Poll: The Stephen Strasburg Shutdown

Uspw_6522090Innings limits and pitch counts are a relatively new phenomenon in baseball, as clubs go to great lengths to protect both their top young arms as well as their investments. No workload limitation in history has garnered as much national attention as Stephen Strasburg‘s, the 24-year-old former first overall draft pick, first-time All-Star in 2012, and Tommy John surgery survivor.

Nationals manager Davey Johnson announced this morning that last night’s five-run, three-inning outing against the Marlins would be Strasburg’s final start of the season, one fewer than originally announced. The skipper cited excessive media attention and other distractions that he felt were hurting the team overall, so he decided to pull the plug at 159 1/3 innings and 28 starts. Strasburg’s performance during those 28 starts was Cy Young caliber, a 3.16 ERA with a league-best 11.1 K/9.

Of course, what makes the shutdown so intriguing is that the Nationals are in contention. They own baseball’s best record at 86-53 following this afternoon’s walk-off win, and are almost guaranteed to make the franchise’s first postseason appearance since moving to the nation’s capital from Montreal in 2005. A World Series contender voluntarily shutting down their best pitcher is certainly a controversial move worthy of debate.

That said, the Nationals are built for the long-haul. They’ll still go into the postseason with a front three of Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, and Edwin Jackson, which is as good as any rotation in the game. Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen, and other core players are all on the right side of 30 as well. The Nats are as good a bet as any team to remain competitive going forward. Shutting Strasburg down could cost them a shot at the World Series this year, but it may greatly increase their chances of winning multiple titles in the future.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.

78 Responses to Poll: The Stephen Strasburg Shutdown Leave a Reply

  1. basemonkey 3 years ago

    Right call.

  2. I feel like the Nats didnt expect to be this good. If they knew they were going to be a powerhouse (like the Rangers, Yankees), then they could have planned on preserving him for the entire season and post season. He was too good to start skipping starts in May and June because they weren’t sure they would be the class of the NL at the end of the season.

    • start_wearing_purple
      start_wearing_purple 3 years ago

      I completely agree.

    • Lunchbox45 3 years ago

      while I agree with that.. regardless of where the brass thought they would be. if an innings limit was the choice with stras, the end of the year is almost always the safer bet. so while i agree totally that they didn’t expect to be where they were, I also KNOW they didnt expect to be in last place.

      they mucked up, plain and simple

      • It makes sense that they should have started him later in the season. But if they did that, they may not have had the momentum from the very beginning like they do. If they don’t have strong momentum all the way through the season, they might not even be in first place. Who knows?

        I have a strong suspicion that he’ll be pitching in the postseason if needed.

        • Lunchbox45 3 years ago

          there is no way they would shut him down and let him pitch in the postseason, that will do more harm than letting him rack up the innings

        • comish4lif 3 years ago

          Maybe if the Barves had Medlen in the rotation in April and May and the Nats had Stras in the bullpen, maybe the Nats would be chasing the Barves? Instead of the other way around.

          And for all the folks that think the Nats should have used Lannan in April to preserve Strasburg, or skip one start a month, or use Stras in the bullpen. If it is going to be 28 starts by Stras and 4 by Lannan, does it really matter which 4 starts Lannan gets?

  3. Tony DiQuattro 3 years ago

    Hindsight is 20/20, but what the Braves are doing with Medlen is looking like the right move. They could go deep into the playoffs and keep him under 160 innings while still getting a lot of meaningful work out of him.

    • Tony DiQuattro 3 years ago

      I think that limiting him to 160 is a good idea, since I believe in the Verducci Effect and that he shouldn’t be ridden too hard after having major surgery; the Nolan Ryan “back in my day” argument doesn’t apply here. But how they managed his 160 innings was pretty thoughtless. If they thought they weren’t going to compete, why wouldn’t they have held him back in April and May? What difference do games in the beginning of the season have from games in the end of the season if you’re not going to the playoffs anyway?

      • He was such a vital part of the team’s success early. They missed Zimmerman, Morse and Werth for a while and the offense struggled. Going into the season i bet “meaningful games in Sept” was the realistic goal for WAS. Obviously things have changed.

      • NavyNatsFan 3 years ago

        Because if you’re not going to compete it is better for him to do spring training with everyone else, rather than having him report a month or two late.

