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Stephen Strasburg, would-be Rookie of the Year

By Adam Kilgore

The impression Stephen Strasburg left on baseball in 2010, his ability to dominate on the mound and command (unwanted) attention when he wasn't, was as grand as any other player. The story of this year in baseball is incomplete without him. But he will not win the 2010 National League Rookie of the Year award, which will be announced today at 2 p.m. The only drama is whether Buster Posey or Jason Heyward will win.

If Strasburg had not torn the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow on Aug. 21, when he threw a changeup to Phillies rookie outfielder Domonic Brown, he would have almost certainly had a prominent place in today's ROY conversation. As a refresher, he went 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA, 92 strikeouts and 17 walks in 68 innings over 12 starts. His 2.15 xFIP, an advanced metric that aims to measure a pitcher's effectiveness independent of defense, was the best in the majors among any pitcher -- not just rookies -- with at least 50 innings pitched.

It speaks to Strasburg's excellence that, despite pitching not even a half season in the majors, he still made himself a fringe candidate. His 2.6 WAR (wins above replacement, per FanGraphs.com) ranked second among all rookie pitchers, behind Jaime Garcia of the Cardinals, whose WAR was 3.2. Many bright baseball minds across the Internet have pointed out that Strasburg pitched only one fewer inning than Rangers closer Neftali Feliz, the presumed American League winner. If a BBWAA member slid Strasburg a third place vote, it could certainly be justified.

At one point this season, despite an uncommonly strong field, Strasburg seemed poised to put the Nationals in position to win their first major individual award. Ryan Zimmerman finished second in the rookie of the year voting in 2006, a hair behind Hanley Ramirez, the closest any Nationals player has ever come to winning one of the big awards: rookie of the year, MVP, Cy Young or manager of the year.

Since Strasburg had only 12 starts, he's just not a viable choice to win the uppercase Rookie of the Year award. He'll have to settle for maybe being the lowercase rookie of the year, in a Time Magazine Man of the Year kind of way. I suspect, years from now, we'll remember what Strasburg did in the regular season even more than what Heyward or Posey accomplished, no matter whose mantle holds the trophy.

UPDATE, 2:10: While Posey won the NL Rookie of the Year award, Strasburg received no votes; 32 voters chose a first, second and third place. No Nationals player, including shortstop Ian Desmond, received a single vote.

By Adam Kilgore  | November 15, 2010; 1:08 PM ET
Categories:  Stephen Strasburg  
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Comments

I look forward to seeing Sheinin's Strasburg stalker book soon on the lower case new york times best seller list. Also look forward to reading Sheinin's future work in either the lower case washington times or washington examiner once the Post cashiers him after realizing how little content he actually produced for what they spent employing him in 2010.

Posted by: FeelWood | November 15, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Frankly, he was not even the rookie of the year for the Nationals. I would vote Ian Desmond for that. Had SS made another 10 starts, I'm sure he would be the Nationals ROY, but Desmond was an energetic force throughout the year. I believe both Espinosa and Ramos will still qualify as rookies next year. Perhaps one of them will earn the NL ROY in 2011.

Posted by: natbiscuits | November 15, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Had Nats manaagement had the uncommon courage to start Stras in the bigs on Opening Day -- a la Mike Leake in Cincy -- Stras would very likely have won the award in a run-away. By all accounts, he was ready. Not to say the Nats did the wrong thing by avoiding Stras getting Super Two status, but it is kind of funny that they lost the extra year of control (and huge attendance pay days tey would have gotten) to the injury anyway.

Would it not have been great to have those Stras starts from Harrisburg and Cuse last year be in the bigs? That might have changed a lot of things for this club. Maybe Nats fans would have clogged the park on Opening Day instead of the Philly faithful. Maybe the club would have stayed in contention longer than a month or so. Maybe Rizzo would have made a move or two to improve the big club . . . who knows. Oh well, hindsight is 20/20 and all of that.

Posted by: dfh21 | November 15, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

... and lay off Sheinin. We are lucky to have him. I always look forward to reading his work. Outside of New York and Boston there are only a handful of papers that can match Kilgore, Sheinin, Boswell, Hamilton, et al for comprehensive coverage in a single publication. Vanishing breed.

Posted by: natbiscuits | November 15, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

dfh21: What-if's are always fun, and there is a delicious irony in that the team loses his services for a year anyway despite redshirting him.

But it's also likely that had he been brought up in April and then popped his elbow, most people would have blamed the Nationals for rushing him.

Posted by: Meridian1 | November 15, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Mreidian -- true. Had the Nats "rushed him" they would have been blasted for it, had he not responded well. But, it was pretty safe to bet that he'd break down at some point in his contracted tenure anyway -- few guys who throw with 100 mph torque can be expected not to do so. So, the safe play may have been to have him throw whatever innings he was going to throw before he broke down in MLB. Who knows.

I personally think that the Lerners's karma is soooo bad that something was going to go wrong someway in any event. Given how awful the Lerners have been, I am surprised that Stras was not struck by lightning on the same day his elbow blew.

Posted by: dfh21 | November 15, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

I also greatly enjoy the work of the WaPo writers and find the nasty comments on Shennin both wrong and mean spirited. We are extremely lucky to still have a great newspaper.

Posted by: NatsFly | November 15, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

How many games do you have to play in to be considered a Rookie? Did Danny Espinoza lose his eligibility for 2011 ROY honors by being called up in September? At least SS can be considered for Comeback Player of the Year in 2012!

Posted by: ramgut | November 15, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Rookie status is not determined by number of games played - rather, it's by innings pitched for pitchers and at bats (strangely not plate appearances) for position players. That, or number of days on the active roster. Espinosa had 103 at bats so he'll still be considered a Rookie in 2011.

