Stephen Strasburg and a Cautionary Tale

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Stephen Strasburg and a Cautionary Tale

Last week, Pro Baseball Instruction was on hand for Stephen Strasburg’s Major League Baseball debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  As we wrote last week in our recap, there have been several other young players who’s debuts were as hyped as Strasburg’s.  Roger Clemens, Dwight Gooden, and Mark Prior come to mind.  Each of those players started sky-high and then at various speeds, fell back to earth.  Prior’s career was marred by repeated injuries, Gooden battled alcohol and cocaine addictions, while Clemens will forever be connected with steroids.

What does the future hold for Stephen Strasburg?  Miss Cleo isn’t the only person who thinks they can predict the future.  Thomas Boswell, from the Washington Post, aggressively projected the following:

“In all, Strasburg has fanned 99 men in 76 2/3 innings. By coincidence, that’s one-third of a 230-inning season — typical of current top pitchers.  So, if you want to multiply that 99 by three, it’s not hard to envision Strasburg, by 2012-13 when he’ll be mature enough for such an innings load, to fan about 300 men in a year.  Only 14 hurlers have ever fanned 300 batters in a year.”

Boswell supports his case by saying, “But 16 pro games, at whatever level, is not a meaningless sample and the quality of Strasburg’s stuff, and his results, seldom seem to vary much.”

Now, I don’t think you or I would be willing to make such a bold prediction.  Let alone making it in the sports section of a newspaper with global reach.  Maybe he knows something that nobody else does.  Only time will tell.

Plenty of former big league greats have chimed in with their analysis of the situation.  These are guys that have played the game, been hyped themselves, and know what it takes to succeed at the major league level for a long, long time.  Two in particular were recently interviewed on the Michael Kay Radio Show on ESPN 1050.

    1. Yankee great and Hall of Fame outfielder Dave Winfield struggled to compare Strasburg to any other pitcher he had seen in his career (scan to the 22:30 mark in the podcast).  Winfield was himself a hyped, 3 sport star athlete coming out of college, when he chose to enter the professional baseball ranks.  Winfield said there have been pitchers who had high velocity fastballs, but they were straight, such as Clemens and Nolan Ryan.  Those types of pitchers had dominant breaking pitches to go with the fastball.  Strasburg however, has the complete arsenal including a fastball with lots of movement.

    2. Future Cooperstown inductee and Atlanta Braves great, John Smoltz (interview begins at 9:30 mark) was on hand to see Strasburg’s debut.  Smoltz spoke highly of Strasburg’s mechanics and command.  He also raved about the effortless delivery and command of all 4 pitches – primarily Strasburg’s ability to throw to all four quadrants of the strike zone.

Everyone is quick to predict the future for Strasburg, but how prudent is that?  Consider the three names mentioned above and we quickly realize that there is a cautionary tale to be told.  Listen to Mike & Mike tell the story of Doc Gooden.

Instead of trying to predict the future, let’s enjoy Strasburg for what he has brought to the game and enjoy him while he lasts.  When he pitches in your town, take your kids to the game and witness this phenom.  No matter what happens in his career, we’ll never forget his emergence.

Let’s hope we can enjoy dominating performances by Stephen Strasburg for another 20 years.  Then we’ll be able to say that the prognosticators were correct.

Until next time, best of luck.

The Pro Baseball Staff

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