It’s been a point of controversy since the spring, but as the Washington Nationals grow very close to the innings limit set for ace Stephen Strasburg, the debate over how much sense it actually makes has begun to rage.
Coming off of Tommy John surgery, the Nats set an unofficial limit for Strasburg this year of 160 innings. He’s at 133 on the season right now and is just a couple of starts away from being shut down for the season.
It’s a move that is already known to be unpopular with the players, who have pretty much accepted it as inevitable, though declaring that they’re not completely happy with it.
Strasburg has had a very strong season for the Nationals in 2012. After coming back at the end of 2011, Strasburg has pitched to a 2.90 ERA and 166 strikeouts in his 133 innings. He’s part of a strong pitching staff that has Washington currently standing as the top team in baseball.
You can obviously understand the Nats being cautious with Strasburg this season. He’s their ace and they don’t want to overwork him so soon off of the big surgery. But while shutting him down during the regular season makes plenty of sense, this is something that will very likely carry over into the postseason. And that doesn’t add up as easily.
Coming into 2012, the Nationals were seen as an up and coming team, but probably not quite ready to contend until 2013. That has changed quickly as they are now a legitimate club and have a terrific shot at reaching the World Series out of the National League. But in order for success in the postseason, Stephen Strasburg is a necessity.
If you want to limit him during the regular season, even just skipping starts until October, that’s fine. If you have a shot at a World Championship, though, you have to take it. The Nats have one, and they may not be able to pull it off if Stephen Strasburg is shut down until April.