We all know Stephen Strasburg is the Nationals best pitcher. We also know that he will be shut down at some point this season, which is unfortunate for the team’s playoff chances. And while we don’t know what date it will happen, we do know that he’ll be finished for the year whatever start he reaches 160 innings pitched. Right? Well, not really.
According to this thoroughly interesting Baseball Prospectus article about the recent history (ups and downs) of the Washington Nationals, Mike Rizzo says that the 160 IP limit is bunk:
“Look, the media put (the 160-innings limit) out there, not me. It probably comes from what Jordan Zimmermann pitched last year.
“I don’t have a specific pitch count in my mind, a specific innings count in my mind. I am going to refer to my experience as a farm director, as a player development guy, and knowing his body. In conjunction with Davey Johnson and Steve McCatty, when we feel he’s had enough, we’re going to shut him down.
Now, is this just GM speak? You know, like the often cited “Stanspeak” when Kasten was here? I believe he is being truthful in that they’ll do it when they feel he’s done. But I don’t think this opens up the opportunity, as some fans might hope, that Strasburg will be available to pitch in late September or early October. Because after this, Rizzo also said that if he had let Zimmermann pitched 200 innings last year, he “would not have been doing my job developing the talent.”
I expect in the end, he’ll pitch somewhere around 160 innings. I wouldn’t be surprised if he went 175 or, on the other end, if he only threw 145. But in the end, I think Rizzo is dedicated to making sure Strasburg is healthy for 5 years worth of playoff runs starting in 2013, not a more longshot in 2012.
I really liked the last line in the article, in which the author Bradford Doolittle sums up how alot of us feel (with particulars about whether it’s this September or all of 2013 aside) about this team:
Finally, Nationals fans have something worth rooting for. If Strasburg is pitching in September, with Harper playing behind him in center field, the franchise won’t just be turning a corner, it will be sprinting down the boulevard.