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Washington Nationals Should Shut Stephen Strasburg Down for a Month

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 02:  Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals delivers against the Atlanta Braves during the third inning of their game at Nationals Park on June 2, 2012 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images
Eli GreenspanSenior Analyst IAugust 11, 2012

The Washington Nationals want Stephen Strasburg to be there for them in the postseason, but potential innings limits are hurting those chances.

Strasburg is 13-5 with a 2.90 ERA and 166 strikeouts in 133.1 innings this season. If the reports that his limit is between 160-180, that leaves him with less than 50 innings of work for the rest of the season.   

That leaves him with about eight starts if he averages six innings each time out. Realistically, the Nationals will not let him start eight more regular-season games. If they can reach Game 7 of the World Series, they hope that will be Strasburg's last start of the season.

In order to do that, they will need to shut him down at some point to keep his arm ready for the postseason and the future.

How should the Nationals approach this dilemma?

Everyone seems to have an opinion, and GM Mike Rizzo denies every credible report about Strasburg's limit.

The Nationals are 70-43, 4.5 games ahead of the Braves with the best record in baseball. The second-place Braves have the third-best record in the NL, after the Reds. So the odds of reaching the postseason are very high considering the state of the league. 

That's why the Nationals should shut down Strasburg now. Shut him down for a month. Have him throw a few side sessions and stay loose, but otherwise, rest the crown jewel. 

Then, come early September when teams start clinching playoff spots, give him another start and then rest him again till the postseason. He will not only be well rested, but he won't be at a risk of exceeding his innings limit. 

It is a safe move that could prevent embarrassing long-term injuries. 

Let's take a look at how the Cubs handled Mark Prior in 2003, when they were in a very similar position to the Washington Nationals today. Good, young pitching, combined with a scrappy but effective team with low expectations. 

Prior pitched 211.1 innings in the regular season of 2003, plus an additional 23 innings in the postseason. The next year he did not exceed 120 innings and was hit by injuries, some freakish, for the rest of his career.

Shutting Strasburg down for a month may be considered crazy, but it's crazy to think that they can keep Strasburg under 180 innings and still reach the World Series with him, assuming they still plan to shut him down.  

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