Name: Stephen James Strasburg
Nickname(s): Stras, The Soul Crusher, Jesus
DOB: July 20, 1988
From: San Diego, California
Position: Starting Pitcher Rotation: First Spot
With the Nats Since: Drafted in 2009, made his Major League debut 2010
Just Who Is This Guy?: I sure hope you know who Stephen Strasburg is! If you want a refresher course on him, check out our 2013 preview before you read on any further.
What Happened in 2013: One word: Regression. Strasburg took a step back in 2013 in many statistical categories. Granted, he battled a lat muscle injury and had surgery in October to remove “loose bodies,” (bone chips) from his elbow (but loose bodies is more fun to say). We all know that Strasburg has fantastic stuff, but 2013 only highlighted a little bit of what he can actually do on the mound.
Let’s take a closer look into Strasburg’s 2013 from multiple statistical angles. First, while his 8-9 record doesn’t really mean much, of the 30 games that he pitched only 18 were quality starts. Still more than half his games, but a step backwards compared to his having 20 quality starts in 28 games during 2012.
Strasburg had two extra starts in 2013, and only allowed 163 hits, which was the same as 2012, so a net positive given how many more pitches he has thrown. Still, Stras gave up more runs (71 with 61 earned) in 2013 than he did in 2012 (62 with 56 earned).
Strasburg’s WHIP went down in 2013, from 1.15 in 2012 to 1.04 in 2013, which makes sense because he pitched in more innings in 2013 than he did in 2012 and gave up the same amount of hits. Another stat that regressed was his strikeout total. It went from 197 in 2012 (with less starts) to 191 in 2013. The biggest stat regression in terms of strikeouts though was his K/9 average, which dropped from 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 2012 to 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings in 2013.
So, even with his BABIP going down from .316 in 2012 to .266 in 2013, how did Strasburg only manage eight wins to go with a 3.00 ERA? The answer isn’t in the advanced stats, but within the more common stats. Strasburg hit more batters (12 in 2013 v. 4 in 2012), walked more batters (56 in 2013 v. 48 in 2012), threw more wild pitches (7 in 2013 v. 5 in 2012) and even committed his first balk (and two more after that) of his career in 2013. What could possibly be the reason for this? Well, it turns out that Strasburg’s elbow, the one with the “loose bodies,” wasn’t fully functioning properly, leading to more errant pitches that were out of the zone or in batter’s wheelhouses.
In the end, Strasburg’s season was a mixed bag. He regressed in some areas, but did improve on a few things too. Those improvements will hopefully lead to a better 2014.
What’s expected in 2014?: Other than being healthy for the entire season and making 30+ starts, Strasburg is expected to have a dominating year. During the offseason, he added a slider to his arsenal of pitches, to go with his fastball, curveball and changeup. The slider has looked siiiiiick thus far in Spring Training, so hopefully that will continue into the regular season, giving him another way to get hitters out.
But what should fans really expect out of Strasburg in 2014? I firmly believe that he will pitch like he did in 2012, but be even better. His ERA ought to be right around 3.00 in 32 starts. The offseason surgery on his elbow will help him in the long run because it ought to help with his mechanics. Better mechanics leads to less stress on the arm, which leads to fewer injuries. The better pitching mechanics have granted him a fuller range of motion and, mixed with his new slider, will make hitters look even sillier when they strike out against him.
If It All Goes Right: Stephen Strasburg will not only win the 2014 NL Cy Young award and be a 2014 All-Star Game selection but he will also post a 20+ win season with 200+ strikeouts and an ERA under 2.50. The Nationals will rely on him being completely healthy (completely is the keyword) all season in order to make the playoffs, with the possibility of of him toeing the rubber in the first game of the 2014 World Series. Strasburg wil also start the 2014 All-Star game and throw a scoreless inning against the top bats from the American League.
If It All Goes Wrong: The only real way everything could go wrong for Strasburg and the Nationals in 2014 is if he were to miss time because due to injury. As it always is with Strasburg, in my opinion, the injury risk is always a concern. I’m not saying he will get hurt, but I’m saying there’s a chance he will. And that chance could throw a curveball in the Nationals’ postseason plans.