Nats 11-2 in Strasburg's Starts

Handicapping News: Nats 11-2 in Strasburg's Starts

When Stephen Strasburg takes the mound Wednesday Night against the Tampa Bay Rays, he'll be riding a five-game winning streak. Strasburg has been so dominant and consistent this year that his Washington Nationals have posted a very strong 11-2 record in his starts.

Teams (and handicappers) dream of pitchers who are that reliable. No pitcher is a sure thing every time out. And, two games in that recent five-game streak weren't even quality starts. Strasburg only lasted five innings because his pitch counts were getting high, and he was helped out by strong run support. Still, we have a great pitcher throwing for a quality team. That's a potent mix that oddsmakers can have trouble with because the true odds of victory are so high.

A -200 moneyline represents a 67% break-even point
A -250 moneyline represents a 71% break-even point
A -300 moneyline represents a 75% break-even point

The Nationals are 11-2 with Strasburg this year, which is 85%!

And, his consistency has been amazing.

ERA
Road: 2.30 (Nats 6-1)
Home: 2.65 (Nats 5-1)

WHIP
Road: 1.00
Home: 1.07

He's not an illusion based on a friendly home park. His road stats are actually a bit better than his home stats....though ALL of those numbers are fantastic for this deep into a Major League season.

The most dominating thing about Strasburg, as you know, is his strikeout rate. He has 100 K's this year in only 77 innings pitched. Anyone who can manage 77 K's in 77 innings is doing a fantastic job. Strasburg has flown past that. He's not getting the media run of other high strikeout pitchers because he's not going deep into games. Look at what's happened in the few times he topped 100 pitches:

9K's vs. the NY Mets in 108 pitches
9 K's vs. the LA Dodgers in 101 pitches
13K's vs. Pittsburgh in 103 pitches
13K's vs. Boston in 119 pitches

If he was allowed to reach 100 pitches every time, instead of a third of the time, he'd be up near double digit strikeouts every single game, and ESPN would be saying stuff like "another 12-strikeout game for Strasburg tonight" at the lead of SportsCenter. The injury layoffs have diluted the media hype from the frenzy that surrounded Strasburg when he first reached the majors. He IS living up to that early hype though. He's just doing it six innings at a time. Jeez, what if he pitched for the Yankees or Red Sox!

Will Strasburg cool off? Frankly, we'd prefer he was lasting deeper into starts. Expensive pitchers can usually be counted on to go at least seven innings, with occasional forays into eight and nine innings. Here are Strasburg's numbers this year in order:

7-6-6-6-7-6-6-4-5-5-7-6-6

That's an awful lot of sixes, which means you're counting on a middle reliever to pitch the seventh. Note that only one seven pops up in his last eight starts. Amazingly...Strasburg is pitching well and there's room for improvement!

Handicappers must realize that the team may cool off in his starts if his relief starts to falter, or if run support declines. Strasburg might maintain the low ERA and WHIP data, while continuing to embarrass hitters. The TEAM could cool off even if he doesn't....and you're ultimately betting on the team even if you list the pitcher. Plus, there's no guarantee that he'll avoid fatigue issues from the summer heat. Summers can take a toll on high exertion strikeout pitchers.

Tampa Bay will provide an interesting challenge Wednesday Night. This is a team that does creative things to try and score...but they can also be overwhelmed by quality pitching. The Rays will try and play chess with a flamethrower. Handicapping that matchup will test your abilities to fully think through the analytical process.

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