This was the plan all along, and they're sticking to their guns.
Is it admirable, or is it insanity? We won't really know until after the World Series. Even then, we won't know for sure whether the decision to sit their young ace was the right one.
Strasburg himself isn't thrilled with the decision, and you can't really blame him. Pretty much every MLB pitcher is a fierce competitor and wants the chance to go out and win games whenever possible. Show me a pitcher who DOESN'T have that mentality, and I'll show you a loser.
Still, Strasburg doesn't really have a choice in the matter. The team, his agent, the surgeons... everyone says that he has to be shut down for the rest of the year.
Glenn Stout of SB Nation has the best tweet I've seen about the Strasburg situation:
Strasburg should tell Nats he plans to spend the fall throwing 100 fastballs every fifth day as hard as he can into a brick wall.— Glenn Stout (@GlennStout) September 10, 2012
Personally, I'm not necessarily opposed to the shutdown, but I am (and always have been) vehemently opposed to the way the Nationals went about it. They showed absolutely no foresight whatsoever, and might have screwed themselves out of a World Series championship.
Right now, the Nationals are leading the NL East by 5.5 games. Had they skipped an occasional Strasburg start throughout the season, they'd likely still be on top of the division and playoff bound, but they'd also have their ace ready to make 4 or 5 starts in the postseason.
Let's face it: those starts are far more valuable in the postseason than they were back in May, June, or even August. We've seen championships won solely on the backs of a few stud pitchers, and the Nationals had the opportunity to follow that model for success. Instead, they just might have screwed themselves out of a championship in what might be their best chance ever.
What's the worst case scenario? The Nationals struggle for the next few years, never make it back to the playoffs, and then they lose Strasburg in free agency. Then, I'm sure the next team will be thankful that they went to such outrageous lengths to protect his arm for the long term.