The Strasburg Shutdown Plan will commence shortly, but it needs to end in the playoffs
The number is thought to be around 160 because that's when they shut down Jordan Zimmermann last year in a similar situation.
The thing is, last year the Nationals weren't in playoff contention. To me, that changes everything.
They don't necessarily have to completely ignore the limit for Strasburg, but I believe it would be a mistake to completely shut him down altogether.
At his current pace, assuming they stick to a 160-inning limit, Strasburg most likely has 2 starts left. That would place his final start on around September 2 against the Cardinals.
Right now, the Nationals are leading the NL East by 7 games over the Braves, and have the best record in baseball.
Realistically, they can make the playoffs without Strasburg. In fact, it would be a shocking collapse if they were to miss out on postseason play, with or without him.
Once the playoffs start, however, it's an entirely different animal. Pitching wins in the playoffs, and teams without multiple front-line starters have a tendency to struggle.
That's why the Nationals need to be a bit flexible, and let Strasburg get back on the mound once the playoffs start.
With Strasburg, Zimmermann, and Gio Gonzalez, the Nationals will have 3 excellent pitchers to anchor their playoff rotation. Throw in Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler, and they have a couple good options for spot starters to fill out their staff.
The Nationals are legitimate World Series contenders this year. Before 2012, they had never even made the playoffs. In fact, they had never even finished over .500 since moving to Washington in 2005. Their first season in DC was their best up to this point, with an 81-81 record.
While it seems like they'll most likely be playoff contenders for a few more years, there are no guarantees whatsoever. Most people would have looked at the Red Sox over the past few years and assumed they'd be World Series contenders too.
Sometimes, things happen that are out of your control. You want to believe you'll contend for a few years, but you never know for sure.
What we DO know is that this year, the Nationals have a chance to win a World Series.
Even if Strasburg gets shut down at the beginning of September, that leaves him with a month of rest, and then he can still go into the playoffs and pitch a few games to try to earn his team a ring.
Of course Strasburg's health is a concern. But the main reason the Nationals are concerned about his health is because they believe he can help them win for years down the road.
A World Series championship is the ultimate goal, and the Nationals have a very real chance of winning it this year. "Down the road," we have no idea what will happen.
Sit him down for September if you want, but once the playoffs start, the Nationals need to remove the leash and let Stephen Strasburg pitch.
If they don't, then I hope they never win a World Series until the entire front office is cleaned out and replaced, because quite frankly, they wouldn't deserve it.