By David Harrison
Baseball is a game of odds. With every pitch, statistics, averages, and expectations swing in different favors. What are the odds you’ll get a fastball on a 2-0 count? What are the odds you’ll get a hit facing a left-handed reliever? And what were the odds Stephen Strasburg would have blown out his arm if he had pitched more than 160 innings just one year removed from Tommy John surgery?
By Andrew Smith
On September 8, 2012, Stephen Strasburg, arguably the Washington Nationals’ best starting pitcher, was shut down due to Tommy John surgery last offseason. Many believe that the shutdown was the right move because it will keep Strasburg healthy and avoid any further injuries, but they are incorrect.
Some of the country's top doctors have given the answer: very likely.
In a day where top round draft picks sign for upwards of $15 million before even taking the mound, team management is forced to take every precautionary measure in protecting their prized commodities’ arms. Baseball’s dugout of disappointments is already littered with prematurely burned out stars such as Kerry Wood and Chad Cordero. Do any of you even remember who those guys are? The point is that as disappointing as it may be, the Nationals need to shut down Stephen Strasburg.
Without a doubt, the Nationals are better with their young ace and his 15 win season. However, even without Strasburg, the Nationals are still a top playoff contender. Strasburg went 15-6 this year, but was just 6-5 in his final 11 starts. Given Strasburg’s blinding star power, it’s easy to overlook some of the Nationals’ other pitchers and their stellar performances this year. However, the reality is that even without Strasburg the Nats’ four-man postseason pitching rotation would still have four of the top 15 National League starters in walks and hits against per inning, four of the top 25 NL starters in on base percentage plus slugging against, and four of the top ten NL pitchers in average fastball velocity. With Geo Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman, Edwin Jackson, and Ross Detwiler, the Nats still have arguably the best starting rotation in the league.
The odds are that with their stellar young pitching, emerging stars on the field and budding talent behind the plate, there are many more successful seasons to come in Washington. Gio Gonzalez is en route to a twenty win season, Jason Werth is batting well over .300 since his return from a broken wrist, and rising infielders such as Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond have the Nationals poised to win the NL East for many years to come. So, put yourself in General Manager Mike Rizzo’s shoes. Is one postseason run worth jeopardizing a Strasburg’s career?
So, to all of you whining about Stephen Strasburg’s shutdown: for the first time in 79 years, we will have postseason baseball in the nation’s capital. Just sit back and enjoy watching a team with one of the best records in baseball and be glad they aren’t the Wizards.
Images courtesy of Google Images
There is no real medical evidence to support the shutdown. All shutting down Strasburg does is ruin the Nationals’ best chance at a World Series ring since moving to Washington in 2005. There has never been a player with the same size and pitching speed as Strasburg in Major League Baseball.
Unfortunately, the Nationals’ management is too blind and too stubborn to see the plan’s faults. The likelihood of Strasburg re-injuring his arm is the same as the likelihood of him spraining his ankle while running. Also, his postseason absence could cost veterans like Adam Laroche their last real chance of winning a World Series. The decision to shut down Strasburg destroys the morale of the team and its pitching staff. As a player, it is an amazing feeling to know that you have a pitcher that has a very good chance of winning every fifth game.
Without Strasburg, the Nationals now have to depend on John Lannan, who has held up so far, but his career stats say he is a pedestrian pitcher at best. He has a solid career earned run average (ERA) of 3.96, but compared to Strasburg’s ERA of 2.94, Lannan looks like a third stringer. The Nationals could have avoided this situation by skipping a few of Strasburg’s starts or by using a minor injury as a way to put him on the disabled list (DL) for a week or two. The Nationals’ chances of winning the World Series are now greatly diminished, and the team will most likely go home disappointed at season’s end.