Stats & Info: Stephen Strasburg

Top stats to know: For openers ...

March, 30, 2014
Mar 30

Getty Images, AP PhotoAmong those worth watching on Opening Day are Stephen Strasburg and Albert Pujols.
Three teams have had their Opening Day so far, but the baseball season really gets going Monday with a near-full slate.

Here are some of the statistical storylines we'll be keeping an eye on.

Usually a good day for the Mets
The New York Mets haven’t had a winning record since the 2008 season, but Opening Day is usually a season highlight for them.

The Mets’ 34-18 Opening-Day record is the best of any team.

They’ll face a Washington Nationals team that was picked by 12 experts to win the World Series and that has the consensus favorite for MVP in Bryce Harper (by comparison, none of the experts have the Mets even making the playoffs).

The Nationals will start Stephen Strasburg, who was 4-0 with a 1.83 ERA in five spring-training starts. He’s allowed one run in 14 innings in two previous Opening Day starts.

Cano’s debut comes in best pitching matchup of day
Robinson Cano makes his Seattle Mariners debut in Anaheim (10 p.m. ET on ESPN2) against the Angels.

Cano has contributed 34.3 Wins Above Replacement over the last five seasons, the most in baseball in that span.

Jered Weaver will be charged with stopping Cano, who is 12 for 32 against the Angels ace in his career. Weaver has won his last three Opening Day decisions and has a 1.93 ERA in five Opening-Day starts.

Felix Hernandez has started all but one of those openers for Seattle (this will be his sixth straight). He’s 4-0 with a 1.33 ERA on Opening Day (five of the six starts came against the Oakland Athletics)

The Mariners have won seven straight Opening Day games. With the Diamondbacks losing their opener earlier this season, the Mariners’ Opening Day winning streak is the longest current one in the majors.
Milestone Watch: Most Opening Day HR
Opening Day in Chicago means a matchup of the two teams at the bottom in the AL Central last year with the Twins facing the White Sox.

White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn will be trying to set the major-league record for most Opening-Day home runs. Dunn’s eight are tied for the most all-time with Frank Robinson and Ken Griffey Jr.

In terms of season milestones, the most notable one on the horizon is that Angels first baseman Albert Pujols is eight home runs from 500 for his career.

Pujols would become the fourth player to hit 500 home runs within his first 14 seasons, joining Mark McGwire (522), Alex Rodriguez (518) and Willie Mays (505).

Elias Sports Bureau Stats of the Day
The Elias Sports Bureau notes that the Athletics are the first team to lose nine straight season openers since the Atlanta Braves did from 1972 to 1980. No team has lost 10 straight.

Oakland has been beset by pitching injuries, most notably to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, and will start rookie Sonny Gray, the ninth pitcher to start on Opening Day for the Athletics in the last nine seasons.

Gray, who impressed in last year’s postseason, will be making his 11th career start.

That won’t be the fewest of anyone on Monday. The Rangers, also beset by injuries, will start Tanner Scheppers against the Philadelphia Phillies. Scheppers will be the first pitcher to make his first start in a season opener since Fernando Valenzuela for the 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers.

Price's efficiency overwhelms Red Sox

July, 25, 2013
David Price had his way against the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday, allowing just one run on five hits in a complete-game victory.

David Price
Price is just the fourth visiting pitcher over the past 25 seasons to throw a nine-inning complete game at Fenway Park while throwing fewer than 100 pitches. The other two were Chuck Finley for the Angels in 1989 and Chien-Ming Wang for the Yankees in 2008.

Price has now thrown three complete games in his past four starts, and all three of those starts have been less than 100 pitches. He's the first pitcher since 2000 to throw three complete games in less than 100 pitches in a four-start span.

In fact, no pitcher since 2000 has had more than three nine-inning complete games with fewer than 100 pitches in an entire season. The only other pitchers with three in a season since 2000 are Mark Mulder in 2003, Brad Radke in 2001 and Greg Maddux in 2000.

How did Price dominate the Red Sox?

• Price was efficient. Only one plate appearance against him lasted beyond five pitches (David Ortiz - six), just the second time he's done that this season. In the month of July, opponents are averaging 3.0 pitches per plate appearance against Price.

• Price threw 41 of his 59 fastballs in the strike zone (70 percent), his second-highest percentage in 134 career starts. Fifteen of the 17 outs he recorded with the pitch were in the zone.

