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Weighing In On Stephen Strasburg

By bullpenbrian at 09.06.2012 6 comments.

The Nationals have the best record in the major leagues (84-52) and a Magic Number of (19). They ‘re 7.5 games up on Atlanta with four weeks remaining in the regular season–the division crown is all but a formality.

More importantly, Washington is fit to win the NL pennant, unless of course, they were to shut down their best pitcher for the rest of the season.

I understand Steven Strasburg is a huge investment. I understand the Nationals want to protect that investment. But if the decision is left up to me, he pitches the remainder of the season, including the playoffs.

That doesn’t mean I throw caution to the wind with Strasburg. Instead, I’d limit his workload; less innings and fewer games started down the stretch (as suggested by Tom Glavine).

There’s no question postseason pitching is a different animal than the regular season. Every pitch matters, and nearly every pitch is thrown with maxed-out effort. Is that a risk worth taking with Strasburg? I think it is, and here’s why.

A chance to win the World Series should be cherished. So much has to go right to reach such heights and so much cannot be controlled. There’s no guarantee the Nationals find themselves in the same position next year, or even in the coming seasons–with or without Strasburg.

Power-pitching is gold in October. It’s the difference-maker. It’s exactly what Strasburg should be for the Nationals. Shutting him down greatly limits that often fleeting opportunity to win now on a team poised to reach the Fall Classic.

“I’m not sure any of us understand, but it’s the right thing to do,” said Nats manager Davey Johnson.

I don’t think it’s the right move, and judging by Davey’s comment, he doesn’t think so, either.

Johnson himself is a fantastic manager. In fact, I’d consider him a saving grace if Washington sticks to its guns about shelving Strasburg. But good managing is hardly a replacement for a power-pitching ace like Strasburg in any postseason series.

Not to mention, if the Nationals don’t win the NL Pennant the thoughts of ‘what might have been’ could haunt this club for a long, long time. And that’s the last thing I want on my mind if I’m a member of the Nats organization.

When the time’s right to win, you go for it. You don’t play for next year and you don’t play scared. That’s how championships are won.

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6 Comments

  1. Chris Frye says:

    Strasburg should INSIST on pitching in the postseason and if he is denied, insist on being traded. You play major league baseball to WIN, not to just play and if the Nats have a chance to win it all and deny Strasburg a chance to be a part of it, he should go somewhere where he can achieve what should be EVERY mlb player’s dream — to win a WORLD SERIES — not just to be a major league pitcher!

    • bullpenbrian says:

      Hey Chris,

      From what I gather Strasburg is pleading his case to pitch in the postseason…or at least finish out the regular season. Is Washington listening to him? I doubt it.

      Demanding a trade is a little extreme, but the decision to shut him down could come back to bite Nats when it’s time to resign Strasburg–no matter the outcome of this postseason.

      I won’t be rooting against the Nationals this October…new faces are always welcomed…but they are risking a BIG chance to win a World Series without their ace.

  2. J-Huff says:

    The Nationals just shut him down today.

    I too think they mismanaged the situation. I understand their plan was to shut him down later this season. However, now they find themselves in this quagmire. How should they have handled it? Two ideas:

    1): Shut him down to BEGIN the season. Don’t pitch April. Monitor him after that. Then they’d have him for September and October.

    2) (Which you basically said): Limit / Manage his innings. With John Lannan, they even had the luxury of using a 6-man rotation. Otherwise, they could’ve called Lannan up for about 10 spot starts this year. So far, he has 2 (both quality starts).

    While this doesn’t mean much, I still think it’s funny: Strasburg was pitching last September in meaningless games. Now that he’s one-year removed from TJS, he isn’t pitching in the heart of a pennant race.

    Gusty decision by management. If any team can survive this, it’s the Nationals. They still have two ace pitchers plus a power-loaded offense and great bullpen.

    • bullpenbrian says:

      Yep, we’re on the same page.

      But I’ve also thought the Nationals may have also sold themselves short this season…maybe not expecting to compete for the divsion title so soon…and maybe they thought shutting Strasburg down wouldn’t be such a big deal since they would be out of the race.

      Then again, I don’t understand why any team in the thick of the race couldn’t find a way to keeps its best pitcher through the postseason?

      Baseball organizations understand–and so do its fans–the severe risk that come with over-throwing a young power-arm like Strasburg, and one coming off TJS no less. But what shouldn’t be overlooked is the other HUGE RISK of choosing not to pitch Strasburg beyond September…a decision that could cost DC a title.

      Nats are a strong team even without Strasburg…but imagine how much stronger they would be with him this October. We’ll see.

  3. J-Huff says:

    Yeah. Worst thing that could happen for them is if Edwin Jackson or especially Ross Detwiler are pitching duds in October. Maybe one of them will be hot in October and that will ease things down. However, if one of those pitchers struggle (or even another reliever), the media will be asking “Strasburg?” for years.

    But I have to hand it to Mike Rizzo: He isn’t afraid to make the tough decisions.

    In 2011, he let Jim Riggleman walk during that winning stretch (that doesn’t look like a big deal now, but I remember Nats fans were making a huge fuss about it at the time). He sent John Lannan’s $5 million to Triple-A Syracuse. He called up Bryce Harper in April (I think that was faster than they had planned). Now this Strasburg decision.

    Time will tell how this affects the organization. Not only this year, but in seasons to come.

    • bullpenbrian says:

      Really good points about Mike Rizzo. It takes some brass to make those moves…and thus far, it’s all worked in his favor!

      That’s a great sign for Nats fans and the organization…but the Strasburg decision is by far Rizzo’s toughest…and if this one doesn’t work out, chances are, his decision that pan-out did will largely be over-looked and diminished in the fans eyes.

      It’s not fair, of course, but there’s a lot riding on the Nats success this postseason. Rizzo should have confidence in Jackson, Detwiler and big Geo…but there are no guarantees in October. Can’t wait to see how it plays out :)

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