A couple of weeks ago, SportsNation asked if Stephen Strasburg will pitch 200 innings this season; 66 percent of the voters responded that he will.
Before we get into how Strasburg will pitch, I wanted to point out a recent study published by Russell Carleton of Baseball Prospectus. Russell looked at many variables on pitcher injuries and predicting pitcher injuries. He writes, "It's clear that the biggest risk factor for injury is previous injury. How big? Turns out the answer is 'very.'"
Of course, Strasburg had a clean bill of health last year. Does that bode well for 2013 or the future? Not necessarily. Russell, again:
And no, just because you made it through last year without getting hurt, it doesn't reset the clock (although it does seem to ameliorate the problem).
Those results may not surprise you, but we shouldn't assume Strasburg will be healthy just because he was last year. Now, with that study in mind, and with the knowledge that the Nationals have a deep bullpen and may still be conservative with Strasburg's innings, I'd probably take the under on the 200. But we're not asking that here. We're asking what Strasburg's ERA will be in 2013. (Although his health could affect how well he pitches.)
Here are his 2012 numbers and three projections for the upcoming season:
2012 ERA: 3.16
2012 FIP: 2.82
2012 xFIP: 2.81
2013 ZiPS: 2.69
2013 Bill James: 2.68
2013 Oliver: 2.46
There's a reason the projection systems expect Strasburg to improve: He was the first pitcher since Randy Johnson in 2004 with at least 150 innings to strike out more than 30 percent of the batters he faced. The scary thing is there's room for improvement. While he dominated right-handed batters, who hit .185 off him, lefties hit .271/.326/.387. Among right-handed pitchers who faced at least 200 left-handed batters, that ranked just 35th in OPS allowed. Heck, Kyle Kendrick allowed a lower OPS versus lefties.
So, using those projections as a guideline, let's put the over/under on his ERA at 2.65.
In the past three seasons, only seven times has a National League pitcher posted an ERA under 2.65 -- and four of those came from Clayton Kershaw and Roy Halladay (Josh Johnson, Cliff Lee and Adam Wainwright are the others.)
What do you think? Is this the year Strasburg becomes a Cy Young contender?