• Price started 23 of 31 hitters (74 percent) with a first-pitch strike and didn't stop there. He went to only one 2-0 count and one three-ball count the entire game. Among the 151 pitchers to make at least 10 starts this season, nobody goes to a 2-0 count less often than Price (6.8 percent of plate appearances).

No run support for Strasburg

Stephen Strasburg
Stephen Strasburg has not been fortunate when it comes to run support this season. He was unlucky again on Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Strasburg is only the second pitcher in the modern era (since 1900) with at least 12 strikeouts, two or fewer hits allowed and no walks in a loss.

The other pitcher was James Shields last season for the Rays against the Orioles.

The Nationals ace has recorded at least 12 strikeouts four times in his career, and three of those outings are against the Pirates.

What went right for Strasburg?

• Strasburg induced 19 whiffs on 60 swings (32 percent), his third-highest percentage this season and something he's made a habit of against the Pirates in his career. The Pirates have missed on 41 percent of their swings against Strasburg, the highest rate of any starter against a single team since Strasburg's debut in 2010 (minimum four starts).

• The Pirates took 10 swings against Strasburg's changeup and missed on seven of them. Since 2010, they've missed on 68 percent of their swings against his changeup; all other teams have missed on 52 percent of their swings against that pitch.

• Though he had 19 swing-and-misses, only seven of his 12 strikeouts were swinging. His five looking strikeouts tied a career high and were as many as he had against the Pirates in his previous three starts combined.

Strasburg remains effective without support

June, 21, 2013

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.

Harper pacing NL in OPS thanks to hot start

April, 29, 2013

Chuck Myers/Getty ImagesBryce Harper looks to continue his hot start on Monday night against the Braves.
The Atlanta Braves host the Washington Nationals at 7:00 ET tonight on ESPN. The Braves won the first three meetings between the teams this season, outscoring the Nationals 18-5 in the process. Among those three wins was a victory over Monday’s starter Stephen Strasburg, the second of what’s turned into a four-game losing streak for Strasburg overall.

After their great start to the season, the Braves have also hit a rough patch of late. Atlanta started an MLB-best 12-1, but has gone 3-8 since and is currently riding a four-game losing streak after being swept against the Detroit Tigers over the weekend.

So what can we expect on Monday night? Let’s run through some notes to know:


Bryce Harper currently leads the big leagues in OPS (1.200) with two games to play in April. At 20 years old, he could become the youngest player to lead MLB in OPS through April since 1965 when Ed Kranepool of the Mets also did so at age 20 (1.161).

Harper had just one hit in 10 at-bats against the Braves in their series earlier this month, but his five career home runs against Atlanta are tied for his second-most against a single team. He has six career homers against the Marlins.


Across the diamond, Braves outfielder Justin Upton is third in the big leagues in OPS at 1.171 and he leads all of baseball with 12 home runs. He’s the sixth player in major-league history to hit at least 12 homers during the month of April and he’s just two shy of the April record shared by Alex Rodriguez (2007) and Albert Pujols (2006).

Since the Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966, Upton’s April is one of five months in which a Brave has hit at least 12 HR and marks the most any Brave has had during the month of April.


(Read full post)

Harvey's heat can join Gooden, Pedro

April, 24, 2013

Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports
Matt Harvey is averaging almost 95 MPH on his fastball this season.

When Matt Harvey climbs the mound tonight against the Dodgers (7 ET on ESPN), he'll attempt to become the third pitcher in Mets history to go 5-0 or better in the month of April.

The company he'll attempt to join has four Cy Young awards and more than 5,400 career strikeouts between them: Dwight Gooden, who did it in 1988, and Pedro Martinez (2006).

It starts with the fastball...
Harvey is averaging almost 95 MPH on his fastball this season, second in the majors among qualified starters.

Incredibly, the top three in that category all play in the NL East and all three are under 25 years old: Harvey, Stephen Strasburg and Jose Fernandez.

The fastball has been Harvey's strikeout pitch. He's racked up 19 strikeouts from the fastball alone this season, second in the majors to only Shelby Miller.

And Harvey has shown the ability to ramp up the velocity as the situations get tougher.

With the bases empty, his average fastball velocity is 94.6 MPH. With runners in scoring positions and two outs, he's bumped that average velocity to 95.5 MPH.

In his last start, Friday against Strasburg, Harvey had some of his best heat. His average fastball sat at 97.2 MPH.

...and sets up the changeup...
That fastball really sets up the changeup, which averages 86.3 MPH, a difference of more than eight MPH from his average fastball.

