Archive for the ‘Stephen Strasburg’ Category

Miami Marlins v Washington Nationals

There was a time when the name Stephen Strasburg was on the lips of every baseball fan in America. He was the phenom, the first overall pick destined to become the next great ace. He burst onto the scene, striking out 14 Pirates in his big league debut. He was a force of nature until the elbow got’em. A year down after Tommy John, Strasburg returned in late 2011 to show us all what we missed.

2012 was to be Strasburg’s season. And, by and large, it was his season. He was one of the best starters in the National League that year, leading the Nationals to the postseason for the first time since their move to D.C. Together with Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann, the Nats pitching staff mowed down the National League before losing an unfortunate five game series against St. Louis in October.

Of course, during their fateful collapse at the hands of the Cardinals, Stephen Strasburg was nowhere to be found. He was cooling his heels in the dugout, shutdown in mid-September as the team protected him against an oversized workload. It was for his own good and the future good of the team, we were told. They did their research, we were instructed (even though they kind of didn’t). They’ll be back, the Nats swore.

And maybe they will. Perhaps this year’s Nats squad will pick up where the 2012 club left off, learning from their 2013 disappointment to overcome a decision that looks worse and worse by the day.

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MLB: Washington Nationals at Chicago Cubs

There was a time when Stephen Strasburg was the best show in town. He lit radar guns and missed bats with aplomb. He was the lone shining beacon for a moribund franchise. He was so good then hurt, under the surgeon’s blade and lost for a calender year.

The Prodigal Son returned and with him came a renewed vigor among the Nats faithful. The team was reborn and ready to challenge in the tough NL East. In 2012, the Nats hit on every note. Perfect health and great performances from their starting rotation and career years from enough every day players to vault them into playoff position.

Then, the shut down. After which the Nationals would never be the same.

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So here’s a thing nobody wants to read: Stephen Strasburg was evaluated for tightness in his forearm after tonight’s start against the Atlanta Braves, a game won 3-2 by the BARVES.

No need to rush to twitter doctor judgment but this is never something you want to hear about a guy like Strasburg. He hasn’t quite looked himself recently, with some wondering about his mechanics deserting him, causing an increase in walks.

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St Louis Cardinals v Washington Nationals

2012 Record: 98-64, 1st NL East
2012 Pythagorean Record: 96-66
Impact Player: LF Bryce Harper
Impact Pitcher: RHP Stephen Strasburg
Top Prospect: 3B Anthony Rendon

Significant Acquisitions: CF Denard Span, RHP Dan Haren, RHP Rafael Soriano, LHP Fernando Abad, UT Will Rhymes

Significant Departures: RHP Edwin Jackson, LHP Sean Burnett, LF/1B Mike Morse, LHP Mike Gonzalez, LHP Tom Gorzelanny OF Rick Ankiel, C Jesus Flores, OF/1B Xavier Nady, UT Mark DeRosa

The city of Washington and baseball futility go hand-in-hand. No Washington franchise had made a playoff appearance since 1933 until last season when the Nationals—as a result of smart and opportunistic drafting and savvy additions from outside the organization—won 98 games and cruised to the NL East title. The rotation was among the healthiest and easily the most talented in baseball, the bullpen was deep and impactful and the lineup scored the fifth-most runs in the NL.

Then, disaster. The Nationals and Cardinals split the first four games of their NLDS series in October and Washington held a commanding 6-0 lead in the decisive fifth game before the bullpen—capped off by an awful performance from closer Drew Storen—blew the lead and lost the game, ending their season.

Playoff disappointments aside, the Nationals look poised to be World Series contenders for years to come with an incredible young core of excellent players including first overall picks Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper and other franchise cornerstones like Jordan Zimmermann, Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond.

Pitching

The Nationals stuck with their plan of shutting down Strasburg at 160 innings (he pitched 159 1/3) in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery. Barring further arm injury, this should be the year they turn him loose. His strikeout rate topped 30% and his 11.13 K/9 was the highest for a starting pitcher since Kerry Wood struck out 11.35 batters per nine innings in 2003. If he can stay healthy enough to throw 220 or more innings, we could see some truly historic numbers from the 24-year-old.

The Nationals have two other legitimate top-of-the-rotation pitchers as well in Gio Gonzalez and Zimmermann — both entering just their age-27 seasons. Gonzalez led the NL among qualified starters in strike-out rate last season and also gave up a league low 0.41 HR/9. His 5.4 WAR according to FanGraphs trailed only Clayton Kershaw among NL pitchers. Zimmermann, meanwhile, also put up an excellent season posting a 3.56 K/BB ratio and a 2.94 ERA in 32 starts.

The Nationals chose not to re-sign Edwin Jackson after his one-year pillow contract in D.C. was up; Jackson wound up with the Cubs on a four-year deal. To replace him, Washington is bringing in another pitcher on a one-year stop gap contract in Dan Haren. Haren’s upside is much higher than Jackson’s, but given the back and arm problems he suffered last season, Haren might not be quite as good. Despite being nagged by injuries all last season, Haren still made 30 starts and had a better K/BB ratio than Zimmermann, but he gave up 28 home runs in only 176 2/3 innings. If he’s healthy and can keep the home run-rate down, he could still be a decent mid-rotation option for Washington.

The final spot in the rotation will go to left-hander Ross Detwiler who pitched in 164 1/3 innings last season and fared well posting a 3.40 ERA. His middling strike out- and walk-rates suggest there could be some regression, but he should still be more than adequate in the fifth spot. If he completely falls apart, the Nats are thin on the depth chart with Yunesky Maya and converted reliever Ryan Perry appearing to be the best choices in the minors.

