From Last Night:
- Bryce Harper backed a great performance from Stephen Strasburg with 2 HR
- Clayton Kershaw twirled a CGSO and homered
- Justin Upton homered in his Braves debut
- The Brewers and Angels both won in extras
What I’m Watching Today:
- David Price begins his Cy Young defense against the O’s in Tampa (3p Eastern)
- The new look Blue Jays begin their season behind R.A. Dickey (7p Eastern)
- Darvish looks to help the Rangers against the undefeated Astros (8p Eastern)
The Big Question:
- What will Hyun-Jin Ryu’s debut look like in LA? (10p Eastern)
It was an exciting Opening Day and today’s abbreviated schedule looks to pact a slightly less forceful punch despite some exciting talent toeing the rubber. I’ll have my eye on the Blue Jays, especially to see if they can get off on the right foot. Check back each and every morning for musings from around the league. As the season gets a little further along, this will become a place for more analysis and debate.
Yesterday, we released The Nine Best NL Starters for 2013, so this will come as no surprise to those of you who did last night’s homework. Yet, for completeness sake, we’ll go through it for those of you who had that paper to finish for MLB Trade Rumors.
The NL has some great starters and a lot of top flight starters just missed the cut here. You can refer to the list linked above to see how I rank them, but my reasoning should be clear through my description below.
And the award will go to…
Stephen Strasburg (SP – Nationals)
There are two major concerns with picking Strasburg for NL Cy Young. First, would be the workload, which the Nationals claim will not be limited during this season. Second is his health. He’s now two years removed from Tommy John’s Surgery and showed no real ill effects last season. So, I’m banking on a full, healthy season from Strasburg.
Given that, he’s my Cy Young pick.
Clayton Kershaw, Cole Hamels, and Cliff Lee are all fantastic pitchers who I expect to have very good seasons, but Strasburg, if performing at his best, is the class of the league.
In 45 career starts he has an 11.21 K/9 and 2.40 BB/9 in 251.1 innings to go with a 2.94 ERA, 2.47 FIP, and 8.0 WAR. Of active starters with at least 250 innings, no one has a higher strikeout rate and less than 30 have a lower walk rate. No one has a lower FIP.
About that FIP, the next closest active starter with a FIP that low is Kershaw. Kershaw’s FIP is more than half a run higher.
We can often get caught up by small sample sizes and extrapolation where it isn’t appropriate, but everything about Strasburg points to this being real. Scouts rave about his stuff and he put up amazing numbers in college. The minor league numbers are consistent.
Stephen Strasburg, when he’s been on the field, has an incredible mix of high strikeouts and low walks. And he’s only 24, so there is a lot of reason to believe he’s going to get better before he gets worse. Roll that all together and I’m picking him to win the NL Cy Young.
I’m not worried about injuries for him, and if we assume every starter in the league performs to their ceiling, I’m taking Strasburg easily. No disrespect to Mr. Kershaw, but Strasburg will be king in 2013.
Disagree? Just watch the dude pitch.
One of the biggest stories in baseball this season was the Nationals shutting down Stephen Strasburg. I liked it. Lots of people didn’t.
The argument against the shutdown was that they had a shot at a title and he would help them get there. We also don’t know enough about Tommy John recovery to know if he needed to be shut down.
But I think they had to do it. He wasn’t just a year and a half removed from Tommy John surgery, he had never thrown more than about 120 innings in a season before. How would his arm respond to a bigger workload after the surgery?
They didn’t need him to make the playoffs. That much is clear. Could he have made a difference in the playoffs? Sure, but he also could have pitched terribly, we’re just guessing. Gonzalez was lights out in the regular season and laid an egg in the NLDS.
I’m a big believer in building innings slowly. He already threw 40 more innings than he had ever thrown. I would be weary of going much higher than he did if he hadn’t had surgery, but the surgery sealed it for me. Strasburg is the future of that team, you can’t risk a second surgery because second Tommy John’s lead to careers in the bullpen.
We don’t know a lot about what causes injuries to pitchers, but what we do know is that pitching tired is a factor. Strasburg had never thrown this many innings and had missed an entire season. This sounds like a recipe for fatigue. He would tell you he isn’t tired because he wants to be a team guy, but I would wager he was tired.
It’s one thing to wear him out and make him tired going into next season, but it’s another to risk another injury. If he was my investment, I would shut him down. They had a good team and made it to the playoffs anyway. I would bet they’ll be back.
He’ll have something to say about that.
98-64, 1st in the NL East
Lost in the NLDS to the Cardinals
The Washington Nationals were my team to watch in 2012. I said on The Guy Show in March that they would win the East and go to the World Series. While the second part of the prediction didn’t come through, it was way closer than what most people thought. The Nationals were baseball’s best regular season team and came within an out of the NLCS.
The offense doesn’t jump off the page, but they played well together. Ian Desmond (5.4), Bryce Harper (4.9), and Ryan Zimmerman (4.5) all had great years. Danny Espinosa (3.8) and Adam LaRoche (3.8) were also very good.
The starting pitching was extraordinary as well. Gio Gonzalez (5.4), Stephen Strasburg (4.3), Jordan Zimmermann (3.5), Edwin Jackson (2.7), and Ross Detwiler (1.8) made all but 11 of the teams 162 starts. They also got a lot of great innings out of their bullpen.
The Nationals were in command of Game 5 of the NLCS until they weren’t in the final innings and lost to a little of that Cardinals magic.
But two big stories dominated the Nationals season. First, the Nationals are contenders now. They played well and didn’t go away. Most people will agree that they’re the favorites in the National League again in 2013.
The other story was the Strasburg shutdown, which was a huge controversy all season. I’m on board with the shutdown, but a lot of people thought it cost them. (Look for a post on this next week!)
As the offseason has gone on, the Nats have added Denard Span and Dan Haren, so they should be set to contend again in 2013, but it’s hard not to look back at 2012 and enjoy it. The Nationals brought winning baseball back to DC for the first time in decades, and there’s no sign of slowing down.
2012 Grade: A
Early 2013 Projection: 94-68