Washington Nationals: Stephen Strasburg Poised For A Breakout Year

By Nick Comando
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

After having surgery to take bone chips out of his elbow this winter, Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg has officially been labeled as injury-prone by most. Many also tagged 2013 as a down year for Strasburg, which is pretty much as wrong as one can be.

In today’s game, the importance of win-loss record is exaggerated, which is the main reason why many think Strasburg had a down year. He won 15 games in his innings limit-shortened 2012, but only won eight games in 2013. However, he still finished with a 3.00 ERA.

Now, Strasburg is a full four years past his Tommy John surgery, and he’s proved he can pitch through a full season even though he did pitch through a minor injury. Thus, it is easy to believe that he is poised for a breakout year in 2014.

Sure, Strasburg was 8-9 in 2013, but in the 183.1 innings he pitched, he struck out 191 batters, which stands up pretty nicely to his 2012 numbers where he struck out 197 batters in only 159.1 innings pitched. Strasburg was also perceived to have slight control issues in 2013, which really is not true, as he only walked eight more batters in 2013 (56) than he did in 2012 (48).

In fact, when looking into some advanced stats such as ERA+, Strasburg put up the same ERA+ in 2012 and 2013 at 126. With 100 being average for a pitcher, that’s pretty impressive considering he pitched about 30 more innings year to year.

Much like his teammate Jordan Zimmermann, this is probably the year when Strasburg’s innings are really going to spike. Zimmermann, with 2013 being a full four years outside of Tommy John surgery, eclipsed the all-important 200-inning mark, pitching 213.1 innings in 2013 after 195.2 in 2012 and 161.1 in 2011.

Washington tends to want to bring its pitchers along slowly when it comes to their workload, and this should really be the year where we see Strasburg really be let loose to pitch deep into games. He could really open some eyes as he seems to have built a reputation as being injury-prone, which really does not make sense give that Tommy John surgery is more of a rite of passage for pitchers in today’s game.

Strasburg is not injury-prone at all, and since returning from Tommy John surgery, he has been very dominant and has overpowered hitters start after start. 2014 is going to be the year where Strasburg really makes his mark, and it would not surprise me if he pitches himself back into the All-Star Game and into Cy Young voting.

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