Only seven starters have a bigger difference between their average fastball and changeup. go with a hard slider
And his slider is nearly as devastating.

Harvey's slider averages 88.8 MPH this season, the fastest average slider among all starters. Harvey's slider has been thrown harder than James Shields' or Madison Bumgarner's slider.

Batters are just 1-19 in at-bats ending against Harvey's slider this season, striking out on it an astonishing 41 percent of the time.

It's the highest strikeout rate of any of his pitches, with the fastball second and the changeup third.

Key matchups against the Dodgers
Carl Crawford is hitting .385 (5-13) with a .923 OPS against changeups this season.

Crawford is having early success this season by laying off pitches outside the strike zone. His chase rate is down to 20 percent this season after hovering in the mid-30s in each of the last four seasons.

Likewise, Matt Kemp is hitting .375 (3-8) with an .875 OPS against changeups this season, his best numbers against any pitch. Overall, Kemp is batting .247 with an OPS of .594 this April.

That's a steep decline from last April when he batted .417 with a 1.383 OPS.

Harvey pitches like an ace ... again

April, 19, 2013

New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey said earlier this week that he was very keyed up to match up with Washington Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg on Friday night.

Thus far this season, Harvey has proved to be the better of the two, and Friday did nothing to change that.

Let’s run through the accolades for Harvey, whose 102 strikeouts in his first 14 appearances are the third-most in Mets history, trailing only Dwight Gooden (107) and Nolan Ryan (103).

What made him so good Friday?
Harvey clearly was keyed up. He averaged a career-high 96.3 mph on his fastball and was able to do so without overthrowing.

He threw his heater for strikes at a 75 percent rate, the second-best strike rate he’s had with the pitch in any start. In fact, this was the first start in Harvey’s career in which more than half of the fastballs taken by the opposing team were called strikes (15 of 29).

The Nationals gave Harvey a lefty-laden lineup to face, and he retired 14 of the 17 left-handed hitters.

Lefties are 6-for-60 with five walks against Harvey this season. Bryce Harper was 0-for-3 against Harvey on Friday and is 0-for-6 against him for his career.

Harvey had a very sharp breaking slider Friday. He threw the pitch 26 times (the most he’s thrown it in any start) and got six outs with it, yielding just one baserunner.

How does he compare to his teammates?
Harvey is 4-0 with an 0.93 ERA and 0.66 WHIP, with 32 strikeouts in his four starts this season.

The other Mets starters are 2-6 with a 5.68 ERA and 1.68 WHIP, with 36 strikeouts in 11 starts.

How does Harvey compare to Strasburg?
On this night, Harvey was better than his mound counterpart.

Strasburg now has lost three straight starts for the second time in his career.

Strasburg allowed a 438-foot home run to Lucas Duda and a 427-foot homer to Ike Davis, the two longest of his career.

Our video-review service credited the Mets with six “hard-hit” balls against Strasburg and the Nationals with only one against Harvey (Harper’s line drive that was caught by center fielder Jordany Valdespin).

For the season, Harvey has been the better of the two pitchers in just about every respect. We’ve placed some of their numbers in the chart on the right to show notable areas in which Harvey has an edge.

All good streaks must come to an end
Two streaks of note concluded in this contest -- one being the Nationals' eight-game win streak at Citi Field. It was their longest road winning streak against the Mets.

The other was a run of four straight Harvey starts dating back to last season in which he pitched at least seven innings, allowing one run or fewer and three hits or fewer. The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that he’s the only pitcher since 1900 to have four straight such appearances.

The new streak to look at is this one. Harvey now has made five straight starts in which he pitched at least seven innings, allowing one run or fewer and four hits or fewer.

The only pitcher to do that in the past 25 seasons was a pretty good one -- Randy Johnson in 1997.

Stat of the Night
Harvey is the second pitcher in Mets history to win each of his first four starts of a season while allowing one earned run or fewer in each start.

David Cone did it in his first five starts in 1988.

Aces were low card in deck on Sunday

April, 7, 2013
As you can see from the graphic above, Sunday was a rough day to be among the best starting pitchers in baseball.

It was not the best of days for some staff aces. Let’s take a closer look at each of their struggles.

Matt Cain
Cain matched his career high with nine runs allowed, tying a mark he set against the Cardinals in 2008.

Cain cruised through the first three innings, then could do nothing right in a dreadful fourth inning in which he was charged with all of those runs.