FROM MLB.com

Determining rookie status:
A player shall be considered a rookie unless, during a previous season or seasons, he has (a) exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues; or (b) accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the period of 25-player limit (excluding time in the military service and time on the disabled list).

Posted by: combedge | November 15, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

So, let's just root for SS - Cy Young award in 2012 and/or 2013!

Posted by: humbleandfree | November 15, 2010 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Nothing against the kid, but it looks from here like he wasn't any kind of candidate at all. Maybe he gets hyperventilation of the year (l/c).

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | November 15, 2010 8:34 PM | Report abuse

IF, hypothetically, Strasburg had actually played enough to be a factor in the W/L record, then it would have been interesting to see if anyone finished fourth at all.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | November 15, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse

I'd probably still go with Posey, but second/third might have been tough.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | November 15, 2010 8:41 PM | Report abuse

Does Topps still do its All-Star rookie team on its cards? Surely Desmond makes that. It's hard to believe that a rookie who played regular SS for an MLB team got no votes. I haven't been a big Desmond fan, but I hope he converts early next year.

Posted by: nats24 | November 16, 2010 1:06 AM | Report abuse

Adam,
Great prediction....especially since the rookies of the year were already announced by the time you posted the article.

Posted by: Tex4 | November 16, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

As was discussed earlier in the Nats Journal forum, and especially given the competition, Ian Desmond was hardly deserving of any Rookie of the Year consideration. This is not intended as criticism of Desmond, but is just an objective observation.

Posted by: mgilham | November 16, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Can someone explain to me the rationale behind anonymously ridiculing Dave Sheinin? Is there some sort of agenda I'm not aware of? Please, let me know because there's nothing I enjoy more than blasting someone who provides a free service.

Also, ROY votes were announced yesterday at 2 PM, after Kilgore's post was added.

Sincerely,

Newly Appointed President of the
WaPo Apologist Club

Posted by: LosDoceOcho | November 16, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Can someone explain to me the rationale behind anonymously ridiculing Dave Sheinin? Is there some sort of agenda I'm not aware of? Please, let me know because there's nothing I enjoy more than blasting someone who provides a free service.

Also, ROY votes were announced yesterday at 2 PM, after Kilgore's post was added.

Sincerely,

Newly Appointed President of the
WaPo Apologist Club

Posted by: LosDoceOcho | November 16, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

LosDoceOcho, on this blog site, there are a number of good, reasonable, baseball fans, you being one of them. Unfortunately, there are far too many mean spirited ones driving some of those reasonable ones away. A long time ago, a blogger simply named e contributed many excellent, informative comments. He, I believe, was just one such person who got tired of the negativity-unfortunately.
On a baseball note, I find it interesting that Arizonia might be willing to trade Upton. Don't know whether the Nats have the goods to make a deal like that, but that would be the kind of move this fan would love. Sorta like the Ramos deal. As for the never ending discussion about first base, I'd love to see the Nats get someday like Logan Morrison. Florida does need catching. Hey, how about Smoat or Ackley. Seattle must want something we have. Freddie Freeman?


Posted by: jcampbell1 | November 16, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Or we change names.
I was not 'e' and I haven't been reasonable for a while, but did usta be somebody.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | November 16, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

The problem with Sheinin is that he is supposed to be the Post's MLB beat writer, covering all aspects of the game for the benefit of the Post's readership, both in print and online. Which means that he should be writing frequently for the website and the print edition, and frequently contributing to the Baseball Insider blog. Yet what has he done for the past year? Pretty much he's been stalking Stephen Strasburg to gather material for the book contract he has - which is probably in limbo now that Strasburg had Tommy John. He's provided a good bit of content for the Post about Strasburg, but most of it was probably stuff that would have ended up in the book as well. Other than that, though, his byline has been largely absent for huge chunks of the season. Days or even weeks went by between posts to the Baseball Insider blog, to the point that I just quit going there at all. He wrote about the pennant races towards the end of the season, and about the playoffs and Series. But that's pretty much it. So yeah, maybe what he wrote was well written, but there wasn't nearly enough of it from someone who is supposedly a full time employee of the newspaper I'm paying subscription money for. So I for one am not getting my money's worth from Sheinin, which IMHO makes him fair game for ridicule. Not unlike the way Felipe Lopez got ridiculed by fans for being a lazy bum.

Posted by: FeelWood | November 16, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Yes, the informal rules of blogging allow you to express your opinion. Your 50 cents a day no doubt entitles you further. Mine allows me to say thank you to Dave, his editors, and colleagues. And to encourage you to be more polite. Please.

Posted by: natbiscuits | November 16, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

So criticizing the content of Sheinin's posts will encourage him to post more often?

Good luck with that strategy.

I'm not a sports editor or understand the goings on at a newspaper, but I could imagine the decision makers at WaPo encouraged Sheinin to focus on Strasburg. Seemed to me Strasburg was a pretty big story. Maybe even the biggest story in MLB on a national level for a good portion of the season.

Posted by: LosDoceOcho | November 16, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

So criticizing the content of Sheinin's posts will encourage him to post more often?

Good luck with that strategy.

I'm not a sports editor or understand the goings on at a newspaper, but I could imagine the decision makers at WaPo encouraged Sheinin to focus on Strasburg. Seemed to me Strasburg was a pretty big story. Maybe even the biggest story in MLB on a national level for a good portion of the season.

Posted by: LosDoceOcho | November 16, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

I ain't mad at the info provided by the Shenin,Kilgore and the rest, trust me i get tired of reading about the deadskins(that's what they were after last night!).

Posted by: dargregmag | November 16, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

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