Game 134, Nationals at Mariners
Roenis Elias vs. Stephen Strasburg, 7:10pm
After several years, the top two picks in the lauded 2009 draft finally meet.
Stephen Strasburg’s been healthy this year, and while he’s no longer the superhuman freak he appeared to be when he broke into the league in 2010, he’s still an elite power pitcher, with a K% of about 28% and a walk rate of only 5.5%. His fastball’s now around 95-96, and he backs it up with a curve ball and a change-up. Oddly, for someone who’s had two arm surgeries, he’s added a slider this year, though he throws it very rarely. Thanks to his top-shelf velocity and great secondary pitches, he’s never struggled against left-handers. So why isn’t he dominating?
It’s no longer that he hasn’t racked up enough innings – he’s pitched 175 IP thus far. By FIP-based WAR, he cracks the top 20 starters (at #20), behind teammate Jordan Zimmermann, Hisashi Iwakuma, Chris Archer and Dallas Keuchel. By RA9-WAR, though, he falls to 60th, on pace to put up an almost perfectly league average season. Part of the answer is a spike in his HRs allowed, and the rest is likely BABIP-related. So has he just been unlucky? It’s not easy to tell. His fastball’s a bit slower, and maybe that helps account for the fact that batters have knocked 16 HRs off of it. Because of his elite velocity, it’s not immediately clear that he’s ever really needed to command it. Looking at his heat maps, there are an awful lot of center-cut fastballs, and Strasburg hasn’t shown that he can get a lower HR/FB or BABIP on the pitch – especially in the strike zone.
This is hardly to say he’s an average pitcher overall. His change-up is a great pitch, and he can use it to righties and lefties alike. That velocity is still over a standard deviation above the average, after all, and by K%-BB% (a simple fielding-independent metric that’s surprisingly good at predicting ERA), he’s in the top 5 in baseball, just edging out King Felix. A match-up like this one is great for him as well, as his problems with HR/FB are attenuated by the park and the M’s mediocre slugging. That said, if even King Felix can falter, then Strasburg shouldn’t be immune either.
1: Jackson, CF
2: Ackley, LF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Morales, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Morrison, LF
7: Taylor, SS
8: Jones, RF
SP: Roenis Elias
Wow…that’s a less than full strength line-up. Whatever…go M’s!!
The Rainiers continue their season-ending series in Fresno tonight as Taijuan Walker makes his last start. The Rainiers came back to win last night, with HRs from Justin Smoak, Leury Bonilla and Stefen Romero bailing out starter Forrest Snow who had something of a rough outing. I sat down to interview Snow in Tacoma last week; I’ll get that posted this weekend.
Lefty Tyler Olson makes his last start for AA Jackson today as well. The Spokane product’s shot through the system (he was drafted last year, and pitched for SS Everett last year) despite underwhelming raw stuff. That he’s succeeded in AA is a good sign, and he’s closing the year well. In his last four starts, he’s posted a 22:2 K:BB ratio in 24 1/3 innings.