Throughout the season, the Nats have been adding to their wins and solidifying their spot at the top of the NL East. The team has been cautiously wondering if this could finally be their year.
And they’ve been anything but quiet. The Nats have had incredible plays, solid pitching and exciting player performance. The Nationals are caught up in their momentum right now. This could be it.
The Nats are very aware of where they stand this season. With the best record in the MLB right now, they are a shoo-in for a playoff spot and could definitely clinch the National League Championship Series. The team is living the good life right now and seeing few mistakes in their heroic journey towards reaching the playoffs.
Well, except for one.
General manager Mike Rizzo is sticking by the innings limit he put on Stephen Strasburg at the beginning of the season. That means no playoff appearances for the pitcher who is coming off of recovery from Tommy John surgery last season.
It’s not a bold statement to say that this decision could cost Washington the chance to claim the National League Championship Series title. It definitely could.
The Nationals have a powerful pitching weapon in Strasburg that they could use to see victory in Washington. Instead, they are giving him a pat on the back for a great regular season. The only pitching Strasburg will see in the playoffs will be from his teammates, while he’s sitting in the dugout.
Of course, when a team’s pitching rotation has been so crucial to their success like it has been for the Nationals, it’s an awful idea to bench the starting pitcher. But that’s exactly what the Nats are doing.
The Nationals hold the best record in baseball right now, and their best pitcher is Strasburg. He is currently 13-5 with a 2.90 ERA.
The Nats won’t be going into the playoffs blind. They still have great pitching depth with Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann. But taking Strasburg out of the rotation will definitely add some challenges to the Nats’ playoff run, and make the possibility of a World Series appearance a little more distant.
Rizzo is looking at the big picture and what is good for the long run. That’s probably a wise decision for Washington's future. But the Nats have a chance this season to deliver a historic playoff journey to their fans and to the franchise—as long as they have Strasburg.
Needless to say, Strasburg is unhappy with the decision and probably won’t go quietly. Usually calm and soft-spoken, Strasburg changes when he’s out on the mound. Both teammates and coaches describe the pitcher as fiercely competitive and incredibly determined (via Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post).
According to Kilgore, Strasburg’s teammates are, of course, staying positive, but they are unhappy about his innings limit as well. And unhappy players can lead to deflated performance. Shutting down Strasburg will be a huge blow to the team's confidence heading into the playoffs.
This season is the first time that both National League Championship Series and World Series appearances are easily in reach for the Washington Nationals. And who knows when this will happen again? The team has never achieved a National League pennant or World Series title in the history of the franchise.
Nationals fans have been holding their breath and knocking on wood for this streak to continue into the playoffs. Now with Strasburg out of the picture, they may need to knock a little harder.
It’s a bad idea to take Strasburg out of the pitching rotation for the playoffs. Without their best pitcher, the Nationals will likely see an early end to their incredible season.