Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Reality Check

Tim Kurkjian needs to calm down. Let me throw it out there that the Rest of Baseball division is a lot more exciting than the Red Sox/Yankees division this year. Nonetheless, Tim Kurkjian and pretty much the rest of the baseball media needs to calm down about Stephen Strasburg tonight. You can't take away from what he accomplished tonight, living up to the hype for one night, dropping a downright Pedro line (7 IP, 2 R, 0 BB, 14 K) on the Pirates in his first major league appearance. He struck out his last seven batters. But the inappropriate context references to Fernando Valenzuela and Tom Seaver (both of which I heard tonight) must stop. Immediately. And here's why.

1. The most obvious, but least believable reality check is that it's the Pittsburgh Pirates, who is hitting under .237 on the season with an OPS under .700. They have the fewest hits, the fewest runs, and straight-up can't hit. It's too bad. They're bad. But they're better than the Rochester Red Wings.

2. Most teams have detailed scouting reports on each pitcher they face. There was actually a pretty robust amount of unintentional coverage of the Orioles' Clay Buchholz scouting report notebook over the weekend. Do the Pirates have the Oregon State University scouting report on Strasburg? Do they have the scouting report from AAA? Even if they did, the guy was not facing major league hitters.

3. The guy's going to be good. And I'm pumped that I have him on the bench for my fantasy team. But he is not going to K fourteen batters every night he pitches. Major league baseball teams will make the appropriate adjustments. The league adjusted to Sam Militello, and the league adjusted to Vaughn Eshelman. Shoot, the league adjusted to Daisuke Matsuzaka, Felix Hernandez, and Francisco Liriano, pitchers with considerable talent like Strasburg.

4. Here is the most speculatory remark: He is on a team that is not really considered a contender. They're playing well right now, but are they for real for the long haul? Uncertain at best, doubtful at most realistic. It's quite possible that the player, like Zach Grienke, might get bored. After all, a comprehensive biography of the player in Sports Illustrated revealed a work ethic that has not always been there. There's a reason he wasn't drafted out of high school. Is it possible to see a 50-MPH curveball out of Strasburg because he doesn't feel challenged in potentially-meaningless NL East games? Probably not, but you get my point.

5. Innings workload. In my very perfunctory research, it doesn't look like the player has amassed any more than 150 innings in a year--probably not even close, even during his Olympic year. He won't be an ace for a full season until he's 25 given the way pitchers are babied in the year 2010.

This performance, however, deserves the following positive comments. Not that anyone's going to wade through the negativity to actually read these.

1. Scouting has come a long, long way. I feel like the Brien Taylors and Greg Blossers of the world aren't going to be drafted supremely high anymore. Can't-miss prospects are less likely to flop, and players are not going to pay their dues in the minor leagues if they no longer have to.

2. The above is indicative of how some signing bonuses might be justified in the future. If this guy is for real over the long haul, he becomes the gold standard. Previously, Brien Taylor was the gold standard. Good. Hopefully this leads to good, as the commissioner's office will realize big-market teams can and will shamelessly exploit the unenforced slotting system and allow draft picks with "signability problems" to fall in the draft. This is idealistic.

3. Good for the Nats for shelling out the $15 million.

4. Good for the player for accepting the $15 million instead of making this debut with the St. Paul Saints like JD Drew did.

It was a special night and a thought-provoking night on all accounts. But it's unreasonable and unfair to expect that the player will play like he did tonight on an every-start basis. Should be interesting to follow the story though.


jason said...

i watched a lot of it and think that he may be able to go out and get 12-15ks a game in most of his starts, i wont say that he will have as good of an era however but probably good for a quality start every time out

the gm at work said...

12-15 K's a game in most of his starts? Not even Pedro Martinez did that in 1999. We're talking about 300-390 strikeouts in a given season, a mark that hasn't been eclipsed in almost a decade (Randy Johnson was the last to go over 300). So judging by this one start against a terrible team, you are going to say he will do that on a consistent basis?

Plus, you use the figure of 12-15. He didn't even hit fifteen last night! Goodness. Talk about irrational exuberance.

jason said...

im talking this season, that was supposed to be a 10 but ill still defend it, with the fact that most teams havent seen him yet and may only get a chance to see him a limited amount of time this season i think he has a damned good chance to do this, not talking past this season though so especially the first times he faces these teams i think he will do excellent and since he has limited innings and pitch count he probably wont be going through lineup anymore then 2.5 times and i think he will probably get to 15 one of these timesplus if you look at the nationals schedule they could end up starting him against cleveland kc and baltimore for the american league teams... you dont see a 15k performance against one of those teams?

the gm at work said...

It's unfair to the player to set the expectations this high. The guy was in college a year ago and now people like yourself and Tim Kurkjian are expecting him to be Randy Johnson instantly. Give me a break.

jason said...

unfair? he is the one who demanded the big money was that unfair of him to demand that and not perform? i mean really dv?