The scary downside of Stephen Strasburg 

June, 17, 2010
06/17/10
12:44
PM ET

As you may have heard by now, Stephen Strasburg just might be the best pitching prospect ever. As you may also have heard, there is no such thing as a pitching prospect. Pitchers are so injury-prone and unpredictable that it hardly ever makes sense to bet the ranch any individual hurler will be consistently good.

Last week, Dan Szymborksi used his ZiPS system to forecast the next 18 years and estimated that Strasburg would go 184-143 over his career. But there's a huge range of possibilities embedded in that projection. ZiPS said there's a 10 percent chance Strasburg will win 224 games, and 100-1 odds that he will win 283 games.

So what if we try to narrow our margin of error in Strasburg's projection by focusing on how he's likely to do in the next season or two? The results are scary -- in both senses of the word.

Peter Keating is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, where he covers investigative and statistical subjects. He started writing "The Biz," a column looking at sports business from the fan's point of view, in 1999. He also coordinates the Magazine's annual "Ultimate Standings" project, which ranks all pro franchises according to how much they give back to fans. His work on concussions in football has earned awards from the Deadline Club, the New York Press Club and the Center for the Study of Sport in Society.

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