Thursday, July 12, 2012

2nd half storylines: Strasburg's shutdown

US Presswire photo
Stephen Strasburg has thrown 100 innings this season (counting the All-Star Game).
The Nationals open tomorrow what promises to be the most compelling second half to a season since the franchise arrived in town in 2005, owners of the NL's best record but saddled with several major questions that need to be answered.

Today we're counting down the five most significant storylines to the remainder of the Nationals' season. Next up is storyline No. 2: The club's plan to shut down ace Stephen Strasburg before season's end...


It's been hovering over the Nationals since at least the first day of spring training. Perhaps since the offseason. And perhaps since all the way back in September 2011, when the Nats shut down Jordan Zimmermann at 161 1/3 innings in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery and suggested they would do the same with Stephen Strasburg in 2012.

And we're getting closer to it becoming reality.

Are the Nationals really going to shut down their ace with several weeks remaining in a pennant race, then prevent him from pitching in the postseason if they reach it?

Yep, that's been Mike Rizzo's plan from the beginning, and he continues to stick to it.

The rationale: The Nationals, as an organization, don't believe in letting young pitchers exceed their previous seasons' innings totals by more than 30 percent or so. This is especially true for young pitchers coming back from major injuries like the torn elbow ligament that Zimmermann suffered in 2009 and Strasburg suffered in 2010.

Strasburg who turns 24 later this month, has never thrown more than 123 innings in a professional season. A 30 percent increase over that total would bring him to 160 innings, which is roughly the number the Nationals are expected to limit the right-hander to this season.

Strasburg has already thrown 100 innings (counting his one inning of relief in Tuesday's All-Star Game). Which means he's probably got about 10 more starts at his disposal before the shutdown occurs sometime in early September.

Because of a couple of off-days built into the late-season schedule, the Nationals might only need to fill Strasburg's rotation spot four times (obviously more if they reach the postseason). But that won't diminish the uproar that will occur around baseball if they indeed stick to their plan and sideline their best pitcher down the stretch.

Rizzo and manager Davey Johnson's ability to explain their rationale and justify their decision -- to fans, media, the baseball world and even their own players -- might be their toughest task.

They're committed to shutting down Strasburg. But can they convey their reasons for doing so in a manner that convinces everyone else to commit to the plan as well?

69 comments:

mick said...

very simple, 89% full recovery rate when shut down the year after TJS, only a fool would pitch Strass after his innings are up!

SCNatsFan said...

mick I saw something last night about Hersheiser and the year he blew his arm away by pitching so much, including out of the pen, during the Dodgers run to the WS; although he was never the same pitcher again he said he wouldn't change a thing to get the WS ring. While sa a Nats fan I'm looking at the long term picture you have to look from SS point of view; sometimes the window of opportunity only opens for a fraction of a minute and you can't blame him for wanting to take his shot.

Faraz Shaikh said...

SCNatsfan, he is 23 years old. Window of opportunity is pretty wide for this guy.

mick said...

Three negatives with not shutting down Strass:

1) It would show a lack of confidence from management on long term success. In other words, if you believe you are the Braves of the 21st Century, and that playoff baseball will be reality the next decade every season, then stick with the plan.

2) The other negative, and this is cynical, would show that the Lerners do not want to spend money to keep Strass, Harper, Storen and Clip long term, by taking a one shot deal on 2012 for a WS.

3) If Strass gets hut, the Nats look like asses and future prospects and free agents will have ZERO respect for the Nats medical staff.

letting Strass pitch is a lose lose proposition!!

Faraz Shaikh said...

No doubt that he should be shut down as soon as he hits 160 innings. I don't think only his absence can be reason for us missing playoffs. several things will have to go wrong for that. Yes, we would all love that deep run in postseason but going to playoff from 80 wins is pretty incredible itself. Not saying that i would be happy with only postseason appearance.

Theophilus T. S. said...

Strasburg's recent performances indicate he may already be seeing the wall if not hitting it. It's hard to think his first three pro seasons were, essentially, a waste. But that's the way it's working out. Blame Boras for that damned mining for the last nickel that denied Strasburg -- and any number of other clients -- the chance to learn how to be pros in the year they were drafted.

mick said...

