Watch out for Strasburg in 2011

So how will Stephen Strasburg do in his first major league start tonight at sold out Nats Park?

Should we expect a win, 15 strikeouts and only one earned run?

Will he struggle against major league hitters and lose?

Jim Callis of Baseball America says let’s not put too much pressure on the rookie, but he does give his prediction for what might happen with Strasburg this year and next season.

“That is the thing with Strasburg that is going to be tough. I think everyone is expecting this guy to be like Tim Lincecum, who had the most immediate success, or even a Mark Prior. Lincecum and Prior were the most comparable to Strasburg in terms of stuff and readiness for the big leagues coming out of the draft. They showed flashes, but they did not dominate from day one. I think they both won 8 or 9 games as a rookie with an ERA around 4.00.”

Indeed, Tim Lincecum was 7-5 with a 4.00 ERA in 24 starts during his debut year of 2007. He pitched 146.1 innings that first season. Then he won back-to-back Cy Young awards in 2008 and 2009 with 33 wins and 526 strikeouts.

In 2002, Mark Prior was 6-6 with a 3.32 ERA in 19 games and 116.2 innings pitched. Then next season, 2003, he won 18 games and finished third in the Cy Young voting. Of course, it all unraveled for Prior a few years later due to severe right shoulder problems and he was out of baseball in 2006.

But Callis says they were good early on.

“You could definitely see those guys stepping in real quick. They were going to be very good. Both those guys really took off in their first full year in the majors.

“Early in the year I kind of looked at what we might expect from Strasburg. I figured he would be up around June first. My guess is he will pitch for the better par of three months. I bet they shut him down in September just to cap his innings. I don’t think they are going to let him pitch the whole season. I think they are going to try to keep his total innings around 150. I think he will be effective, but I don’t think you are going to see him strike out 14 every game and have an ERA around 2.00.

“When all is said and done, I think we will probably see him pitch 100 innings, see him go 5-5 with an ERA around the high 3s, probably 100 strikeouts. Then next year, now I will go the other direction (prediction-wise). If you told me he won a Cy Young award next year, I would believe it. He has got that kind of arm. it wouldn’t shock me.”

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