Everything deserted Cain that inning, most notably his slider, which yielded hits to Yadier Molina, Ty Wigginton, and Matt Carpenter.

David Price
Price held right-handed hitters to a .232 batting average and .332 slugging percentage last season.

But Indians righties pelted him, going 8-for-18 with a home run and three walks in handing the Rays a decisive 13-0 defeat.

Trouble with righties has been an issue for Price in both starts. They went 7-for-18 with a homer against him in his season debut against the Orioles.

The Price of last season would have gotten 14 misses on the 66 swings that righties have taken against him this season, but so far, Price only has nine.

Cole Hamels
Hamels allowed eight earned runs, including a big day to the Royals Billy Butler on a day in which he did not have his best fastball.

Hamels’ heater was clocked at an average of 90.6 miles-per-hour on Sunday, down 1.4 miles-per-hour from what he averaged in his opening day start against the Braves.

Hamels gave up more hits with his heater (seven) than he did in any start last season and only induced two swings-and-misses with it, after notching five against the Braves.

R.A. Dickey
Dickey allowed as many runs (five) and as many first-inning homers (one) as he did in the first inning in all of 2012, and yielded eight runs in all.

The biggest issue Dickey had was that the Red Sox didn’t bite at the knuckleballs he offered that were out of the strike zone. Dickey got Boston hitters to chase only six of 34 such offerings. That rate (17.6 percent) was about half the rate (34.1 percent) at which he got hitters to chase last season. It was lower than any rate he had in a start in 2012.

Stephen Strasburg
Strasburg retired nine of the 10 hitters against whom he got two strikes in his first start against the Miami Marlins, but set down only 10 of 16 on the way to giving up six earned runs in a Sunday loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

Among the key two-strike hits were an RBI double by Jay Bruce in the first inning and an RBI single to the last batter he faced, Brandon Phillips, in the sixth.

Top stats to know: Washington Nationals

March, 5, 2013

Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post/Getty ImagesDespite starting 2012 as a teenager, Bryce Harper improved dramatically by the end of his rookie season.
Baseball Tonight will be at Washington Nationals camp on Tuesday afternoon. The Nationals are the consensus National League favorite, returning much of their team from a 98-win season.

Let’s look at some stats to know on this team.

90 has been tough to duplicate
The Expos/Nationals franchise has won 90 or more games in consecutive seasons only once -- the 1979 and 1980 seasons.

The Nationals haven't even strung together consecutive winning seasons since 2002 and 2003.

The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that the Nationals are the fourth team since 2002 to be eliminated from the postseason by losing a game in which they led in the ninth inning or later. The previous three teams -- 2005 Atlanta Braves, 2009 Boston Red Sox and 2009 Colorado Rockies -- declined by an average of nine games in win-loss record the following season. None of the three made the postseason.

Harper no longer a teen
Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper had a historic season by teenager standards, netting 5.0 Wins Above Replacement.

That’s the highest total by any player in an age-19-or-younger season (age as of June 30) in baseball’s modern era (since 1900).

Harper, who turned 20 last October, ended the 2012 regular season on a tear.

Over his last 34 games, Harper hit .341 with 10 home runs in 126 at-bats and increased his average fly-ball distance from 281 feet (prior to that) to 304 feet (the rest of the season).

Harper’s 1.098 OPS in that span ranked best in the National League.

He also showed an ability to make adjustments. On breaking balls on the outer half of the plate, Harper hit .225 in the first four months of the season with just three home runs and a strikeout rate of 27.1 percent. In August and September, Harper hit .313 with a .914 OPS, four home runs and a strikeout rate of 17 percent.

Strasburg unleashed
Stephen Strasburg should have the freedom to go deeper into the season after being shut down last September with 159⅓ innings pitched.

Strasburg allowed 10 runs in 14 innings in his last three starts, but was brilliant throughout the season, posting a 3.16 ERA and averaging 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings.

Strasburg’s overpowering fastball was complemented by nasty off-speed stuff, getting a 46 percent miss rate on his curve, slider and changeup. That was the second best of any starting pitcher in the majors, trailing only Cole Hamels of the Phillies.

Notable acquisition: Denard Span
The Nationals made a trade with the Minnesota Twins for center fielder Denard Span, whose 4.8 Wins Above Replacement ranked ninth-best among AL position players last season.

Much of Span’s value last season came from his defensive play, ranking third among major-league outfielders with 20 Defensive Runs Saved.

