This year, the
So why is everyone so down on him now?
The only two measurements that don't live up to last year's are win-loss record, which is out of hands, and strikeout rate, which doesn't signify much in and of itself, especially when it's a still-impressive 8.6 per nine innings.
Maybe the first eight-inning outing of his career Thursday will turn the tides back in his favor. If not, I'm happy to buy low on him.
"Last year," manager Davey Johnson said to CBSSports.com senior baseball columnist Scott Miller, "I cut him short because he was on an innings limit. This year, I'm going to be pushing him."
Strasburg is averaging 6 1/3 innings per start, the first time in his career he has topped the six-inning mark on average. That is an indication of the team's growing trust in their ace.
"Davey has given me a little bit more trust," Strasburg said. "I'm strong enough to go over 100 pitches and be successful, and not lose movement."
Strasburg is still ninth in the National League in strikeouts per nine innings, but he has made a concerted effort to pitch to contact more often, in an attempt to get deeper into games.
After struggling to get through five innings in his previous outing, Strasburg was relatively efficient this time around, needing 117 pitches to finish his eight frames. He limited the Padres to three hits in the game, while walking three batters. He also struck out four batters, nearly matching his season-low. He racked up 13 groundball outs and seven fly ball outs in the game.
Strasburg did not allow an earned run until the sixth inning, however the defense let him down earlier in the game. An unearned run came around to score in the fifth inning, after a throwing error by third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He allowed just the one earned run in his eight innings of work, and he earned his first win since his first start, 6-4.
Strasburg lowered his ERA to 2.83 on the season, while improving his record to 2-5. He is scheduled to make his next start Tuesday against the Giants.
Strasburg retired his first 11 batters -- including six by strikeout -- before surrendering a two-run double to opposing starter Edwin Jackson and a two-run single to Anthony Rizzo in the fifth inning. The right-hander permitted four unearned runs and five hits over five innings of work in an 8-2 defeat. He struck out seven and walked two on 95 pitches, 64 for strikes.
"I feel like I'm going out and pitching well. Just not happening on days I pitch right now," Strasburg (1-5) told reporters after his outing. "It's all going to change. It's still early."
Wilson Ramos, who caught Strasburg's game, told reporters that the 24-year-old lost his focus after giving up the two-run double to Edwin Jackson in the fifth.
Strasburg has not won a decision since opening day against the Marlins. He has a 3.10 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP through his first eight starts of the season. He is scheduled to make his next start Thursday at San Diego. He surrendered four runs and seven hits over four innings of work in his lone start against the Padres last season.
In three games with Ramos this year, Strasburg has a 1.80 ERA. With Kurt Suzuki, Strasburg has a 5.19 ERA. Strasburg seemed to indicate that he would prefer to throw to one catcher, but said this was part of the game. Over his career, Strasburg has thrown to seven different catchers, though Ramos' injury last season was a big reason for that.
The difference in performance could be nothing more than a sample size blip, and the Nationals aren't prepared to give Strasburg a personal catcher just yet. Pitching coach Steve McCatty said he doesn't think it's a great idea to assign personal catchers. Manager Davey Johnson seemed to indicate he wasn't ready to make changes behind the plate yet.
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