Nationals Baseball: Meet the New Strasburg. Same as the old Strasburg

Friday, October 02, 2015

Meet the New Strasburg. Same as the old Strasburg

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. 

21 comments:

Carl said...

I tweeted this the other day, but since many, many more people don't follow me than do...

I use Hardball Passport to track games I've attended. On their Stats page, it lists the top 20 MLB pitching performances, from the 247 major league games I've been to. (I don't know what their formula for that is, but trust that it's something reasonable--possibly game scores.) Strasburg has SIX of those top 20. In fact, the top seven are: JZ's no-hitter, Strasburg, Strasburg, Yu Darvish, Strasburg, Strasburg, Strasburg. No one else appears on that list more than once.

Carl said...

Also, the title of this post clearly should have been "Meet the new Stras, same as the old Stras."

Anonymous said...

Stras is and has been my favorite from the beginning. He is smart and self-aware, and I like introspective, it's underrated, the world would be a more pleasant place if there were a few less folks so sure they're right all of the time.

Harper said...

Carl - you should go to more Stras games then

cass said...

Let's extend him now.

Section 220 said...

No shot at all they re-sign him, right? Instead we'll just assume Ross will be good, Roark will be good, and Giolito will be ready to be incredible right away in 2017, right? Our strategy: hope!

Chaz R said...

I like SS and think he is a damn fine top of the rotation pitcher. I think (and I know this may be an unprovable tired narrative) he seems to let in-game difficulties and errors get into his head and effect his performance. I think he could be an even more dominant and certainly more consistent if he was a bit more mentally tough. We may be seeing signs of that in his last starts this year.

Anonymous said...

@Chaz R-agree. SS seems to suffer from having one bad inning where the wheels seem to fall off and then he settles down. Unfortunately, because of the lackluster offense, that one inning kills.

John C. said...

Yes, the "hothouse flower/head case" narrative is old, tired - and to the extent that it was ever accurate it's just not any more. Even in last night's game Strasburg didn't have his best stuff, was pitching in the rain, and had a couple of innings where a combination of borderline calls, tough at bats (one guy fouled off about six straight 3-2 pitches; Strasburg didn't let him go, got the strikeout), bad BABIP luck and defensive adventures (Ramos's error putting a runner on third) that gave Strasburg ample opportunities to melt down/have the wheels come off. None of that happened. Which is why we won't remember it.

Several times during this streak it's been noted in passing that Strasburg faced adversity and got through it. But we immediately forget about it, because "tough/grinding Stras" isn't a narrative - "hothouse flower" is. In this regard Strasburg is the flip side of JZim - when bad things happen after adversity to JZim, we don't really notice it or hold JZim accountable. He doesn't have a narrative of "head case."

BornInDC said...

If the Nats are smart, they will try to extend Strasburg for several reasons:

1. Because he is a very good pitchers hi may just be getting into his prime.

2. He is probably undervalued around the league due to his reputation.

3. Nats management should make Boras very aware that if Boras sticks to his policy of his clients always leaving after their initial contracts, given what the Nats have had to endure for shutting down Strasburg, no MLB club will ever care again about what Boras thinks about innings limits for one of his clients.

blovy8 said...

Well, results matter, and given what he was in 2012, you know what he's capable of, but I suppose it's not fair to expect to regain that right away. He's also not really all that experienced, he had college, but blew throug the minors on a hype machine. He's had to learn in the big leagues, and maybe it's learning about pain and injury that becomes a problem. He can't ask out, but he shouldn't pitch hurt either. Some guys will just have trouble getting through a season. The Nats have plenty of examples of that.But he's going to need a 230 inning year of greatness for me to not be disappointed. Ask yourself who the best pitchers are regardless of salary, and you can say he's top 15, but you can't make a great case for top 10. My memory might stink, but I can't remember seeing a guy who throws that hard, with such command, with such a great change up and curveball give up so many hits. He really should be Pedro out there, unless something else is going on (yeah, I know Pedro was smart and a little mean). I want to believe he's figured something out, and my feeling is, in the past at least, he didn't pay enough attention to what the batter was doing and rarely came inside with the fastball. I wonder if that's changed.

