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Nationals Lose by Shutting down Strasburg

He may be shut down for the season, however, the Stephen Strasburg topic will not die. I know, I know, this has been beaten like a rented mule – but until now I haven’t been able to put my feelings down on paper.

As the Nationals approach the postseason with one of the best records in the game, they’ll be second guessed time and again for their decision to cut off one of the best pitchers in the game at 159 1/3 innings, well before he’ll get a chance to make his mark in the playoffs.

No one has broken down the decision as eloquently as Rany Jazayerli from Grantland and Baseball Prospectus. If you’re going to do some light reading today, this should be it.

Jazayerli basically says it’s a ridiculous move for the Nats to close up shop with Stras this year, and I could not agree more. He provides a steady stream of numbers backing the school of thought that shutting down the flamethrowing righty is bad for the team and does little to save his surgically-repaired arm. This isn’t Mark Prior or Kerry Wood 2.0.

With pitch counts as prevalent as ever, the work had already been done for the Nationals. They needn’t continue to put the shackles on their prized possession.

Two paragraphs stood out to me and captured my very feelings on the decision:

Major League Baseball before the turn of the century was like a highway with a speed limit of 80 mph. Baseball today has a speed limit of 55 mph, seat belts are mandated, and air bags are standard. What the Nationals are doing is lowering the speed limit to 40 mph and arguing that it will reduce car accidents further.

They might be right, but given that the injury risk has already been reduced so significantly, it’s likely that any further benefit to shutting down Strasburg will be minuscule. Meanwhile, the risk that shutting him down costs the Nationals the NL pennant or a world championship is a lot more than minuscule. The point of having a pitcher like Stephen Strasburg is to help you win a championship. Preventing Strasburg from helping you win a title this year — so that he might be more likely to help you win a title in the future — is causing certain harm to your team in the present for a theoretical benefit in the future. That is, in a word, dumb.

Couldn’t have termed it better myself. Dumb. A franchise that was laughingstock just a few years ago has a real opportunity to win a World Series, and will have to do it without a franchise-changing hurler because of an innings limit that MIGHT help. There is no science to it, but they’re putting the emergency brakes on him.

I’ve been asked about whether or not the Phillies would use the same approach with one of their own. It’s impossible to say because Strasburg really is in a league of his own.

What’s your take on the Strasburg situation? Before you comment, read the column, and then see if you still believe it was the correct move. And if you’re with me in thinking the Nats are dumb in this approach, this article should only strengthen that thought.

Click the link below to see my thoughts on Strasburg, on TV:

Philadelphia News, Weather and Sports from WTXF FOX 29

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