Is Strasburg already as good as Seaver?

The Hardball Times has just re-released its pitcher projections, including a big fix. And as David Gassko notes, there's a small bombshell in there: "Note that even after fixing the pitcher MLEs, Stephen Strasburg still projects for a 2.86 ERA this season. Wow."

Wow, indeed.

And if he's at 2.86 as a rookie, what's he going to do once he's learned to pitch?

Because 2.86 -- if that's his true talent level -- would already put him in a class of pitchers including Pedro Martinez, Tom Seaver, Greg Maddux and a few other Hall of Famers ... but when those guys were ages 25 through 28! In other words, Stasburg at 21 would be as effective as the best pitchers we've seen were at their peaks.

Does that seem likely? Not to Tangotiger, who proposes the Seaver Rule ...

    3. You can’t possibly make that kind of bet can you? Isn’t it better to say that the maximum potential upside for ANY non-MLB pitcher ever, past, present, or future, is Tom Seaver? Isn’t it reasonable to say that? Isn’t it better to say that Strasburg’s runs allowed talent is a 65% - 100% pitcher of league average, with a mean forecast of close to 80%? Basically, you give me the best college or Japanese performance ever, and I say that the UPSIDE forecast (two standard deviations from his mean forecast) for that pitching line cannot be better than Tom Seaver.

    4. Regression, regression, regression.

When I've been asked how good Strasburg might be this year, my answer is Mark Prior. He wasn't the No. 1 pick in the draft, but could have been. Like Strasburg, he was routinely described as the best college pitcher that anyone had ever seen. In his first professional season, he reached the majors and allowed runs at 77 percent of the league average.

In Prior's second season, though? When he cut his home-runs-allowed rate nearly in half? He allowed runs at just 61 percent of the league average. At 21, Prior was excellent; at 22, he was Tom Seaver (except maybe just a little better).

In the event, that was the end of Mark Prior's run as a great pitcher.

I think it would be foolish to project a career for Stephen Strasburg like Tom Seaver's or Pedro Martinez's or Greg Maddux's or Randy Johnson's or even Kevin Appier's.

I do think Strasburg will have seasons like theirs, and very soon. I just don't know, can't know, how many of them he'll have.