Back in 2009, it seemed impossible to go a whole week without hearing about Stephen Strasburg. He was lighting up radar guns while pitching for San Diego State, and some scouts dubbed him the best pitching prospect in the history of baseball.
He made just 11 starts in the minor leagues before being deemed ready by the Nationals, and in his first appearance, he showed everyone what made him the consensus number one pick in 2009. Strasburg went seven innings against the Pirates, struck out 14, walked none, and allowed one run. He was everything and more that Washington had hoped for, and the future for Strasburg seemed incredibly bright.
However 11 games later, that bright future dimmed a little. On August 21st, Strasburg tore his UCL and didn't take the hill in a major league game again until September 6th, 2011. While he wasn't striking out batters at the rate he did as a rookie (12.18 K/9 vs. 9.00 K/9) he was still fantastic. He allowed just four earned runs in 24 innings, and only walked two batters. He finished the 2011 season with an ERA of 1.50, and an FIP of 1.28.
In the four plus seasons since his return from Tommy John, Strasburg has thrown 706.1 innings, and posted a 3.11 ERA alongside an FIP of 2.94. He hasn't taken home a Cy Young award yet, or helped lead the Nationals to a World Series, but that's hardly any indication of his performance.
Since returning from injury in 2015, Strasburg has been one of MLB's best starting pitchers, yet the major media outlets have largely ignored his stretch of dominance.
Only Arrieta and Kershaw have posted a better ERA/FIP than Strasburg since early August, and of these pitchers, nobody has a better K/9 than the Nationals' right-hander. His average fastball velocity has remained in the mid-90's, and he now appears to be throwing a new slider.
"Ryan Zimmerman calls it a 'cutter/slider thing.' Catcher Wilson Ramos and pitching coach Mike Maddux say 'cutter.' Stephen Strasburg does not call it anything, as he has yet to acknowledge it exists.
'It's a side-to-side breaking ball. Hard like a cutter, moves like a slider,' Maddux said. 'We can call it what we want.'"
While we won't call it the "Warthen Slider", his new breaking ball does have similar movement to that of Noah Syndergaard's new toy. Strasburg doesn't have the same velocity behind the pitch that Thor does, but there's a striking resemblance between them.
Strasburg may not have lived up to the hype that came with him in 2009, but those expectations were nearly impossible to meet. He's not the greatest pitcher to inhabit the earth, but being one of the ten best in baseball isn't too shabby either.