As you probably have heard by now, Stephen Strasburg returned to the Nationals' rotation last night, pitching five strong innings, allowing only two hits, striking out 4 and walking nobody. What is impressive is that this performance is pretty well in line with what he's always done in the majors. Strasburg has now started 13 games. He's pitched 73 innings, has a 2.73 career ERA striking out 96, walking only 17, giving up 58 hits, only five of which have left the park. That's an average performance of 5.2 innings, 4 hits, 7 K's, 1 walk. He's also never hit a batter in the major leagues. It's amazing for someone to have such dominant, swing-and-miss stuff and also such great control.
Yet, we're a little worried, right? A lot of the talk leading up to the event wasn't how awesome it was that he was coming back, but whether the Nationals were rushing him.Part of this, I think, is so that people can set themselves up to "blame" the Nats if Strasburg does get hurt again. "Oh he blew out his arm again? Doesn't surprise me - those stupid Natinals can't even get the name correct on their jersey." Rob Dibble went so far as accusing the Nationals of bringing Strasburg back early in order to "sell tickets and put butts in seats."We just got through this with Mark Prior, who WAS pushed pretty hard. It's tough to see guys this talented break down.
That's not entirely fair. First off - why are we interviewing Rob Dibble about it? He's the same guy who said Strasburg should "stop crying" and "suck it up" when his arm first started hurting - a hurt which proved to be a torn elbow ligament. Now he thinks they need to baby Strasburg so that he's good for 15 years? Let's all agree that everything Rob Dibble says about Strasburg is wrong and not listen to what he says anymore. As I noted above, Strasburg averages less than 6 innings per start in his career. He's thrown 100 pitches zero times. Exactly how slow are they supposed to be with Strasburg - have him pitch one inning a month until his 25th birthday? No, if Strasburg does get hurt again, it will be for the reasons Chris O'Leary and Don Cooper said before he got hurt in the first place - his delivery puts a lot of stress on his elbow. Watching him last night, his angle does seem a "little" lower, but he's still got that inverted-W thing going on. (Side note. Isn't an Inverted-W just an M?) His general mechanics are pretty much the same. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but he's probably getting hurt again.
Maybe he won't, though. So, instead of watching every Strasburg start holding my breath, wondering if this will be the night his elbow goes pop, I'm going to enjoy it. In terms of stuff, he has the best in the majors right now,better than Verlander, better than Felix Hernandez. He doesn't have anything near their durability, but even they don't dominate hitters like Strasburg does. He's not a prospect, he's a great pitcher, already. So let's enjoy watching him pitch every chance we get.