Stephen Strasburg Is Having the Best Season of His Career
Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg is just 28 years old, but it seems like he's been around forever. The 2017 season is his eighth in the majors, and although he's had a good (if not injury-prone) career, he may be in the midst of his best campaign yet.
He may also be the difference-maker in a Nationals rotation that can match up with any other in baseball.
Yes, even you, Cleveland Indians.
With Max Scherzer likely to generate most of the National League Cy Young buzz and Gio Gonzalez on pace to post a career-low ERA, it's sometimes easy to forget about the former top overall pick. However, he's managed to make some headlines of his own lately.
After an 8-inning, 2-hit outing against the Philadelphia Phillies last weekend in which he didn't give up a run, struck out 10 batters and walked just 1 batter, Strasburg extended his scoreless-inning streak to 34 frames.
The last time Stephen Strasburg surrendered a run, you were probably googling "solar eclipse glasses" ... pic.twitter.com/FBrrZ73M7b
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 11, 2017
During this streak, Stras' ERA has fallen from 3.24 to 2.64, which currently gives Scherzer, Gonzalez and Strasburg the second-, third-, and fourth-best ERAs in the National League (Clayton Kershaw leads with a 2.15 ERA). And in a year where there seems to be an endless amount of homers, Strasburg has allowed just 0.75 dingers per nine innings pitched. That's the third-lowest mark in baseball, and much lower than the 1.28 league average.
Simply put, Strasburg has been one of baseball's best pitchers this season. Not only is his 4.8 fWAR a career high and tied for seventh with Carlos Carrasco, but his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) of 2.78 is tops in the NL and third best in the majors among qualified pitchers. As if that wasn't enough already, his 29.1% strikeout percentage is the eighth-best mark, while opponents are hitting just .207 off him (tied for sixth best).
The veteran hurler has seen a spike in his ground-ball rate this year (46.7%) compared to 2016 (39.5%), which is his highest rate since the 2013 season (51.5%). His 12.8% swinging-strike rate is also on pace to be the highest of his career, and a noticeable jump from last season's 11.0%.
As a team, it's going to be hard for anyone to match up with the arms Washington can throw out in the first three games of the NLDS. They have the best rotation ERA in baseball (3.45 heading into Tuesday's action), which is slightly ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers (3.48), a potential foe they could meet in the NLCS. While Rich Hill and Yu Darvish have struggled during the Dodgers' recent slide, come October, they could be a tough matchup. The Arizona Diamondbacks are right behind them both with a rotation ERA of 3.52, featuring Greinke, the underrated Robbie Ray and either Zack Godley or Patrick Corbin.
But of all those pitchers, there is no one hotter right now than Strasburg, who is healthy and pitching better than he ever has in his big-league life.
That's a scary thought to any NL team that may have to face him in October.