Sunday, February 19, 2012

Dreaming Stephen Strasburg

The 2012 MLB season is still a pregnancy with a due date six weeks out. Doctors have performed ultrasounds with ZiPS projections and Pecota cards and so us parents have some idea what's coming. But until the actual season's birth, all we can do is dream. As parents, we dream big. While the child is still in the womb, we think about college and whether our child will be artistic or athletic. But there is always fear. Will the child adjust well in this daunting world? Will he or she play well with others and succeed beyond our expectations? All those emotions are similar to dreaming about the 2012 season and Stephen Strasburg.

To carry the idea just a little further, Strasburg has already come out of the womb and taken a few steps. But he keeps going back to the incubator. There was tremendous excitement when he made his debut in 2010 and made the Pittsburgh Pirates look like a bad little league team. He gave us 68 innings that season and then his elbow popped and back to the incubator he went. After less than a year away with ligament reconstructive surgery, Strasburg again popped out of the incubator to make five starts at the end of the 2011 season. We held our collective breath.

Strasburg wasn't "quite" as dominating. His fastball averaged 96 MPH instead of close to 98 like before. He only struck out a batter per inning instead of more than that like before. But over all, it went well and he didn't break, which was the biggest fear. The season came to a close and after a long, cold winter, pitchers and catchers are reporting to Arizona and Florida and attention again focuses on the most prized pitching prospect of our generation.

Stephen Strasburg has pitched all of 92 innings in the major leagues. He's already accumulated 3.7 fWAR in those 92 innings. The numbers in such a small sample size are eye-popping. He has a 2.54 ERA with a 1.87 FIP. He has struck out 11.35 batters per nine innings while only walking 1.86 in those same nine innings. His WHIP is 0.98. His home runs per nine innings sits at 0.46. After returning from the incubator at the end of last season, he pitched 24 innings and walked only two batters and did not give up a homer. 

And yet we still don't know if he will be Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton. Will he shine for just a brief time or will his brilliance last the test of time? 2012 will give us a lot toward those answers. The current belief is that he will pitch 160 innings or so in 2012. You get the idea that projections systems are holding their cards tightly to their chests. Bill James didn't project him. RotoChamp projects Strasburg to 155 innings while maintaining his current numbers. Baseball Prospectus thinks he'll pitch 168 innings with a 2.53 ERA and a WHIP of 1.07 and a 5.5 WARP. We, as parents, would take that, would we not?

This baseball Fan dreams Stephen Strasburg. The 2012 baseball season will be a lot like pushing him out of the nest and seeing how well he can fly. Strasburg is a once in a lifetime kind of prospect. The anticipation for what he will do in 2012 is least from this basement seat. Come on, baseball season! Hurry up and get here!

1 comment:

Thomas Slocum said...

And we hold our collective breaths that we're not bearing witness to Mark Prior II.