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Strasburg’s poor outing continues troubling early season trend

Apr 16, 2014, 9:55 AM EST

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

Stephen Strasburg took his second loss of the 2014 season on Tuesday night in a game that turned ugly very quickly. Strasburg gave up three earned runs in each of the first two innings against the Marlins, and was removed after four. He now sits 1-2 with a 6.00 ERA on the season and has only one quality start through four outings on the year.

Strasburg’s rough night was a continuation of what has been a growing problem for the Nationals early on this season. Though the team holds a winning record at 8-6, their starting rotation has been the most inconsistent unit thus far.

Strasburg’s start was the fifth time this year already (out of 14 total games) a Nationals’ starter has allowed five earned runs or more. All five members of the rotation have one such outing to their name.

The rotations numbers are starting to suffer as a whole. Nationals starters currently hold a 5.06 ERA collectively, the 26th worst mark in the majors. That is last in the NL East and only two National League teams (Colorado & Arizona) have been worse.

For comparison, the Nats ranked seventh in MLB with a 3.60 rotation ERA in 2013, and placed second in the majors in 2012 with a 3.40 mark.

Here are some other troubling statistics relating to the Nats’ rotation:

.282 BAA – 24th in MLB

1.490 WHIP – 25th in  MLB

.816 OPS – 25th in MLB

10 HR allowed – 22nd in MLB

28 BB allowed – 23rd in MLB

Eight of the Nats’ 14 games this season have, to be fair, been against the Mets and Marlins, who each rank near the top of the league in runs scored so far. The Marlins, believe it or not, are currently fourth with 73 runs through 15 games (4.87 R/G). The Mets are 11th in MLB with 63 runs through 14 games (4.5 R/G).

The Braves rank much lower, but seem to find their swings when they play the Nationals. In their three-game sweep last weekend, the Braves put a total of 23 runs on the board.

The Nats have been able to offset much of their starting pitching issues with the fifth-most runs in the majors, and they should get Doug Fister back very soon. As long as he returns fully healthy, he should provide a significant upgrade to the back of their rotation. But even when Fister does return, the Nationals other starters will have to get back to the brand of baseball that led the team to winning records in each of the past two seasons.

  1. ehay2k - Apr 16, 2014 at 9:59 AM

    Looking forward to Laddie’s analysis of Strasburg’s woes in Miami. :-)

    • Eric - Apr 16, 2014 at 10:12 AM

      +1!

  2. chaz11963 - Apr 16, 2014 at 10:06 AM

    Not only the pitching, but the rest of the defense as been atrocious as well; 15 errors in 14 games and a .969 FPC good for last in all of MLB.

  3. stoatva - Apr 16, 2014 at 10:07 AM

    More than once it has crossed my mind that Strasburg may be the next Ben McDonald. Big Ben had a decent major league career, actually… but “decent” was not supposed to be his destiny.

    • bowdenball - Apr 16, 2014 at 11:12 AM

      Ben McDonald’s career K/9 was 6.23, career ERA was 3.91, career FIP was 4.08.

      Strasburg career K/9- 10.61, career ERA- 3.10, career FIP- 2.81.

      I don’t think that’s a very good comparison.

      Stras has had a handful of rough starts this season. I’m not going to say there’s zero reason for concern, but I certainly don’t think they’re reason to ignore 2+ seasons of excellence.

      • stoatva - Apr 16, 2014 at 11:26 AM

        Comparison through age 25 or 26 doesn’t look all that far off, if Strasburg proves unable to regain elite form.

        Perhaps if I had said “may become” rather than “may be” my point might have been clearer.

      • bowdenball - Apr 16, 2014 at 11:45 AM

        Sorry, but comparison through age 25/26 is really really far off. Strasburg has been light years better than McDonald was through age 25 or 26. Night and day.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Apr 16, 2014 at 2:21 PM

        Ben McDonald’s career K/9 was 6.23, career ERA was 3.91, career FIP was 4.08.
        Strasburg’s career K/9- 10.61, career ERA- 3.10, career FIP- 2.81.
        I don’t think that’s a very good comparison.

