How Net Runs works.
More on Strasburg's debut in this piece.
Player of the Game: ... Adam Dunn?! (2.660 NRuns: 2.522 hitting, 0.138 fielding)
What about our hero, Stephen Strasburg? (0.017 NRuns: -0.412 hitting, 0.429 pitching... 3.78 EXERA)
Nationals defense: 2.828 NRuns
Nationals hitting: 1.974 NRuns
Goat: Garrett Jones (-1.788 NRuns: -0.939 hitting, -0.009 fielding, -0.840 running)
I don't process Net Runs with any personal bias. At most, I make judgment calls on which fielder was responsible for some plays, and whether a wild pitch was truly a wild pitch or a pitch the catcher should have blocked and didn't. But otherwise, I just put in the play by play data, my spreadsheet auto-scores it accordingly and what you get is the end result.
For any misgivings I have offered about the possibilities of Stephen Strasburg's greatness, I fully expected him to be the Player of the Game for this contest and for his pitching stats to bear out a dominant performance against the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates.
Instead, Net Runs indicates that he had simply a good game, an effort where you should expect him to allow 3 runs over 7 innings. He allowed two runs on a home run by Delwyn Young in the 4th, but I figured that would be a blip on a radar of strikeouts and groundballs that would roll up positive Net Runs like a Katamari ball.
Instead, it turns out that inning also featured three of the five line drives Strasburg allowed, each of which cost him 0.521 NRuns. Strasburg's 14 strikeouts averaged 0.180 NRuns per K, a total of 2.520 NRuns in pitching production. And the line drives cost him about 2.605 NRuns, offseting all of that and more. You can say that Strasburg had a bad lineup so far off balance that it shouldn't matter, and contextually speaking you're probably right. But on five occasions, Pirates hitters were able to square a Strasburg pitch up and drive it, and appropriately four of those line drives produced base hits, one of which was Delwyn Young's two run homer.
Strasburg still finished in the black thanks to four groundballs at 0.102 NRuns a pop, and a pop up (which it turns out ended the two run inning) for 0.102 NRuns. But a combination of the Pirates' own futility and a bit of fortune during the two run inning (a double play turned against Garrett Jones actually saved a run: Young's homer came in the next plate appearance) did just as much to cement Strasburg's dominance as Strasburg did himself.