Wally said...

Harper - what do you think it takes to extend Stras this offseason? And if they try and fail, would you go into 2016 with him as a walk year guy, or would the 2015 disappointment around their walk year guys make you trade him?

My guess is that, but for Bryce, they'd trade him in that circumstance. But they can't waste any of the last three years of Bryce, or face fan mutiny. Thoughts?

W. Patterson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
W. Patterson said...

Two observations:

Strasburg started pitching well when he got rid of his cheesy facial hair.

The Nats tanked WHEN the Washington "professional" football team took over the front of the sports page.

Harper said...

Wally - I doubt he extends this offseason. There's a TON of money that can be put on the table if he has a Cy Youngish 2016 that isn't there now. The Nats would have come with something in that range (where the starting point is around 7/175) and how do you do that for a TJ guy who missed 10 starts to injury just this past year?

blovy8 said...

I agree Harper. I haven't seen any sign of serious negotiations with Stras (which really should have started last fall) and it seems like they'd have to pay him like he was a top-10 guy with only two months of those results to go on and very little durability to be expected given his recent past. The Nats would be better off seeing what can be done for a guy like Rendon, at least he isn't coming off a big season like Harper. Not that I wouldn't try some half-billion lifetime deal for Harper either, that would certainly take the emphasis off the ugly necklaces he wears in the dugout.

Jay said...

I say sign him long term. If we aren't keeping Znn, Desmond, Span, Storen (even though he is a headcase), Strasburg, then who are we keeping? The Nats aren't the freaking Twins. If you can't keep homegrown talent or good talent that you trade for (aka Span) then what is the point. DC is a topflight market that needs to be treated that way. It's not LA but you can be sure it is nowhere near Tampa. Who have the Nats signed to an extension? Go around the diamond ... Zimmerman. That is it. I won't forgive the Lerners if they start keeping some of these guys.

Rizzo talks about how they were using the Braves as the model. The Braves had Maddux, Glavine, and Smotlz forever. They had Chipper Jones forever. Churning over your roster every few years bc you refuse to sign anybody is bad for the team and horrible for your fanbase.

Maybe Harper could write a post on the history of Nats extensions and then go over likely extension targets and what it might cost, plus the chances of any of that happening. Strasburg is worth keeping and light years better than Ross or Roark or even Gio at this point.

Right now the Lerners seem a little tight fisted but they like to splurge occasionally on Boras clients - Werth and Sherzer. Can't spend $8 million on Clippard or an extra $200,000 on Blevins. Seems like a pretty stupid decision now.

BornInDc said...

blovy8,

I'm with you on the half-billion lifetime deal for Bryce. For the fanbase, that is by far the single most important deal the Nats need to make. If the Lerners can't see that having Bryce locked up for years would not be worth at least $500 million over the lifetime of the contracts, they are incredibly short-sighted. In addition to helping the team win games, Bryce makes the Nats matter to the general public. Also think of all the future promotions you could be looking at as Bryce breaks various league records and earns various honors. In addition, there is the fact that had Bryce been paid $30 million this year, in terms of WAR he was probably worth as much as every other positional player on the team combined who together probably cost more than $30 million this year.

I would also guess that I am not the only Nats fan who wishes the had saved the money they wasted on Soriano, Scherzer and Paplebon to have more money available to pursue Bryce.

Finally, there is also the potential negative consequences of losing Bryce. As evidenced by the thousands of seats ripped out of FedEx Field, the sports fans in this area have grown less tolerant of poorly run sports franchises and will show their displeasure by not showing up for games.

Anonymous said...

Are the Nats really going to let both Stras and Bryce walk? Isn't that kind of pathetic? The Post said today that the Nats discussed Stras trades during the last offseason. Why do the 2012 shutdown if resigning Stras wasn't in the cards? Just to impress Boras?

Froggy said...

Where are the LOLMets trolls?

Heh, heh, heh...

Robot said...

@Froggy - They are at home, in bed with pillows over their heads quietly repeating, "It's not 2007, it's not 2007, it's not 2007"