Plotting Out Strasburg’s Debut

Now that it appears that Stephen Strasburg is ready for the majors, I wanted to take a look an see how his starts might map out over the next few months.

First, here is a calendar tracking the schedules of both Washington and Syracuse.

I figure the Nationals are lining up Strasburg to make his major league debut at home some time during the June 4-10 homestand against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. It makes sense from a business standpoint to have Strasburg debut at home (see CapPun).

Here are two ways things may play out …

Scenario One: He stays on his regular turn, going every fifth game.

  • at Pawtucket on 5/17
  • VS TOLEDO on 5/22
  • at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on 5/27
  • at Buffalo on 6/1
  • VS CINCINNATI on 6/6 [MLB debut]
  • at Cleveland on 6/12
  • VS CHICAGO (AL) on 6/18
  • VS KANSAS CITY on 6/23
  • at Atlanta on 6/29
  • VS NEW YORK (NL) on 7/4
  • VS SAN FRANCISCO on 7/10

That’s not bad. They get one more home start for Strasburg in Syracuse and five of his first seven at Nationals Park, including a 4th of July showdown with the Mets.

Scenario Two: Throw in some extra days of rest.

  • at Rochester on 5/18 (+1 day of rest has been rumored)
  • VS TOLEDO on 5/23
  • VS SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE on 5/29 (+1 day of rest)
  • VS CINCINNATI on 6/4 (+1 day of rest for his MLB debut)
  • VS PITTSBURGH on 6/10 (gets an extra day due to an off day on 6/7)
  • at Detroit on 6/16 (an off-day for the Nats is included)
  • VS KANSAS CITY on 6/21
  • at Baltimore on 6/27 (an off-day for the Nats is included)
  • VS NEW YORK (NL) on 7/2
  • VS SAN DIEGO on 7/8 (an off-day for the Nats is included)

Once again, the Nats get five of his first seven major league starts at home, but they have Strasburg facing the Pirates instead of the White Sox (Chicago seems likely to draw better). And he also wouldn’t face the Mets on July 4 which is likely to draw regardless of who may be pitching. The added benefits here are an extra home start for the fans in Syracuse along with a benefit for DC fans, having Strasburg start up the road in Baltimore vice down in Atlanta (plus it throws a bone to MASN).

The only wild card I could see is this schedule

  • at Rochester on 5/18 (+1 day of rest)
  • vs Toledo on 5/24 (+1 day of rest)
  • at San Diego on 5/30 (MLB debut at home for Strasburg)
  • VS CINCINNATI on 6/4
  • VS PITTSBURGH on 6/10 (gets an extra day due to an off 0n day on 6/7)
  • at Detroit on 6/16 (an off-day for the Nats is included)
  • VS KANSAS CITY on 6/21
  • at Baltimore on 6/27 (an off-day for the Nats is included)
  • VS NEW YORK (NL) on 7/2
  • VS SAN DIEGO on 7/8 (an off-day for the Nats is included)

Would the Nationals give Strasburg the chance to debut in his hometown?

  1. #1 by Positively Half St. - May 13th, 2010 at 11:08

    Make sure to save the money you can, and throw it at Bryce Harper, Mr. Lerner.

  2. #2 by Wally - May 13th, 2010 at 11:33

    I vote for Scenario 2. My guess is that is perceived as the easier path for him, and they’ll do whatever they can to help him have success early.

    And following up on PHS’s line of thought (ie Harper), does anyone think that the major league contract point could be more of an issue than pure dollars? If I understand it correctly (and I may not), if Harper signs a major league contract, he goes on the 40 man immediately and then has 3 years of options, which means that they are effectively committing him to the major league club by the time he is 20 (maybe 21, I don’t know when his birthday is). Seems risky and not something Rizzo would want to commit to.

    Does Boras have a history on this issue for HS players?

  3. #3 by John O’Connor - May 13th, 2010 at 11:41

    I am in favor of any schedule that builds in some extra rest while Strasburg is in the minors. I know this is a nutty idea, but if the Nats are hanging around the wild card race in August, I’d hate to see Strasburg butting up against an innings limit. So giving him the same amount of time in the minors but one fewer start is a good idea in my book (and I say this as someone who grew up in Syracuse, and my mother probably hates me for suggesting it).

