeps hitters from sitting fastball all the time. But most importantly he needs to locate his fastball better. I still think he can end up being a top 5 pitcher in this league.

And yes, I do also wonder if McCatty has underachieved as coach. You have three guys with great stuff in the rotation and two of them are now our worst pitchers. The two guys doing the best have been here the shortest amount of time. I don't see McCatty going anywhere though. It's hard to fire a pitching coach when you're in first place.

Nick said...

JWLumley, Strasburg's fastball has certainly not been great this year, but come on. He has been unlucky on BABIP, and his FIP and xFIP are 3.00 and 2.53 respectively. His peripherals indicate that he is an ace, and with J-Zimm out of the door soon I don't know why you would think of trading him.

Kenny B. said...

I've wondered here and out loud to myself if McCatty is part of the problem. Hadn't even thought that the two most successful guys in the rotation this year are those with the least McCatty tutelage. I don't know why a pitching staff has to have a "philosophy." That sounds like crusty mumbo jumbo to me.

If you're a big time K guy, just be that guy and we'll use the relief corp if we need to when your pitch count gets too high. I know you want your starter in as long as possible, but not if he's not pitching well because he's trying to fulfill some "philosophical" requirement you've placed on him. I'd rather have 5 innings of 10K pitching than 7 of nail biting with runners all over the place.

There is also apparently some super strong desire to avoid using the bullpen among Nats coaches. I mean, I get they want guys "fresh" for big situations, but they're MLB pitchers; they want to pitch. And it's a major league season, so every situation is important. Maybe it's the relief corps that is the bed of "hothouse flowers." Or at least that is the coaching perception of them: they must never be touched unless absolutely necessary.

Kenny B. said...

That's not to say I think McCatty has destroyed Strasburg, just that he's not really helping. And that I think a staff-wide "philosophy" is stupid.

JWLumley said...

@Anon Yeah, I don't necessarily think it's clear cut and wOBA has it's issues, which you point out, I guess my point was that you could also look at OPS or other stats that would minimize bloops, dinks and dunks, but here in lies the problem, once there's enough data to get rid of the noise his value could be gone. If it's apparent that he isn't the ace people once thought he was, you won't get the value. At some point you have to make a best guess before those numbers stabilize. What me eyes tell me is that Strasburg is getting hit hard. Seems to give up a good number of loud outs too. I don't think he buckles under pressure, I think he is too much of a perfectionist and gets too uptight at times trying to be perfect.

@Nick There have been other pitchers who never lived up to their FIP and xFIP numbers, just in the same way some guys have consistently outperformed them.

Nick said...

@JWLumley, yeah, and Stras isn't one of those guys:

2010: 68 IP, 2.91 ERA, 2.08 FIP, 2.04 xFIP
2011: mostly injured
2012: 159 IP, 3.16 ERA, 2.82 FIP, 2.82 xFIP
2013: 183 IP, 3.00 ERA, 3.21 FIP, 3.15 xFIP
2014: 156 IP, 3.68 ERA, 3.00 FIP, 2.53 xFIP

Before you categorically decide Strasburg is a guy who will always pitch worse than his peripherals, consider his overall body of work. Also, each of the three years where his ERA was higher (and if you are going to get angry about a sub 3 ERA and a 3.00 ERA, I am not sure how to respond anyways), he ran a BABIP in the .310s. This year, it is .341. Each of the last two years where he pitched 150+, his FIP and xFIP were within .5 of his ERA, so it's not at all true that he is a guy who historically has had large variances between the two.

DezoPenguin said...

Interesting analysis...though even without Leon in the mix, he's still not very good on the road.

I was glancing through the Nats' WAR numbers today, and I noticed some pretty glaring differences in those numbers based on the differing methodologies used by Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference. Fister, for example, is a 1.1 WAR pitcher by Fangraphs' reckoning (which is itself surprising since they had him at 5.2/3.6/4.6 the last three years) and 3.0 by Baseball-Reference. The staff as a whole by fWAR is in the order Zim-Stras-Roark-Gio-Fister, but by rWAR is Roark-Fister-Zim-Stras-Gio.

JWLumley said...

@Nick When did I say he had large variances between his FIP, xFIP and ERA? Also a 0.50 is nothing to sneeze at when it pertains to ERA or FIP. That's half a run, or a run every other time out. It's basically the difference between Felix Hernandez and Corey Kluber, or Yu Darvish and Ian Kennedy. Also, you could say that in the last 2 years he's been within .5 of his ERA or you could say that in half of his big league seasons he hasn't been within .5 of his FIP. Some people also believe that FIP and xFIP overvalue K's.