Notable acquisition: Rafael Soriano
The Nationals added to an area that was already a team strength by signing Rafael Soriano. Last season, Washington’s bullpen ranked eighth in ERA and seventh in opponents’ batting average.

However, Washington’s bullpen was taxed quite a bit last season. Nationals relievers threw 515⅓ innings last season, second-most in the National League.

Soriano excelled at escaping trouble as the New York Yankees' closer for much of last season. Opponents were 4-for-50 (with nine walks) with two outs and men on base against him.

That .080 batting average rated best in baseball.

Evan Habeeb/US Presswire
Stephen Strasburg will not pitch the rest of the season, even if the Nationals make the postseason.
Stephen Strasburg was shut down Saturday for the rest of the season by the Washington Nationals, the team with the best record and best run differential in the major leagues. The franchise has never appeared in a World Series since beginning as the Montreal Expos in 1969 -- that’s the second-longest World Series-appearance drought among current teams.

A Washington baseball team has played in three World Series, winning one of them (1924), but hasn't reached the World Series since 1933. Overall, Washington baseball teams are just 8-11 in the postseason. The Nationals/Expos franchise is just 5-5 all-time in the postseason, with its only appearance coming in 1981.

In major-league history, Washington baseball teams were 6,131-7,777-141 entering this season -- 1,646 games under .500 with a win percentage of .441. That's lower than the winning percentage of EVERY current major-league franchise during its entire existence.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only nine All-Star pitchers did not pitch for the team in that year’s postseason over the past 40 years, and only one of those teams made it to the World Series. Rollie Fingers suffered an arm injury in 1982 and the Milwaukee Brewers lost the Fall Classic to the St. Louis Cardinals.

For those thinking Strasburg may come back for the postseason, Elias tells us only four pitchers have ever started in the postseason after a layoff of at least 30 days.

Though Strasburg’s numbers are terrific, another Nationals starter entered Saturday as their most valuable pitcher by Wins Above Replacement.

The Nats have Gio Gonzalez at the top of their rotation, and Strasburg actually has the highest ERA among Washington starters since the All-Star break.

Strasburg leads all qualified major league starters in average fastball velocity (95.7 MPH) and all qualified NL starters in K per 9 (11.1 -- trails only Max Scherzer in all of MLB).

He finishes the season with 159 1/3 innings pitched, a career high for one season (amateur and professional combined), surpassing the 138 1/3 he threw back in 2008, at San Diego State and with Team USA.

The Nationals have taken great care of Strasburg’s arm this season he finishes with 2,607 pitches thrown, currently 48th-most in the majors. He only threw 100 pitches in 10 starts, which is tied for 80th.

He ranks 89th in the big leagues in curveballs and sliders thrown (495) and has reduced his breaking pitches from 26% (2010) to 18% (2011-12).

He did pass 250 career innings in his last start, and Elias tells us that no pitcher in the expansion era has had more strikeouts through his first 250 innings pitched than Strasburg’s 313.

Strasburg’s fastball is down from 97.2 MPH in 2010, prior to Tommy John Surgery. He had the fastest average fastball among starting pitchers during his stint in 2010 and still holds that distinction this season.

Shutdown near; Strasburg numbers steady

September, 2, 2012

US Presswire/Evan HabeebStephen Strasburg is nearing the end of his season.
Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson said on Sunday that Stephen Strasburg likely has two starts remaining before he is shut down for the rest of the 2012 season.

Strasburg gave the Nationals six more scoreless innings in Sunday’s win over the St. Louis Cardinals. He’s at 156 1/3 innings for the season, more than he has ever thrown in his professional career.

Let’s take a closer look at how this story is playing out.

Strasburg’s season
Strasburg leads major league starters in strikeouts per nine innings (11.2) and average fastball velocity (95.7 mph) and neither has shown any sign of dipping recently.

Strasburg’s average fastball in his past three starts is the same as it is for the season (95.7) and he’s averaged a strikeout per inning or better in five of his past six starts.

He’s averaged at least 95 mph on his fastball in 24 of his 27 starts in 2012.

The Nationals have already done plenty to take care of Strasburg this season. Only 19 percent of Strasburg’s pitches have been breaking balls this season, down from 26 percent prior to his Tommy John Surgery in 2010.

He also ranks tied for 78th in the majors in number of starts that lasted at least 100 pitches.

