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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.

By Dave Sheinin  |  July 3, 2010; 5:50 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Game 82 discussion thread: Nationals vs. Mets
Next: Drew Storen, that other first-round pick, pitches in


Oh, come on. Strasburg is the golden boy of the National League, if not Major League Baseball entirely. Of course he'll be at the ASG, no doubt about it. So he had a less than stellar game. He's not going to have a perfect game every outing. Besides, he's got one more start between now and the ASG to get his act together.

Posted by: mssnatchquatch | July 3, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

Don't know whether it will affect his chances, and don't much care, to be honest.

My personal priorities would be for SS to stay healthy and to do what he can to put the Nats in position for a win on the days that he pitches, which he does tend do to.

No doubt there will be plenty of opportunities for him to make future All-Star teams, and there are plenty of qualified (and more experienced) pitchers this year, no? And, honestly, I don't know that I'd vote for him if he were on the fan ballot this year (ducking and running now :-)).

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 3, 2010 8:19 PM | Report abuse

I would rather him take the break and get some rest. We're not making the playoffs, so who cares if it helps out some other team.

Posted by: BT23 | July 3, 2010 8:42 PM | Report abuse

2 runs and 4 hits.

Did you see the trashy lineup that Riggs gave him? Harris? Kennedy? Desmond? And Riggs uses a pitcher as the pinch hitter.

Whatever Riggs is drinking or smoking, he needs to share.

Posted by: AWWNats | July 3, 2010 8:42 PM | Report abuse

He's pitching just fine and who the hell cares whether he makes the All Star game. A 2.45 ERA is pretty darn good, but certainly not good enough if your offense provides 0 run support. It's embarrassing really. He probably feels he has to throw a perfect game every time out just to stay even.

Posted by: RobRoy1 | July 3, 2010 8:55 PM | Report abuse

Has Ubaldo Jimenez pitched himself out of the All Star game? He's already given up 7 runs, including a grand slam, in the 3rd inning against the Giants, tonight. He was also bad in his last start, against the Padres, giving up four runs in just 6 innings, including a three-run homer.

Both starts, coincidentally, were on the same day as Strasburg starts and Strasburg had better numbers than Jimenez, each time.

Posted by: p_chuck | July 3, 2010 9:05 PM | Report abuse

I would like to say an All-Star game appearance should be earned and Strasburg has not been in the majors long enough.On the other hand,Jimmy Rollins was leading in the voting for NL shortstop after being on the DL most of the season.

Posted by: seanmg | July 3, 2010 11:26 PM | Report abuse

Put him on the ballot!

He represents the future it won't hurt.

Posted by: SOLVBACK | July 4, 2010 5:27 AM | Report abuse

Any team is allowed at least one all star pick... if Strasburg is it for the Nats, it doesn't say much for the rest of the team.

Posted by: seakeys | July 4, 2010 6:04 AM | Report abuse

Haven't those final fan-voted slots on the All Star Teams been position players up until now? Would they stick a pitcher on that final, online ballot?

BTW, both of Strasburg's runs were earned, so I'm not sure its entirely correct to describe that first inning run as "aided by a throwing error on catcher Pudge Rodriguez." He continued to flounder in the inning, so error or not, the run would have scored.

Posted by: chrisduckworth | July 4, 2010 6:54 AM | Report abuse

Strasburg doesn't deserve to go. He's 2-2 in six starts and has had progressively more trouble.

The Nationals would be foolish to let him go anyway. The rookie is under a strict pitch count and should never be put in a situation where he may find himself over-throwing.

One reader said that Strasburg making the ASG wouldn't say much about the Nationals... I would expand that and say that Strasburg making the ASG wouldn't say much about the National League ---> and that's saying something because the National League doesn't hold a candle to the AL.

Posted by: krisandtodd | July 4, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

If chosen, I don't think he should go. His last performance before the break is the 9th. The ASG would be cutting it earlier than his every 5 to 6 days. His innings for the year are limited. Why risk it for a game that for the NATS doesn't really matter.

Posted by: CALSGR8 | July 4, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

If that was Strasburg's worse game, where he seemed to be his own worst enemy, not the Mets bats (no offense to their respectable line-up), then there is no reason to keep Strasburg off the All-Star game for one rough, not bad, "rough" performance.

My bet is Manuel will not select Strasburg, but will put him on that final vote ballot so he doesn't have to take flack for not putting Strasburg on. Strasburg wins that vote. He is in.

Posted by: mcgratsp | July 4, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the folks who say the overwhelming issue is that people want to see him pitch, so put him on the fan ballot.

If I'm right, they'll vote him in; if I'm wrong, then he won't play, and that's fine, the fans will have spoken.

The point is, leave it up to the fans; it's our game.

Posted by: lljjbb | July 4, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

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