Stephen Strasburg Just Had the Worst Start of His Career
It was the worst start of his career, and it all happened in the very first inning.
When Washington Nationals' righty Stephen Strasburg began his outing on Wednesday against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field, the most runs he had ever given up in a start was seven, which he had done three times before.
After the first inning was over, Strasburg had matched that total.
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) August 18, 2016
In all, Strasburg had the worst start of his career, giving up 9 runs in just 1 2/3 innings of the Rockies' 12-10 win over Washington. He gave up nine hits and three walks while striking out three and recording just five outs.
It was not a standalone sub-par effort, though. Over his last three starts, Strasburg has struggled, going 0-3 in 11 2/3 innings. He's given up 19 earned runs and 24 hits over that stretch, laboring to a 14.66 ERA -- although one terrible start like he had Wednesday makes things look really bad. Opponents have hit .414/.462/.776 against him in his last three starts for a 1.237 OPS.
Three starts ago, his ERA was 2.63. Now, it is 3.59.
Strasburg still paces the National League in wins (15) but that also leads to a fascinating statistic by Elias. Since earned runs became an official statistic in 1912, only three other pitchers have taken the mound in a game with 15 or more wins that season and allowed as many as nine earned runs in less than two innings. The last pitcher to do it was Andy Pettitte against the Baltimore Orioles in September of 2000.
What Went Wrong
Strasburg's velocity has not gone down, and it doesn't appear as if there is any kind of injury. Strasburg is continuing to use all his pitches.
Like when most pitchers encounter problems, Strasburg's issues can be traced to poor location.
Below are two screenshots -- pre-pitch and post-pitch -- of an RBI single Strasburg gave up to Nolan Arenado. In the first one, we can see Nats' backstop Wilson Ramos setting up on the outside corner.
Here, you can see where Ramos had to go to try and receive the offering, which Arendo smacked into left field.
Up next was Gerardo Parra, who hit a bases clearing double to put Colorado up 4-0. Again, Ramos is setting up on the outside corner., maybe even off the plate.
Once again, the pitch ends up somewhere different and Ramos has to reach back into the heart of the strikezone.
Anytime you see the catcher reaching across his body, it's not good.
After Strasburg collected an out, up stepped Tony Wolters.
That's a hanging curveball right down the middle, which was smoked down the line for an RBI double.
The final nail in the first inning coffin was hammered in by opposing pitcher Jon Gray.
Ramos is sitting on the inside corner once again, but look where the pitch ended up.
Strasburg catches too much of the plate, forcing Ramos to reach again, and this time, even the opposing starter takes advantage.
There you have it. Seven runs, mostly because Strasburg missed with his location. Obviously, there is some bad luck involved, too. Colorado's BABIP versus Strasburg was an insane .818 in that drubbing despite the fact the Rox had just an 18.2% hard-hit rate against him, which was Strasburg's lowest hard-hit rate allowed in his last six starts.
Strasburg is still really good -- he didn't forget how to pitch -- but over his last three starts, especially against Colorado, he's just not hitting his spots like he had been.
It's reasonable to assume he will find his way back, and it reminds us how hard pitching is at the big-league level. Even a guy with the stuff of Strasburg can't get away with missing spots.
Don't worry about Stephen, though. With a career-best 30.4% strikeout rate, he's going to be just fine.