        Here’s one that’s a little closer.
        Averaged through his age 25 season, which is 5 years of data:
        K/9 = 9.06, ERA = 3.26, FIP = 3.29.
        So Strasburg has better numbers, so far, but then this guy got better, and his career really took off, for about the next 20 years. The Express.

    • micksback1 - Apr 16, 2014 at 11:49 AM

      I thnk your comparison is worth consideration, I do not consider it bad in the least

  4. stoatva - Apr 16, 2014 at 10:09 AM

    Fernandez, Wainwright and Wacha lined up against the Nats. Then it gets “easy” with Lynn and Miller, right?

    Let’s see what you got, Nats. This is “no excuses” week.

    • kirbs3256 - Apr 16, 2014 at 10:10 AM

      Yeah we had a buzz saw to go through…..hopefully we arn’t on the bottom side of .500 when it’s over

    • chaz11963 - Apr 16, 2014 at 10:27 AM

      Well, once past the Cards, they have series against Angels, Padres, Astros, and Phillies. So, some easier stretches in the near future. Also, the Braves will be playing the Marlins, Reds, Giants, and Cards. Could be a chance to gain some ground.

  5. stoatva - Apr 16, 2014 at 10:14 AM

    Call me crazy, but I think the Nats could do worse than give young Mr Souza a start against Fernandez. See ball hit ball, you know?

  6. Eric - Apr 16, 2014 at 10:22 AM

    “Laddie overnight sent me an email with detailed research on Strasburg in Miami. He has a theory on it and I agree with him.”

    Really? You’re just gonna blatantly drop a tease and not deliver? Weak! ;)

    Anyway, here are my thoughts on whats going on:

    1) Starting pitching
    I think there are a couple of things going on here.

    First, and perhaps least troubling, I think Stras in NYC and last night just had zero command of his fastball. I think the same thing was true of Zinn in DC last week. I say this is least troubling because all of our starters have either had fantastic outings mixed in with the clunkers (Stras, Gio, Zinn, Jordan), or started badly but righted the ship (Roark in NYC). I think the lack of command might be “rust” and the guys not having built up enough stamina yet.

    Second, and a bit more troubling, I have the sense that NL teams have really worked hard to neutralize our strengths. I think last season it was the hitting, and this season it’s the pitching. In the games that start off terribly, it seems as though opposing batters know almost exactly what to expect in what counts.

    2) Fielding Errors
    I have this sense that the team is having trouble keeping up with the pace of the game sometimes, like they get out of sync with its rhythm or something. This is obviously a very fuzzy notion, but when you watch a team playing tight ball, it’s not so much that they simply make plays, it’s that they seem to have better anticipated the play before it starts. There’s a fluidity. Some of it might be luck, but I think some of it is also pitch-by-pitch observation and preparation.

    As an example, on the Uggla error that allowed us to mount a comeback on Friday, FP was talking about how Uggla planted his feet in the middle of the play, so when he went to throw to first, all he really had was arm strength on the throw. In contrast, he said Uggla–and any defender–needs to keep their feet moving at all times while a ball is in play. I think it would be interesting to observe the Nats players with fielding errors to see how their activities change as the pitcher comes set, while the pitch is in the air, while the batter swings, as the ball leaves the bat, etc. When do they start moving? Are they anticipating where the ball might go based on pitch location and the batter? Etc.

    3) Base running errors
    I think these issues are, by and large, a product of the team trying out a shiny new toy. Folks who are already familiar with it (Werth, Espi) seem to be pretty comfortable and know how to calibrate their aggression; others seem over eager and unseasoned. I think this aspect of our game will either evolve into a moderately powerful weapon within a month or so, or it will ultimately be recognized that we only have a very select few players who can wreak havoc on the basepaths.

    Overall, I’m not worried about the fielding. We had a rash of errors early last season, but by-and-large we tightened up by the end of May, iirc.