  4. zoolander8816 3 years ago

    right move the way he is heavily limited, however bad way to do it…. when you realized that you were playoff bound you limit him right then, maybe have him throw bullpens and make every 3rd start. but you need your best pitcher if you are going to the playoffs

    • NavyNatsFan 3 years ago

      Right now he’s not even the 3rd best pitcher on the staff

      • And what does that tell you? Maybe its time to shut him down. You could have made the case for him being the best pitcher in baseball through July.

      • Sky14 3 years ago

        What 3 pitchers would you place above him?

  5. bill waters 3 years ago

    Well, if half their starters go down next year, and they miss the playoffs…it won’t look so hot…like already mentioned, they should have down what they did with Medlen, or, what might have made more sense since he would have had an innings limit no matter what, why not just have him start the season late, like he was injured? If he had started in say mid may or June 1st, no issues at all…oh well, water under the bridge…

  6. Just because the Nationals arrived a year ahead of schedule doesn’t mean they should throw away their long-term philosophy. This is one of the youngest teams in MLB, and have a pretty solid rotation even without Strasburg. While nothing is a lead-pipe cinch, I’d rather (slightly) decrease my chances of winning it all this year and extend the Nats’ window a few more seasons than risk a Mark Prior-type injury by going for it all. I’m a Washington fan, and I think Rizzo and company are doing the right thing.

  7. G-Code260 3 years ago

    They made the right call. I wish the Cubs had done this with Mark Prior back in the day. But sadly they did not. He pitched in the post season in ’03 and was never the same pitcher after that.

    Nats fans might be upset that he is getting shut down, but believe me its the right choice for your teams long term success.

    • notsureifsrs 3 years ago

      not comparable at all to what happened with prior

      • Natsfan89 3 years ago

        How is it not? Prior wasn’t coming off Tommy John surgery, but in ’02 he pitched something like 116 innings and the next year when the Cubs made the playoffs he was forced to throw almost 100 innings more than that. If Strasburg pitched through the playoffs he’d encounter the same issue.

        • notsureifsrs 3 years ago

          prior’s problem was not his innings total, but that he was routinely overworked during games. he was left in to throw pasted 110, 120, sometimes 130 pitches repeatedly. he was easily one of the most abused arms in the game

          the nationals have done the exact opposite and have been fantastic about limiting strasburg’s in-game abuse. he has averaged just 93 pitches per game this season and 89 for his career. the MLB average is 97. they have protected him well

          by comparison, prior averaged an insane 113 pitches per start in 2003, just his second year, at age 22. the cubs didn’t mishandle his innings total, they mishandled letting dusty baker abuse the crap out of him

  8. nickseam 3 years ago

    How can they justify shutting down Stras at 160, but turn Detwiler loose when he’s never thrown more than 75 innings in a season? Treating Strasburg’s Elbow (The Strasbow) gingerly is not going to make it stronger and seasons like this don’t come around every year. He could throw 220 innings next year and the Nats might only win 85 games. Then this year was for naught.

    • start_wearing_purple
      start_wearing_purple 3 years ago

      Why do people keep assuming this year hasn’t already been a big win for the Nats? The Nats have gone from perpetual cellar dweller to powerhouse in 2 seasons. On top of that they still have the pieces to be a potential powerhouse for several year to come. The Nats still are going to have an uphill battle in the playoffs, no matter how good they’re pitching is their offense may not be enough. Shutting Straus down is the best choice for a long term successful team.

      • nickseam 3 years ago

        Because nobody plays baseball simply to have a good season.

    • discollama 3 years ago

      Where are you getting this information from? Detwiler in 2008 pitcher 124 innings for the Potomac Nationals, in 2011 he pitched 153.1 between AAA and MLB. Strassburg hasn’t even pitched 130 innings at any point in his professional or amateur career. Detwiler has been built up enough to pitch deep into a season, Strassburg hasn’t and is recovering from TJ surgery.

      • nickseam 3 years ago

        Obviously I was speaking MLB only. But you knew that. You’re saying that a guy who pitched 150 innings one time while recovering from hip surgery is ready to go a full season, but Stras isn’t. And I’m saying the only difference between the two is that people are assuming the Nats and Stephen have a bright future. Nothing is set in stone, win now. Leave your mark now. Play baseball like you live life.

  9. MaineSkin 3 years ago

    They could of had a 6-man rotation since break and even skip starts v team like CHC & Mia to save 5-6 starts for postseason

    • discollama 3 years ago

      And who would fill in? Lannan has done ok in his spot starts, but he’s be dreadful in AAA this year after his awful spring. I wouldn’t have trusted him to pitch on a set schedule in the majors when the Braves are still breathing down their necks.

