While watching the Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg pitch against the New York Mets in Monday’s opener, you would almost feel the need to double-check your calendar to make sure you weren’t watching a replay of a 2013 game. In April of 2013, Strasburg, in his only start against the Mets, pitched six innings allowing five hits, four runs and two homers.
Fast forward to the Nationals 2014 opening day matchup against the Mets on Monday, and Strasburg — you guessed it — pitched six innings allowing five hits and four runs, while giving up two homers.
While the identical numbers are eerie, there were some differences in the two performances. Mainly, Strasburg took the loss and only had six strikeouts in the 2013 ballgame while taking a no-decision and striking out 10 Mets in Monday’s opener.
Strasburg gave up a three-run homer in the first inning and allowed a solo shot in the second, putting the team in a 4-0 hole early. Strasburg would go on to pitch lights-out baseball for the next four innings, giving his offense a chance to comeback, and ultimately win the game 9-7 in extra innings.
From my vantage point, I would have to say Strasburg’s struggles were a direct result of decreased velocity. While Strasburg really hasn’t been the triple-digit guy since his rookie season he still routinely pitches in the mid-90′s. But for some reason, Strasburg was throwing in the low-90′s on Monday, and the results weren’t good.
With no word of an injury, I’m optimistically going to go with the “it’s very early in the season and Strasburg is still building arm strength” theory, which I’m sure Nationals fans would gladly take over the other possibility.
With no innings cap, no offseason surgery to recover from and basically no issues to speak of heading into this season, the expectations are sky high for Strasburg in 2014. Because many feel this will be his breakout year, his performance in the first two innings of the opener was a bit disappointing to most.
Personally, I tend to try to look at the bright side of things. In my opinion, if Strasburg can strike out 10 batters while pitching in the low-90′s, big things are on the horizon this year because he’ll be even more dominant once the velocity returns. Unless there is a hidden injury, I see no reason why it won’t.