    I’m not worried about the baserunning errors because, as noted above, I think it will either become a refined weapon or will be tabled.

    I wasn’t worried about the pitching, but I’m starting to worry now. Ironically, the reason I’m worried isn’t so much due to performance thus far, it’s related to what happened with our hitting last season. As I recall, at the end of 2012, our lineup was generally considered to be quite dangerous up and down the order; there was no one you could pitch around because the next batter realistically threatened to at least move the new runner, if not score him.

    Well, in 2013, the NL East in particular a strong NL teams in general neutralized our hitting. We all thought or at least reasonably hoped it would come around sooner or later, but it didn’t until VERY late. I have a strong suspicion that the hitting woes were not entirely an accident, and that pitchers were successfully coached on ways to pitch us effectively.

    I’m worried the same thing is happening now with our pitchers: that the NL East teams have figured out how to neutralize our truly greatest strength. If that’s at least partly what’s happening, I hope the pitching staff can adapt much more quickly this year than the batters did last year.

    • NatsNut - Apr 16, 2014 at 10:42 AM

      I really liked this observation. If true, I wonder if knowing the catcher inside and out also helps fielders with that extra tick of a moment to anticipate? Interesting to think about anyway.

      2) Fielding Errors
      I have this sense that the team is having trouble keeping up with the pace of the game sometimes, like they get out of sync with its rhythm or something. This is obviously a very fuzzy notion, but when you watch a team playing tight ball, it’s not so much that they simply make plays, it’s that they seem to have better anticipated the play before it starts. There’s a fluidity. Some of it might be luck, but I think some of it is also pitch-by-pitch observation and preparation.

      • Eric - Apr 16, 2014 at 11:40 AM

        Good question about the catcher, and if it works one way, it probably works both ways, i.e., perhaps the better a catcher knows his fielders, pitchers, and opposing batters, the better able he will be to call for pitches that can put the ball where the fielders are more likely to get to them.

  7. stoatva - Apr 16, 2014 at 10:28 AM

    I think FP’s observation, which he attributed to Marlins’ analyst Carl Pavano, that Strasburg’s difficulties are consistent with his still recovering from his “clean-up” surgery, is the best “explanation” I’ve heard.

    There are no “minor” arm surgeries for a Major League Pitcher.

    • NatsNut - Apr 16, 2014 at 10:45 AM

      I talk a lot about how the team, manager and players all lie to us about injuries and issues and such. If true, it’s kinda funny that they would all rather have us think they either suck or that the medical staff sucks than have us know more about what’s really going on with injuries/issues/etc.

      • stoatva - Apr 16, 2014 at 10:52 AM

        Although I am no athlete I have a lot of recent experience with orthopedic surgery. It’s an assault… kind of like a systematically planned auto accident. What’s involved in recovering the kind of fine muscle control an elite MLB pitcher requires is beyond my ability to imagine.

        My ortho (who’s associated with the Skins) says he tells his athletes that if all goes well it will be a year before they’ve really and truly recovered from a typical surgery, and they never believe him. Until about a year later.

      • 6ID20 - Apr 16, 2014 at 11:04 AM

        What benefit is there to providing medical details to the press, fans and ultimately the opponents? Unlike the NFL, MLB does not require an injury report before every game. Why should a team voluntarily provide information that could put them at a competitive disadvantage?

      • Sonny G 10 - Apr 16, 2014 at 11:34 AM

        NatsNut, I think its kinda a macho thing. Most players don’t want to be accused of being whiners or excuse makers. Its kind of a code that you don’t do that and when a player does do that, his peers look down on him. The other aspect of this is they don’t want to lose their jobs and they are afraid if they can’t play someone will take their job away from them. So if they can keep an injury hidden or minimize it, they feel they have a better chance of keeping their job.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Apr 16, 2014 at 1:53 PM

        Two words: Ryan Church.

