Déjà Vu: Why Stephen Strasburg Is a Kerry Wood Clone

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Déjà Vu: Why Stephen Strasburg Is a Kerry Wood Clone
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The National Treasure that was supposed to put Washington on the baseball map at long last didn't last.

Instead, the National Treasure tore apart in the way of a torn ulnar collateral ligament which will require the infamous Tommy John surgery: every pitcher's nightmare. 

The Washington Nationals were being as careful as any team would be with a young fireballer by limiting his innings and pitch counts each outing and through a season. 

Strasburg pitched 123 1/3 innings between the minor leagues and major leagues this season, when his limit was supposed to be anywhere from 150 to 160 innings this season, a reasonable amount for any rookie pitcher.

Yet those 123 innings or so proved to be too much for Washington's National Treasure and caused his body, particularly his elbow, to veto any more workload and break down. 

For Strasburg fans to feel optimism, they should note that aces such as Tim Hudson, Chris Carpenter, and Josh Johnson suffered through the same fate and came back all right.

All three were selected to participate in the All-Star game and all have ERA's under 3.00 since their return from the surgery. 

Yet, comparing Stephen Strasburg's situation to Tim Hudson, Chris Carpenter, and Josh Johnson seems to be too simple and not accurate.

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Hudson, Carpenter, and Johnson aren't overpowering strikeout pitchers like Strasburg is and because of that, they have been able to pitch effectively. 

If there's any name that Stephen Strasburg fans didn't want to hear mentioned in the same sentence with Tommy John thrown in there it's Kerry Wood.

The comparisons between the two are inevitable, especially now that Strasburg has suffered the injury.

Let's take a look back at when Kerry Wood came up with the Chicago Cubs in 1998. Wood came up with much hype and in his fifth start he struck out 20 batters in a one-hit shutout against the Houston Astros.

Wood missed the last month of the regular season with elbow problems, although he did pitch in the playoffs in a loss to the Atlanta Braves. Wood finished the year with a 13-6 record, 3.40 ERA and 233 strikeouts in 166 2/3 innings. 

Wood had a 12.6 strikeouts per nine innings in comparison to Strasburg's 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings. Both had Jim Riggleman as their manager when their injuries occurred and when they were diagnosed. 

Wood missed the 1999 season when he had Tommy John Surgery in Spring Training of that year and came back in 2000 with mixed results yet Wood would shine from 2001-2003 where he seemed to have left the dreaded fact that he had undergone any such elbow surgery. 

Already out for the season, Strasburg is expected to miss the entire 2011 season as Tommy John Surgery takes 12-18 months to heal. Even then, Strasburg might not yet be ready for the start of regular season in 2012 and knowing how cautious the Nationals have been they will be even more cautious with him at this time around. 

If there's any bright side to this is that Strasburg will be back and pitch to the hype, it might not be right away but he'll get back to pitching like he did when he was a San Diego State, the minor leagues and with the Washington Nationals. 

Strasburg will also also be under control of the Washington Nationals for a season longer because of the injury and that's a benefit to the Nationals if Strasburg can return with the same stuff he had prior to the injury. 

The question with Strasburg is whether he is in Kerry Wood's shadow and goes through a series of injuries not related to his elbow such as when Wood has issues with his triceps, knee, finger and shoulder from 2004-2008. 

Stephen Strasburg had inflamed right shoulder in late July prior to a start against the Atlanta Braves, the first sign of warning that Strasburg was breaking down but after a stint on the 15-day disabled list Strasburg returned and struggled with a 5.27 ERA in 13 2/3 innings. 

Now the Nationals may have establish a Stephen Strasburg rule which would stat that if Strasburg gets injured and the team is not in contention that he must be shut down for the remainder of the season. The Nationals may have ultimately benefitted from getting Stephen Strasburg out there after the shoulder troubles because the injury happened now when they weren't in contention and probably won't be until 2012 when Strasburg is slated to arrive along with possibly Bryce Harper. 

Nevertheless, Stephen Strasburg will be back to his M.O. which is striking out batters with his stuff. It may not be quite like did before but it'll be close enough to still call him National Treasure which is currently in possession of the Dr. James Andrews. Not worry fans, the National Treasure will be fixed and delivered in 2012 but for now you must wait until your moment to shine. 

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