The friendly confines of home have not been kind for Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg. Is there a specific reason for his slump?
Never one to pitch well in the heat, Strasburg is in a slump; especially at home where he has surrendered 11 earned runs over his last 10 innings. Against the Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds, he failed to pitch past the fifth inning. Although the Nats went 1-1 in those games, he failed to earn a decision.
In three road starts this month, he is 2-1. Over 18.1 innings, six runners crossed home plate with five counting as earned. The loss came after a Jose Lobaton passed ball allowed the Los Angeles Dodgers to squeeze in a second run as Strasburg battled Clayton Kershaw. Not the worst thing in the world.
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Overall, Strasburg’s numbers at Nationals Park this year are a mystery. In seven starts, he is 2-1 with a 4.70 ERA. Opponents have a slash line of .251/.293/.433 off him with seven home runs.
Away from home cooking, the numbers tell another story. In eight starts, Strasburg is 6-1 with a 2.61 ERA. The slash line elsewhere is .201/.275/.317. Only three balls left the yard over 7.2 more innings.
When it is hot, Nationals Park plays easier for hitters. There is a jet stream to right field that makes home runs more common over the out-of-town scoreboard. Both games where the Nats topped 15 runs came at home and Saturday’s 18-run explosion over Cincy was a sticky day.
Yet, as a team, the overall ERA is 3.91 at home and 4.33 away. Batters hit .248 off Nats pitching in Washington and .250 at their own parks.
Why does Strasburg struggle in his own park now?
Over his career, his earned run average is nearly a half run better at home than on the road. It is 3.03 in DC and 3.43 away. If you think the heat bothers his stuff, consider in the summer months before the batting average is .227 for June, .218 for July and .224 in August.
We assume he is healthy. Strasburg fanned 10 Braves two weeks ago. Although his pitches were flat versus the Reds, his speeds were in line with a normal start. Hydration might be an issue. By the end of his night, the sweat dripped off the bill of his cap.
The other change for Strasburg from years past is his delivery. Working exclusively from the stretch, is that a big enough difference to throw is numbers out of whack? Probably not.
Strasburg’s next start is at home this week against the Chicago Cubs. Another rough one against the tired world champions is worth keeping an eye on.