Stephen Strasburg had a great 2013 season that didn’t really get noticed. The voters looked right over him for Cy Young votes because of his 8-9 record. That is a sad thing to see, as the people who follow baseball daily, have failed to adapt to the new way of baseball thinking. That is the thing, they don’t think. They cover news, they don’t follow statistics. Well, they need to start doing both, because it’s starting to look bad on them.
Anyway, back to Strasburg, his 2013 was fabulous. You could say it was the most consistent he has been since become a National. In 2012 he won 15 games and that’s all fine and dandy but in 2013, he had a lower ERA, gave up less hits per nine, and pitched the most innings of his career. He was a little wild at times but all in all a very consistent season.
He is entering his age 25 season, which you could say should be his prime. This is his time to prove the doubters wrong and go out and show that he can lead a pitching staff. He is the guy that when he is on the mound, people pay to see. He is that good. He just has to stay consistent.
His problem seems to be throwing too many fastballs over the heart of the plate. He doesn’t have the 97 he once had, he is at about 94-95 most of the time, which is a world of difference to a hitter. He wants to get ahead in the count with his fastball, but hitters are jumping on it. He has to adjust. He rarely uses his two-seam, which if he used it more, maybe he would get more swings and misses.
Hitters go up hacking against him. They swing 46% of the time. Which is why their contact rate of 86% is so high. He doesn’t throw enough balls. Yeah, that’s not what you want to hear when referring to a pitcher, but if he threw just enough balls in an at bat he would get more swings and misses and not give the batter a chance to get lucky with BABIP. He doesn’t have to throw them drastically outside the zone, but just off the corner of the plate. Wilson Ramos is down on the list of catchers with great framing ability, but on average, he earns about two calls a game. Those two calls could determine the outcome based on the situation.
He also doesn’t throw enough off-speed. He throws his off-speed about 37% of the time. When he does throw it, he gets a ton of swings and misses. If he can get his breaking ball over for a strike he is golden. If he can not, it could be a long day on the bump for Mr. Strasburg. His fastball gets hit in the air a lot and some of those will fly out of the ball park. He is that type of pitcher. A power guy that relies on his fastball to get a majority of his outs. Some times it works out, other times not as much.
So will he be better in 2014? I believe so. I don’t care about his win total, but I strongly believe he will throw 200 innings, strikeout a lot of hitters and give up around three runs per innings, which in turn gets him wins. That is how it works. The steamer at FanGraphs has him getting unlucky this season. They have his BABIP against over .300. It is all a guessing game with that stat, as it is how lucky you get, but I believe he will be better.
He will make his adjustments, he will finally be healthy, and he will lead this pitching staff. The Nationals signed him to do that and I believe he finally does so. What does Strasburg being great mean for the rest of the rotation? They become better. It is like a domino effect, Strasburg pitches great, so Gio Gonzalez wants to out pitch him and it goes down the line. You win championships on pitching, defense and timely hitting. It all starts with strike one and with Stephen Strasburg.