clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Forgiving Nationals' starter Stephen Strasburg

Washington Nationals' starter Stephen Strasburg is on the 15-Day DL, and he's already hard at work on trying to sort things out so he can get back. Maybe the time off will allow the 26-year-old right-hander to get back on track.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

It's not Stephen Strasburg's fault that he was hyped beyond belief throughout his final collegiate season and all the way up to the majors.

Having followed him that entire time from San Diego State University to the Nationals' system and up through his electric MLB debut, I'm willing to bet he would have been perfectly fine without the over-the-top attention.

"The ankle injury back in Spring Training kind of altered his mechanics and altering [his] mechanics kind of affected his back a little bit where he has a little knot in his back..." -Mike Rizzo on Stephen Strasburg on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.

He made a point of saying he hadn't done anything yet to earn the spotlight when he was anointed the "next big thing" by the baseball world.

It only got worse when he returned from Tommy John surgery and the "Strasburg Shutdown" story became a thing in 2012 in spite of the fact that the Nationals were clear for a year beforehand that they would stick to their plan, believing it was the best thing for the pitcher long-term and therefore the best thing for the organization.

It's also not Strasburg or the Nationals' fault that no one in the national media was paying attention until late that season when it became clear the Nats would be going to the postseason without their right-hander.

It's also not Strasburg's fault that he's a bit prickly, to put it politely.

Watch him shoot lasers out of his eyes when a recorder malfunction interrupted his post game interview a few weeks back.

He might not have the right "temperament" for the majors as one veteran columnist wrote recently, but what that really means is he doesn't suffer dumb questions politely enough at times, give everyone the quotes they're after, or react to failure like we expect him to.

Has he let errors affect him on the mound? Clearly yes, especially early in his career, and as ESPN's Stats and Info folks pointed out recently, it's still a problem.

"We have to see how it goes. It’s one of those proverbial day-to-day things because we’ll evaluate after today’s throwing session and go from there." -Matt Williams on Stephen Strasburg's trap injury to the WaPost

"In innings when the Nationals’ defense makes an error, Strasburg allows opponents to hit .529 with an OPS of 1.365," ESPN's John Fisher noted in the leadup to Strasburg's last outing, which ended in the second inning when he was lifted with what was eventually diagnosed as a left trapezius strain which landed him on the DL.

He's also struggled with his mechanics all season, especially out of the stretch.

With the bases empty, he has a .259/.314/.455 line against, which jumps to .398/.457/.553 with men on and .387/.419/.593 with runners in scoring position.

He continues to work hard to sort these things out, however. He was placed on the 15-Day DL after his last start, but Strasburg was back at work trying to figure things out in just a few days.

Apparently he avoided a serious injury in spite of having caused the problem by altering his mechanics to deal with an ankle injury sustained during Spring Training.

"So as long as he can get through everything he needs to get through and back on the mound and bullpens and get him a start somewhere, then he should be fine," Matt Williams told reporters, including the Washington Post's Chelsea Janes, after a throwing session on flat ground.

"He's had a few different things happen to him this year," Nats GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN yesterday.

"The ankle injury back in Spring Training kind of altered his mechanics and altering [his] mechanics kind of affected his back a little bit where he has a little knot in his back the last couple of starts," Rizzo explained.

"So what we're trying to do is we're trying to settle down all the injuries that he has and make sure that the ankle is perfectly right so he can get on line with his delivery and make sure his mechanics are good so it doesn't affect his back or any other part of his body.

"So, that's first and foremost what we're trying to do is get him to be where he's 100% like he was at the beginning of Spring Training before he rolled over that ankle. And then we'll attack the mechanical part of it after that, but we've got to get his body in shape and ready to pitch and once he does that I think it will be getting him on line, getting his mechanics in place and then getting him back to where he's been in the past."

Maybe the time off can allow Strasburg to sort things out and start over this season. Things didn't go as anyone planned through the first two months.

Maybe the time off will also allow us to forgive Strasburg for not being everything we hoped he would be when he first came up. He's still a pretty good pitcher, when healthy.