Strasburg is on the DL with elbow soreness. This was after the Nats said repeatedly that everything was fine and he wasn't hurt. It may be true that this isn't a serious injury but given that the Nats haven't been forthcoming at all (nor need they be, mind you) there isn't any good reason to believe them.
Well, perhaps there is - Tommy John injuries are usually preceded by a loss in velocity - or at least that's what we've been told. You know I hate "just saying things". Nate Eovaldi just underwent surgery. Let's check out his velocity. Check. Down to 94 in his last game from the 97-98 range. That's promising I guess. Let's grab some other recent starters that had TJ mideseason. I see Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb, and Homer Bailey. Lynn no. He did have the dreaded "forearm tightness" in early June and missed two starts but continued to pitch the rest of the year with no discernable change in speed - at least not to me. Granted Lynn is not a power guy, averaging around 93 MPH. Alex Cobb... looks like that injury happened in ST, so no stats. Bailey? Yes. Down at 93.5 then 90 for a guy that was more a 95-96 type. Oh Jason Vargas, what about you? Yes. Down to 86 from 88+.
It seems like something is here but that Lynn one bothers me. He did get in in the offseason, but it's not like he was pitching much from the playoffs to Halloween to explain it. Let's look at some more. Jose Fernandez? Maybe. It was down but not as much as some of these others. Ivan Nova? Not particularly, not as convincing as Fernandez. Matt Moore? Again maybe? Let's end with Matt Harvey. If you are going to compare anyone to Strasburg, he seems the most fitting. Looking at the velocity, I would say yes. Like Fernandez it wasn't a sudden large drop but the average velocity was down at the end. If you are looking for the trend you see it.
OK so I guess I'd say yes. I don't think it's impossible that we don't see a drop in velocity but it does seem that you usually do. However the 95 MPH guy suddenly throwing 90 and grabbing his elbow isn't a given. Sometimes it's more subtle. Sometimes it's more of a drop over time as opposed to a singular event. So what about Strasburg? There is a VERY subtle drop from early in the year. Usually guys take a couple starts to warm up. This year Stras would get to 96+ by the end of April and he topped out at 97 on May 19th. Since July 8th though he hasn't topped 96 as an average and he even went under 95 for a game. The latter is not unheard of - he did it once last year, three times in 2014. But the former... a streak like that he's only done once. In 2014 he went a full 12 games without breaking 96 for an average fastball speed. That seems more like a concerted effort than an injury given he was faster before and after.
What about other Nats? Do I see any gradual season long VERY subtle drops? Max - no. Stable. Gio - no. Actually going up. Tanner - maybe? What about other years? Does Strasburg just slow down typically over the course of a year? 2015 - No. 2014 - No. 2013 - No.
I'm going to have to stop now but what I was trying to do was eliminate the possibility that this is a big bad Tommy John surgery type injury and I'm afraid I cannot. Strasburg has not had a quick noticeable drop in velocity. That is good - it would clearly indicate an issue. But that itself doesn't eliminate the possibility. Clearly noticeable drops in velocity don't happen every time. Sometimes the drop is more gradual and limited. Rarely you don't see it at all. The latter though seems pretty rare, especially for a power pitcher. Therfore, if Strasburg had no drop in velocity I wouldn't be worried at all. But I do see a drop in velocity. Not a big one, I'd even struggle to call it a small one. But there is that very slight trend down. If I were able to dismiss that as a "all pitchers have that happen over course of season" or "Strasburg always slows down" that would help, but neither of those is true.
So do I think this is a major injury? I have no idea. But I can't say with certainty that I believe it's not one. I'm just waiting in the dark like I was as a 12 year old getting info from the nightly news and daily paper.