  4. #4 by markfd - May 13th, 2010 at 11:49

    Interesting thought with the wildcard debut in San Diego, there certainly would be a much larger gate at PETCO than if it was Stammen or whoever agains the Padres on the 30th, I am still going with scenario #2 being my bet but if scenario #1 happens I’ll bet the Prez shows up to watch the game against his Chisox.

  5. #5 by Dick - May 13th, 2010 at 12:09

    This from MLB Trade Rumors: Marc Hulet of FanGraphs says it’s too early to worry, but pitching prospect Aaron Crow reminds him a little of another former first rounder in the Royals’ system: Luke Hochevar. And to think we got stuck with Storen when we couldn’t sign this guy.

  6. #6 by estuartj - May 13th, 2010 at 12:48

    I’m staying out on a limb with my May 22nd debut. His 2nd start would be in San Diego May 28th and then 3rd start vs Houston before coming back to DC to pick up with the Cincinatti series.

    Point is he has about 16 starts left based on a 130IP limit so why waste those innings in AAA.

    If they deactivate him after he hits his limit (8/30) does September count against his service time?

  7. #7 by Brian Oliver - May 13th, 2010 at 13:30

    Deactivate? The only way to shut off his service clock would be to option him to the minors. I figure that the Nats are taking care of the service time thing now and he’ll hit his IP limit right around the times that rosters expand. He’ll just sit & watch from that point on

  8. #8 by estuartj - May 13th, 2010 at 13:39

    That’s why I was thinking if he’s done on 8/30 they can option him back before rosters expand – then he’ll be recalled but not activated (when they “recall” all the 40 man roster guys) and his service time freezes.

    They could still activate him for the playoff if they get that far…

  9. #9 by Greg - May 13th, 2010 at 13:42

    Thanks Brian. It would be great if you could keep us updated on the predictions throughout his scheduled starts and rests.

  10. #10 by estuartj - May 13th, 2010 at 13:52

    @natsnewsnetwork say Strasburg’s next start is May 18 at Rochester – looks like Option 2 so far (though May 23rd at home vs Baltimore is still possible!).

  11. #11 by A DC Wonk - May 13th, 2010 at 13:56

    Brian, you scenario #3 has May 30 . . . isn’t the “magic date” June 1, or am I missing something?

  12. #12 by peric - May 13th, 2010 at 13:56

    I think it will be against Pittsburgh at home first … skipping the Cincy series. As predicted by Buster Olney I believe? It makes sense because Pittsburgh fans are close by and can make it to the game. Pittsburgh will be a “lesser” challenge to start off with than Cincinnati which is doing pretty well right now. Sets the stage for instant success.

  13. #13 by peric - May 13th, 2010 at 13:59

    As far as Strasburg “running out of innings”? There is always the bullpen option. Strasburg, Storen, Clippard, Slaten, Capps, Walker and perhaps Burnett. It would scare the bejesus out of any opposing manager. Do you really want to chase the starter and have to face them? The answer would likely be no, no and definitely no.

  14. #14 by estuartj - May 13th, 2010 at 14:03

    A DC Wonk :

    Brian, you scenario #3 has May 30 . . . isn’t the “magic date” June 1, or am I missing something?

    The “Magic Date” was probably the first week of May (based on ’09’s cutoff) but you won’t know for sure till after the season.

  15. #15 by peric - May 13th, 2010 at 14:07

    My above scenario would allow M. Rizzo to make all the necessary moves to get Storen on the roster first in the earliest part of June. Management has made it clear to Ben Goessling that Storen comes first, before Strasburg. As a reward for both signing as quickly as he did and for all his hard and diligent work last year and this. I believe this will involve some internal political maneuvering. A veteran favored but underperforming veteran (favored by Riggleman : read Miguel Batista) might have to be cut. That could take some time.

  16. #16 by Andrew - May 13th, 2010 at 14:07

    Brian – I am betting on Option #2 and hoping for 6/4.

    Would also be great if somehow he pitched Father’s Day June 20th vs. Chisox.

  17. #17 by estuartj - May 13th, 2010 at 14:22

    I’d bet Rizzo has someone crunching the numbers daily to see what the Super-2 cut-off will be, I wouldn’t want to be the guy who screws up that calculation – it’s a $8-16 Million gamble.

