Imagine your first day at your dream job. For as perfect as it might have seemed, it was not as good as Stephen Strasburg’s debut tonight. There is more to it than his numbers, but we should look at the numbers at the very least
7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 14 K, 0 BB
Obviously the first thing that jumps off the page is 14 strikeouts. Now strikeouts are a very overrated statistic for non-strikeout pitchers, but as Strasburg is a guy who is a strikeout pitcher, it is a very good sign. The goose egg next to “walks” is also extremely impressive. A lot of guys who debut in the majors as strikeout artists have control issues. One guy who comes to mind who is recent is Clayton Kershaw (who is separated from Strasburg by only 4 months). He is really talented but has control issues, and it keeps his walk numbers up and his innings count down since he is throwing so many pitches. That is not Strasburg. He throws strikes consistently, with all 3 pitches, and with location on those strikes. You cannot ask for too much more out of a pitcher, but if he gives you 98 mph in the 7th inning, then you can take that as a bonus. As far as the number show, nothing but praise for Strasburg.
“W” as in win. He got the win for his team. I understand that there is some luck involved in getting wins as a pitcher since you cannot really control the offense’s production, but when it comes to an organization like the Nationals, it is important. A win means an energized fan base, a good sign for Strasburg personally and a signal to fans that he will not just be out there as a great talent, but a guy who can help them win. It is not entirely in his hands, but too often, statisticians overlook the influence a pitcher can have on the team as a whole. Roy Halladay in Toronto comes to mind as a good example. You can give him the ball and the pressure is off the team. They know they only have to get a few across and everything will be taken care of. Strasburg can take the pressure off a team that is not used to the pressures that comes with winning.
Stephen Strasburg got into a jam in the 4th inning. Men on 1st and 2nd with no outs, and Garrett Jones at the plate. The fact that he got the groundball he needed was impressive, but the really impressive part is coming up. He got the double play, and then faced Delwyn Young with Neil Walker on 3rd. Strasburg threw a changeup with pretty good location, but caught a little too much of the plate. Delwyn Young didn’t destroy it, but he got just enough oomph on it to launch it over the right field wall.
How will he respond? Is it a sign of things to come tonight? Is he tough enough to get back on track?
Very well, no, and yes to answer those questions.
After giving up his first runs as a major leaguer, and first home run, Stephen Strasburg looked about as rattled as the guards at Buckingham Palace. He toed the rubber, and went back to work, getting a weak popup from Andy LaRoche. The Pirates did not know it, and neither did I, but after that home run, Stephen Strasburg was going into Beast Mode. He struck out 8 of the next 10 batters he faced and did not allow a baserunner. He gave up that home run, and not only did he not crack, he got better. How many rookies in any sport can you say that about, let alone how hyped they are. I cannot think of many, and even fewer when you add the hype and the sport. Just phenomenal. It was genuinely a privilege to watch.
Keep an eye on him throughout his next few starts, including possibly a start against the lowly Indians in an interleague showdown. Look at the numbers, but if you can, watch him. There is more to this kid than his gaudy numbers. There is a pitcher out there, not just a thrower.
Get ready, DC, the Federal Fireballer/Flamethrower is here.