HOWARD MEGDAL: Like everyone else with eyes, I have been completely blown away by what I’ve seen from Stephen Strasburg. I wanted to look at his stats through four starts, however, and try to determine roughly what his season line will look like. This is merely an educated guess, of course, and there are very few parallels to cite when making such a prediction.
Through four games, Strasburg has pitched 25.1 innings, has a 1.78 ERA, has walked five and struck out 41. That was fun just to type, and I’m not even a Nats fan. Let’s compare him to even the most sensational phenoms through four starts. He comes out atop even such distinguished company.
Dwight Gooden, in 1984, had 10 walks and 26 strikeouts through four starts, 20.1 innings of 3.10 ERA pitching. Gooden actually got better over the remainder of his rookie season, with a 2.55 ERA, 63 walks and 250 strikeouts in 197.2 innings.
Kerry Wood, in his first four starts, actually posted an unsightly 5.89 ERA, due to getting knocked around in one start. (The same thing, to a lesser extent, happened to Gooden). Of course, in his fifth start, he struck out 20, then struck out 13 in his sixth start. In his second four starts then, he struck out 60 and walked 15 in 35 innings. Overall, following his first four starts, Wood had a 3.08 ERA, 208 strikeouts and 73 walks in 148 innings.
Even Herb Score, in his debut season of 1955, pales in comparison to Strasburg through four starts. He struck out 41 in 32 innings, but walked 22, and had a 4.22 ERA. Over the remainder of his rookie season, Score pitched much better, with 205 strikeouts against 132 walks in 195.1 innings, and an ERA of 2.72.
In other words, the scariest thing about Strasburg isn’t the 1.78 ERA, 5 walks and 41 strikeouts. It is that most of these phenoms got better after the first four starts of their rookie seasons.
Assuming health, I think it is reasonable to assume another 16-17 starts from Strasburg this year. If he averages six innings per start, that’s roughly 100 innings. Even a slight increase in walk rate (let’s put him at 2.0 per nine) and decrease in K-rate (let’s put him at 13 per nine) would leave him with another 20 walks, 130 strikeouts in those 100 innings.
What kind of season would that produce? 125.1 innings, 25 walks, 171 strikeouts, and an ERA somewhere in the range of 2.00. Among pitchers with at least 120 innings pitched, that would blow away the best K-rate ever, with a walk rate far better than those at the top of the K-rate list.
I guess what I’m saying is, the early stats more than support the hype. Stephen Strasburg may be having the season of our generation.