This season has been an utter disappointment. There's no arguing that. But in even the worst of seasons there are positives to be found. Bryce's break-out. Max's 1st half. Clint Robinson. Another thing on that list, has to be the performance of Stephen Strasburg after returning from injury.
When Strasburg was pitching poorly to begin the year the fanbase was a little divided between people who thought the bad results were driven primarily by injury and fans who thought the bad results were driven primarily by bad pitching. I had been a strong member of the former group and to the latter I'd just like to say, "Told ya"
Strasburg pre-injury: 45.3 IP, 6.55 ERA, 1.72 WHIP, OPS-against .874, 1.2 HR/9, 2.8 BB/9, 8.9 K/9
Strasburgh post-injury : 82 IP, 1.76 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, OPS-against .500, 0.88 HR/9, 1.3 BB/9, 12.1 K/9
That's nearly a half-season of WOW. That's better than the season stats of Greinke, Arrieta, and Kershaw, the guys fighting it out for the Cy Young. He's been a Top 10 valuable pitcher in the majors in the 2nd half despite pitching a third fewer innings than the other guys up there. There's no luck here either. The fancy stats agree - he's been awesome. Kind of a pitching Bryce, if you like.
He's pitched very well for... well pretty much every season more often than not outside of the beginning of this one, but he's never pitched this well for this long. There was his start to 2012 (44 IP) He had a run of great pitching in May-June of 2013 (56 IP). And a run in April-May (66.1 IP) and to end the year (58 IP) last year. But never as close to 82 IP. Interestingly enough you see these streaks getting longer. Combine last year's great pitching and you get like 125 innings* He can put together great stretches and he's at the point where if he can just add a few starts more to these periods, like 4-5 more, it won't really matter how bad the other ones are. He'll be a legit Cy Young candidate, instead of "other receiving votes"
Do we realize it? I don't know. Fans are mostly inclined to dislike Strasburg and a hot performance to end a meaningless season isn't going to persuade them otherwise. Even if I point out the Nats were fighting for their playoff lives for much of that time and he kept coming through. Even if I point out that despite the shutdown and other injuries Strasburg has been one of the 15 best pitchers in baseball since 2012. Like I said yesterday because of an odd W-L total in 2013 and what comes accross as a prickly attitude, the fans have made up their mind. It will take Strasburg leading the team to a playoff series win to turn the tide and well, time is rapidly running out for that to happen.
*unfortunately the other 90 IP were to an ERA of 5.00.