I hear you SCNats... I just think we would regret it if he was hurt as aresult of this

hscer said...

"The Nationals, as an organization, don't believe in letting young pitchers exceed their previous seasons' innings totals by more than 30 percent or so."

161.3*1.3=209.7
110.3/17*33=214.3

Jordan Zimmermann is on pace for a 33% increase--basically that 30% number--but, that could become 220-240 innings (approaching a 50% increase on the high end), depending on how the postseason shapes up.

Are the Nats worried about Zimmermann at all, or is he past the point of concern in his career?

LoveDaNats said...

How would a Strass shutdown be accounted for? Would he be taken off the active roster to make way for another player? Would he still be able to be with the team? What is the alternative to the DL for a healthy player?

Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

Znn is 26. Most of the issues are associated with players 25 and younger, so they are not outside of best practices by letting him go. Besides, the kid's a horse.

Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

No need in September, LoveDa, unless they have to move him off the 40-man for some reason, but for the playoffs, yes, it would be a DL, I imagine.

Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

But can they convey their reasons for doing so in a manner that convinces everyone else to commit to the plan as well?

Why would they need to convince anyone else outside the organization?

natsfan1a said...

I was wondering the same thing, sec3.

TheManBearPig said...

The Nats can afford to shut down their second-best starting pitcher after he reaches his innings limit.

Theophilus T. S. said...

LDN -- Accounting isn't an issue; after 8.31 the roster limit is 40.

Faraz Shaikh said...

I agree, no need to convince anyone. People should be bright enough to see what they are doing.

NatsLady said...

Nats fans are already convinced, and really, that's all that counts. Boz ran a survey and it was a landslide (84%) in favor of the shutdown. Remember, the Nats are a year ahead of schedule. And, it doesn't matter how well Stras pitches if the hitting isn't there.

Everyone outside of DC is just posting about the "Stras shutdown" issue so they have something to write about the Nats on their blogs. There are no other real controversies--other than Harper's gold shoes--and that's great!

Faraz Shaikh said...

I am more worried about Zimmerman. Is one shot ok for him to carry the offense until off-season?

Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

NL, let's face it, on the shoes, there's only two possible positions: either you think they're grotesquely ugly, or you think they're gloriously ugly.

Donald said...

What if he came down with a 'strained lat' or something and ended up on the DL for 15 days in early August. Would that stretch it out to the post season and still not risk injuring him?

natsfan1a said...

So, that's gugly either way? :-)

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

NatsLady, correct in your 2nd paragraph. 160-170

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

One more reason for shutting Jesus down as scheduled:

We're going to be so far ahead in the NL East is mid-September that the games are going to be meaningless anyway.

There, I said it. Drug-test me.

natsfan1a said...

Sunshine, have you been getting into the bourbon again? Eh, what the hey. It's an off day. Go for it. :-)

rarumberger said...

I call bullspit on the 30% increase mumbo-jumbo. The Nats have given no indication, publicly at least, that such a thing has anything to do with their decision.

It's strictly for medical reasons, which is why they have been adamant that there are no limits on Jordan this year.

The only reason that this so-called controversy still exists is because the media has, at times, confused Strasburg's medically advised rehab (limiting his workload for now) with the "Verducci effect." The two are unrelated.

JD said...

Ghost,

I think you have to be more careful with SS than you were with ZNN because:

1) He's younger.
2) He's less sturdy.
3) He throws a lot of pitches per inning.

I would err on the side of caution with SS and not do any shenanigans to postpone the inevitable. Stick with the plan Rizzo; get a pitcher like Wandy to get us through this year and then we'll go to war again next year with more bullets at our disposal.

JD said...

rarumberger,

I disagree; I think SS would have been limited similarly in his 1st full year had he not been injured.

C.C Sabathia who never gets arm problems and routinely pitches 230 - 250 innings a year credits the Indians for limiting his innings when he 1st came up for his durability.

Bill Simmons said...

What is the big deal? Strasburg has only been average for the last month. I'd be more worried about Gonzalez and Zimmermann.

JaneB said...

I was going to post something similar to Sunshine Bobby's prediction that we'll be so far ahead, September won't be an issue. October? I predict a whole lot more fussing then.

