Stephen Strasburg pitches for Washington again tonight. And once again an amazing paradox will be happening for Nationals fans.
Each inning he throws helps the Nats widen their lead in the National League East and move them closer to the first postseason the nation's capital will experience since FDR's first year in office.
And yet, each inning he throws also brings him closer to having his season shut down (according to the Washington Post) because of the limits on his arm post surgery.
From a distance, taking the best pitcher on the best team in baseball out of the playoff picture looks crazy. Up close it looks a little bonkers as well.
This author has suggested on Bleacher Report that the Nationals should just pitch him because this perfect storm for the Nationals as a playoff contender this strong might not happen again. And I also made the suggestion of having him pitch the middle innings of a game to preserve his inning count.
Evidently the members of the front office of the Washington Nationals do not read Bleacher Report.
Here is another suggestion that would keep the innings down and still allow Strasburg to contribute in the post season if the Nationals could push the limit from 160 innings to 175.
Twice a week, have Strasburg pitch two innings in a game. And know in advance which two so he can warm up and get prepared. Technically he would be a reliever, but he would not be asked to jump up at a moments notice and get loose like a typical reliever.
Start each week knowing he will pitch the seventh and eighth on, say, Tuesday and Friday. Imagine a Gio Gonzalez or Edwin Jackson game where after six, Strasburg comes in, takes care of business for two innings and hands it off to Tyler Clippard.
Strasburg is at 127 1/3 innings right now. Let's say he throws 5 2/3 innings tonight to make his season total at an even 133.
There are seven weeks left to the season. If Strasburg pitches four innings each week, that would be a total of 28 innings, that would get him to 161 for the season. And he would be contributing to 14 games along the way.
If the Nationals would be willing to push the limits to 175, that would give Strasburg the chance to throw 14 innings in the post season.
With a solid rotation of Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler and Edwin Jackson, plus Tyler Clippard, Craig Stammen, Sean Burnett and John Lannan in the bullpen, the Nationals have tremendous depth.
Allow Strasburg to pitch the seventh and eighth in a pair of Division Series games, then two in the NLCS and World Series and it makes the staff even stronger.
If they go all the way with Strasburg pitching four per series, he would finish at 173, two bellow the extension.
And in a short series, a weapon out of the pen can be a tremendous help. Remember Ramiro Mendoza shutting down the Red Sox in his 2 1/3 innings of work in the 1999 ALCS. With all due respect to Orlando Hernandez, Mendoza's relief efforts made him the MVP of that series in this author's eyes.
As for El Duque, his three innings of shutout relief in the 2005 Division Series all but ended Boston's hopes to repeat as World Series champs.
Pitchers like Francisco Rodriguez in 2002, Adam Wainwright in 2006 and David Price in 2008 became effective pieces to pennant winners with limited innings.
The Washington Nationals are right now the best team in baseball. And a chance to win the pennant and World Series should be embraced fully.
A reduced Strasburg role is better than no Strasburg. Having him shut down later innings is better than having him eat sunflower seeds and be a cheerleader.
This way, he can contribute to a playoff run and still keep his innings down.
Give it some thought, Nationals.
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