The nation’s capital is in mourning this afternoon after waking up to the news that its savior, Stephen Strasburg , would be out for not only the remainder of this season, but also all of 2011 because of a ligament tear that will require Tommy John Surgery.
Its hard to sugar coat the news because of how important Strasburg is to the Nationals, but before you jump off a building or do anything drastic, know that Strasburg will return in 2012 back in dominating fashion.
While no small issue, the torn ligament that Strasburg suffered isn’t the career death sentence that it was 40 years ago. Ever since the procedure was preformed on Tommy John (hence the name), it has an estimated 85 to 92 percent chance of complete recovery.
Obviously that still means there is a 15 percent chance that the future ace of the Nats will never be the same, but it’s better than this being a career ending injury.
If the scientific facts don’t console the weeping DC natives, then they should look up some of the pitchers that have had this surgery: Josh Johnson, Chris Carpenter, Billy Wagner, Tim Hudson and Francisco Liriano.
Every single one of those pitchers has had to go through what lies ahead for Strasburg and the end result for all of those players is that they are some of the best pitchers in the game.
In fact, you could make the argument that guys like Tim Hudson were actually better after they were fully healed from the surgery.
What makes Strasburg a guy that will comeback just as strong is his repertoire of pitches. People are dazzles by his 100+ mph fastball, but that isn’t what has led him to dominating baseball’s best hitters.
Armando Benitez had a 100 mph fastball too. Ask any Mets or Orioles fan about him and you’ll realize that throwing hard doesn’t always translate into success.
No, it was his changeup and curveball that make him exceptional as a pitcher.
Both of his off speed pitches are clocked in the low-80s, meaning that there is a ridiculous 15 to 20 mph difference between his fastball and changeup. That is what made the dazzling heat so powerful – the fact that a batter had to be ready to face both speeds.
Now, lets say that he doesn’t get back to triple digits when he throws his fastball, will it really matter? He will always throw hard (although I think his mechanics might need to be tweaked to make his wind up less volatile), so let’s assume he still pitches in the mid-to-high-90s.
That makes his fastball still amongst the best in baseball. His changeup will still be devastating as it is still 10+ mph slower than his fastball, and his curveball is probably one of the best in the league.
The bottom line is that velocity can make you a good pitcher, but it doesn’t make you great. To be great, you need a handful of pitches that can keep batters guessing. Strasburg, at the age of 22, already has that and his fastball is just one of those pitches.
When he comes back, whether his fastball tops out at 95 or 105, he will be amongst the best pitchers in baseball and racking up the K’s just like he did this season.