Strasburg dazzles in debut, but has a long way to go

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Stephen strasburg

Washington D.C. is a city accustomed to a honeymoon period when a new boss comes to town, and Stephen Strasburg’s record-setting MLB debut stirred up feelings of hope and change for the Washington Nationals and their fan base. Stephen Strasburg, you’ve just taken your first step into a larger world.

By Jake McCormick

Stephen StrasburgWith the way that the sold out Nationals Park was responding to every pitch Tuesday night, it felt like the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals were playing in Game 7 of the NLCS. Instead, it was one small step for Strasburg, and one giant leap for the Nationals organization and its fans, who have been starved for even a glance at success after losing 100 games two years in a row.

After his electrifying seven innings, two earned runs, no walks, and team record 14 strikeouts (including seven in a row between the fifth, sixth, and seventh innnings), Strasburg’s career expectations fall somewhere between Moses and President Obama. Did I mention that the 21-year-old phenom with poise beyond his years went into his first MLB start without so much as a scouting report on the Pirates?

Almost every media member present at the game, including the ESPN crew, fawned constant praise of Strasburg and his masterful symphony of a debut everyone expected, yet no one believed would happen. Ivan Rodriguez, who has been catching since Strasburg was 3 years old and deserves some credit for guiding the phenom through his first MLB start, called him “unbelievable.” Pirates shortstop Ronny Cedeno compared Strasburg to Ubaldo Jimenez, and Mike and Mike in the Morning on ESPN spent a lot of airtime talking about a pitcher barely old enough to drink.

Any questions of Strasburg’s nerves and execution of a gameplan under pressure have been put to rest. It helps that his raw pitches are so good that his one-game 2.57 ERA converts to a .96 FIP and his swinging strike percentage is over double the MLB average (17% to 8.2%). Strasburg conducted a 94 pitch symphony of upper 90s fastballs and knee breaking curves with so much movement that you’d swear they looped around a few times like something from a Bugs Bunny cartoon before finally reaching the catcher’s mitt.

As great as his first start was, Strasburg has got a long way to go to live up the the hype surrounding him; this is something the Nationals brass certainly understand. That’s why it made sense to start his MLB career against the lowly Pirates with a catcher who’s caught everyone under the sun. The real test of Strasburg’s overall abilities will come when he faces off against his NL East opponents and teams begin compiling video and scouting reports of his tendencies.

Strasburg will go through some growing pains, as most rookie pitchers do, and it’s important to remember that this is only the starting point for a team with a promising core of young players that also include pitchers John Lannan, Drew Storen, and Jordan Zimmermann, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, shortstop Ian Desmond, and outfielder Justin Maxwell.

It’s great to see the Washington baseball scene seemingly resurrected over a two day span, and fans should take every chance they can to see Strasburg pitch as a rookie. Even when he loses, it’ll definitely be worth the experience.

Comments

  1. paulmbanks says

    I’m watching now! on TBS national game (pun intended) broadcast on TBS. thye just booed loudly when he was taken out. hopefully his bullpen holds for him.

    Washington- NL East Champs 2012-2017!!!

  2. paulmbanks says

    He had a lot more walks today than last time, but it’s crazy that his offspeed pitch is in the high 70s, low 80s. his offspeed.

    good use of Obi-Wan Kenobi quote there. as a fellow nerd I appreciate that.

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