I'm not even saying that Strasburg is a bad pitcher, I'm saying that he isn't an elite pitcher so the Nationals should sell high. Use the money to re-sign NN and wait for Giolito.

Nick said...

@JWLumley, you said "@Nick There have been other pitchers who never lived up to their FIP and xFIP numbers, just in the same way some guys have consistently outperformed them."

I don't think you can use 2010 as an example that he pitches .5 runs over his FIP, he still had an ERA below 3! He also only threw 68 innings, which is not a large enough sample to say "he's a FIP underachiever."

Additionally, you also said "I really believe that if another team views Strasburg as an ace, the Nats should deal him this offseason for as much as they can get." I believe that Strasburg is indeed an ace, which he has proven each year he has been healthy. I get the argument that his fastball has been below average this year to say the least, but I also think a great portion of that is BABP driven. The highest BABIP against (minimum 150 IP) for any SP in either league in 2013 was .340 (Dallas Keuchel). I am not sure where you stand on the pitchers controlling hard contact debate, but I think you would be hard pressed to convince me that Strasburg's .341 BABIP against is high simply because his fastball stinks. Strasburg has had a lot of bad luck in this category, to an extent that hasn't happened in his career thus far. While there may be something broken that's leading to this high BABIP against, I would contend that the odds are higher that he's been pretty unlucky on balls in play, and that positive regression is coming. That's not someone you sell based on a few bad months of bad luck. Especially someone with his track record and years of team control remaining.

JWLumley said...

@Nick You're reading too much into the things I've said. underperform doesn't mean underperform by a wide margin. It means less than expected.

Still, my main point remains the fastball hasn't been good. And before you categorize this as a one season "blip" look at velocity which has continued to trend down again this year. Also, it takes a high BABIP to have a high average and BABIP doesn't explain the spike in OPS because the SLG is up as well. SLG doesn't go up from bloops and 23 hoppers through the infield.

Still relying on Strasburg's past numbers isn't likely to have good predictive value because he's only had 3 full-ish seasons in the big leagues prior to this one and in one of those he was coming back from surgery and it was cut short. It's not like the guy has 3 FULL seasons, he really only has 1 full season, which was last year.

Zimmerman11 said...

Take out their 9-4 record against the Nationals, and the Braves are a 51-54 team.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry about that one :(

Zimmerman11 said...

Headcase:

Strasburg has started 100 games in his career. 590.2 IP, 690 K, 158 BB, 54 HR, 3.15 ERA

Clayton Kershaw, through his first 100 games: 581.2 IP, 603 K, 255 BB, 38 HR, 3.19 ERA

Anonymous said...

@Harper: Do you think that Strasburg is tipping his pitches? It sure looks like the Braves know EXACTLY what SS is going to throw on some occasions....

JWLumley said...

@Zimmerman11 Strasburg and Kershaw are the same age, not exactly apples to apples since Kershaw's first 100 starts came at a younger age.

Nick said...

@JWLumley, I think you are missing my point. While BABIP doesn't explain everything, it is a significant factor. If the season ended today, Stras would have a higher BABIP against than any SP with 150+ innings from last year. And BABIP doesn't just mean hoppers through the infield, BABIP is any ball in play. That doesn't limit bad BABIP luck to worm burners. While Stras has a higher line drive percentage this year compared to last year (24% vs. 17%) which would almost definitely lead to a higher BABIP. But again, while a higher BABIP can be expected from last season, he has had a LD percentage over 20% every other year of his career. BABIPs this high have at least some percentage of bad luck (Go look at the highest BABIP against in 2013 and compare it to the list from 2014). So sure, his fastball hasn't had great results this year, but IMO, it would be incorrect to say BABIP isn't a material factor. It doesn't explain everything, but it tends to explain quite a bit.

And of course Strasburg's prior seasons have predictive value, he had thrown over 430 major league innings coming into this year!

Max David said...

Love this blog Harper.

I'm still looking for that dominate "Forget ZNN & Fister I'm the ace of this staff" performance. I've about lost faith with Gio's inconsistancy this year and if Stras gets light up like the Rockafeller Christmas tree on Christmas Thursday night he could be heading down that same road Gio's taking. After this start he's got two light-hitting opponents at home that he should defeat (D'Backs & Giants) so that'll be a big boost for the September stretch if we can get 3 straight dominate performances out of him these next 3 starts. That's why I think this start Thursday is so big.

Kenny B. said...

