For: Why Baseballs newest "Big Thing" deserves a roster spot on the NL All-Star team
Question: What is the All-Star game? Answer: Its a game played in the middle of the season for baseballs best players, or "stars". Stephen Strasburg is a star. He is not just a star, but one of baseball's best players. He should be the prototype of an all-star. Possibly never in the history of the game as there been as much hype around a major league debut as Strasburg. The flame-throwing phenom has dominated every level of baseball he has played. As a sophomore in college, the lightly recruited pitcher went 8-3 with a 1.57 ERA and 133 strikeouts in 97 IP. The next season, he somehow improved by going 13-1 with a 1.32 ERA with 195 strikeouts in 109 IP. While only a junior in college, one scout called him better than major league pitcher AJ Burnett "right now". He produced staggering numbers to be sure, but just college numbers. Surely he would be figured out by professional hitters. Surely not. He opened up his career in AA and ended it with a 1.64 ERA while striking out 27 in 22 IP. After he jumped to AAA, a phase where many new professionals face their first struggles, Strasburg flourished and improved. Overall, he finished his minor league stint with these numbers: 7-2, a 1.30 ERA, 65 K/13 BB in 55 IP and a .80 WHIP.
All that is dandy and good, but he will get rocked by major league hitting, right? Wrong. In his 5 major league starts, his ERA is 2.27 and 48 strikeouts in 31 innings. That is more strikeouts than NL All-Star candidate Livan Hernandez has in more than three times as many innings. But it is not just the strikeouts. We have seen the hard throwing righties who come in firing 100 plus MPH, striking out many and taking the MLB by storm only to flame out later. (See: Wood, Kerry) However, Strasburg stands out from these pitchers. Why? Control. Rarely do any rookie pitchers come in pitching with the poise and control as Strasburg--much less one's that come in throwing 100 plus. Only six strikeouts in 31 innings is impressive. It is even more impressive when you consider that he has yet to surrender a walk at home in three starts, which leads me to believe that when he figures out how to pitch outside of RFK, he might quite literally be un-hittable.
Oh, I could go on and on (and on) about his plus curveball and plus plus change-up. Rarely do you hear hitters talk about his 100 plus MPH fastball or his knee-buckling curve--but about his change-up, which most hitters call his best pitch. But one thing is clear: this is not some prospect who is just having his two weeks of fame and has just run into a few good weeks at the start of his career. This guy is a star. An all-star, if you will. He has dominated every level of baseball he has ever played at, and I think you can get 5:1 odds in Vegas that his ERA will ever rise above 3.00 in his career. I would usually be completing opposed to allowing almost any rookie playing in the all-star game. Being an all-star is earned. But Strasburg has earned it.
He is a fan favorite and he is one of the best players in major league baseball--and isn't that really the point of the All-Star game?
PS--Who else is gonna represent the Nats? Zimmerman and Dunn are having less than flattering years. So be honest with yourself: who would you rather see face the brigade of AL bombers--Strasburg or Livan Hernandez? Precisely.
Against: Stephen Strasburg, in no way, deserves to be an All-Star
Stephen Strasburg is a very good pitcher. This is almost undisputed. He has pitched well wherever he has gone and I believe he will have a wonderful career. But there is no possible way he deserves a spot in the All-Star game. The All-Star game is for those who have played the best in that respective season. An all-star roster spot should not be given out on hype.
Yes, I know the numbers are staggering. But he's already faced his first bout of hitters being able to hit him. In his last start in Atlanta, he allowed four runs (three earned) in 6.1 innings pitched. It is not uncommon for new pitchers with great stuff to have extraordinary success against hitters that have never seen them. But these hitters are good and are professionals--they will get better at hitting him. Not to mention, he is 2-2. Not exactly a W-L that gets you voted into the All-Star game. It is not fair that we use different standards of an all-star based on what he has done in the minor leagues--and dare I say, in college. Being a Major League all-star is just that--a MAJOR LEAGUE all-star. If it is an all-star game based on college and the minors, shouldn't we let in Buster Posey and Yonder Alonso? Not to mention, he is not just a rookie, but he has played five games in the major leagues. Five! The White Sox rookie Dayan Viciedo is hitting .308 in five games and thirteen at-bats. Surely he should at least be on some sort of an all-star game watch list?
Again, he is a great player. No one can deny that. And he has a bright career in the majors. But we simply can not begin basing all-star game selections on what players could be or what they have been in the minors. And certainly should not begin voting for the all-star game based on hype. Mark Prior for the NL All-Star game 2010, anyone?
If Stephen Strasburg is as good as everyone says and is good enough to be an All-Star, then he will have plenty of years to do so. But if we vote him in this season and he flames out, he will go down on lists for the some of the dumbest all-star game selections ever.
Stephen Strasburg should begin to learn the motto of the Chicago Cubs: there is always next year. And with him...there certainly is.