Strasburg’s Debut

Tonight’s the night – after a couple of years of intense hype, Stephen Strasburg makes his Major League debut. On Stubhub, there’s a ticket to the game going for $575, despite the fact that the 27-31 Nationals are hosting the 23-34 Pirates. People want to see what the hype is all about, and whether this kid is as good as he’s been built up to be.

I expect him to pitch well. The Pirates aren’t a good baseball team, and Strasburg has legitimate top shelf stuff. As long as he can overcome nerves and throw strikes, he should be fine. My one piece of advice, however, will not to be read too much into tonight’s performance, no matter how well he does.

As a matter of reference, here are the 14 pitchers who have posted a Game Score of over 80 in their Major League Debut since 1980.

Steve Woodard: 91
Jimmy Jones: 90
Pedro Astacio: 87
Mark Brownson: 85
Jeff Pico: 85
Danny Cox: 84
Mike Remlinger: 82
Johnny Cueto: 81
Kirk Rueter: 81
Jason Jennings: 81
Jeff Russell: 81
Kevin Morton: 81
Chris Waters: 80
Bob Milacki: 80

That is not exactly a list of Hall Of Famers. In fact, it’s a less impressive list that the guys who have absolutely bombed in the big league debut. It’s a long list, so we won’t go through the whole thing, but here are a few of the names of pitchers who have posted a game score of 20 or below in their first game:

Steve Avery (9), Tom Glavine (13), Matt Garza (14), Jake Westbrook (15), Jon Garland (15), Jason Hammel (18), and Ervin Santana (20)

Those guys were all disasters in their first tastes of the big leagues, but have gone on to much bigger and better things. And that group blows the “announce their presence with authority” guys out of the water in terms of career value.

Strasburg may be fantastic tonight, or he may be terrible. It will be interesting to watch either way, but in the end, it won’t mean anything. It’s one start. It might be his big chance to make a good first impression, but if he falls on his face, he’ll be in good company.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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What about their performances in their second start?