Can Nationals Still Make Deep Playoff Run with Stephen Strasburg Shut Down?
Many of you are well aware of the parameters regarding Strasburg for the remainder of the 2012 season. The innings limit is "set" at 160, so he is roughly halfway there after Wednesday night's performance left him at 84 innings.
Manager Davey Johnson has also made it known that he will not be skipping any of Strasburg's starts in an effort to keep him around later in the season, and he will also not limit his starts to a certain number of pitches or innings.
Essentially, Strasburg will be treated as a regular starting pitcher until he hits the 160 mark. At that point, he'll likely be shut down.
Now, don't get me wrong. I understand why the Nationals have implemented an innings limit on Strasburg. He is undoubtedly the ace of the next decade for the team, and they want to make sure that he stays healthy in the future. After missing most of last season because of Tommy John surgery, I understand Washington's qualms about extending him deep into the season.
That being said, the Nationals will suffer a huge blow by not having him on their playoff roster.
The pitching staff has been miraculous so far in 2012. Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson, Ross Detwiler and Strasburg have made the Nationals' rotation the best in the National League, and likely all of baseball.
Can the Nationals still make a deep playoff push without Strasburg?
In a playoff series, the Nationals would theoretically be able to throw Gonzalez, Strasburg and then Zimmermann against the opposing team's top three starters.
That trio would be extremely difficult to beat in a playoff series.
Now, take Strasburg out of the picture. Jackson would more than likely take his place, and that represents a significant drop-off from the production they could be getting from Strasburg.
Jackson has been very solid this season (3-4, 3.02 ERA), but it's safe to say that we're all in agreement when I say that he's no Strasburg.
The pressure would then be on Gonzalez and Zimmermann to give the Nationals quality outings, because there would be no assurance on a Game 3 victory.
There's almost no doubting the fact that the Nationals will be in the playoffs. We're around the 65-game mark of the season, and they have a three-game lead on the New York Mets, a three-and-a-half game lead over the Atlanta Braves, a seven-game lead over the Miami Marlins and an eight-game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies.
Anything can happen over the 100-or-so games remaining, but there's a very strong chance that the Nationals will at least be a wild card team this season.
Strasburg will be instrumental to the team's final standing.
Unfortunately, we won't be able to say the same about his impact on the postseason.
I guess we'll have to wait one more season before we get to see Strasburg pitch in October.
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