One thing that Strasburg has been able to do this season is bounce back after his poorest outings. He's 4-0 with an 0.58 ERA and 0.65 WHIP in starts that followed an outing in which they allowed four runs or more. The latter two categories dropped on Sunday.

Who fills the void?
The Nationals do have two pitchers who are at the top of their game right now.

Ace starter Gio Gonzalez has a 1.98 ERA in his last four starts and just pitched a shutout in his last start against the Cardinals. Both Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann rank ahead of Strasburg in Wins Above Replacement this season.

Though Zimmermann has struggled recently, Edwin Jackson’s numbers over the past six weeks have been very similar to Strasburg’s.

The chart on the right shows the performances of the two pitchers since July 20. Jackson is a near-match for Strasburg in opponents’ batting average, strikeout-to-walk rate, and ERA over virtually the same number of innings.

The other benefit that Jackson brings is that he’s postseason tested, having formerly pitched deep into October for
the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008 and the Cardinals last season.

Should their minds change
Should the Nationals shut Strasburg down, make the postseason and then decide to pitch Strasburg, he could end up pitching after a 30-day layoff. That’s not unheard of in baseball history.

In 2007, Aaron Cook started a postseason game for the Colorado Rockies 79 days after his last regular-season appearance after returning from injury.

Kerry Wood is another recent example. He pitched in the 1998 NLDS 33 days after his final regular-season appearance.

The Cubs would not survive that round. Wood would have Tommy John surgery the next season.

They've been waiting a long time
That Nationals and Seattle Mariners have not made a World Series in their existence. The Nationals' 43-year drought is second-longest in baseball to the Chicago Cubs.

A Washington D.C. baseball team hasn't made the World Series since 1933 and hasn't won a championship since 1924.

Strasburg's heat cooled off in Miami

August, 29, 2012

Ronald C. Modra/Getty ImagesStephen Strasburg allowed a career-high seven runs on Tuesday night.
The city of Washington D.C. has had plenty to celebrate with its baseball team this summer, but Tuesday was not a night for cake and party hats among Washington Nationals fans.

Their prized young starter, Stephen Strasburg, suffered one of the worst losses of his career, allowing a career-high seven runs on nine hits in five innings against the Miami Marlins. His season tally now stands at 150⅓ innings pitched with a month remaining in the regular season.

The damage started in the first inning, when Justin Ruggiano took him deep on a 98 MPH fastball, snapping a streak of 16 straight starts without allowing a run in the first inning.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, it was the longest active streak in the majors entering Tuesday.

Ruggiano had two hits against Strasburg, matching the total that right-handed hitters had in 30 at-bats against Strasburg in his previous three starts against the Marlins this season.

Strasburg had dominated the Marlins entering Tuesday with a 4-1 record and 1.56 ERA over seven starts. In fact, the seven runs allowed Tuesday matched the total he had given up in 40⅓ innings against the Marlins before this game. He hadn’t allowed a single run in 18 innings over three career road starts versus them.

Strasburg’s performance on the road had been terrific recently. He was 4-0 with a 1.44 ERA in his previous four road starts prior to Tuesday. Strasburg entered with a 13-3 career road record. Only CC Sabathia had more wins in his first 16 road decisions among active pitchers.

Stephen Strasburg
What went wrong for Strasburg?

The biggest issue was that his fastball wasn’t what it had been in recent outings. Each of the nine hits he allowed came against a heater ranging from 94 to 98 miles-per-hour. That’s the most hits he’s allowed on pitches that fast in any start in his career.

Strasburg’s velocity declined as his start went on. His heater averaged 96.6 MPH in the first two innings and 94.8 MPH after. The Marlins missed on just two of 30 swings against his fastball.

The Marlins forced Strasburg to use his heater by not swinging at his offspeed stuff. They took 20 of the 25 offspeed pitches he threw. Opponents swung at nearly half of Strasburg's offspeed pitches in the first half of the season but have swung at only one-third since the All-Star break.

Cueto's heat tops a night of hot pitchers

August, 28, 2012

ESPN Stats & InformationJohnny Cueto is allowing a .193 average against his fastball this season vs righties.
Don't be surprised if Tuesday features an abundance of low-scoring games, as a wealth of sensational starters are scheduled to take the mound tonight. Twelve pitchers with 12 or more wins will be in action, and Elias notes that the last time five different pitchers with 14+ wins and a sub-3.00 ERA started on the same day was October 2, 1992. A look at a few notables:

Johnny Cueto (16-6, 2.47 ERA)

Johnny Cueto's strong season may continue to improve against the Arizona Diamondbacks. For his career, he's 4-0 with a 1.45 ERA against the club, his lowest ERA and best W-L versus any NL team. He's allowing just a .288 on base percentage against his fastball this season, down from .319 last season.