      • Dynasty22 3 years ago

        If he’s been ok in his spot starts, then it shouldn’t really matter what he has done in AAA.

        • discollama 3 years ago

          Because a guy with an ERA at 4.30 and FIP at 4.46 against AAA hitters can be trusted against some of the best hitters in the world? I’ll pass on that every day of the week. Lannan has had one good year, and even that was rather unspectacular, and you’re going to say that you’ll trust 13 MLB innings over 150 MiLB innings? The guy isn’t very good and it’s reflected in his SSS xFIP.

          • Dynasty22 3 years ago

            The real question is are you trusting 150 MiLB innings this year over the 764 decent, 3-4 starter, MLB innings Lannan pitched in his career? You’re making it sound like he needs to be Strasburg, but he’s not.He just needs to show the same ability he did before and he’ll be fine.

    • Crucisnh 3 years ago

      It’s “could have had”, not “could of had”. “Could have” as in “could’ve”, not “could of”.

  10. Brian Gregory 3 years ago

    So many people do not get it! This is a flat-out genius move for the future of the Nationals franchise! Historically, the Nationals have had to overpay for some star players. I know a lot of you think this is bad for 2012, and I agree. Take a look at this as great marketing to prospective free agents and trade candidates deciding on waiving their no-trade clauses to play in Washington. If a team truly acts on what is best for a players’ health and future, then players will be more inclined to sign in Washington without a bad contract, and I believe we will hear more players interested in playing there as soon as this offseason. Just watch!!

  11. Guest 3 years ago

    Joba Rules Part 2…

  12. Let_My_Cameron_Go 3 years ago

    It’s like Joba Rules all over again…

  13. Sky14 3 years ago

    I think the Nats are making a mistake. They do have a very good team that could contend for a number of years but every opportunity to win it all matters. The 90’s Braves, Indians and the Mariners all had teams loaded with great players and have a combined 1 world series among them. It would be terrible if Nats fans would look back at this season years from now and wonder, “what if?”.

    • discollama 3 years ago

      It would be even worse if they looked back on the season and wondered “What if… they shut him down and he never got hurt?”

      • Sky14 3 years ago

        I wouldn’t say that’s worse. Shutting him down will not guarantee that he will not be hurt next year, but it does make the Nats a worse team in this offseason.

        • discollama 3 years ago

          Let’s say that your dog has stitches, and the injury was fairly significant. The vet tells you to limit his activity to greatly reduce the risk to your dog. Instead of heading the advice of your doctor, you decide that you know what’s best for your dog and enter him into a very physically demanding tournament.

          Now, lets say that the dog comes out just fine, your dog could be the darling story of the tourney, but what if something happened? What if he got seriously hurt because he didn’t have time to heal and now is no longer able to compete. It’s your fault, 100%, maybe if you had waited till next year it COULD have happened to him, or maybe not. Maybe listening to your vet could have spared your dog from additional harm. Could you know for sure? Could you live with yourself?

          Big league players are kind of like dogs in that they’ll keep going out unless they really believe that something is terribly wrong. They want to play, they want to compete, they want to win. But that doesn’t mean that they always should when they haven’t ever competed this much and have suffered an awful injury that they are still recovering from.

  14. Russ 3 years ago

    Why not shut him down a month ago, and stash him on the DL? Then give him a couple of tune-up starts before the playoffs.

  15. rikersbeard 3 years ago

    I find it hard to argue with when they relied on the best available scientific practices to determine what was in the best interest of one of their best young stars. Sure, they have good business reasons to protect him, but their is also some data suggesting that this might also help him be more effective next year as well.

  16. MrSativa 3 years ago

    Don’t delay today what you can do today. That was either Plato or Jeffrey Lebowski who said that. Can’t remember.

  17. guest_54 3 years ago

    “They’ll still go into the postseason with a front three of Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, and Edwin Jackson, which is as good as any rotation in the game.”

    Isn’t Jackson a free agent after this season concludes? Or have they re-signed him and I missed it?

    • IdontknowwhyIpostonforums 3 years ago

      What does him being a free agent have to do with this postseason? Yes he is a FA at the end of the year, but he can still pitch with the team in the playoffs.

      • I think this guy is mixing up the postseason with the offseason

        • guest_54 3 years ago

          Nope. Just got confused by the wording. Drew an inference from the previous sentence about being built for the long haul and thought Jackson was being included in that thought.

      • guest_54 3 years ago

        Please see my reply to start_wearing_purple. Confused by the wording.

