Stephen Strasburg had some down time last September and October. Hopefully, he used it to reflect on his first full season in the major leagues.
Despite his ability to shut down opposing batters several innings at a time, Strasburg still has a few things to work on.
Here are three lessons Strasburg should have learned from his first full season as a major league pitcher.
Stephen Strasburg desperately needs to work on his ability to hold runners on base.
Last season, 14 baserunners stole a base against him. That tied him for 22nd in the National League in number of stolen bases allowed by a pitcher. And of the 21 pitchers ahead of him in this category, only three registered fewer than Strasburg's number of runners caught stealing (two).
Stephen Strasburg has been working on this skill in spring training, as he told James Wagner of The Washington Post:
I changed the way I set up in the stretch and I’ve kind of got them in between what I was working on and what I’ve done in the past. So it’s just about being comfortable out there and just getting the right feeling. I think early on I had the right feeling then it started to go away and I was missing more of my spots left and right and not throwing enough strikes...Or I try to play catch up with my arm and I usually throw it in the ground. So it’s just a fine line. But I know when it’s feeling right, it’s there. It’s just trying to keep working on it and trust it out there.
If Strasburg can do a better job of holding runners on base this season, he can rectify one of the few weaknesses in his game.
Stephen Strasburg has a very strong repertoire of pitches.
This includes a high-90s fastball, a knee-bending curve and a ridicule-inducing changeup.
But Strasburg has worked to fine-tune his pitches during spring training, and explained the reasoning to Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post:
A hitter can see it. Obviously, it looks cooler on TV when you’re watching it, when a guy is throwing something that’s move like this [Strasburg waved his hand in a sweeping motion] or dropping off. But a hitter can see it a lot earlier. I’m trying to get away from that and get more consistent, tighter pitches that are going to break maybe a little bit less, but sharper and later.
Strasburg with an even better repertoire of pitches: that's a scary thought.
No matter how dominant a pitcher is, there is always one hitter who can solve him. Such a player can torment a pitcher throughout his career.
If you're not sure about this phenomenon, just ask Sandy Koufax how he fared against Hank Aaron. The Hammer batted .362 against Koufax in 130 at-bats. Aaron also hit seven home runs against the future Hall of Famer, tied for the most by any single player.
Strasburg has already experienced this lopsided performance by certain opposing batters in his career. But the one batsman that stands out is Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla. The former Miami Marlin has 20 at-bats against Strasburg, more than any other player in Major League Baseball.
Uggla is batting .471 against Stras with two home runs and eight RBI. And those at-bats will only increase, as the Braves and Nats both play in the NL East.
Stephen Strasburg better figure out how to pitch to Dan Uggla, or the slugging second baseman will haunt the big right-hander for the rest of his career.