Stephen Strasburg, the Washington Nationals' young pitching phenom is having a heck of a season. Thus far, the 24 year-old hurler is 15-5 with a 2.85 ERA and 183 Strikeouts in 145 Innings Pitched. Although the first three of those statistics should be cause for celebration, it is the last figure that is causing anxiety for the Nationals.
It has been widely reported that Washington intends on shutting down Strasburg's season once he hits a pre-established innings limit of 180. They fear that exceeding this limit will cause Strasburg, the 2009 first overall draft pick's arm to wear down, leading to potential injury. While it is understandible that they would want to proect and preserve such a valuable asset, it is hard to imagine disrupting his stellar season, which has placed the Nationals atop the National League standings.
Here is a sampling of how pitching durability has declined throughout the years:
We have seen young pitchers shut down due to a innings limit before, but never the number one starter on a contending team. Washington seems content to forego the remainder of the pennant chase, and playoffs without their Cy Young candidate. Granted, Strasburg is only a year removed from Tommy John surgery, but he has shown no signs of slowing or breaking down. They may want to preserve his arm, but this is a team with post-season aspirations, they may be compromising a pennant for an unknown future. It seems to me that this should have been handled better, differently. Rather than letting him pitch every five days, perhaps the Nationals should have had spaced out Strasburg's starts. Now, they find themselves up against their self imposed limit, and have put themselves into a difficult position.
They are in a lose-lose situation. If Strasburg pitches beyond his limit, and suffers an injury, people will blame Washington for wearing him out. If they shut him down, and the team falters, people will blame it on shutting down their ace. The only way Washington makes out is if they win the World Series this year.
- Kevin Aherne
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