Nationals Baseball: Strasburg without cheese

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Strasburg without cheese

Some people will tell you Strasburg was never very good and always wilted in pressure situations. This is wrong. This is demonstrably wrong. I still strongly advocate the classic debate rebuttal tactic of face-punching when it comes to these people. If that fails, continue with the tactic as it will at least stop them from speaking more idiocy into the air.

However being good in the past is worth all of nothing. Right now we care about... well right now and Strasburg is not good right now.  This was a particularly bad outing, to be sure.  Atypical of what I think he'd put up the next time out. But he's only had one good game so far (7.1 IP 1ER 5 H 7K 2BB affair vs the Phillies) and one decent one (5.1 IP 2ER 6H 7 K 1 BB) the other five have ranged from disappointing to last night.

Here are Strasburg's numbers right now:
1.710 WHIP, 12.6 H/9, 2.8 BB/9, 8.8 SO/9, .327 / .381 / .464

Here is the worst he's done in these stats, cherry picking from various seasons (excluding his 24IP 2011)
1.155 WHIP, 8.3 H/9, 2.8 BB/9, 9.4 SO/9, .245 / .286 / .385

His worst month ever is arguably July of 2012. Here's how he did in that month
1.412 WHIP,  10.8 H/9, 1.9 BB/9, 10.2 K/9, .296 / .331 / .513

Strasburg is pitching worse than he has ever pitched, not by a little, by leaps and bounds. Why? Well you can argue declining fastball speed I guess (down to 94.4 from 95.7 in 2012) but that's usually not an issue until a pitcher gets much closer to 90MPH. You could argue the movement of his pitches, but there doesn't seem to be any appreciable difference in them statistically (though there is a lot more that goes into that than just movement numbers so I claim nothing here other than "it's not obviously this")  Even if it was one or the other it could still be the most likely culprit in my eyes. Injury.

If it is injury it would be a delightful litmus test showing how fans irrationally don't like Strasburg. He's been hurt. He hasn't really said anything to the media to make excuses. He's tried to pitch through it.  That's gritty! (and stupid - but it also takes a stupid team to bring it to fruition) and yet I bet if that's the case you won't hear any "I like his heart for trying!" Instead you'll hear "oh he's a head case because he couldn't pitch through it" or "he's too fragile" or some junk like that. Those that don't like Strasburg cannot be satisfied, hypocrisy be damned.

But that's just me railing, really the most important thing is what happens if he is injured and does go on the DL. The Nats can roll the dice with AJ Cole but he does not seem ready. Stretch out Roark? Sure, he's looked good, but that'll take time and what happens to the pen? Taylor Jordan? I suppose. Either way they aren't going to be 2012-2014 Strasburg.

Strasburg's issues are obviously not good news for the Nats. Not for this year or for next where Strasburg was to help cover the expected losses of ZNN and Fister. However, it's not devastating news even if he ends up being out for the year (or just stinking all year). Having 4 top notch starters is still really good. It does take out the Nats starting pitching cushion though so if another guy goes down, the strength of Nats team is no longer a strength and given the offensive and pen questions October plans become a lot more tentative. (SO NO ONE ELSE GET HURT) 


blovy8 said...

Most likely the fake doctor didn't help, and he's injured. The seemingly crazy idea that TJ guys shouldn't be extended since they are likely to break down again within a certain timeframe is probably about to get another data point.

cass said...

For some reason, he picked last night to start throwing his slider again and one got rocked for a home run and another a triple. He had thrown one slider in each of his last two starts, and none since he debuted it at the beginning of last year.

Doesn't seem to be a good pitch for him. Earlier this year, he mostly got blooped to death so I think he should just stick which his normal four pitch mix and assume he'll revert to being himself soon enough.

Yes, Matt Harvey has a slider. It works. It doesn't seem to work for Strasburg, though. I say ditch it.

Bjd1207 said...

But shouldn't an injury manifest itself somehow in the physical stats?

If there's no drop in velo (significantly), same movement, then what exactly is the impact that the injury is having? Is his location off? How we find/generate one of those heat maps?

Chaz R said...

I'm no soulless automaton but if you compare 2015 SS to 2012 and 2014 SS using Pitchf/x, it would not on the surface appear to be a movement or velo problem. Possibly a locating problem, and that could also be due to injury. It would be interesting to do more of an in-depth comparison of 2015 SS to previous years, Harper.

