Washington Nationals need Stephen Strasburg to pitch in the playoffs

The Strasburg Shutdown Plan will commence shortly, but it needs to end in the playoffs

8/22/12 in MLB   |   Pat   |   5229 respect

August 21, 2012; Washington, D.C., USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg (37) pitches in the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIREAt this point, it's no secret that the Nationals will shut down young pitcher Stephen Strasburg pretty soon, as he nears his "innings limit," thought to be approximately 160 innings.

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.
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8/23/12   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

It's funny, since around here, very few have a problem with the decision.

Have people forgotten that Strasburg had Tommy John surgery 2 years ago? He came back last year, but threw only 42.1 innings (24 of those in the majors). So even with the shut down, his innings will go up almost 120 this season. That's a lot. The accepted medical evidence at this time is with young pitchers and those recovering from TJ, it's not wise to increase the workload significantly from one year to the next. Criticize them for not adjusting when the team turned out to be better than expected, but there are reasons for this. In fact. Dr. James Andrews came out in support of the Nationals plan. I'll trust his opinion over all this macho bleating from the rest of the country

Without Strasburg, the Nats' playoff rotation should be Zimmermann-Gonzalez-Jackson-Detweiler. The sick thing is that might still be the best rotation in the playoffs. So, in the short term, they'll be fine (playoffs are a crapshoot anyway), and they think this is the best long-term plan, and in the end, that's Mike Rizzo's job, and he knows if it goes awry it's on him. Personally, I can respect that.

8/23/12   |   beerstudk   |   1538 respect

NittanyJon wrote:
Why didn't the Nats monitor the innings in April and May - 4 or 5 innings ? Then after Memorial Day, go the normal "pitch count" (which is another story) ? When did men cease being men. Take the training wheels off, for Pete's Sake.  

Not only men ceasing being men, but there's no guarantee that Strasberg will play more than just this contract with the Nationals.  Reason #1 that I can no longer stand baseball, the g@dd@mn Yankees and Red Sox use the other 28 teams in the MLB like a farm system and overpay the 'best' players..... It's pretty easy to imagine a high profile guy like Strasberg playing in pinstripes pretty soon, so use him NOW

8/23/12   |   NittanyJon   |   244 respect

Scott wrote:
My question is this.  If they already had an innings limit set before the season began, why not limit Strasburg to 5 innings per start from day 1.  He could theoretically get 30-35 starts which would take him through September and into October.  From there, they could gauge how things are down the stretch and possibly skip some starts in September so he could be used deeper into October.  

Regardless, I can't see how they can not have him pitch in the postseason.  To me, that's a slap in the face to the veterans on the team who could be playing in their last best chance to win a World Series ring

Why didn't the Nats monitor the innings in April and May - 4 or 5 innings ? Then after Memorial Day, go the normal "pitch count" (which is another story) ? When did men cease being men. Take the training wheels off, for Pete's Sake.  

8/22/12   |   beerstudk   |   1538 respect

If'n it was me, I would have had Strasburg pitch in every other 5-man rotation until June or so just INCASE you end up with the best record in baseball going into September you wouldn't have him so close to his limit.

But with hindsight being 20/20, I would sit him now and ride him as hard as needed in the Playoffs cuz as was mentioned above there are no guarantees in baseball.

8/22/12   |   Scott   |   51919 respect

My question is this.  If they already had an innings limit set before the season began, why not limit Strasburg to 5 innings per start from day 1.  He could theoretically get 30-35 starts which would take him through September and into October.  From there, they could gauge how things are down the stretch and possibly skip some starts in September so he could be used deeper into October.  

Regardless, I can't see how they can not have him pitch in the postseason.  To me, that's a slap in the face to the veterans on the team who could be playing in their last best chance to win a World Series ring