Stephen Strasburg Re-signs with Washington Nationals: Fantasy Baseball Impact
When Stephen Strasburg opted out of his contract with the Washington Nationals at the end of the season, the rumors began to swirl. What would he be able to command? More importantly, where would he land? He was tied to San Diego because he grew up there and went to school there, but he re-signed with the Nationals instead for a nice raise to the tune of seven years, $245 million.
Similar to how we determined with hitters, pitchers have four main variables that will impact their fantasy value after signing with a new team:
- Change in home ballpark.
- Change in team defense.
- The combination of offensive environments and hitters that he will face in his division.
- The new team’s approach to pitching and pitching infrastructure.
Let’s see if Strasburg can build off one of the best seasons of his career.
At first thought, I’ve always considered Nationals Park to be more of a pitcher’s park, but it’s actually the opposite. Over the past three years, it’s been the third-most hitter-friendly park in baseball behind Colorado and Texas, per FanGraphs park factors.
Let’s look at how Strasburg has performed at home over those past three seasons:
2018 seems to be the outlier across the board for Strasburg, but the rest is encouraging.
A couple of things that spiked last year, that aren’t at all surprising given the state of baseball in 2019, were Strasburg’s hard-hit percentage allowed, his pull percentage, and his elevated home run to fly ball ratio from years past.
Overall, the Nationals defense was outstanding in 2019, ranking 10th in baseball. The Nats will look similar in 2019 but will be without a key piece of their team at third base with the departure of Anthony Rendon to Los Angeles.
But when you look closer, maybe Rendon wasn’t as valuable on defense as we may have originally thought.
Using the same defensive metric that we used for teams, Rendon ranked 10th at the position in all of baseball last year among qualified players. He also ranked 10th among qualified third basemen in UZR.
The player the Nationals have been linked to in looking to replace Rendon in free agency, Josh Donaldson, ranks ninth in both metrics.
Until we see who the Nationals use to fill the void at third, the jury is kind of out on the impact the Washington defense will have on Strasburg, especially for a pitcher with a 51.1 percent groundball rate in 2019.
The good news is that Strasburg isn’t going to have to adjust to a new division or new teams to scout. He knows the NL East better than almost anyone as the longest-tenured starting pitcher in the division.
He’ll still get to face the Marlins, which is great news for any pitcher, but the Braves, Phillies, and Mets all bring varying degrees of difficulties.
Let’s see how Strasburg did against these teams last year, ignoring the three-year trend with teams changing personnel so frequently.
- Braves: 24.1 IP, 4.07 ERA, 30 strikeouts, 11 walks, two home runs, .690 OPS against
- Phillies: 16 IP, 3.94 ERA, 19 strikeouts, three walks, three home runs, .800 OPS against
- Mets: 26.2 IP, 3.04 ERA, 28 strikeouts, seven walks, two home runs, .557 OPS against
- Marlins: 37.1 IP, 0.96 ERA, 49 strikeouts, seven walks, zero home runs, .350 OPS against
The good news is that the Marlins are still in the division and, while they may improve offensively a little bit in their current iteration, they won’t be a major hurdle for Strasburg and the rest of the NL East.
The Braves and Phillies continue to improve and should get Strasburg fits again, but overall, it’s a good division to pitch against as a Nationals pitcher with the Marlins and Mets balancing out the other teams.
The good thing with Strasburg returning to the Nationals is that we already have enough data to know what we can expect. The big signing last offseason for the Nationals was Patrick Corbin, and it was that signing that gave them arguably the top three-headed pitching rotation in the game.
But as we saw in the playoffs, the bullpen left a lot to be desired, as they rode Strasburg, Corbin, and Max Scherzer as far as they would take them.
The Nationals rotation ranked second in team ERA, third in FIP, fourth in xFIP, and fourth in K/9.
Their bullpen, though, ranked 29th in team ERA, 26th in FIP, 29th in xFIP, and 20th in K/9.
Strasburg is on track for another top-10 season at the position – even after the deep playoff run.
Here is what I’m expecting for 2020:
More Fantasy Baseball Impacts from Recent Transactions:
- Corey Kluber Traded to Texas Rangers
- Gerrit Cole Signs with New York Yankees
- Anthony Rendon Signs with Los Angeles Angels
- Tommy Pham Traded to San Diego Padres
- Zack Wheeler Signs with Philadelphia Phillies
- Mike Moustakas Signs with Cincinnati Reds