But the doctor knows what he knows. We want Stras pitching for us for years to come. I'm in the shut him down and find a new topic group. And, truly -- consider him as a pinch hitter. He can't pitch past 160ish innings. Nothing says he can't HIT. I am serious. We don't always need to substitute a position player to get a hit when we need one.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

natsfan1a said...

Sunshine, have you been getting into the bourbon again? Eh, what the hey. It's an off day. Go for it. :-)

Howdja know? Am I slurring my words again?

Theophilus T. S. said...

If you won't let the Golden Arm pitch, how you gonna let it run the bases? Slide into home?

MicheleS said...

when he hits the limit, shut him down.

natsfan1a said...

Well, it was that or a drug test, like you said. :-)

Howdja know? Am I slurring my words again?

Feel Wood said...

Rizzo has known all along that he would have to shut Strasburg down in September. So to protect himself against the contingency that the Nats might still be in the hunt when Strasburg reaches his innings limit, he spent $16M - $5M for a proven major league starter that he's got stashed in AAA now waiting to be the fifth starter in September, and $11M for a proven major league starter with World Series experience who will have no problem holding down the #3 starter spot in the playoffs. If Rizzo hadn't done that, then second-guessing of him might be in order if the Nats just miss the playoffs. But that $16M investment signals that he has been going for it all along. Remember, no matter what you do there are no guarantees.

Section 222 said...

No need for Stras to slide into home after he gets a pinch hit. After Sept 1 just pinch run for him!

NatsLady said...

FeelWood, very good points, excactly!!

NatsLady said...

222, he's just going to hit homeruns anyway. Won't need to be on the bases at all.

Faraz Shaikh said...

man it would be awesome if John Lannan wins WS MVP for us this year.

NatsLady said...

I love the Michael Morse bobblehead, but am virtually certain I won't be going to that game. If anyone is going and can snag an extra I would be eternally (ok, not eternally, but VERY) grateful!

Lisa Fuller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JD said...

NatsLady,

As you know I am all for shutting SS down; earlier than planned if necessary but I must admit that I am not comfortable with the notion of Lannan taking SS starts if we are in need of wins to get into the post season.

NatsLady said...

Yes, I also am not comfortable with Lannan. I say we give up a reliever for a 2-month rental of someone. Keep Lannan in case there is an injury (or include him in the trade if necessary).

JD said...

I just noticed that we are playing the Marlins in a 4 game series and are not facing Anibal Sanchez in any of the games.

Bonus !!

JD said...

NatsLady,

Which reliever?

SonnyG10 said...

Because of the youth and post-season inexperience of a large part of our team, I would expect us not to go very deep into the playoffs, assuming we make the playoffs. (of course I would like to be wrong on this point) The pressure is going to be ramped up and our youngsters may have difficulties with this. I point this out to say what a shame it would be to ruin Stras on what could turn out to be a wasted effort.

I think part of Stras' problems this year is due to this being his first year back from TJ surgery. I expect him to have better control and stamina next year. If we get some playoff experience this year, we should be in good shape to make another run next year.

Steady Eddie said...

FS if John Lannan wins WS MVP for us this year

Only in bizarro universe. The WS rotation will either be Gio, JZimm, EJax; or will add Det; or will add another arm by trade.

Lannan will only figure into September unless something untoward happens to one of the other four. No way do we go with more than a four man rotation in the playoffs.


mick @4:14 -- I nominate that for your most thoughtful post ever. Thanks for the solid contribution (not that there's significant dispute about shutting Stras down here).

rarumberger -- agree that even talking about the 30% thing is silly in the Stras context. Speculating on "what would the Nats have done with Stras' innings limit if he hadn't had TJ surgery" is about as worthwhile as asking "what would the Nats have done with their rotation if Livo was still pitching really well?"

Sofa -- no, there's at least a third choice re Harp's shoes -- bizarrely, gloriously ugly. Or just bizarrely ugly. Fourth choice. Spanish inquisition.

We need actual baseball. This is getting old already.

Mark, can you post the next game thread a day early and then post another game thread when the lineups come out?

Clip&Store said...

I say let him go 165ish and shut him down. let him qualify for era & whip ;) poor jzimm was, what, 2 out away last year?

Unknown said...

Seven games ago, Strasburg had a 2.31 ERA and was as unhittable as any pitcher in the league.

