Riding the Pine: The (New) Decision

Riding the Pine: The (New) Decision

Riding the Pine: The (New) Decision

Over the last few weeks, we’ve heard a lot about Stephen Strasburg and the impending decision to shut him down. It’s been mostly negative, but should it be?

Before the season, National GM Mike Rizzo announced that Strasburg would be on an innings limit – somewhere around 160-180. That was fine then, as the Nationals were not supposed to be a contender yet. This was the year before they were supposed to put it all together.

Then the season started, and they played well. And Rizzo stuck by his guns on the limit.

Then July came and the Nationals were in first place. And Rizzo stuck by his guns.

Now it’s getting towards the end of August and the Nationals are the best team in baseball. This is thanks to stellar pitching let by Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmerman.

And Rizzo is still planning on shutting down Strasburg.

Early in the season, it was easy to understand the move. Could the Nats continue to win? Were they just pretenders? I’m sure many thought they’d hit the wall in July or August and that they’d be out of the playoff mix.

But that never happened. The Nationals continue to play well, thanks in large part to the rotation.


The Nationals without Strasburg is not the same team as the Nationals with Strasburg. You’d feel a lot better about your chances with Strasburg pitching game one of a series, or with the possibility of using him in a clincher.

There are options that the Nats could look at instead of shutting him down.

They could bring up John Lannan and go with a 6-man rotation. This limits his innings, but still keeps him available for the rest of the season and into October. This would also keep the other 4 starters a little fresher.

They could bring up Lannan and move Strasburg to the bullpen. This limits his innings and still keeps him available for the post season. There is more risk here, as he’d have to change his typical routine to come out of the ‘pen.

They could reduce him to 3 innings per start. It’ll keep the wear and tear down on his arm while keeping him in his normal routine. The risk here is you over-expose your bullpen, which has been as good as the rotation. This would end up hurting the team in the long run, as a fresh bullpen in October can make the different in a series (ask the Cardinals).

Personally, I know they have a lot invested in the man and they want to use him for a long time. I’m a proponent of pitch counts for young pitchers and hate hearing people complain about them (yes, they didn’t worry about them 30 years ago, but teams didn’t invest 9 figures on 1 player; bench players now sign contracts for the size of team payrolls back then). It’s just that you are going to risk a first for the City of Washington by sitting him now; those people deserve playoff baseball after watching some of the teams the Nationals have run out. Plus, coming back from Tommy John surgery is much different now than it was 20 years ago (heck, even 10 years ago). He’s been back for nearly a year and hasn’t had any set backs. Let the guy pitch.

Be sure to check out other great articles at 85% Sports.

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By The Baseball Page
Friday, 24 Aug 2012

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Washington Nationals


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