With the Washington Nationals a hefty 8.5 games ahead of the New York Mets in the NL East, one of the many aspects fans were optimistic about was the return of starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg. The 28-year old would return to the mound in his first start since injuring his elbow on August 17th.
In his start against the Atlanta Braves, Strasburg would be forced to exit after just 42 pitches, due to another injury to the same elbow. According to sources within the organization, Strasburg felt a pinch in the elbow, and will be undergoing an MRI on Friday.
For those who know their baseball, this isn’t Strasburg’s first time in the rodeo when it comes to injuries. Back in 2010, he would undergo Tommy John surgery on his elbow, which ended his season early. In 2013, Strasburg would receive another surgery on the same elbow.
With the MLB Postseason coming up in a matter of weeks, it’s unknown whether or not Strasburg will be active to make a start or two. With 2016 set to become another disappointing season (regarding health) for Strasburg, does this poise for much bigger questions?
Just a few months prior to this injury, Strasburg and the Nationals came to terms on a seven-year, $175 million extension that won’t even kick in until the start of the 2017 season. Even though he hasn’t had an MRI yet and this could be an overreaction, I’ve viewed Strasburg as someone who isn’t even worth half of what he is set to earn.
The average MLB pitcher nowadays will be set to start around 30-32 games per season at Strasburg’s value, yet he has only been able to step on the mound 30+ times in two out of his seven years with the Nats.
Also note that while a lot of Strasburg’s stats hang with the top talent in the MLB, if you look closely, he is actually starting to slightly decline already. Over the course of his past 4 seasons (2013-16), his ERA has jumped up 0.20 per season. While that may not seem like a whole lot at first glance, it has resulted in his average innings per season to result only around 168 (within the same time frame).
The heartbreaking truth is that whether you believe it or not, Strasburg is overrated in a way. Sure, he has a winning percentage of 62.7%, but the guy is rarely on the field and is getting paid to do a job that should require him to put in a lot more outings that he has.
While I do hope that I’m wrong, seeing that Strasburg has been one of the more respected leaders in the Nationals organization, I don’t see him playing at an elite talent for much longer.