This was going to be a full review, but then I got word that I had to shut it down before the end. I’m kidding, and I know this is a soft spot for Nationals fans. Washington got the best news it could have hoped for from their young ace coming back from Tommy John surgery. After being limited to five starts a year ago, Strasburg started 28 games and went 15-6 before being shut down a topic of much contention of which most people didn’t get the consequences right.
2012 Prediction (ZiPS): 6-3, 2.85 ERA, 14 starts, 75.2 IP, 23/78 BB/K, 139+
2012 Actual: 15-6, 3.16, 28 starts, 159.1 IP, 48/197 BB/K, 125 ERA+
Perhaps the most positive sign for the Nationals was Strasburg’s August. He went 4-1 with a 2.79 ERA and a 11/32 BB/K ratio. This was before his two September starts and shows that there was very little fatigue late in the year when he was close to his innings limit and fatigue could have set in. In fact it was really this month that made most of the media upset that the Nationals were continuing their plan to stop Strasburg even when a playoff run seemed imminent.
I will not delve into that in this article. However, because Strasburg was held out and finished the year healthy, he enters 2013 like he did 2011. Entering the year for what could be his first full season in the Majors. The funny thing is, since 2010, this team relies even less on Strasburg which is why the team is coming off of an NL East Championship. With Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler, that is a pretty solid top four of any rotation. With the Nationals solid bullpen, that takes even less stress off the arm of Strasburg in close games in later innings.
My estimation is that next year, the Nationals will be a little more conservative with his innings in the early part of the year and allow some lee-way for him to not set too high a number when September and (hopefully) playoffs come into play. Strasburg’s September was touted as a reason the early rest was warranted, but the numbers weren’t bad and shouldn’t be taken out of context more than any other 2 start sample. The only thing that you may be able to take from his August and September would be that his K/BB went down. This can be due to him trying to be fine instead of over powering with his stuff and maybe even pitching more to contact. But he didn’t allow many more hits than he did normally throughout the year.
Either way, the Nationals expect big things from Strasburg to start the 2013 season. The way that the 2011 season ended for him, that is music to any Nationals fan’s ears.
Season Highlight: There are quite a few options – like his two 13 strikeout games, but I will go with his second start of the season April 11 against the Mets. He pitched 6 innings, struck out 9, allowed only 2 hits and three walks and most importantly allowed the entire Nationals fan base to exhale. That start showed everyone that he would be A-OK going forward and hopefully he can stay healthy and we all get to see his potential.
Chien Ming Wang