Another Stephen Strasburg start, more questions about The Shutdown.
They’ve become expected at this point. Death, taxes, lengthy rain delays at Nats Park and questions about the Nationals’ decision to go into the playoffs with Strasburg watching from the dugout.
I’ve had numerous conversations, dating all the way back to spring training, with people both within and outside the organization about the reason why the team didn’t decide to somehow stretch Strasburg’s innings out so that he’d still be able to pitch in the postseason.
There are a ton of factors at play here. And many of them have been discussed in this space before. But today, Davey Johnson explained in detail why the organization decided against a six-man rotation, putting Strasburg on the DL in the middle of the season with some made-up injury or otherwise adjusting his throwing schedule.
It’s worth a read, if for no other reason than to understand where the Nats are coming from, so we can hopefully put this topic behind us.
“We had discussions in the spring, the staff, the front office and everybody,” Johnson said. “Everybody was trying to figure out, ‘We need to have him there at the end,’ and all this great thinking. But I have a little experience in dealing with pitchers and their workload and their scheduling. And the one thing that would’ve been the most detrimental to his health, to any pitcher’s health, is if you vary from what starts from Day 1 of spring training.
“You can’t put somebody as like a fifth starter and then skip time. That’s more dangerous for a young pitcher, not having regular work. Some of these guys don’t handle even extra days off. They’re too strong (the next time out), they start jumping. So you want to make sure that’s consistent. And if there’s a shutdown date, there’s a shutdown date. There’s no way to solve that problem making sure that you don’t take further risks. It’s real easy for the bloggers or the tweeters to say, ‘Well, why don’t you do this, or you can do that. Bring him out of the bullpen. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.’ I’ve heard it all. I said it’s a good thing you guys aren’t managing and I’m the one that’s managing.
“But you do what’s best for the player, always, number one. Pitcher, player, you do what’s best for them today with an eye on tomorrow. And that’s the end of the deal, if you want to do it right.”
In his first full major league season, Strasburg has gone 14-5 with a 2.91 ERA through 24 starts with 173 strikeouts in 139 1/3 innings. It’s been a very impressive 2012 campaign for the 24-year-old, but all anyone wants to talk about anymore (at least nationally) is the innings.
Johnson would rather discuss other things he’s seen from Strasburg, like how the Nationals’ ace took time to talk pitching with Hall of Famer and current Braves broadcaster Don Sutton during this series.
“Those are the exciting things to me, when young pitchers even want to talk to other pitchers and learn from them,” Johnson said. “But he learns every time out about how they’re adjusting to his stuff. And that’s exciting to me.
“And it should be exciting to everyone else, instead of worrying about when he’s getting shut down. He’s a remarkable young arm. We’ve got a bunch of them over here.”
The bottom line is, the Nationals decided from the get-go they were going to look out for Strasburg’s long-term health. In their minds, creating an innings limit and then having Strasburg skip a few starts or alter his routine to get him to October would be cheating that process.
They’re committed to this idea. It will happen. And the Nats are determined to do it right.