The Washington Nationals were 7-2 over Stephen Strasburg's last nine starts of the 2013 campaign, but the hard-throwing, 25-year-old right-hander received decisions in just three of those games, (3-0), so as hard as 70-year-old Nats' skipper Davey Johnson tried, he couldn't get the Nationals' '09 no.1 overall pick even on the season.
Johnson lamented the fact after a 5-4 win over Miami last week in which Strasburg received no decision in his next-to-last start of the year.
"I really wanted to win that game for him," Johnson said. "Get him to .500, but it wasn't meant to be."
Strasburg's win/loss totals on the year may not be impressive, but his final numbers after last night's win in Arizona, which got him within a game of .500, provided further evidence why win totals are not necesarily indicative of a pitcher's success on the mound:
#Nats' Stephen Strasburg in 2013: 30 G, 30 GS, 183.0 IP, 3.00 ERA, 3.21 FIP, 16 HR (0.79 HR/9), 56 BB (2.75 BB/9), 191 Ks (9.39 K/9)...— federalbaseball (@federalbaseball) September 28, 2013
"We didn't score many runs," Johnson said in explaining Strasburg's low win total, (8-9), a year after he won fifteen games. "A bunch of times didn't score any runs, or one run or two runs. His numbers are indicative that he should have won 15 ballgames, at least."
Strasburg received two runs of support or less in 12 of 30 starts this season, and one run or less in five of those twelve. With last night's win, in which the Nats scored five before he was out after seven innings, Strasburg improved to 23-2 in 34 career outings in which he received three runs or more of support while on the mound.
Against the D-Backs last night, Strasburg started out slow, with 50 pitches in his first three innings, 25 of them in the third when he allowed the only two runs he gave up, but settled in for four scoreless on 51 pitches to wrap up his 2013 campaign.
"He started out slow," Johnson told reporters after the game. "He was a like a little rusty, wasn't making his pitches, got the ball up. But he settled down and pitched a good ballgame. I'm glad to get him that win. I'm sorry we didn't get him the last one. But he had a great season. He's a phenomenal young man. He's going to have a great career."
"The control was a little bit hit-or-miss early," Strasburg said, supporting his skipper's assessment of his final outing of the year. "They were swinging the bats pretty good. But that's kind of how it is some times. You've just got to grind through it and I was able to make the adjustments there in the end."
Strasburg ended the year with career highs in starts and innings pitched and impressed his manager with his consistency.
"Certainly was consistent all year long," Johnson said. "He's still, there's a few things that he could do better. He knows what they are. He's a little too regular still at times, but he's made improvements. He's getting to be the complete pitcher. He's awfully good as it is, but there's still more room in there for improvement."
Strasburg said holding runners, one thing the Nationals have identified as an issue, is something he was working and concentrating on last night in Chase Field. "I didn't really care how the game went today," Strasburg said. "I just wanted to make sure that they weren't getting free bases. And I was able to do that. And I know if I work on that, the little things, it's going to really save me a lot of runs."
"He's been phenomenal all year long," Johnson said in continuing to praise the pitcher he first managed in the Beijing Olympics in 2008. "He was down for, I don't know, a month or so, but he's been awfully good. Kind of locked in."
Asked if he had any words for Strasburg after last night's outing ended, Johnson said he just told his right-hander, "'Great season.' Sorry we didn't score him more runs. But it was another great season, and get it all together next year for everybody.'"
The outgoing Nationals' manager went on to say he's seen Strasburg grow since taking over as manager in 2011. "There were little things that irritated him," Johnson said, "and I think he grew from all the experiences he had this year. I think the whole ballclub the same way. Had a lot of little growing up to do."
"He's much calmer," Johnson continued, "and he's not letting the little things bother him and he's right where he needs to be."
"I'd say I learned a lot," Strasburg said of his fourth MLB season. "It's all about whether or not I can apply it."
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