Did Stephen Strasburg just pitch himself out of All-Star Game?
Now that Stephen Strasburg's sixth big league start is over -- with Strasburg stuck with a no-decision following five inconsistent innings, leaving him with a 2-2 record and a 2.45 ERA -- it is time to ponder how the performance will effect Strasburg's chances of making the National League all-star team. (The mental picture I have is of Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel, who will skipper the NL team, on a conference call with Bud Selig and Fox Sports chief David Hill, saying, "OK, what do we do now, y'all?")
In truth, Strasburg's outing wasn't as bad as it looked. Although he walked three batters, none came after the first inning. One of the Mets' runs was aided by a throwing error on catcher Pudge Rodriguez, and the other was helped along by an infield single. He also had retired seven batters in a row before being yanked. That said, it was clearly the shakiest of Strasburg's six outings for the Nationals. It was also the shortest, and it featured the fewest strikeouts.
It isn't difficult to see where Strasburg is finding trouble. Here are two "slash" lines (batting average/on-base/slugging):
The first represents opposing hitters versus Strasburg this season with the bases empty (i.e., from the windup), and the second is opposing hitters versus Strasburg with runners on base (i.e., from the stretch). In other words, with no one on base, every opposing batter is essentially reduced to a helpless pitcher (across MLB, pitchers are hitting .151/.188/.187 this year) -- while with runners on base, every hitter is roughly the equivalent of Ichiro Suzuki (.331/.385/.424).
Remember all that talk during spring training about the Nationals wanting Strasburg to improve his stretch delivery? That was real. And these numbers would suggest he still has some ways to go.
On the other hand, there are these facts:
*Only one pitcher this season has produced three games with nine or more strikeouts and no walks. Yep, that would be Strasburg. (Roy Halladay, Ricky Nolasco and James Shields have done it twice apiece.)
*Only Cliff Lee and Halladay, among pitchers with a qualifying number of innings, have better strikeout-to-walk ratios than Strasburg, who has struck out 53 against only 10 walks.
Despite today's performance, I suspect the all-star-choosers will still take the easy way out, by sticking Strasburg on the fan ballot for the 34th and final player on each roster, thus recusing themselves from a decision that, either way, will face criticism across the game. But if I'm reading the fan fascination with Strasburg correctly, that's akin to putting him on the team.
July 3, 2010; 5:50 PM ET
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