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Friday, June 21, 2013
Strasburg remains effective without support

By ESPN Stats & Information



At 3-6, Stephen Strasburg has already matched his 2012 loss total (15-6). On Friday, he looks to avoid a career-high seventh loss as the Washington Nationals host the Colorado Rockies.

But don't let those losses act as an accurate reflection of how he's pitched this season.

Strasburg's strikeout numbers may have dipped, but he's harder to hit than ever. A closer look at Strasburg's numbers reveals an elite pitcher plagued by a lack of run support.

More ground balls
Strasburg has nearly halved his line-drive rate from last season, cutting it from 23 percent to 12 percent. That equates to about one fewer line drive allowed per start. With that has come in increase in his ground-ball rate from 44 percent to 54 percent.

Wasington's defense has not performed at the same level against grounders that it did last season. The Nationals infielders have allowed four hitters to reach via error on grounders this season, the same total he had all of last season. Those errors have been costly.

Strasburg has yielded nine unearned runs this season. He allowed only six in 2012.

Nasty offspeed stuff
Strasburg’s offspeed stuff sometimes gets overlooked because of the overpowering nature of his fastball. But those pitches have been better so far this season than they were last year.

It has reached the point of those pitches being almost impossible to hit for power. Last season, those pitches yielded nine extra-base hits, including four home runs, but in 2013, Strasburg has thrown 449 offspeed pitches and yielded only two extra-base hits.

Our video-tracking system rates balls as being either hard-hit, medium-hit, or soft-hit. Only one player has a hard-hit ball against a Strasburg offspeed pitch this season -- Giancarlo Stanton with a ground-ball double on Opening Day.

No run support
Despite holding opponents to a lower batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage than he did last season, the results haven’t been there in the win column for Strasburg. That’s a direct result of disappearing run support.

Last season, the Nationals provided him with 4.4 runs per start. In 2013, that’s down to 2.7, the second lowest in the NL ahead of only Ricky Nolasco (2.5).

In his six losses, Washington has scored a total of nine runs.

The situation is at its worst at Nationals Park. Despite a 1.09 ERA at home, Strasburg is 2-3. In two of those losses, Strasburg didn’t even allow an earned run.