I’ve never been in favor of shutting Stephen Strasburg down.
When you have the best team in the league (at least record wise) and one of the game’s best power-pitchers…you have a real shot at winning the World Series.
That opportunity doesn’t come around often, and when it does, I want my team to be all-in–not playing it safe as Washington is chosing to do.
If you think the Nats haven’t missed Strasburg this series, you’re kidding yourself. St. Louis embarrassed Washington in Games 2 & 3 outscoring them 20-4 while going 27-for-72 at the plate, including 8 doubles, 5 homers and a triple. Nats starters Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson were roughed up for a combined 9 earned runs on 15 hits.
Game 4 was a different story, if for one day, with the Cards managing just 1-run on 3-hits. But it was nearly good enough to knock off the Nats, who won by the slimmest of margins–2-1 on Jason Werth’s walkoff HR.
Strasburg, of course, may not have changed the series with a Game 1 start, but he easily could’ve given a second opportunity the likes of Matt Cain’s stellar outing vs. Cincinnati in Game 5, which was the difference maker in the Giants advancing to the NLCS…or Justin Verlander’s terrific outing vs. Oakland in Game 5, sending the Tigers to the ALCS.
Now, I’m not naive to the other side of the Strasburg discussion, or even suggesting it doesn’t make sense long-term. But if we’ve learned anything this October it’s that there are no guarantees in the postseason.
So while the Nationals starved off elimination for a day, there’s still no question they would be better positioned to win Game 5 with Strasburg on the bump facing the team who finished second in the NL in runs scored this season, and eager to bounce back after a lackluster performance yesterday.
Gio Gonzalez, who will start Game 5, is no pushover, but in fact, a formidable starter who won 21-games this season–but one who also walked 7 batters in 5 rather unimpressive innings in Game 1 of this series.
The bottom line is this: if the Nationals not only fail to advance later this evening, but also fail to win the World Series, they’ll forever have to live with the decision to shut down their best pitcher before the postseason.
Maybe sitting Strasburg pays off in the long run…maybe not. But that’s not a decision I’d be as comfortable with as Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo appears to be. And I say this simply because who’s to say you’ll ever be in this strong of a position to win the World Series again?
Great achievement is reached by taking great risks…and shutting down Strasburg could quickly become the Nationals’ greatest mistake.