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July 2, 2012 / Nat Anacostia

A season’s worth of Stephen Strasburg

If a team sends its starting pitchers out all year in a strict 5-man rotation, the top two pitchers will get 33 starts. Thus, it’s not surprising that on most teams, the pitcher with the most starts in a season most often has 33. Stephen Strasburg has just completed his 33rd career start, so he now has a full season’s worth of starts under his belt. Let’s look at his career statistics to see what a full season of Strasburg looks like.

His record is 15–7 in 185 innings, with an ERA of 2.68. In 2011 his ERA would have ranked fourth in the NL (behind Kershaw, Halladay, and Lee), and sixth in the majors (behind AL pitchers Verlander and Weaver). In 2010, he again would have ranked fourth in the NL (behind Johnson, Wainwright, and Halladay), and sixth in the majors (behind ALers Hernandez and Buchholz).

Strasburg’s 238 strikeouts would have tied for second in the NL and third in the majors in 2011 (tied with Lee and behind Verlander’s 250 and Kershaw’s 248). In 2010, 238 strikeouts would have led the majors. His 5.17 K/BB ratio would have ranked third in the NL and fourth in the majors in 2011 (behind Halladay, Haren, and Lee), and would have ranked third in both the NL and the majors in 2010 (behind Lee and Halladay). Strasburg’s fielding-independent pitching (FIP) of 2.07 would have led the majors in both seasons, ahead of Halladay’s 2.20 in 2011 and Johnson’s 2.41 in 2010. His xFIP of 2.35 would also have easily led the majors in both seasons.

Strasburg has done well at avoiding the long ball. His 11 career home runs would have tied for fourth lowest among qualified pitchers in the majors in 2011 and would have been ninth lowest in 2012.

Despite his impressive statistics, his relatively light workload would have prevented him from being a strong Cy Young Award candidate. He averaged 5-2/3 innings per start, compared to about 7 innings per start for the typical ace pitcher.

Of his 33 starts, only four could be considered even mildly disappointing, with game scores lower than 45. His worst start came on August 10, 2010 against the Marlins (game score of 29), when he allowed six runs in 4-1/3 innings. This season his disappointing starts came on May 15 against the Padres (four runs in 4 innings, game score of 35), on May 26 against Atlanta (four runs in 5 innings, game score of 41), and Saturday’s heat-affected start in Atlanta (three runs in 3 innings, game score of 43). In contrast, he’s had 18 starts with game scores above 60, including six with game scores in excess of 70.

I’m really looking forward to seeing Strasburg in 2013, when he’ll be allowed to pitch a full season and presumably will stretch into longer outings per start.

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