  8. micksback1 - Apr 16, 2014 at 10:50 AM

    There is a big enough sample size both in terms of seasons and games pitched so far this season to make what I feel is an accurate comparison to a very good young pitcher who played with the Senators and Tigers back in the late 60′s and early 70′s. I am referring to Joe Coleman. It is eery how similar both Stras and him are. Both, fast ball pitchers, a lot of hype when they hit MLB. Coleman was plagued exactly by what plagues Stras. He was a 500 or sub 500 pitcher with the old Senators, including even 1969 when every starter on that team but him had a winning record. Coleman could KO10-12 batters per game. In fact, he pitched 5 consecutive games (45 innings) all shutouts in 1970!! Like Stras, he was a head case in the same regard, he would either get blasted in the 1st or 2nd inning or he would let a mistake by his team mates affect his command late in the game. Jim Lemon, Ted Williams and Sid Hudson (pitching coach) had to deal with this. It was not until Coleman was traded to the Tigers in the famous Denny McClain deal that he grew up and Billy Martin’s tough love made Coleman a winner who went 21-9 in 1972. Unfortunately, Coleman got hit on a line drive and his career was over. I would rather see Stras win 20 games in DC, not somewhere else, but the time has come for some tough love by MW and Cat. Right now, Stras is MLB’s most over rated player in my view.

    • stoatva - Apr 16, 2014 at 10:56 AM

      I think you meant to say the “infamous” Denny McLain deal. ;-)

      Good comparison.

    • bowdenball - Apr 16, 2014 at 11:15 AM

      Joe Coleman career K/9- 6.05. Career ERA- 3.70. Career FIP- 3.65. Strasburg’s numbers are in my post above when someone else tried to make an equally terrible comparison to Ben McDonald.

      You’re already on the internet, folks. Is it really that hard to go to fangraphs or baseball reference to see if your comparison holds water?

      • micksback1 - Apr 16, 2014 at 11:24 AM

        Coleman did win 21 in 1971 I believe, he did suffer from either early innings or late inning meltdowns after a mistake in the field or if an umpire squeezed im. I think my comparison makes more sense than total carreer stats

        I suppose one can be in the tank for Stras if they choose regradless

      • micksback1 - Apr 16, 2014 at 11:37 AM

        to add, you post Coleman’s career stats, which does not support either your contention or mine because, I was comparing Stras to Coleman’s first 4 or 5 years in MLB. After Coleman won 21 in 1972, his career basically ended after he was hit ona line drive. To compare his overall stats is misleading.also, let’s see if and when Stras wins 20. to call my comparison terrible is over the top my friend

      • bowdenball - Apr 16, 2014 at 11:38 AM

        Sorry, but I’m going to give more slightly more credibility to numbers that actually reflect the players’ on-field performance than your psychological evaluations of strangers you’re watching on TV as they compare to your evaluations of other pitchers from 45 years ago.

      • bowdenball - Apr 16, 2014 at 11:41 AM

        Fine, let’s compare their first 4-5 years. Coleman never got about 7.0 K/9 until 1971, his fifth year as a starter and his seventh appearing in the bigs. As I said, Strasburg’s career K/9 is 10.61. They’re completely different pitchers.

        Wins are a stupid, stupid way to measure pitchers. Still, if Strasburg pitched in an era where starters went 286 innings a year I promise you he’d win 20 several times.

      • micksback1 - Apr 16, 2014 at 11:47 AM

        I hope your are right in the long run. If I’m right , then hte outcome is stll a good one, provided Stras does not get beamed like Coleman. Before he was beamed, Coleman became one of the best pitchers in MLB, in part due to Billy Martin. Also, I guess if comparing a player t oa player 45 years ago is a problem for you, then I guess you must have issues with FP, Bobby C, Tim McCarver, Ray Knight and Johnny Holiday as well of 99% of all commentators who constantly compare players of different eras. The reason baseball is so great a game is because the past can be prologed and comparing stars from back in the day with the present is as old as the game its self and there are comnparisons that are worth mentioning

      • bowdenball - Apr 16, 2014 at 12:07 PM

        I feel like maybe I was a bit over the line with my tone, so let me apologize.

