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Dick Vitale Is Actually Right: The Nationals Should Not Shut Down Stephen Strasburg for the Playoffs

A couple of days ago, Dick Vitale wrote an article about Stephen Strasburg. Yes, Dick Vitale of Duke basketball fame wrote a baseball article. And you know what, I agree with Dick Vitale, even as I pictured every word being screamed at me.

The Washington Nationals have discussed for months that Stephen Strasburg was on an innings limit this year coming off of elbow surgery in 2010. Apparently, for Washington, that just means you pitch like normal until you hit some magical number, and then you turn the lights off for a few months. According to GM Mike Rizzo, he will make the decision alone, and it won’t be based on a strict innings limit but rather the “eye test.”

“When it happens, Stephen will not pitch again until spring training (in 2013),” he said. “We tried something similar with Zimmermann last year and he just could not get going again. We won’t make the same mistake.”

So when it happens, Stephen Strasburg will just stop pitching, and not pitch again. No playoffs. Cold turkey. Strasburg is at 127 innings right now, so if he averages six a game, he’ll hit approximately 160 innings in a month.

If there were any basis for shutting him down, I would understand. If he was experiencing a drop off or decline, okay. I have severe doubts whether having a guy throw like normal, pitching full games, then arbitrarily shutting him down for a post season, then starting him back up again matters. He threw 108 pitches in his second start this year. He’s been over 90 in 16 of his starts. Now, we can debate whether these pitch counts even matter, or whether he should be treated with kid gloves coming off the injury. If they do matter, though, it’s probably more by throwing high innings/pitches in short stretches, and not throwing moderate amounts over a long stretch.

If I were an organization and had concerns, I would have limited him from game to game and given the manager instructions in that regard. I would have disregarded things like “wins” and making sure he goes 5 innings if my concern was long term innings. Having him throw like an ace pitcher, then just turning the channel off (as your franchise is about to go the playoffs for the first time in Washington), doesn’t seem like anything more than a hollow show of “taking care” of his arm.

If Washington does shut him completely down in a month, though, I suspect you’ll hear plenty more about this. Strasburg even says he wants to pitch. Don’t blame him–that’s why you play the game. Dickie V and I aren’t the only ones who say so. This USA Today story has quotes from Jake Peavy and Jeff Francoeur regarding the possibility.

Peavy: “It would just blow my mind thinking that the Nationals are going to the playoffs and Stephen Strasburg not being part of it? He’s arguably the best pitcher in the game. Don’t you want to seize the moment?”

Francoeur: “You’re telling Strasburg that once you get to 180 innings, go ahead and enjoy October from the bench? Just shoot me.” (In other news, Royals fans wanting to see Wil Myers start forming a firing squad).

[photo via US Presswire]

 

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