    • start_wearing_purple
      start_wearing_purple 3 years ago

      Potential free agents can’t play in the postseason?

      • guest_54 3 years ago

        Guess my confusion came from the sentence just prior where the writer mentions that the Nationals are built for the long haul and somehow missed the part about that being their post-season rotation. I read it to mean that he was considered a part of their being built for the long haul. But to answer your question . . . of course NOT, that would be illegal 😉

        • start_wearing_purple
          start_wearing_purple 3 years ago

          As long as you own your mistakes 😉

          • guest_54 3 years ago

            I actually like to designate them for assignment . . . but they normally refuse the assignment.

        • R.D. 3 years ago

          I mean, next season they’ll have Zim, Strasburg, and Gio to work with. Losing Jackson won’t be a big deal with Detwiler and $$ to spend. They’d look a lot better not losing all those SP prospects(especially Tom Milone) to Oakland but they’re still in pretty good shape.

  18. I agree with trying to save stress on his arm, limit big workload too soon, but I just don’t agree with the method. I agree with the idea that they should have simply invented a midseason injury for a month and let him pitch you through the playoffs. Nats with Stras, Gio, Zimm had a really good shot of going all the way.

  19. Rabbitov 3 years ago

    Would you risk the future to win in the present? Thats the argument. Most people would say they would and then three years down the road would wish they didn’t, so I don’t know which side to pick.

    • Chris_RG 3 years ago

      Strasburg will probably wreck himself in 3 years anyway. His mechanics are just like Prior’s, and we all saw how that went.

    • LazerTown 3 years ago

      I know. It would suck if he got injured, but on the other hand Washington is in a great position to win the world series. That doesn’t come around all that often, they are an exciting team.

    • notsureifsrs 3 years ago

      the answer is almost always yes. this is why most trades happen

      you know you’re going to the playoffs this year. you’d like to think you’ll get there again in the future, but there’s many times more uncertainty. the correct play is generally to maximize your chances on the current, certain opportunity

      • Fifty_Five 3 years ago

        Rizzo’s plan since day 1 of his tenure has been to focus on 2013 and beyond. It just doesn’t seem right to deviate from the original plan that he has been rigidly bounded to since his arrival because things are looking optimistic a year earlier than it was supposed to.

        He’s been building a franchise centered around a kid with health concerns. Caution should be the only option

        • notsureifsrs 3 years ago

          actually, his plan has been to win. 2013 is a detail (that’s when he expected to begin winning). winning now is deviating from the plan only in the most trivial sense. what’s happening right now, this season, is the plan

          it’s obscenely presumptuous to suggest that they should hold back this year because they have a long-term plan that will give them more opportunities next year. there’s only so much rizzo can control. the phillies are not going to be this bad again. the marlins may not be either. the braves aren’t going anywhere, and the mets won’t sit on their hands forever. then there’s the rest of the NL

          on top of that, a half dozen would-be contenders this year could tell you how easy it is to control injuries across the roster. the idea that they can afford to coast in 2012 because they’ll be back later is just all kinds of wrong

  20. They announced that they shut him down for mental reasons, not physicals reasons. He was under the innings limit that they had set for him. My guess? He’ll pitch in the postseason

  21. discollama 3 years ago

    What would they have done differently? If the didn’t play him early in the season they may have missed out on enough wins that they may be jockeying for a WC spot, but not to the point where they are almost guaranteed a playoff berth. If they had instead played him every six days instead of five they may not have gotten as much performance out of him (I’m not sold on the belief that all pitchers perform better with a minimum four days rest or that an extra day won’t hurt) and you would have dealt with Lannan’s horrible performance and they would have ended up in the same situation.

    Since they have played it like they did, they risk being worse for the post season albeit still a great team with a rotation more than deep enough with Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Jackson and Detwiler. They don’t NEED Strassburg to do well in the playoffs or win the WS, having him would be a boon, but he’s just not needed that badly.

    And you’re right, Wonderboyrooney10, the Nationals DIDN’T think that they were going to be this competitive this year, I think like most people that they figured they would be above .500, but teams like the Phillies and Braves would be too much for them to be able to overcome with a team that is still relatively green. Not many people thought that the rotation would be this good, I know that the guys at Fangraphs were skeptical going into the season, no one saw Desmond having the season that he’s having, LaRoche has been playing some of the best baseball of his career, the loss of Morse early on barely scratched the surface, and the role players have been able to step up and really help carry the team when they are called on.