Whatever. As long as the Braves continue to implode against everyone but the Nats and the Nats can beat up on a light schedule, everybody's got a month and a half to get their minds right for October, where it looks like we mercifully may not have to play the Braves.

The idea of the Nats playing either Atlanta or St. Louis in the playoffs is terrifying to me. Like, I'm already freaking out about it. I might be taking all of this a little too seriously...

JWLumley said...

@Nick I may have overstated, Strasburg's previous seasons do have some predictive value and BABIP is certainly a factor. However, I don't believe that either of them is a factor to the extent you're saying. Strasburg had over 430 innings coming into this year, but they're spread out over 4 years. He has exactly 1 full and complete season. So there's definitely some randomness and variance in there, but to what extent is anyone's guess because he's had exactly one season pitching in September and it was in his first full season after TJ surgery.

It's not just how hitters are faring against the fastball though, it's the velocity too. It keeps trending down. He also seems to be relying more on a two seam fastball that is batting-practice-esque. That's not to say he's a bad pitcher, he's just not an elite pitcher, so if someone else thinks he is, take the money and run. Then make sure you re-sign Fister who fits the mold of durable pitcher, who doesn't have elite stuff, but gets elite results. Reminds me a lot of Tim Hudson in some ways.

Kenny B. said...

Should also point out this analysis here on the mystery that is Stephen Strasburg:

http://citizensofnatstown.com/2014/08/08/unsolved-mysteries-stephen-strasburg/#more-5165

They basically come up with "It's probably luck. He'll probably get better." If that turns out to be true, September/October are an awesome time for the reversion to occur. One or two solid post-season performances and no one will be asking these questions about Strasburg anymore.

Bjd1207 said...

@Kenny - Lol I was just thinking the same thing. If his BABIP needs to get back to .300 then he's gotta go like .180 the rest of the season/playoffs right? Haha, if only

ALso you're not overreacting. I'm terrified as well

Nick said...

Doug Fister over Strasburg? Come on. I have enjoyed watching Fister pitch and am happy we heisted him from the Tigers, but he is not Strasburg. Don't let the guady W-L fool you. Out of all MLB pitchers with 100+ IP, he has the second highest LOB%. While Fister has been great, he is not this good, and I wouldn't keep expecting 7 IP, 3 Ks, and 0 ER. And pitchers can pitch with decreased velocity, it happens all the time. Strasburg still throws mid to upper 90s, and he can certainly figure it out. I agree that it's concerning how poor his fastball has been this year results wise, but he is an elite pitcher, and not a guy you give up to make room to resign Doug Fister.

Bjd1207 said...

@Nick - I think you're underselling Fister, this season isn't a fluke in his numbers but the culmination of a trend over the last few seasons. He's an example of the guy you mention about learning to "pitch" instead of throw with decreased velocity.

That being said, I'm still firmly on your side when it comes to trade talks. Even if he's not "Elite" the value of a young, solid, top half of the rotation starter is enormous and you hold onto that. You certainly dont actively look to trade him. And if the decision before the GM is actually Stras or Fister then it's beginning to become more of a difficult decision, but you're right I'm still re-signing Stras

Jay said...

I still think it comes back to locating his fastball better. At times he falls way off to the first base side of the mound. When this happens his front shoulder tends to fly open and his arm drags to catch up with the rest of his body. His pitches to flatten out and he misses up and away to lefties. When he first came up he didn't fall off to the first base side. Also, I remember they showed him on ESPN when he first came up and they were talking about the torque he created in his wind up. They showed how his jersey would come untucked in the front bc of the torque. I wonder if he has tried to dial it back some to "pitch to contact" and go deeper into games. I still think he can be a top 5 guy.

He reminds me a lot of Chris Carpenter. He came up with the Blue Jays. Had TJ surgery. His results never quite matched up to his potential. Toronto let him leave and go to St Louis. We all know how that one turned out.

He may not be a once in a generation guy (but who is). Give him time. At worst he is a very good 2 or 3 pitcher in ANY rotation. At best he becomes something closer to the ace we were hoping for. This brings me back to the one thing I disagree with the Nats on player develoment. They have always just given the ball to Stras and said you're our ace. I think it would have been better to have signed a genuine ace and let him show the other guys on the staff how to do it. Remember in 2012 they touted the fact that Edwin Jackson was mentoring Gio, Stras, and Zimnn on how to consistently throw 200+ innings. Imagine if that mentor had been or could be someone like Greinke or Sherzer. That is part of how Kimbrel became great in Atl. Billy Wagner mentored him.

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