I haven’t said much in this space about Stephen Strasburg‘s innings limit, and that is on purpose. I’m not sure why people would think that Mike Rizzo, after assuring us that Strasburg would be shut down, would change his tack. But here we are with the end of his season staring us in the face (OMG it’s only 20-40 IP away! OHNOZ!) so the discussion begins anew. Or it never ended.
I figured as a responsible blogger it was a requirement for me to give me opinion on this subject. Otherwise they might not invite me back to Blogger Day, and that’s half the reason I still do this thing. So I’ll lay it out in simple terms: I AGREE WITH MIKE RIZZO. I’m not saying that this decision is an easy one, or that it is going to definitely work out, but I truly believe it is the safest opinion. The only time (I think) I addressed this situation in the last few months was around the trade deadline, when I compared the Nationals to Apple Stock
I got mine at $200. It’s worth $600 now. I could have sold it at $300 or $400, and made money. But I believe in the future of the company, so I’ll keep going with it, because I believe there will be a better payoff for me in the end. And that’s how I feel about this Nats team.
If my analogy wasn’t perfect, I apologize, I studied engineering not English in college. My point is that, it’s easy to say “hey, the Nats are in first place, THAT MAY NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN! Pitch Strasburg and win the damn thing!” And maybe they’d win the World Series, and flags fly forever. So you wouldn’t fault them for doing that. And if I traded in my Apple stock for a $200 per share profit, you wouldn’t have faulted me for doing that either.
But I stand to make much more with that Apple stock than $200/share, and the Nats are in an analogous situation. Pitching Strasburg isn’t a guarantee that you’re cashing in, but evidence suggests, at least to Mike Rizzo, that it is much closer to cashing in than NOT pitching him would be. This team wasn’t built for 2012, plain and simple. They knew they’d be good, but I have my doubts they thought they’d have the best record in baseball. They might have had faith in their top 3 guys, but did they think they’d get this kind of production from Ross Detwiler? Or Edwin Jackson? They probably didn’t think Bryce Harper would have played as much, or as well as he has so far. And despite his recent slump, he’s still the most kick ass 19 year old in decades (pipe down, O’s fans, Machado turned 20 before he was called up), which would have been hard for them to predict.
I don’t want to digress too much here, my point is that this is a very young team that is built to win in the long term. I doubt management thought “we have a legit shot to win the World Series from 2012-2015 the way we’re built.” It was more like 2013-2015, and we’ll be much much better in 2012. As well as they’ve played, I’m not sure even with Strasburg they’d be able to win it all, because they combine youth and lack of playoff experience (both can be overblown, but combined could make for a team that’s pressing). But even if all of that logic wasn’t there, the logic of sitting Strasburg would still make sense to me.
There is medical evidence that Mike Rizzo believes, that suggests that pitching Strasburg beyond a certain number of innings this year would be detrimental to his health and his pitching career. That is enough for me.
Tom Boswell wrote what is probably the best insight into Rizzo’s thinking, using many of Rizzo’s own words, on the subject. Whether you enjoy Boz’s forays into the stubbornness and success of the front office later in the article, the first page or two of gave me all I need to know about why this needs to be done.
Thom Loverro crystallized why this is being done pretty well, too.