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MLB.com Columnist

Matthew Leach

Strasburg's first 100 innings among best ever

Strasburg's first 100 innings among best ever

Strasburg's first 100 innings among best ever
Stephen Strasburg's stuff is what made him a national phenomenon. It's the combination of that stuff with exceptional command that makes him a great pitcher.

Strasburg reached inning No. 100 in his already impressive big league career on Wednesday afternoon. It wasn't a particularly memorable inning, marked by a walk, a single, a strikeout and a wild pitch, but it still featured some vintage Strasburg. He finished off Ike Davis with a wicked curveball that simply froze the Mets' cleanup hitter.

It was a pitch with excellent movement and excellent location, and it's that pairing that makes Strasburg stand out. He's displayed it since his 14-strikeout, no-walk Major League debut, and he still has it.

In his 100th frame, Strasburg racked up career strikeout No. 122, which is a historic mark. It's the fourth-highest total in history for a starting pitcher in his first 100 innings, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. But he's the first pitcher with that kind of strikeout rate to start a career who also sports such a microscopic walk rate.

The hard-throwing righty has averaged nearly six strikeouts for every walk so far in the Major Leagues. That ratio, combined with his high strikeout rate, is unprecedented in the history of the game.

The pitchers who topped him in strikeouts to start a career were all phenoms in their own right: Hideo Nomo, Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. But only Nomo went on to enjoy a lengthy career as a starter, and he was never as good again as he was as a rookie. In a related note, none of the pitchers who topped him came anywhere close to having Strasburg's control.

Meanwhile, over the past 20 years, only Roy Oswalt has a better strikeout-walk ratio to begin a career, at 6.47 over his first 100 innings. But Oswalt fell a bit short of Strasburg's K rate, at almost exactly one per inning.

The next three pitchers in strikeout-walk ratio to start a career over the past 20 years, also according to Elias, were Rene Arocha, Steve Woodard and Kevin Slowey. Only Woodard came anywhere close to that kind of strikeout rate, at 85 over his 100 innings, but some of that work was in relief -- where pitchers can let it fly and tend to strike out more batters.

In Strasburg's first 100 innings, he walked 21 batters. Wood and Nomo both had more than twice as many. Prior, who in some ways is the pitcher Strasburg most reminds one of, walked nearly 50 percent more. Wood had 147 K's against 53 walks, a solid 2.77-to-1 ratio. Nomo came in at 129 and 46, for a ratio of 2.80-to-1. Prior was easily the best of the three, at a very nice 3.91-to-1.

And yet he was nowhere close to Strasburg. The Washington right-hander managed an eye-popping 5.81-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, which is every bit as historic as his raw strikeout total. It's also a better indicator of future success.

The overlap between dominance and control is where greatness can be found. Oswalt had it from the start, and built an exceptional career. Prior had it, and likely would have done the same if he'd stayed healthy. And Strasburg has it.

Matthew Leach is a writer for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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