Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Settle Down, Stephen Strasburg's Still Really Really Good

Stephen Strasburg had a bad night. In his first start back from the disabled list, Strasberg went 4.1 innings, giving up 6 ER, with 4 Ks, 2 BB, and allowed a home run. The media is unsurprisingly overreacting to this, wondering if the hype for Strasberg is too much. Well, it’s not. Stephen Strasburg is far and away the best young pitcher in the game today, and is already among the best period.

(Note, all ranks are among pitchers with 50 or more IP)

Even after his mediocre start Tuesday against the Marlins, Strasburg has a 2.36 xFIP and a 2.17 FIP, ranks him first and third in those categories. According to Fangraph’s Pitch FX, Strasburg’s average fastball velocity of 97.3 MPH is the highest in baseball His respectable 44.9% groundball rate should continue to limit the number of home runs he allows, even if he doesn’t maintain his current rate of 0.61 HR/9. Strasburg is still striking out 12.12 per 9, second among MLB pitchers behind Carlos Marmol, while walking only 2.61 per 9. Strasburg will have some issues continuing to fan batters at this historic rate, as he ranks 6th in swings on pitches outside the strike zone (O-Swing 35.8%), and 18th in Contact on pitches in the strike zone (Z-Contact, 84.6%), but don’t expect him to become Nick Blackburn overnight. Strasburg’s walk rate is also relatively stable, as his first strike percentage is at a respectable 60.1%, and with his stuff, he’s always going to get a lot of swings on pitches outside of the strike zone.

The only thing that makes me hesitant to guarantee too much about Strasburg’s future is the position he plays. Starting pitchers are incredibly difficult to project, mostly due to the damage that throwing a baseball 100+ times every 5 days does to a person’s arm. People with a much better understanding of pitcher mechanics than myself have questioned the safety of Strasburg’s delivery, even comparing it to Mark Prior’s. There’s a great likelihood that if Strasburg stays healthy, he’s going to be one of the game’s premier pitchers for years to come.