Coming into the 2015 season, one of the top draft picks in the history of the Washington Nationals had to have a different role in the starting rotation. With Max Scherzer becoming the new ace of the team, Stephen Strasburg became the number three starter in the rotation behind both Scherzer and Jordan Zimmermann. Even though Strasburg had an injury-plagued season, he ended his 2015 on a great note that he will try to use as a springboard into the 2016 season.
The injuries for Strasburg started before the season began. Back in March, the 27-year-old right-hander twisted his left ankle during a workout that caused him to miss some Spring Training starts. Although he didn’t miss any regular season games at first, Strasburg did not get off to a good start.
After going 2-2 with a 4.60 ERA in five starts during the month of April, teams were able to crush Strasburg in May. In the month of May, he went 1-3 with a 10.13 ERA in just 16 innings. During that time, opponents hit five home runs and had a .351 average against him. After battling a back issue, Strasburg went on the DL after a start on May 29 against the Reds when he couldn’t get out of the second inning.
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Strasburg returned to the rotation on June 23 against the Braves and put together three great outings. Before injuring his left oblique on July 4 against the Giants, the right-hander gave up two runs on nine hits and struck out 18 batters over 15.2 innings. He would end up missing over a month due to the oblique injury.
Once Strasburg returned from his oblique injury, the fastball was back in the mid-to-late 90’s and he was as dominant as ever. In his final ten starts of the season, he went 6-2 with a 1.90 ERA, struck out 92 batters, walked eight, and held opponents to a .178 batting average. During the month of September, Strasburg had four straight double-digit strikeout games (50 strikeouts), walked only four batters, and opponents hit a mere .144.
While Strasburg finished the season with an 11-7 record and a 3.46 ERA, he had a FIP of 2.81, which was the second lowest on the team behind Scherzer (2.77). His strikeouts per nine inning was 11, which was the third highest in his career and he matched his walks per nine innings total from a season ago (1.8).
One of the more interesting stats in regard to this season for Strasburg is that 21.8% of the balls that were hit in play were soft contact (according to Fangraphs). That percentage is the highest Strasburg has had in any season of his career.
With Strasburg having one more year left on his contract, all eyes will be on what the organization decides to do with their top pick from the 2009 MLB Draft. Even though his year was filled with injuries, Strasburg was dominant when healthy and that’s a good sign heading into next year. While he doesn’t get an A for this season, he does get an above average grade for his 2015 season.