Mapping out Stephen Strasburg's season
We know now where Stephen Strasburg will start his maiden season with the Washington Nationals organization. He is going to spend the first earnest moments of his professional career as a Class AA Harrisburg Senator.
What we don't know yet is a bunch of whens - his first minor league start, his first major league start, his last major league start of the year. The determining factors and the thinking of the Nationals is bound change over the course of the year. Just for kicks, though, let's guess how exactly Strasburg's year will play out. A warning: this is going to get awfully hypothetical and detailed, but hopefully it'll be fun.
The first thing we need to pin down is the date of his first start. On his schedule now, he is down to pitch April 8 in Altoona, against the Curve. Here's the problem - if he pitches that day and remains on a once-every-fifth-day schedule, four of his first five games will come on the road. That's a rough blow for an affiliate's bottom line. By moving him back to a debut on the 10th, three of those first five will be at home.
From April 10, Strasburg can make six starts with the Senators, four home and two road. The date of the sixth game, May 5 is an off day for Class AAA Syracuse, but a home game for Harrisburg. Strasburg's next scheduled day would be May 10, a home game for Syracuse. Seems like a good time to promote him.
Strasburg would make two road starts following his Syracuse debut. On May 25, he would start a home game for Syracuse. May 25 will be long enough to ensure Strasburg has waited enough to delay free agency and arbitration. But you have assume the Nationals want Strasburg to debut at Nationals Park. On May 30, the Nationals play in San Diego. As cool as it would be for Strasburg to debut in his hometown, that ain't happening. Give Strasburg one more start in Syracuse on the 30th.
At that point, Strasburg would have made 11 minor league starts - two clear of Mark Prior, a comparison you want to avoid. His next day to pitch would be June 4 against the Reds at Nationals Park, the first game after a West Coast trip. It feels like summer, the team will be back in town, it will be a chance at revenge against the team that gave the Nationals Jim Bowden, Felipe Lopez, and Austin Keanrs. Buzz galore. I'm guessing June 4 is the first time Strasburg climbs a major league mound.
So Strasburg will have made 11 minor league appearances. Say he averages six innings per start. The Nationals will cut off Strasburg at about 158 innings this year, which will leave him 92 innings in the majors. Keep that six-inning average, and that allows 15 major league starts.
If Strasburg stays on the every-fifth day schedule, we'll bump him back one day to due to the all-star break. He'll be pitching for the 12th time in the majors on Aug. 1 at home against the Phillies. If he has kept his schedule, two of his final three Nationals starts will be on the road.
That makes no sense. If the Nationals spread him out - which will also save his arm from some strain - they can garner some more big crowds. If he has nine days of rest, the Nationals can start him at home Aug. 10. Normal rest would give him another home game five days later, and more bit of elongated rest will let Strasburg make his 2010 finale against the Cubs at Nationals Park.
So we've got Strasburg making six starts in Class AA (four at home), five in Class AAA (three at home), and 15 with the Nationals (10 at home). Is there any chance of it happening just like that? Probably not. But that's our guess, and we're sticking to it.
Here's the full breakdown of the Predicted Strasburg Schedule:
(STARTS IN HARRISBURG)
10 - @ Altoona
15 - vs. New Britain
20 - vs. Reading
25 - @ New Britain (The bus ride from Harrisburg is 4 hours, 48 minutes.)
30 - vs. Altoona
5 - vs. Bowie
(PROMOTED TO SYRACUSE)
10 - vs. Norwich
15 - @ Pawtucket
20 - @ Rochester
25 - vs. Toledo
30 - vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
(PROMOTED TO WASHINGTON)
4 - vs. Reds (Imagine if he faced Aroldis Chapman(!))
9 - vs. Pirates
15 - @ Detroit (there is a day off June 14)
20 - vs. White Sox
25 - @ Orioles
30 - @ Braves
6 - vs. Padres
11 - vs. Giants
17 - @ Marlins
22 - @ Reds
27 - vs. Braves
1 - vs. Phillies
10 - vs. Marlins
15 - vs. Diamondbacks
23 - vs. Cubs
March 20, 2010; 1:40 PM ET
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