Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past few months, you’ve heard Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo plans to shut down Stephen Strasburg once he reaches a set innings limit.
First of all, as someone who preaches old-school principles, I’m not a fan of pitch counts. I believe it’s a starter’s job to go out there and give you his best effort for as long as he can, whether that be four innings or 10. There’s nothing that disgruntles me more than when a manager takes a starter out after a clean sixth inning because he’s reached 100 pitches.
But to get off that rant and back on the subject at hand, the fact the Nationals, a team that has suffered for years, is thinking about shutting down their ace in the middle of a pennant run late in the season is just ludicrous.
In a society that’s constantly talking about “living for the moment,” the Nationals GM has decided to make sure Strasburg will be healthy for years to come. The fact is we don’t know how healthy Strasburg will be next year if he throws 160 innings or 220. Honestly, I don’t feel there’s that much of a difference, but according to recent facts it’s not safe to up a young pitcher’s work load that significantly.
Having said that, you never know when the Nationals may have another chance to win the National League East or the National League. I just wrote an article on the San Francisco Giants being the favorite in the National League, but the Nationals are not far behind, if at all.
I think many people believe that if Strasburg is not shut down and is allowed to pitch in the playoffs that Washington is the favorite to reach the World Series. As a Nationals fan, you would have to be disgusted to know you had a shot to win a World Series but that was taken away because of what might happen in the future.
What would make it even worse is if Strasburg is shut down this year, the Braves overtake the Nationals in the East and then he still gets injured next season. That scenario would not play over well in a city that is dying for success.
There isn’t much doubt that if Strasburg isn’t shut down the Nationals will reach the postseason, and may be able to without him. But when it comes time for the playoffs, he better be starting game one or the Nationals won’t be doing their best to win a championship.
Injuries occur all the time in any sport, and you never know when they’re going to come. Chances to win a championship don’t happen quite as often. The Braves and Phillies have dominated this division for the past 20 years, and it won’t take much for either one of them to get back on top. This is the Nationals’ opportunity and to not give it their best shot would be at a disservice to the fan base that has been waiting patiently for this young group of talent to finally put it together.
Not only do the fans and the town deserve to see Strasburg in the playoffs, but they should demand he be on the mound for game one.
Note: In 2010 Strasburg threw 123 innings between the minors and the big leagues. That’s the most innings he’s ever thrown in a season. He threw 109 innings in his last year at San Diego State University before being drafted in 2009.