        I do think people are being unfair to Strasburg at the moment, though. It’s a reasonable reaction to a couple bad outings in a row. Still it’s important to remember that we’re not talking about his first full season right now. He’s been very good for several years. If he recovers from these early season problems and regains his 2010/ 2011, 2012 and 2013 form nobody can possibly call him a disappointment. That Strasburg was one of the ten or so best pitchers in the game.

        As for comparisons- I’m fine with the ones that are appropriate. However I don’t think a guy who strikes out more than a batter an inning and has two straight seasons with an ERA around 3.00 should be compared to guys who strike out about 6 batters every nine innings and had ERAs around 4.00.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - Apr 16, 2014 at 2:00 PM

        Although, if one were to compare players from different eras, don’t you have to account for differences between the eras, as well? As bball points out, indirectly, starters regularly went well past 200 innings in a season fifty years ago, and it seems that has to have had a measurable effect on their stats, and not in a good way. (Just guessing for now, I’m too lazy to look it up.) Also, there seemed to be more of an onus on not striking out, if I’m not mistaken, a few generations back.

        Short version: if you’re going to compare players, don’t you have to correct for the era they played in?

  9. Theophilus T.S. - Apr 16, 2014 at 10:54 AM

    I agree there is a possibility Strasburg is still affected by the elbow surgery. The problem is, that is contrary to everything he and the team have been saying since the surgery — “no, no, he’s just fine [going to be just fine],” etc. He and the team need to come clean on this — and they wouldn’t be giving away state secrets because the rest of the league has already figured it out. Alternatively, Strasburg’s trajectory is the result of denial. The quote from this morning’s WaPo really lit my fire: “I can live with a couple runs here or there in the first, but that put me behind the eight ball.” No you can’t “live with a couple of runs . . . in the first,” you idiot!. It is not acceptable for your team to keep coming to bat two, three, four runs behind. Grow up; learn what time the games actually begin.

    • micksback1 - Apr 16, 2014 at 10:58 AM

      agree with you. To tell you the truth Stras realy is very immature. it al te young prospects we have who seem hungry tradn Stras o an AL team for a quality player or two may not be a bad option long term?

      • scmargenau - Apr 16, 2014 at 11:31 AM

        I agree. He’s a whiner, immature and overrated. Good time to trade. Zim will be at first eventually and that leaves two holes to improve. 2nd base and CF. While adequate for now, nobody is great or does regular damage.

    • stoatva - Apr 16, 2014 at 10:58 AM

      I think the one absolute rule for players, coaches and managers giving interviews is: Don’t make news.

      I don’t even know why anyone bothers

    • bowdenball - Apr 16, 2014 at 11:24 AM

      So the guy who needs to grow up is the pitcher who’s simply being honest that sometimes teams are gonna score runs on you in the first inning (note the “here and there” part of his quote)? Not the guy who just called a complete stranger an idiot on a message board because the stranger hasn’t pitched as well as he wants him to pitch?

      • texnat1 - Apr 16, 2014 at 12:25 PM

        Yeah, the “here and there” was pretty critical to understanding what he was saying. Plus he is a guy who is trying to work out how to handle adversity better, so I don’t really mind him having a one run is not the end of the world attitude. Deep down, he probably doesn’t even believe it and probably is living and dying with every run–which is a problem.

        More broadly, I don’t think there is any value in parsing quotes form players, managers, GMs etc. They only give the quotes because they have to. They aren’t politicians and you can’t take anything they say seriously. All that matters is what happens between the lines.

  10. Eric - Apr 16, 2014 at 10:57 AM

    “” No you can’t “live with a couple of runs . . . in the first,” you idiot!. It is not acceptable for your team to keep coming to bat two, three, four runs behind. Grow up; learn what time the games actually begin.”

    Heh. Indeed.

    Maybe it’s just his way of getting back at his teammates for always making him pitch with almost 0 run support last year ;).

