The hype machine was all aboard the Stephen Strausburg train the past few days. Strausburg, the 2009 1st overall pick of the MLB’s Washington Nationals, had an arm some scouts had never seen before from someone his age and was entering his first start with a ton of hype and promise. He started strong, had some difficulty midway through, including giving up a 2-run home run to Pittsburgh’s Delwyn Young, Strausburg shook it off and struck out seven consecutive Pirates, eventually striking out every starting Pirate. Strausburg ended his first career major league start with 7 innings of work with 2 earned runs and 14 strikeouts in just 94 pitches. One might argue how a rookie could live up to all the hype that surrounded him, and one might reply that this start did just that.
Of course, the outing came against the hapless Pittsburgh Pirates, though Max Scherzer is the only other pitcher to strike out 14 batters this season (against Oakland) and as such nobody else had struck out 14 Pirates, but to be sure he wasn’t taking on an offense the likes of the Phillies or Marlins, though both have had their offensive struggles at times this year.
So, looking ahead, what challenges await the prized Strausburg? If the Nationals keep him in the standard pitching rotation, his starts up until the All-Star break will be:
Sunday, June 13th at Cleveland
Cleveland has scored the 3rd fewest runs in the American League, had a perfect game essentially thrown against them just a week ago, and find its young offense littered with injury. Strausburg could very easily surpass 10 strikeouts again here.
Saturday, June 19th vs Chicago White Sox
The White Sox have scored the 4th fewest runs in the American League. While the White Sox offense is known for its power, that’s pretty much all it has. The disappointing White Sox have had more problems with their pitching than their hitting but even so, if Strausburg can keep the White Sox in the yard, he should have little difficulty with them.
Friday, June 25th at Baltimore
The Orioles have scored the fewest runs in the American League. Talk about getting it easy, especially on an interleague stint. Strausburg ends up missing Detroit and Kansas City on Washington’s schedule, both of whom have better offenses than Strausburg’s three AL opponents. Baltimore may put up more of an effort because of the regional rivarly, but because they are the Orioles, maybe not.
Wednesday, June 30th at Atlanta
Finally Strausburg will face a tough offense as Atlanta trails only Cincinnati in the National League in runs scored. A potential hitter-pitcher matchup between Strausburg and Jason Heyward, another well-hyped rookie who has delivered thus far, would be a matchup that would garner a lot of focus.
Tuesday, July 6th vs San Diego
San Diego’s early success has been based mostly on its pitching, not so much its hitting, so if Strausburg ends up struggling against Atlanta, the Padres will be a nice rebound game. Strausburg just misses a four-game set against the Mets between his Atlanta and San Diego starts.
Sunday, June 11th vs San Francisco
This is the day before the All-Star break and it may be very likely that Strausburg may not pitch in this game and instead be held out to save his arm some, delaying his next start until just after the All-Star break at Florida. San Francisco is in a similar boat like the Padres, their successes come from pitching and not hitting so if Strausburg finds himself starting this game, he could find some more success.
Now, the likelyhood of Strausburg starting each of these games is quite low. He may get an extra day off here or there, or a rain delay could throw off the rotation. However, Strausburg won’t have too much difficulty for the next month as he won’t have to face a very threatening offense all month outside of Atlanta, or possible the Tigers/Royals/Mets if his pitching schedule changes. All in all, while you probably shouldn’t expect another 14 strikeout performance from Strausburg, he will have his opportunities to build upon that early success.