  18. #18 by NeatoTorpedo - May 13th, 2010 at 14:28

    There’s not just money to be had here for the Lerners. I believe the thing to keep an eye on now are the TV schedules:

    Like, if, out of the blue, the 6/6 game jumps to 8, it suggests ESPN’s picking it up for Sunday Night (they’re slated for Mil-StL, which, with the Cards and Reds pulling away already, is not looking like the most compelling matchup). Or if FOX suddenly shifts Saturday baseball to cover the Friday night game (“Saturday baseball! Friday night! HERE ON FOX!” Ugh.). They currently have the same Mil-StL on sat, along with NYM-Fla for this market – if the Mets buckle, that could turn into a woofer too.

    If I’m in the front office, I think you shoot for the Friday start – it bookends a homestand, and that’s a good hook for reporters and lets them springboard off the potentially successful first outing to build attendance into the second. It lets Stras rest coming into the majors so he’s ready. Since there’s probably no avoiding the Reds, it at least lets him pick on the Pirates for fun.

  19. #19 by Ric - May 13th, 2010 at 16:35

    Don’t you have to factor in also who gets replaced in the rotation? Doubt that they will bump a regular like Livan for a rookie, no matter how talented. I think it will be June 8 vs. Pittsburgh – happens to be Stammen’s turn in the rotation. Possibly either June 4 or 5, which could be Atilano’s turn (Nats have one off-day to adjust the rotation if they wish). Both Stammen and Atilano have options and should not be lost. Possibly Lannan to the DL if his elbow doesn’t heal.

    I don’t really think Storen drives the process; getting him on the 40-man can be accomplished by putting Marquis, Mock, Coste, Flores, Mattheus or Jaime on the 60-day DL. Bruney seems the most likely to be assigned out as of today, but maybe one of Batista, Slaten or Walker.

  20. #20 by peric - May 13th, 2010 at 18:53

    Inside sources continue to tell Ben Goessling that Drew Storen (performance evaluation pending) does indeed affect the process because he is to come first. Storen not only needs to make the 40-man but also needs to be activated onto the 25-man as well. In Strasburg’s case he is already on the 40-man. Several moves might be involved in setting it up so that one follows the other?

    My impression is that they want to send a message to the prospects in their system, future top draft picks, and their agents. The sooner you sign and get started the sooner you get to the majors.

    So, unless Drew Storen drops the ball he will be brought up before Strasburg. Making that June 8th date and the associated off day the most plausible at this point for Strasburg’s arrival. Drew and him mom Pam should be in around the June 2nd to June 3rd time frame.

  21. #21 by Ric - May 13th, 2010 at 19:29

    Maybe Ben’s sources are right. Still won’t be a timing issue – Storen can come up any time. Getting him on the roster is a simple transaction, just like Slaten last week.

    By the way, I hope Ben’s sources are wrong. SS clearly has the performance qualifications. Storen’s performance is good, but not on the same level. I don’t think that promotion should be used as a reward for signing fast. And these two are amazing talents, relative to the norm. Would it really matter who signed first between Marrero and Willems in 2006? Detwiler, Smoker and Burgess in 2007? They would be making a point with almost no application – very rarely does a draftee get to the majors the following year.

  22. #22 by Jeff E. - May 13th, 2010 at 19:45

    Interesting that in Virginia there is a town named Strasburg. Not one to wine, BUT, I cannot help mention with the news of Colten Williams fading away from the game about which scouting opinion pressed for Colten over -say- Justin Smoak. Hopefully, this upcoming draft stocks a bat besides Harper who has the upside of Smoak.

  23. #23 by Brian Oliver - May 13th, 2010 at 19:52

    Jeff – Willems was a 2006 draft pick while Smoak was a 2008 draft pick

  24. #24 by Ann Ominous - May 14th, 2010 at 10:51

    “Would the Nationals give Strasburg the chance to debut in his hometown?”

    In a word, no f*ckin’ way. Oh wait, that’s three words.

    In another word, why? If they did, lots of bad things could happen that would lessen the impact of his first start in DC. He could get hurt. He could get knocked around a la Marquis. And why make him endure a brief cross-country round trip before making his first DC start? Finally, why give away the biggest baseball attendance and media bonanza this town will ever see to San Diego? You want his debut to occur in prime time. That’s prime time in DC, not prime time in California.

  25. #25 by Ric - May 14th, 2010 at 12:21

    Crow is the pitcher who they chose over Smoak in 2008. Smoak went within the next few picks – maybe even next (I don’t recall offhand). But, if we had Smoak, we would not have Storen.

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