The Nationals top prospect Stephen Strasburg endured what was arguably his worst start as a professional today. In a game that was postponed by rain, Strasburg struggled with command issues in front of a hometown Harrisburg crowd. In total, the right hander allowed a season high six hits, three earned runs, and three walks over 4 2/3 innings against the Altoona Curve.
While the final line does not look good for Strasburg, Dave Shenin of the Washington Post says his actual pitching was not as bad as the numbers indicate:
"All told, Strasburg needed a season-high 30 pitches to make it through the inning, and only 15 of them were strikes. Strasburg was visibly frustrated with the strike zone of home-plate ump Jon Byrne (and pitching coach Randy Tomlin had some words for Byrne as he left the mound following a mid-inning visit to Strasburg). None of the three singles off Strasburg were well-hit -- one was an infield single, one a bloop into shallow center and the last a one-hopper over the head of first baseman Chris Marrero. A throwing error on second baseman Michael Martinez contributed to the carnage, and Strasburg was charged with three earned runs, and one unearned, in the inning."
As Bill Ladson reported earlier this week, todays start will likely be Strasburg's last for Class AA Harrisburg, and he is likely to make his next start for Triple-A Syracuse. If this was his last start for the Senators, he will have pitched 22 innings, allowed 13 hits while striking out 27 and walking only six.
I think an overlooked aspect in this un-Strasburg like start was that the start time was delayed by rain. Strasburg took the mound 30 minutes later than expected, at 2:35 instead of 2:05 which may seem like nothing at all, but for a young pitcher it can be very difficult to warm up, cool down, and warm up again. Chalk the poor start up to that if you'd like, or if you'd like to believe he's human (I'm not ready to accept that), you can chalk it up to that too.
In total, Strasburg has dominated Class AA and has more than deserved a promotion if it does come this week. He was sent there to work on the small things, which by now he has clearly mastered. Right now he's right on schedule to be called up in late May, early June.
Earlier this weekend we had a poll with the question, "Should the Nationals bring up Stephen Strasburg now?" The results were pretty one sided, with the majority agreeing it's fiscally irresponsible to bring the kid up now.