It's OK to Believe the Strasburg Hype

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    CLEVELAND - Strasburg throws one of the 95 pitches he tossed in the first road start of his major league career. He worked 5.1 innings and allowed just two hits. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

    The hype surrounding Stephen Strasburg when he was promoted to the big leagues last week was unprecedented. Baseball fans and even opposing players were giddy for a peek at the wonder kid.

    Take Pirates pitcher (and former D.C. intern) Ross Ohlendorf, for example.

    “We can’t wait to watch him,” Ohlendorf told me a few minutes before Strasburg debuted against the Pirates. “All we keep hearing is that this is going to be different than anything we’ve seen in a long time. We’ve been looking forward to this for a while.”

    Now that the Bucs have seen him, they're probably hoping to avoid playing against him again for a while, as well.

    Living up to the lofty expectations should have been mission impossible for Strasburg. But through two starts, the rookie right-hander has been Ethan Hunt.

    Strasburg (2-0, 2.19) has consistently overpowered big league hitters, compiling 22 strikeouts in 12.1 innings pitched (only one pitcher has accumulated more in their first two starts since 1950).

    A San Diego State product two summers removed from pitching for the U.S. Olympic team as an amateur, Strasburg backed up his legendary seven-inning home debut with a road victory Sunday in Cleveland.

    Like the farewell tours of Cal Ripken Jr. and Michael Jordan -- the media frenzy surrounding Strasburg followed the ace-pitcher up the highway to Progressive Field, where the Indians estimated that their attendance climbed by several thousand after it was announced that Strasburg would be pitching.

    Strasburg merchandise was sold at the road stadium, and with every inning the pitcher worked (he tossed 5.1) and every strikeout he recorded (eight overall); it must have been tough for Cleveland’s fans to avoid making a purchase.

    Despite struggling with his command -- he walked five after not issuing a free pass in his debut -- it was evident once again that Washington’s prized possession has been ready for the big leagues for months.

    Strasburg was better than the other players on the field and, once again, he resembled the super-sized kid with the sprouting mustache that you see dominating the competition at the Little League World Series every August. 

    Strasburg’s just not playing fairly with the other kids in the sandbox.

    But his unbeaten record and high strikeout rate aren’t why his teammates, and even opposing players, are raving about him. Instead, his pitching arsenal, which is drawing comparisons to some of the best arms in the game, has become the focal point of discussions league-wide.

    His fastball touches 100 regularly, his mid-80s curve ball is already considered one of the best in baseball and his changeup often crosses home plate at 90 mph.

    Facing that three-pitch repertoire is about as fair as the richest guy in a run-down neighborhood winning the lottery.      

    So if you’re one of the people saying that Strasburg has only won two games, or that he’s only pitched against the Pirates and Indians, to you I say this: Don’t hop on his bandwagon because of his record.

    Do it because the pitches he throws are better than the pitches anybody else is throwing.