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MLB Washington Nationals

Washington Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg has Strained Oblique … Calm Down World

Daniel Shirley- USA Today Sports

Washington Nationals GM Mike Rizzo would probably hate this knock knock joke.

“Knock knock. Who’s there? Shutdown talk. *door slam.*” Of course, every Nationals fan would hate to hear something like this, unless of course they disagreed with it and want to rip Rizzo and Washington any chance they get. Those fans are obviously either old school or still bitter over the chance that Washington may have won the 2012 World Series.

As we all know now, Washington went their 2012 postseason run without Stephen Strasburg because of his precautionary post-Tommy John surgery shutdown after 159 1/3 innings pitched. We also now know Strasburg wasn’t happy about it, and what happened in that postseason run, with the Pitcher replacing Strasburg, Ross Detwiler, being the team’s only productive pitcher in the NLDS, and so on and so forth. Washington lost the series in five games, and all the “if they had Strasburg…” scenarios had full validity that only comes when a team does not produce.

Now, Strasburg and Rizzo are under fire again, as Strasburg left his start last night against the Atlanta Braves after two innings and 37 pitches, and immediately causing suspicion of more arm trouble.

Strasburg strained his right oblique and is now, presumably, in DC having the oblique tested for severity of injury.

Naturally, this correlates 100 percent to the 2012 shutdown, at least according to every writer who will write a column questioning Washington’s decision to shut down the 24-year-old ace, who seemed to be on his way to another dominating start. For those who do not know, the oblique is, shockingly, an abdominal muscle located around the stomach area. This is an injury that has maligned many a player the past few years, such as Ian Desmond in 2012, missing about a month, and Ross Detwiler in 2013, who is currently on the DL because of it. Aside from being somewhat of a “fad” injury, as it afflicted four different Nationals players in 2012 and now two in 2013, along with other teams, it’s location is actually quite remarkable.

It’s not near Strasburg’s arm. Imagine that.

Now, the injury, if Strasburg pitched through it, could obviously lead to an arm or shoulder injury without a shadow of a doubt. All across sports, there have been injuries that have led to worse injuries. One could make the argument Johan Santana, after pitching his no-hitter and spraining his ankle a few starts later, could have very well aggravated his surgically repaired shoulder by trying to pitch through the ankle problem. The problem I have, and will have for the next week, and month, and basically entirety of Strasburg’s career, is that writers and analysts will always go back to the 2012 shutdown and ask, “Strasburg is injured again, was the shutdown worth it?”

Let me enlighten you for a moment, baseball writer’s world: Stephen Strasburg was shut down to protect his arm from further arm related problems, because doctors, you know, people who went to Medical School and got Medical Degrees, have done studies that state a Pitcher cannot be thrown right back into the fire and pitch a full season, and they must ease back into Pitching a full year to protect from re-aggravating the injury.

Look at Chris Carpenter. In 2007, Carpenter had Tommy John Surgery and missed all of 2007 and only pitched 15 1/3 innings in 2008. In 2009, Carpenter had his best statistical year, going 17-4 with a 2.24 ERA. Carpenter followed that up with 16-9 and a 3.22 ERA the year after that, and in 2011 went 11-9 with a 3.45 ERA, and then missed all of 2012, save for three starts, with nerve related damage in his right shoulder, and has not pitched in 2013 due to a similar issue. Now, Carpenter did have Tommy John at 32 years old, not a prime age, but since that stellar season of ’09, Carpenter has won less games, lost more, and his ERA has gone up every year since. Also, as his innings total ballooned, his production deflated.

Is it an apples to apples comparison? No. But Carpenter actually had arm and shoulder related issues since the surgery. Strasburg has had none, save for a little forearm tightness that did not warrant missing a start.

Shutting down Strasburg was a calculated move to try and protect an asset’s elbow and arm from further damage. Let’s not question an action with obvious intentions every time the player gets hurt. It’s irresponsible and a complete waste.