The bullpen is the only part of the team that looks drastically different than it did a year ago. Gone are three southpaws in Sean Burnett, Mike Gonzalez and Tom Gorzelanny and in is new closer Rafael Soriano who signed a two-year, $28-million deal with a vesting option for 2015. The Nats now posses three excellent high-leverage relievers at the back-end of the bullpen in Soriano, Storen and Tyler Clippard.

They didn’t do much to replace the three departing left-handers and will head north with only one southpaw in the ‘pen in veteran Zach Duke who had a 1.32 ERA in only 13 2/3 innings last season. Clippard does seem to have a pretty consistent track record of reverse splits and can handle some of the tough lefties in opposing lineups. The Nats recently signed veteran lefty J.C. Romero as an insurance policy, though he begins the season in Triple-A.

High-upside and high-velocity arms like Ryan Mattheus and Henry Rodriguez will fill out the pen with long-man Craig Stammen who could, in theory, start if someone gets hurt. Stammen was excellent in 88 1/3 innings last season—the most of any reliever in baseball besides Josh Roenicke who pitched in 1/3 of an inning more for the Rockies.

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Lineup

The Nationals scored the fifth-most runs in the NL last season and by all accounts should be even better in that regard this year. First off, they’ll get a full season from Harper in left field who was impressive as a teenager in 2012 posting a .352 wOBA and 22 home runs. The 20-year-old phenom is poised to put up some monster numbers and should continue to get better over the next few years.

The rest of the Nats outfield will also get a boost with the addition of Denard Span to play center. Span has been a better-than-average hitter the last few years in Minnesota and is a spectacular defender. His on-base abilities and speed make him an ideal leadoff hitter to slide in ahead of the big bats in the middle of the order. In right field will be Jayson Werth who should be healthier this year after a wrist injury kept him out for half the year in 2012. He may not be worth his cumbersome contract, but he’s still a very good player who’s above average in all facets of the game.

It’s expected that the three outfielders will occupy the top three spots in the order ahead of third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman managed to stay on the field last season for the most part and posted a 121 wRC+ and 25 home runs. Recurring problems with his throwing shoulder may eventually move him to first base but he should be good for another year or two at the hot corner.

Washington waited out first baseman Adam LaRoche and allowed him to test free agency this winter, but they ended up re-signing him to a two-year deal with a third-year option at reasonable dollars. He was a better hitter than Zimmerman last season and will make a nice stop-gap until top prospect Anthony Rendon is ready and pushes Zimmerman across the diamond.

In the middle infield will be Desmond at short and Danny Espinosa at second. After a disastrous 2011, Desmond lived up to some of his promise in 2012 hitting 25 home runs and posting a 128 wRC+ while improving his defense greatly at short. According to FanGraphs, he was the most valuable position player on the team last season. Espinosa, meanwhile, showed some pop with 17 home runs and hit well enough to keep his job. If he regresses, Steve Lombardozzi isn’t much worse overall.

Wilson Ramos had the year from hell in 2012. After being kidnapped prior to the season in his native Venezuela he got hurt during the year and played in only 25 games. If he’s healthy, he could be a first-division starter, but he’ll share playing time with Kurt Suzuki at least to start the year.

Defense

Washington turned batted balls into outs better than any other NL team last season and with the addition of Span in center and a healthy Werth in right, they could be even better in 2013. Both Suzuki and Ramos are excellent defenders behind the plate as well and Espinosa and Desmond are solid up the middle. Despite his arm problems, Zimmerman is at least average at third and LaRoche is about as good as a first baseman can be.

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2013 Outlook

Most people didn’t expect the Nationals to be quite so good last season, but they arrived a year ahead of schedule. Now that they have arrived, the weight of expectations will be placed upon a team whose cornerstones are still very young. They have easily the most talent of any team in baseball, but also could have some issues if injuries strike—something that didn’t really happen to them much last season, at least on the pitching staff. The only real threat to their second-straight division crown is the Braves, but either way they should make the playoff without too much trouble. Once they do, that pitching staff will be awfully tough to overthrow.

2013 Prediction: 97-65, 1st NL East 

For a detailed depth chart with statistics, click here. Stats obtained from FanGraphs (Washington’s team page here) and Baseball Prospectus. Depth chart info provided by MLB Depth Charts.


Such is the way of the Blame Beltran meme. A chance encounter between two players, at opposite ends of their careers, once traded for each other, ends in injury. Wheeler pays respect to the mighty Beltran and, seven minutes later, comes out of his start with a strained oblique. Touching Carlos Beltran leaves him worse for wear… coincidently, of course. OF COURSE.

Not a coincidence: all the excitement surrounding the Mets young right-hander. Between Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey, Mets fans actually have something to look forward to in this post-Dickey way.

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A few days ago, when the final Super Two numbers were released, many (read: me) wondered about the contract status of one Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals, as is their prerogative, gamed his service time to keep their most valuable property from reaching the very expensive Super Two status, keeping an extra year of pre-arbitration control for their trouble.

Would the Nats ink their stud pitcher, the rare True Number One pitcher to a long-term contract, buying up his arbitration years in addition to his final pre-arb year? How would the club approach matters with Strasburg and his superagent, the villainous Scott Boras?

Turns out it is much ado about nothing. Thanks to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, we needn’t worry any longer.

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When the new qualifications for players to reach “Super Two” status — earning an extra year of arbitration for the top 22% of players with between two and three years of service time in the league — were first revealed, it resulted in a lot of projections and gambling. Teams had much to lose by allowing their young talent to reach Super Two status: mostly millions of dollars.

While teams outwardly say that service time issues are good problems to have, they still carefully manage their young players to avoid the expensive arbitration process kicking in a year early.

After much speculation, the hard cut-off for Super two status was released yesterday, resulting in some financial winners and losers among baseball’s best young players.

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