This season, Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg will be entering his third full year since undergoing Tommy Johns Surgery in 2010. He’s been steady and true for Washington ever since his procedure, and I wouldn’t expect anything different this year.
In 2013, while Strasburg pitched very well, he wasn’t considered the team’s ace. Instead, that title belonged to Jordan Zimmermann. While Zimmermann’s record boasted 19 wins, I reserve that Strasburg was the team’s true ace.
Sure, he had a sub-.500 record, but he had very little run support all season long. When you look past his record, his numbers are better than that of Zimmermann. Strasburg finished the season with a 3.00 ERA, 191 strikeouts (9.4 per nine innings) and an opponent batting average of just .186. If that’s not ace material, I don’t know what is.
While the season was strong, it didn’t come without an drama. In September, Strasburg missed a start due to discomfort in his throwing elbow. Luckily for the Nationals, it didn’t turn out to be anything major. He later returned and finished the season strong, leading the Nationals to wins in his two remaining starts.
Last spring, Strasburg struggled on the diamond. Through the spring session he went 0-3 in six starts with a 4.62 ERA. While his record and ERA weren’t the best, he still managed to strikeout an average of 11 batters every nine innings. Besides, he still managed to pitch well in the regular season, so how telling are Spring Training stats anyways?
Spring Training is a chance to try new things and polish off the old and reliable stuff. For Strasburg, the crafty veteran may have a few new tricks up his sleeve this year. Strasburg’s missed start from last season stemmed from a bullpen session in which he was apparently trying new things. Upon his return, we didn’t see anything much different, but who knows what he’s been working on this offseason.
Evolving your game and constantly working to better yourself is on the to-do list for any athlete no matter how good they are. The possibility of Strasburg learning a new pitch or possibly improving an old one should be terrifying for opposing batters. It should be interesting to see what, if anything, is different about Strasburg this spring.