Bjd1207 said...

Yea Chaz I'm with you. How/where can we find the answers to our location questions?

Harper said...

blovy8 - or big guys or guys that throw a lot of pitches or guys over 32.... basically never extend a pitcher.

cass - nothing about that pitch has been worth it.

BJD - we're drowning in pitch data could be release point change, location change, could hurt so he avoid throwing certain pitches in certain sequences, could be just enough velocity or movement to matter. It's a weeks long data mining exercize for likely questionable results given the sample.

(brooks baseball if you want the best free pitch data visualization. is another place)

Chaz R - yes it would. I charge 2k a week. I do however take oil cans as payment.

John C. said...

I don't think Strasburg is a head case, but then again I don't suffer from Strasburg Derangement Syndrome. His velocity is down from his early 20's, sure - but it's not really down from last season. He was consistently 95-96 last night and touched 98. A far cry from his debut (where he touched 103 in the 7th inning! and blew out his UCL a few weeks later). But plenty enough velocity.

For me the difference has been that he hasn't really been able to find his changeup. The changeup has always been Strasburg's out pitch, his difference maker, his "swing-and-miss" generator. It not only is excellent on its own, it sets up the rest of his arsenal.

Which is why I would continue to stay with him as long as he isn't truly injured. He's getting rocked, but he's got the stuff to be dominant again if he can find the changeup.

Anonymous said...

I'm with John C. - Great points. That and location seems to be Stephen's biggest problem. It's not a matter of velocity because Fister is throwing it as hard as a D. III college pitcher. Location, location, location has been his saving grace, was for Maddux, and will be the reason Strasburg becomes elite (if he ever does).

blovy8 said...

Harper, I submit this as evidence - I can't remember reading the article he cites, but I guess you'd have to argue and prove that most pitchers get a non-TJ injury every 900 innings to say it isn't a factor. He didn't make any age stipulation and young men are getting the surgery all the time now and would be part of his study.

All of Strasburg's numbers look worse except home run rate. If he was really missing his spots I'd expect that to be bad too, but maybe it's coming. Is he tipping pitches? Lousy game calling by Ramos (Lobaton has yet to catch him this year)? Too predictable? Or the usual issue when a continuing set of results looks worse than they should without any perceived changes?

I'd be willing to let Jose take a crack at it.

Froggy said...

I think Strasburg's performance was a combination of him missing his spots and being predictable...and a couple of fat sliders that Trumbo guessed right on.

Question I have is how much is due to Ramos pitch selection as well.

WiredHK said...

To the naked eye, it looks like he is just struggling with command, esp early in counts. Maybe someone with time can see if that's been the case this year - but if so, then combining bad counts with a fastball that has gone from "insanely fast" to "really fast" would probably make the difference. The margin is thin at this level - give MLB hitters a 2-0 count a lot, and they can hit almost any speed when laid right over the plate.

I feel like I've also seen him throw way more just obvious, awful balls right out of his hand this year than ever before. Last night I think he threw several pitches literally feet in front of the plate and outside, and then one insanely wild high and out of the zone. Those seem....uncharacteristic for Stras...injury would certainly make sense.

Jay said...

I think the key thing is the question of health. I hate to agree with MW, but he said last night that Strasburg came out of it healthy and that's all that matters. I agree with that thought. I do wonder about Lobaton - wasn't he essentially Strasburg's personal catcher last year?? His stuff is too good. He'll come around. Last year he started slow and came around.

Really all of our starters except Gio and Sherzer have started slow. Here's hoping Zimnn, Fister, and Stras all get on a roll soon.

PS The Mets don't worry me.

Anonymous said...

Froggy, it was Loboton not Ramos yesterday, but then it was Ramos on other days when Straus didn't pitch well. The bats have been doing some big time bailing, preventing these travails from becoming toxic. This is the sign of a well-built team. If Straus your weakest link (and assuming his stumbles are correctable) well, shoot...

Questions for Harper: Was Bryce's temper tantrum yesterday a sign that the pressure is getting to him? Should MW sit him for a game? And will bringing Rendon back mean a drop in team performance as he re-acclimates himself to the game?

First world problems, as they say.

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