Since the beginning of the season the Washington Nationals have had a plan. A plan for their Ace, Stephen Strasburg, that they hope will ensure a healthy arm in the many years to come; as this is his first full season since having Tommy John surgery, in 2010.
But the decision to play it safe, by placing Strasburg on a 160-innings limit–combined with making him a starter out of the gates, on Opening Day–is proving to be a somewhat questionable one. As now that the Nationals are pretty much guaranteed a playoff spot, they won’t have Strasburg to mow down hitters in those all-important October games.
Had the Nationals taken the approach to Strasburg, that the Braves have taken with Kris Medlen–in this his first full season since Tommy John–by pitching him out of the bullpen to start out the year, they wouldn’t be in this situation. Strasburg would be nowhere near his innings limit, thus he could continue pitching on into the post season. Instead, the Nationals took the opposite route, and it’s costing them. (Though I truly don’t feel the Nationals will be hindered too much by the loss of Strasburg. They’re too good of a team as a whole.)
The thing that sets the Nationals apart from nearly every other team in the Majors is the fact that they not only have a heavy duty line-up–consisting of guys like Danny Espinosa, Michael Morse and of course, rookie phenom, Bryce Harper, who’s been heating up as of late–but they also have one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball. A lot of teams vying for a spot in the post season have one or the other, but very few have both. That’s what makes the Nationals special. And that’s what I think will enable the loss of Strasburg to be more of a speed bump, rather than a road block.
While it would be impracticle to say that the loss of Stephen Strasburg will have absolutely NO impact on the Washington Nationals, I also find it rather ill-informed to state that the Nationals have little chance to win in the post season without Strasburg. They certainly have a chance. (An extremely good one, at that.)
What it really comes down to is whether or not the Nationals pitching staff can step it up without Strasburg in the rotation. The key three to their staff, being Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson, can’t let it get to them. The line-up shows no signs of slowing down–thus they should perform well come crunch time–but if the starting pitching isn’t there, it’s a lost cause.
In the end, anything short of a World Series title, come November, and the spotlight will be immediately bestowed upon Mike Rizzo and Nationals, with the question forever being: “What if?”
Stephen Strasburg is 15-6 on the year, with a 2.94 ERA. He’s set to make his final home start of the season on Friday; with his final start of the season coming September 12th in New York, versus the Mets.
Stephen Strasburg was officially shut down for the season after his start on September 7th. He finishes the year 15-6, with a 3.16 ERA.