Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Strasburg for All Star?

Stephen Strasburg's phenomenal rookie season, which consists of only five starts in June, has led baseball fans to question if a player with such a short resume deserves consideration for this July's All Star game. If it were up to fan voting--as it is for all other positions--Strasburg's popularity would likely propel him in. (Who that's not a Mets fan/ has the last name Pelfrey, knows who Mike Pelfrey is?) But, because managers decide which pitchers play Strasburg must rely on more than his skyrocketing notoriety to make the roster.

Thus, DBSF thought it relevant to compare Strasburg to NL pitchers likely to be selected. In the 2009 MLB All Star game there were 15 NL pitchers, 6 of which were closers. For the sake of this analysis, DBSF will assume that the NL will field 15 pitchers again. First, DBSF must determine if there are 6 NL closers worthy of All Star distinction.

Billy Wagner, Jonathan Broxton, Heath Bell, Francisco Rodriguez, and Brian Wilson all appear to be definites. They have around 1-2 ERAs, 15-plus saves, and almost 50 Ks in 30ish innings of work each. Second tier closers include Leo Nunez, Carlos Marmol, and Ryan Franklin, all of whom have slightly higher ERAs, slightly fewer saves, and with the exception of Marmol less Ks. (Marmol has an astounding 64Ks in 34 innings of work; a K to inning ratio that surpasses even the almighty Strasburg.) Based on this list DBSF believes that there will be at least 6 closers coming out of the NL.

Then the question is: Is Strasbug a top 9 NL pitcher? (As a reminder in 31.2 innings of work, Strasburg has 48Ks, 2.27 ERA, 1.01WHIP, and a 2-2 record.) Currently, for this season there are 8 top tier NL pitchers that without one of them having a meteoric collapse in the next two weeks Strasburg--based on his limited resume--should not have a shot at passing. They include Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Johnson, Adam Wainwright, Roy Halladay, Chris Carpenter, Matt Latos, Yovani Gallardo, and Tim Lincecum. With the exception of Lincecum all have a sub 3 ERA (Jimenez and Johnson have a 1.83 ERA), 8+ wins, and 100+ Ks (save Latos).

Next tier NL pitchers include guys, like Mike Pelfrey, Carlos Silva, Matt Cain, and Tim Hudson. These pitchers all have either 6-10 wins and a sub-3 ERA, except for Silva (3.01).

Strasburg will likely get two more starts before the break. While he matches these pitchers in ERA, he cannot catch them in wins (even if he had more opportunities to pitch the Nationals' batters have adopted a golf approach to scoring where they erroneously assume that the team with fewer points secures the win). If Strasburg can have two 10+ strikeout, low run performances he will likely surpass Hudson in Ks. Unfortunately, at the current rate that the other second tier pitchers are going he will need to have videogame-on-rookie-difficulty outings to get to the 70 or 80 Ks necessary to surpass them.

Considering per game performance, Strasburg is undeniably an All Star but, assuming managers decide based on the entire first half season's of work, DBSF sees little justification for sending Strasburg to Anaheim.

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