Seven semi-serious suggestions for Stephen Strasburg

1. Don’t abandon your changeup Strasburg’s changeup advanced into one of the best single pitches in baseball over the past couple of seasons. It was worth 8.7 runs above average in 2013 and 13.7 in 2014, easily the best of all his pitches. While all his pitch values are understandably negative this year, the changeup is the secondary pitch most crucial to Strasburg’s path back to success. As for how to get it back to being so effective, read on. (Debby Wong/US Presswire)
2. Lower your arm slot FanGraphs’ Jeff Sullivan broke down Strasburg’s struggles a couple of weeks ago, and mentioned that his mechanics seemed, based on video evidence, almost identical to last year (he includes screenshots). But the shot above is from one of Strasburg’s best starts last season, in which he fanned 11 Padres over seven scoreless innings. The shot is from the: 26 mark of this video, on which he dusts Will Venable with an impossible changeup that slides hard away from the left-handed batter. It’s important, because while it looks like his arm slot is at the same level as in Sullivan’s screenshots, his head and body are tilted more away toward the first base side, helping open up a deeper angle. That seems to be helping him get the kind of angle that creates the movement he has lacked this season. (
3. Work on your fastball location If there’s one thing that Strasburg really needs to improve during his time off, it’s his ability to hit both sides of the plate, rather than leaving the ball in the middle third. Strasburg hasn’t been close to giving up a hit an inning at any point in his career, but he’s surrendered 64 in just 45.1 innings pitched so far this year. Why? Opposing batters have made contact with 84.6 percent of the pitches they have swung at, compared with a career average of 76.2 percent. Strasburg’s career BABIP is .305, but that has ballooned to .389 this season, by far the worst of his career. But BABIP doesn’t account for home runs, and Strasburg is on pace for easily the worst home run rate of his career at 1.19 per nine innings (career average is 0.84). The bad news is that Strasburg’s line drive rate is the worst it’s been since 2011, but the good news is that his peripherals (3.95 FIP) suggest he’s been unlucky as well. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
A handful of suggestions, some more serious than others, for fixing the Nationals' ace. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
4. Change your jersey number You’ve worn the number 37 since college, so I realize this would be an unprecedented change in your professional career. But maybe it’s time to dump the number of Nuke LaLoosh and turn the page. Your idol, Jake Peavy, made a change from his trademark number 44 after joining the Giants, and now wears 22. I’ll leave the number itself up to you — maybe ask fellow 2009 first-round pick Drew Storen, who has also made a number change (also to 22, interestingly) for ideas. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
5. Spend some time back home Now that you’re shelved on the disabled list, find a way to get away and go home for a couple of days. I know the last year has been tough, with the loss of your beloved college coach Tony Gwynn. But Mark Martinez has taken over the program, and led the Aztecs back to the NCAA Tournament, where they were eliminated over the weekend. He helped you become the pitcher who went with the first overall pick. So take a few days back at home. It’s supposed to rain here all week, and it’s going to be 70 and sunny every day in San Diego because, well, it’s San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
6. Dump Seven Nation Army I know you’ve used it for a long time, but it’s time for a change. Seven Nation Army is the most overused song in the sports world, and even the fans up the road in Baltimore have appropriated it, as it gives them another reason to chant “O.” Don’t rush into the decision. I’ve got my personal favorites, like the Ratatat song Seventeen Years, as you can see above. But if you want to make a statement, go for a local San Diego band to get back to your roots, like Blink-182 or Unwritten Law. If you want something a little different from the singles, Blink’s A New Hope is not only an awesome song, but would be a symbolic choice. And with the new Star Wars movie coming later this year, it would geek up all the nerds. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
7. Stop reading articles about yourself (after this one) Seriously, don’t read what the press writes about you. Plenty of people around you are already reading these articles, and if there’s anything worthwhile in any of them, one of them will pass that information along to you. Many of the writers have never even met you, and those who have don’t know you well enough to diagnose anything going on between your ears. But this is the biggest thing, one that your fellow top overall pick seems to have embraced, and which is serving him well: You’ll never please everyone. There will always be someone calling you a failure, or a bust, or a baby, or a head case, or just not as good as Matt Harvey. Screw ‘em. Just throw. You’ll be fine. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnick)
A handful of suggestions, some more serious than others, for fixing the Nationals' ace. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

WASHINGTON — Stephen Strasburg seems both physically and mentally broken. This is not, by any means, to suggest that he is beyond repair, simply that he has not been the ace that led the National League in strikeouts en route to a top 10 finish in the Cy Young race last season. But clearly something is wrong.

Through 10 starts, he is just 3-5 with a 6.55 ERA. The right-hander has never posted a WHIP higher than 1.16, but this year it’s 1.72, which ranks 111th of 112 Major League starting pitchers. He has made it past six innings just once, and failed to finish four frames in four of his last five starts. After lasting just three outs on Friday, he exited in the second inning with neck stiffness, landing on the 15-day disabled list.

With that in mind, here is a pyromaniac’s pair of handfuls of suggestions of some ideas to help the Nationals’ erstwhile ace reclaim his stake to that title.

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