23 August 2012

Will Stephen Strasburg's innings cap kill the Nationals this postseason?

The best record in Major League Baseball belongs to the Washington Nationals, damn impressive for a team that has not made the postseason in 30 years, back when they were in Montreal obviousy, and have never won a pennant but that is not what the folks around the club are talking about. What the subject of conversation is when you are talking about the Nationals is when will Stephen Strasburg, the young ace for a very strong pitching staff, will be shelved. As a means to help protect his arm in his first full season after getting Tommy John surgery, the club is expected to shut down Strasburg somewhere between 160 and 180 innings (he is at 145.1 innings after going six last night against Atlanta).

So with Strasburg's inevitable shutdown, will that handicap the Nationals from potentially going deep into November?

First off, do not listen to the nonsense that some people are saying that the Nationals should not shutdown Strasburg. Yes the team is having a great season, certainly the best of its history in Washington and one of the best in franchise history in a long time, and Strasburg is one of the main reasons why the Nats have been so good, but it is not as if the club is World Series or bust this year. They have a very bright future in the near term plus Strasburg is only 24. If they pushed Strasburg hard down the stretch, he could break down and he may never be the same again. Is that really worth the risk, for going after the World Series title when you have a relatively wide window to get to the Series over the next few years, to potentially ruin your ace?

Anyways, when Strasburg is shut down, the Nationals will take a big hit in their rotation because Strasburg is just so good. But there are some very solid pitchers in their rotations beyond Strasburg, like the very good Gio Gonzalez or Jordan Zimmermann or the veteran Edwin Jackson, who won a ring last fall with St. Louis. The rotation will be able to hold up all right, obviously won't be as deep, but it is still a solid rotation. The lineup is very solid as well and manager Davey Johnson has won a World Series.

And here is the bottom line: no matter what, once you make the playoffs, you always have a chance to go all the way. That is something I cannot stress enough. Do the Nationals have a lesser chance to win the World Series without Strasburg? Yes, I do not think you will find anybody that will speak differently. But it certainly is not like they are dead before even playing their first postseason game.

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