Jered Weaver (16-3, 2.74 ERA)

Jered Weaver takes on the Boston Red Sox less than a week after beating them at Fenway Park. However, Weaver has lost his last two home starts after winning eight straight home decisions this season. He has never lost three straight home starts. He has allowed 12 earned runs in his last two home starts compared to just six earned runs in his first nine starts at Angel Stadium.

Stephen Strasburg (15-5, 2.85 ERA)

Stephen Strasburg is 4-1 with a 1.56 ERA in seven career starts versus the Miami Marlins, his most wins against any team. What's more, he has won his last three decisions versus Miami and has gone exactly six innings and not allowed a run in each of his past four starts against the squad. Strasburg is up to 145 1/3 innings this season.

Matt Cain (13-5, 2.83 ERA)

A Matt Cain win against the Houston Astros would tie his single-season career high of 14 in 2009. Cain has been especially hot of late, notching a 3-0 record with a 1.61 ERA in his past three starts. The Astros have bad memories of Cain already this season, as his perfect game came at the expense of Houston on June 13th.

Justin Verlander (12-7, 2.50 ERA)

Justin Verlander enters tonight's start against the Kansas City Royals with the lowest opponent batting average in the majors (.206). In addition, Verlander is 14-2 against the Royals in his career. Elias says among all pitchers with at least 10 decisions, only Mark Mulder (9-1) has a higher career winning percentage against the Royals than Verlander.

Strasburg mixes speeds to down Braves

August, 22, 2012
ESPN Stats & InformationStephen Strasburg has registered outs with his changeup while steering clear of the strike zone in August. Opponents are 1-15 against the pitch in his last 4 starts.
Tuesday against the Atlanta Braves, Stephen Strasburg showed why he’s one of the best strikeout pitchers in the majors while the Washington Nationals showed that we aren’t likely to see much more their third-year phenom in 2012.

Strasburg struck out 10 before being lifted for Drew Storen in the top of the seventh inning, securing his MLB-high third outing this year with at least 10 strikeouts in six or fewer innings.

Pitching on both sides of a 52-minute rain delay in the third inning, Strasburg increased his innings pitched total to 145⅓ this season. The Nationals, who have said they’re likely to shut Strasburg down for the season when he gets somewhere in the 160 to 180 innings range, have allowed him to pitch more than six innings just once in his last 11 starts.

Stephen Strasburg
Even in limited work, Strasburg registered 10 swings-and-misses on fastballs Tuesday, one shy of his season high. His fastball averaged 96.2 mph, his highest rate in more than two months.

Strasburg is 5-0 with a 2.05 ERA in the seven starts this season in which his fastball has averaged at least 96 mph.

The speed of Strasburg’s fastball likely was a major factor in the effectiveness of his changeup on Tuesday. He threw only eight changeups against the Braves, but recorded four strikeouts with the pitch.

The Braves missed on all five of their swings against Strasburg’s change, none of which were in the strike zone.

Strasburg improved to 4-0 with a 1.50 ERA in his last four starts after losing four of six decisions from the final week of June through the end of the July.

He’s likely to make his next start next Tuesday against the Marlins in Miami. Strasburg has allowed no runs in three career road starts vs the Marlins, winning each time. He’s the only pitcher to ever have three consecutive scoreless starts against the Marlins on the road.

Rob Carr/Getty Images
Stephen Strasburg is the star, but it's the depth of the Nationals rotation that has helped the team to the best record in the major leagues.
Before the 2012 season, few people would’ve been able to guess what team would have the best record in baseball entering August 9.

Yet, there, two games ahead of every other team, are the Washington Nationals. Yes, the Nationals, they of the one playoff appearance in franchise history, that coming in 1981 when the team was still based in Montreal.

The 2012 version of the team has a 68-43 record, good for a .613 winning percentage. That would be the second-best mark in franchise history, trailing only the 1994 Expos, who were 74-40 (.649) before the season was canceled due to a players’ strike.

The strength of this Nationals team has been its pitching, particularly the starters. You might immediately think of Stephen Strasburg when you think of Nationals pitching, but it’s the rotation’s depth that will help in September and beyond.

