SPOTUS Takes K Street

Stephen Strasburg’s debut could hardly have gone better, even taking account of the fact that he was facing the second-worst offensive team in the majors (only the Astros have scored slightly fewer runs per game than the Pirates). He looked like Danny Almonte blowing through overmatched Little Leaguers out there, and at times like Sidd Finch. Quick rundown of his run at the record book:
-14 Ks in a major league debut is one short of the record of 15 by Karl Spooner in 1954 and JR Richard in 1971. (Bob Feller struck out 15 in his first start, but he’d made relief appearances before that).
-Strasburg set a MLB record for fewest pitches required (94) to 14 Ks.
-Strasburg broke Johnny Cueto’s two-year-old record for most Ks in a MLB debut (10) without issuing a walk. At least as far as I could find from, 7 rookie pitchers have struck out 14 or more batters in a game without a walk: Kerry Wood (20), Dwight Gooden (16, twice in the same month), Mark Prior (16), Roger Clemens (15), Gary Nolan (15) and now Strasburg (14). Bill James ran an analysis in the 1985 Abstract concluding that the chances of Clemens (4.32 rookie ERA) being a really good pitcher were high just on that one game alone, i.e., that random chance would have a very low probability of allowing a poor pitcher to strike out that many guys in one game with no walks.
On the downside, JR Richard threw his last game at 30, Spooner at 24, Prior at 25 (1-6, 7.21 ERA), Nolan at 29 (4-4, 6.09 ERA), Gooden from age 29 on was 40-31 with a 4.99 ERA, and Wood since age 28 has been 13-16 with a 4.04 ERA (with 58 saves) almost exclusively as a reliever. That’s a lot of falling short of potential that only Clemens, in that group, reached (the jury’s still out on Johnny Cueto and his 4.55 career ERA). The greater challenge for Strasburg, as with all young pitchers, will be staying healthy.
In short, in one start, Strasburg has amply demonstrated that he has the talent to be the real deal. Now, the hard part: I’d like to see him do it again.

9 thoughts on “SPOTUS Takes K Street”

  1. From what I saw on TV, the atmosphere really takes me back to Shea circa 1984 when Doc was on the mound. Yes, there was the crowd’s explosion for every K. But there was also the palpable feel that this was going the be the beginning of something that changes the face of the franchise.

  2. Boy does the age that these guy’s careers were over stick out like a sore thumb. No wonder Roger was on the juice, can you blame him?

  3. The stat I saw that I thought was pretty amazing was that only 5 pitchers since 1900 have thrown a 7 inning or less, 14 K, 0 walk game (Clemens, Randy Johnson, Brad Penny, Javier Vasquez and I forget the last one). Not a bad way to get started. I don’t care what MLB team you’re facing.

  4. JR Richard’s career wasn’t ended by anything related to his use as a pitcher though. However I’m shocked to realize how young Mark Prior was when his career imploded.

  5. Those two starts from Gooden with 16 K’s and no walks were not only in the same month but in back to back starts on September 12 and Sept 17. Gooden was really amazing, check out this 50 start streak from 8/11/84 to 5/6/86:
    50 GS, 35-7, 1.38 ERA

  6. Also, for Gooden’s, if I am not mistaken (working from memory here), the 2nd 16K game was in Philly and was only 8 innings, as he balked in the winning run in the bottom of the 8th. I’m gonna go look it up, but I’ve remembered it that way for over 25 years, so I hope I’m right. Either way, Tuesday night brought back great memories of Doc circa 84-85.

  7. His start today against the Indians was more like what you’d expect. He had neither his best control nor his best fastball, but he worked through the situations and gave his team a chance to win. It seems like he also brings out the best in his teammates, they scored more for him than they do for the other starters.

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