That wind tunnel you may have heard Thursday was simply the product of a collective sigh of relief from fantasy baseball GMs who used a high draft pick on Washington Nationals SP Stephen Strasburg. For now, they can believe in the return they will get on their expensive draft-day investment.
Owners who drafted Strasburg did not take him off the board simply because they thought him to be a quality starter. They did so believing in the hype and with the hope that he would unseat Los Angeles Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw as the NL CY Young recipient in 2014, and they paid a premium price for that belief.
In Strasburg’s first two starts of the season, those lofty dreams and expectations crashed to the ground with a deflating thud. In his first game against the New York Mets, Strasburg lasted six innings, allowed four runs on five hits, but was able to strike out 10. It was a marginal performance and the Ks saved the day, so panic had not yet set in yet. However, Strasburg’s second start was a disaster. He only lasted 4.1 innings against the Atlanta Braves, allowing eight hits, six runs (three earned) and fanning just six Braves. At this point, the panic button was calling out to fantasy GMs.
On Thursday, Strasburg faced a Miami Marlins team which sat in the NL top five in team average and hits at first pitch. On the surface, this seemed to be another disaster in the making for the growing population of pessimistic Strasburg owners.
The disaster would not unfold and the Nats hurler regained the faith of his owners. Strasburg owned the Marlins, plain and simple. His pitches were nasty, almost unhittable and frustrating for Marlin sluggers, who more closely resembled a group of Little League hitters than a top-five offensive ball club. At the end of the day, his line read 6.2 innings pitched, three hits, one run and 12 Ks.
The matchup that seemed to define Strasburg’s domination was his showdown vs. Giancarlo Stanton. Headed into Thursday’s competition, Stanton held a .385 batting average against Strasburg with six extra base hits, including one home run. Not only did Stanton struggle, but Strasburg’s wicked stuff had the Marlins power hitter completely lost.
It was arguably the most impressive performance of any pitcher to date in the 2014 season and for one day at the ballpark, the price you paid on draft day seems well worth it. Indeed, Strasburg effectively restored his owners’ confidence on Thursday, and there is plenty to remain optimistic about from here forward. Strasburg certainly has the tools and the talent, and at the end of the day, his name will be a part of the Cy Young conversation as the season moves forward.
Strasburg owners rejoice.