Nationals pitching as a whole leads the majors in ERA, as well as opponents’ batting average and on-base percentage. The starters have been even better, with a 3.19 ERA, best in the majors, compared to the bullpen’s 3.40 ERA, which ranks 13th in the majors.

Strasburg is the headliner of the rotation, with a MLB-best 11.3 K per 9 IP, but he's at 127⅓ innings for the season and averaging about six innings per start. If 160 innings is his limit for the season, and he continues to start every fifth day, he's on pace to hit that mark Sept. 7 against the Marlins, nearly four weeks before the end of the regular season.

But not to fear, Nats fans. Even if Washington has to go without Strasburg to end the season, starting pitching will still be a strength with these four anchoring the rotation.

Gio Gonzalez
• Gio Gonzalez: Gonzalez came over from the Oakland Athletics in an offseason trade, and his 14 wins are tied for the National League lead and just one off Jered Weaver’s MLB lead. Entering Thursday, he led the league in both hits and home runs allowed per 9 IP.

• Jordan Zimmermann: Zimmermann enters Thursday night’s start against the Houston Astros as Washington’s hottest pitcher, going 5-0 with a 1.65 ERA in his last eight starts. In those eight starts, he’s allowed more than one earned run just once, and he hasn’t allowed more than four earned runs in a start this season.

• Ross Detwiler and Edwin Jackson: These two round out the rotation, but they rank 16th and 34th respectively in the majors in ERA. Since the All-Star Break, Detwiler has a 1.93 ERA.

Washington’s pitching becomes even more impressive when you consider that no Nationals starter ranks in the top 20 in the majors in run support this season. Strasburg and Gonzalez also rank first and second in the majors in defense-independent ERA.

Why Strasburg shouldn't be shut down

August, 4, 2012

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
The Nationals have said they plan to shut Stephen Strasburg down at some point this season. We examine whether they should based on recent history of similar pitchers.
In all likelihood, 24-year-old Stephen Strasburg's season will end within weeks with the Washington Nationals likely in a fierce pennant race.

If the Nationals were to reverse course and allow Strasburg to pitch, would the workload hurt his performance? History suggests it wouldn't.

What the Numbers Say
Since 2001, 20 pitchers fit the profile of a young arm with a considerable workload. The criteria:

• The pitcher needed to be 23 years old or younger.

• It was the pitcher's first season throwing 150 innings.

• The pitcher had not previously thrown 150 innings in his pro career.

Did their performance from the beginning of the season until the end of July differ from their performance from August until the end of the season?

In general, the answer was no. In four of the five categories analyzed (ERA, strike percentage, miss percentage and WHIP), the median performance change was no more than five percent, a modest change at best.

If there is any trend, they improved their strikeout-to-walk ratio by more than 30 percent. Otherwise, their statistics lack a clear pattern, despite the polarizing nature of the innings-limit debate.

Even the following season, there was no defined trend -- only two of the 20 pitchers missed significant time (Brian Matusz last year, Michael Pineda this year). This provides evidence that the "risk of injury" argument is somewhat unfounded. One-quarter of these pitchers have won the Cy Young Award, and 16 of them are still active major leaguers.

In short, there appears to be little risk to letting Strasburg finish the season from a statistical perspective.

A.J. Burnett
The Tommy John Effect
Eight years before Strasburg underwent the noted surgical procedure, then-Marlins pitcher A.J. Burnett had Tommy John surgery.

After missing the first two months of the season, Burnett returned on June 4, 2004, and threw 120 innings. Until the end of July, Burnett was 2-5 with a 4.40 ERA.

However, in his final seven starts, he was 5-1 with a 2.74 ERA. That stretch also saw improvements in his command, suggesting that it took Burnett a few weeks to get his "feel" back.

Jordan Zimmermann
A more recent case is Washington Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, who had the surgery in August 2009. Upon his return, his numbers were alarming -- fewer than 4.5 innings per start and a 4.94 ERA in his seven 2010 starts.

Last year, much like Burnett in 2004, Zimmermann started off rusty, going 2-6 with a 3.88 ERA through May. From June 1 until he was shut down at the end of August, Zimmermann went 6-5 with a 2.75 ERA.

These cases suggest that pitchers coming off Tommy John surgery tend to get better with time. The fact that Strasburg pitched with such dominance indicates that he got his "feel" back sooner than most.

One cannot expect him to improve this late in the season like Burnett and Zimmermann did, but one cannot predict a decline either.