Posted by Andy on August 28, 2010
Stephen Strasburg may have thrown his last MLB pitch. Although not terribly likely given the high success rate of Tommy John surgery in the last several years, I'm curious to see how his career stats stack up if indeed he's finished in the majors.
First, I just want to mention how bad I feel for the Nationals. There's nothing obviously negligent in how Strasburg was handled; this seems to be just really bad luck for a franchise that needed a little bit of good luck to go along with their good draft choice. Even if Strasburg does come back, there's a pretty good chance he won't be as dominant as he was before the injury (more on this below).
Anyway, Strasburg finishes with this stat line:
|162 Game Avg.||14||9||.625||2.91||34||193||159||71||62||14||48||261||141||1.074||7.4||0.7||2.3||12.2||5.41|
The K/9 rate of 12.2 is insanely high as a career mark. Randy Johnson is the all-time leader in this category, minimum 1000 IP, with 10.61 K/9.
Here are the only guys to throw at least 10 innings with a K/9 of at least 12.0:
Lidge is active and I'm sure his K/9 is only going south at this point in his career. We'll see what the future holds for Kenley Jansen but the odds are good that his numbers won't look quite this good at the end of the current season.
In history, there are only 18 pitchers with more IP than Strasburg while also maintaining a WHIP as low as his 1.047 and an ERA+ as high as his 141:
Many of these guys are still active, which tells you something: they are good enough to keep pitching but it's likely that their rate stats such as WHIP and ERA will decline over time and they'll fall off this list. It's likely that Strasburg will come back and pitch, but not quite as well, and fall of this list too.
As for Strasburg's future, the parallels with Kerry Wood are stunning. Both came into the league with huge fanfare and both had some exceptional games in their first years, such as Wood's 20-K game in his 5th career start. In their first seasons, their K/9 were similar (12.6 for Wood, 12.2 for Strasburg) as were their H/9 (6.3 for Wood, 7.4 for Strasburg). Both seasons ended in Tommy John surgery. And Strasburg has a chance to win the Rookie of the Year award as Wood did in 1998.
Many people view Wood's career as a lost opportunity given his injury and drop in effectiveness afterwards. I'm not so sure that's fair, though. First of all, did you notice who is second all-time to Johnson in K/9? It's Wood, at 10.36. He's also 10th in career hits allowed at 7.06 per 9 IP. Among active pitchers, only Johan Santana and Javier Vazquez have more seasons (5) than Wood (4) with at least 200 strikeouts.
The bottom line is that Wood didn't become the slam-dunk once-in-a-generation Hall-of-Famer that many hoped and expected, but he still put together a really good career. He had numerous injuries after the Tommy John surgery and those hurt him.
If I had to guess, I'd say that Strasburg will come back and be good, but not quite as good or as durable as the best pitchers during his career. Hopefully the Nationals will still get several good years out of him.