  11. micksback1 - Apr 16, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    tpos, let me try again.

    agree with you. To tell you the truth Stras really is very immature. with all the young prospects we have who seem hungry, maybe trading Stras to an AL team for a quality player or two may not be a bad option long term?

  12. philipd763 - Apr 16, 2014 at 11:01 AM

    Basically, the starting pitching has been very spotty. With Jose Fernandez going today, my money is on the Marlins because I doubt the Nationals hitters can do anything against him.

    • stoatva - Apr 16, 2014 at 11:05 AM

      I look for a strong bounce back from Roark. A run or two might win this one.

    • micksback1 - Apr 16, 2014 at 11:09 AM

      agree, but I think Tanner will pitch well. I am concerned and hope Nats do not fall far behind both the division and Wild Card races in April

      The real test will be the 4 games at home verse Cards. If Nats lose all 4 or 3 of 4, I hate to say this, the team may have serious issues, none of which have to do with talent. In other words I hope the Nats are not the Washington Capitals of MLB? I suppose Nats can win 90 beating non playoff teams, but when it comes to beating the Braves, Cards, Reds, Dodgers and Giants, is there a mental block? If Nats win or split with Cards, then they will be fine.Ii simply do not know at this point what the mindset of this club is. MW seemed confident this morning on the Junkies

      • Eric - Apr 16, 2014 at 11:14 AM

        Well, it’s MW’s job to seem confident, so that doesn’t mean much, imo.

        However, I do agree that beating or splitting with the Cards would be a good sign. To the extent that such things exist, the Cards lodged the original mental block in the Nats’ collective brain, so doing well against them might be a great first step to moving past generally skittish play against important teams.

  13. micksback1 - Apr 16, 2014 at 11:18 AM

    I think you hit the nail on the head, including game 5 verse Cards, Nats are 0-7 since then verse Cards.

    • texnat1 - Apr 16, 2014 at 12:06 PM

      That’s why it was so disappointing to lose last night. It would have been really helpful to win that series. It would have made a good showing in the STL series less important. Now they are facing a very tough matchup today and then an always tough matchup against arguably the best team in the NL.

      If they lose both series, a chorus of questions is going to hail down on the team about whether this is just a carbon copy repeat of last season–a strong start followed by getting humiliated by the Braves followed by a collapse.

      I would prefer that this team avoid that type of scrutiny. It leads to pressing.

      Stras’s latest implosion last night could turn out to be a pretty big deal I’m afraid. But I guess he can redeem it this weekend.

  14. chaz11963 - Apr 16, 2014 at 11:37 AM

    Here is very helpful analysis of Stras’ issues this year:

    http://natsbaseball.blogspot.com/2014/04/what-samatta-with-strasburg.html

    • Sonny G 10 - Apr 16, 2014 at 12:27 PM

      This article boils down to Stras not being able to hit his spots (wilder). True. It doesn’t offer a reason why though. I really believe the why is the surgery he had to clean out his elbow. Remember Storen had problems coming back from having his elbow cleaned out. I think stoatva has identified the problem in his reply at 10:52 above.

      • stoatva - Apr 16, 2014 at 1:02 PM

        Good point about Storen.

      • therealjohnc - Apr 16, 2014 at 3:37 PM

        Or maybe it’s early, three starts of 33 or 34, and he’s just not sharp yet.

        I was reading a Fangraphs chat yesterday hosted by Dave Cameron, one of their numbers guys. And to the onslaught of “Player X is doing unusually well, will that continue?” and “Player Y is doing unusually poorly, will that continue?” questions, his answer was basically the same: “April.”

  15. David Proctor - Apr 16, 2014 at 12:57 PM

    I don’t think tonight’s game is as unwinnable as everyone is acting. True, it’s unlikely we beat Fernandez. But we can beat their bullpen. We just need to drive Fernandez’s pitch count up and get him out of the game

    We also need Roark to keep us in the game.