    With all of that said though, the Nationals absolutely are doing the right thing. They got Strassburg his innings and did it on normal rest and next year he’ll have the green light for 200+ IP, making the rotation even stronger than it is now. Not risking further injury to him allows them to continue to build towards a dynasty of NL East domination for years to come. If they had pitched him through the post season and he blew out his shoulder because he was compensating for the strain on his repaired elbow, and then never got ‘right’ again everyone would be blasting the Nationals and demanding to know how they could do this to such a great young talent. For YEARS the press would be letting the team hear it about how they destroyed one of the games biggest and brightest young stars’ career. Shutting him down now is anything but calling it in and playing for next year. It is absolutely the right decision and anyone that claims otherwise is letting their naivety and arrogance cloud their vision as they don’t have even the smallest fraction of the wealth of information that the Nats, Boras, Dr Yoccum, or Strassburg have.

    • notsureifsrs 3 years ago

      strasburg has the information and wants to pitch

  22. Leonard Washington 3 years ago

    Its a hard decision either way but I disagree with shutting him down. The guy is good enough to be ALL the difference in a playoff series. He should be playing.

  23. Chris_RG 3 years ago

    Innings aren’t the big boogeyman that everyone thinks they are. Strasburg’s poor mechanics are the problem, but the Nats (and most people in baseball) can’t see the forest for the trees.

    There’s a reason that guys like Verlander and Felix Hernandez can regularly pitch 200+ IP per season. They have good mechanics. Strasburg’s Inverted W is a huge issue.

  24. Good thing Strasburg made six spring training starts (23.2 innings). Strasburg should have started his season May 1 after one minor league start.

    If at the last minute, I unexpectedly see a car is about to hit me, the best thing to do is jump out of the way. The Nats’ way is like knowing the car started 3,000 miles away and was taking this route, yet I choose to stand there for three days and then jump out of the way at the last minute.

  25. CT 3 years ago

    Right Call. The Braves were going to put a similar innings limit on Medlen since he had TJ last year too. The difference was he started in the pen and didn’t rack up many innings at the start of the season.

  26. PClark91 3 years ago

    If Strasburg was experiencing fatigue or he was experiencing pain I would agree to shut him down. But he hasn’t. Washington’s management made a mistake in declaring that he’d be shut down during the season. To me, this tells everyone that Washington didn’t believe in their team before the season. Shame on them

    • Ryman5000 3 years ago

      If you wait until he experiences pain, then it’s already too late.

  27. 23553 3 years ago

    I feel like it should be clear that in DC, this is barely a debate. No one disagrees that shutting him down is the right decision, and no one ever has.

  28. Natsfan89 3 years ago

    Can we stop talking about it now? Or are we going to get an article about it every other day despite the fact it’s finally over and done with?

    • notsureifsrs 3 years ago

      sucks to have a winning team, doesn’t it?

  29. 123Redsox 3 years ago

    He has to come back for the playoffs

  30. HaloeD 3 years ago

    if they are serious about winning the ws. they will use him in the playoffs. They need to utilize him, even as a bullpen arm atleast

  31. notsureifsrs 3 years ago

    there’s lots of evidence suggesting that, but no proof. so to answer your question: probably

    pitch counts and innings totals have decreased significantly over time. the reasons why are interesting but probably not important to the fundamental question of how pitchers like prior get hurt

    the first principle here is that in terms of its impact on the body, pitching itself is a physically stressful act. the more pitches that have been thrown in a short period of time, the more stressful each subsequent pitch becomes. with that progressive fatigue, good mechanics — the primary purpose of which are to protect the arm — tend to break down, often leading to even more stress

    the damage is cumulative of course, so you’re rarely going to have a single particular outing of 120+ pitches that results in an injury at pitch 121. but you understand the principle

    to get back to your point, 120 pitches is not a magical anatomical limit. neither is 130 or 150. long-term conditioning is the key and what you’re seeing in the data there is the result of a trend toward conservatism that, again, has a cumulative effect of lowered pitch count expectations and consequently fewer innings pitched

    what’s motivating that trend? following the money is usually the best answer. in market terms, good starting pitching has never been more highly valued than it is now. it is a premium commodity right from draft day and nobody wants to play fast & loose with those investments

    i don’t take a position on whether that’s a good or bad approach because i don’t have enough information. erring on the side of caution makes sense, but if pitchers could safely be conditioned to throw more, their value would be even greater

    interesting either way. i think the secret ingredient may be pitching mechanics, which is a tricky but fascinating subject imo

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