In the last six games, he is 3-3 with a 3.71 ERA. Did the league figure out his 98 mph fastball? Probably not. Is he starting to wear down? Probably.

If he pitches the remainder of his starts as he has the last six, we're talking John Lannan production (and no, I'm not suggesting any equality there)and we might as well give him a rest.

Regardless of how well the Nationals do this year, 2013 was always the target year. Let's make sure he's going to be "Stephen Strasburg" next year.

Farid @ Idaho

NatsLady said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NatsLady said...

JD: Mattheus. Much as I hate to lose him, you have to give something to get something.

Unknown said...

Also, last season Jordan Zimmermann had a 2.61 ERA on July 15. In his last seven starts, his ERA was 4.47.

I think we're seeing a repeat of Zimmermann's season last year.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Good call, Unknown. It's the reason a shutdown is imperative.

MicheleS said...

Mark Z.. okay watched CSN.. Go ahead an post #1..

MicheleS said...

I also wanted to post this link. It's good to see the improvement in the Nats is also helping the Neighborhood.

Local businesses helped by Nats

NatsLady said...

Bet his players love him.

Joe Maddon ‏@RaysJoeMaddon
Had 20 players at today's voluntary workout.

Kirbs said...

It seems like every nats fan understands he needs to be shut down...its all the talking heads that want him to blow his arm out.

NatsLady said...

Oddity:

That’s a first: On Sunday, Washington’s Mike Gonzalez entered in the 8th with the tying run on 3rd and no outs. While pitching to his first batter, he unloosed a wild pitch, tying the score and moving the go-ahead run to 2nd. Then he struck out the side — CarGo, Tyler Colvin (both hitting over .300/.960) and Todd Helton. It’s the only searchable blown save of at least 1 inning while striking out all batters faced.

NatsLady said...

Also:

Washington ranks 7th in MLB in extra-base hits — but they’re they only team that’s had one in every game so far. Their 87-game streak (starting last year) is the longest of the past 3 seasons.

Best Quality Start Percentage (min. 12 GS): NL - Ryan Vogelsong 15/16; Jordan Zimmermann 15/17. AL - Jake Peavy 14/17; Jered Weaver 12/15.

Section 109 DC said...

I think one of the reasons the Nats are doing so well this season is that Rizzo succeeded in stocking us up with "character guys" and a character manager. The front office plans to show the same kind of character in exercising proper concern for Strasburg's health and future.

Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

Last season Jordan Zimmermann had a 2.61 ERA on July 15. In his last seven starts, his ERA was 4.47.
I think [with Strasburg] we're seeing a repeat of Zimmermann's season last year.


Yes, and ... Zimmermann didn't blow the cap on his radiator. That stuff takes it out of you.

peric said...

Another reason for Rizzo to come up with a way to add a 4th young guy sooner rather than later ...

Guarantees Stras a decent shot at it next year.

I don't think Meyer, Purke, or Solis will be ready until 2014. Maybe all three will be there. Karns might be ready sometime in the middle of next year.

Faraz Shaikh said...

Wait I thought we were on time, 7 AM, 10 AM, 1 PM, 4 PM...

stublues33 said...

At 6 innings per start, SS makes it until September. This leaves 5 starts open for his slot; all after the rosters expand to 40 player limit. Johnson could combine Lannan, Maya, & Zach Duke for that spot, pinch-hitting each itme the pitcher's spot came up. The other 4 pitchers would stay on their regular rotation, and Washington would gain the advantage of 3 at bats per game. Just an idle thought on a night without baseball.

Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

And the #1 storyline of the second half will be ...

Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

PENNANT RACE, BABY!

natsfan1a said...

WOOOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOO! Copyright, MicheleS.

Tom in AR said...

If they shut him down as a pitcher will he still be available to pinch hit? Do we know what his best fielding position is? I am assuming Stras bats fourth and DHs in games 3 and 4 of the WS.

Tom in AR said...

If they shut him down as a pitcher will he still be available to pinch hit? Do we know what his best fielding position is? I am assuming Stras bats fourth and DHs in games 3 and 4 of the WS.

Firm Possession, My Gorsehacken Sofa said...

Trademark. It's a trademark, not a copyright.

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