    • texnat1 - Apr 16, 2014 at 1:00 PM

      Yes, that is exactly the formula.

      Plus hopefully Bryce can take him deep.

  16. stoatva - Apr 16, 2014 at 1:01 PM

    Sometimes a disagreement is an invitation to try and express oneself more clearly (sometimes, it’s just a disagreement, of course).

    Obviously if Strasburg finishes his career with numbers consistent with those he has posted thus far, any comparison with a McDonald or a Coleman is absurd, and this “troubling early season trend” won’t have been troublesome at all. But what if the trend signals a year or two of the league “catching up” with Strasburg at 25-26 in a way similar to what seemed to happen to Ben at 23-24. I doubt this, and certainly hope it will not be the case, primarily because Strasburg’s secondary pitches are so much better than my recollection of McDonald’s. But tack on a hypothetical year or two of 4+ ERAs and a homer per 9 innings and suddenly the comparison doesn’t look so ridiculous.

    My layman’s guess is that, in addition to “fine tuning” his motion after surgery, Strasburg’s problems may be caused in part by the radical change in approach opponents are taking… when he was on a strict innings limit, the approach seemed to be to “wait him out,” whereas now they’re attacking him early in the count.

    I don’t think these issues are insurmountable, but I’m ready to see some surmounting.

    And with that I need to get back to doing what I’m supposedly paid for. Ciao.

    • bowdenball - Apr 16, 2014 at 1:27 PM

      I see what you’re saying. My issue with the comparison is that McDonald was never as good as Strasburg has already been for years. He had one half-season as a phenom, 118 innings total. And with our new understanding of the game we can now see that was mostly a product of incredible good fortune, not good pitching- he had a .218 BABIP in that 1991 season. He was never that good, the only things that “caught up with him” were regression and the baseball gods.

      Strasburg, on the other hand, has over 400 innings of outstanding pitching under his belt already. Sure it’s possible that he falls off considerably in his third full season as a starter, but even if he did- and it seems unlikely- he’d have a completely different career arc than McDonald. He’d be a guy who was great for 400+ innings before something changed, not a guy who got lucky for 100 innings until the laws of averages caught up with him.

      • jd - Apr 16, 2014 at 1:42 PM

        Bowdenball,

        I agree with pretty much everything you say and like you I try to step back and look at objective data before I react to ‘yesterday’s’ game or even to a string of below average performances.

        What I think is true though is that somewhere along the way Strasburg has stopped being the dominating pitcher he was when he first came up. The strike outs are there but you rarely see the 99 – 100 MPH fast ball which was clearly a staple in the early days. Whether by design or something else Stras’s fastball is now generally 95 MPH which is nothing to sneeze at but it’s not Verlander territory which is where I thought Stras was headed when he 1st came up.

      • stoatva - Apr 16, 2014 at 1:50 PM

        All good points, thanks.

        A couple of small children put a pretty serious dent in my baseball watching during the mid to late nineties. I was actually somewhat surprised to discover what a solid but not spectacular big league career Ben managed to put together while I was otherwise occupied.

  17. Sec 3 My Sofa - Apr 16, 2014 at 2:06 PM

    Amazing how a few miles per hour can move him from “pretty good” to “Jeeezuz!” — and back again.

  18. Theophilus T.S. - Apr 16, 2014 at 2:12 PM

    McDonald’s problem was a limited pitch repertoire, which consisted of a 98 mph FB and an over-the-top, slow 12-to-6 CB that begged to be timed and launched out of the park. Sort of like what Pat Dobson called the “Golden Yellowhammer,” except that Dobson’s was faster and broke harder. It was obvious from the day McDonald came up that he needed to improve and diversify his tools to be successful — and he didn’t. Strasburg has all the tools — unless he is permanently damaged goods — but his head and the game seem to be on different planes.

  19. Sec 3 My Sofa - Apr 16, 2014 at 2:23 PM

    I found somebody who might match up better than Ben McDonald, but I already posted as a reply, above (qv).

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