In the ongoing drama involving Stephen Strasburg, the Cincinnati Reds are among the teams in the National League that will benefit from the Washington Nationals' decision to limit the pitcher's innings.
Earlier this week, Bill Ladson of MLB.com reported the Nationals will limit Strasburg to 180 innings. The team will consider skipping his final two or three starts of the season to preserve his strength and mitigate any health risks.
"The same source went so far as to say that Strasburg will not pitch in the postseason once he is shut down," Ladson writes. Nationals fans may not like it, but the team is being extremely cautious as the pitcher has already had Tommy John surgery.
It is a difficult decision to limit a star pitcher's innings. Baseball is a crazy game, and there is no guarantee the team will make it back to the postseason.
At 73-45, the Nationals have the best record in all of baseball. The team owns a four-game lead over the Atlanta Braves in the NL East, and it is also eight games ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates (who own the second wild-card spot).
This situation has been the talk of baseball all season, and now, let's take a look at the NL teams that will benefit from the team's decision.
The Cincinnati Reds have been right behind the Nationals for best team ERA in all of baseball.
Washington's staff has a 3.27 ERA, while Cincinnati has a 3.37 staff ERA. The Reds play in a hitter-friendly ballpark, making their numbers all the more impressive.
Cincinnati benefits the most from Strasburg's shutdown because they are also poised to make the postseason. The Reds are two games behind the Nationals for the best record in baseball.
When these two teams get together, it is always a close game. In seven meetings this season, three games went into extra innings. Only one game was decided by more than three runs, but even that was only a four-run game.
The Reds are a right-handed hitting lineup, and they only have two left-handed hitters (who are both All-Stars). Right-handers have only hit .165 against Strasburg, but left-handers are hitting .278. With a lineup full of righties, the Reds would struggle against the ace.
Second baseman Brandon Phillips is the only right-handed hitter in the lineup hitting above .280 against right-handed pitchers.
Strasburg did not face the Reds this year, but the matchup would favor him. Cincy only stands to benefit.
In May, Strasburg went seven innings against the Dodgers. He allowed only one run while striking out nine in a no-decision against Los Angeles.
That game occurred when Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier were on fire, and the lineup looks completely different now with the addition of Shane Victorino and Hanley Ramirez. However, neither of those players have a hit off of Strasburg this season.
The Dodgers have taken over first place in the NL West, and they are in great position to win the division. San Francisco simply is not a strong offensive team with the season-ending suspension of Melky Cabrera.
Strasburg has held hitters in the Dodgers' lineup to a .140 average in the past two seasons. It is a very small sample size, but the Dodgers have struggled against the Nationals ace.
Strasburg's last start came against the Giants, and he came away with the win. He only allowed four hits in six innings and let only two runs score. The ace also struck out seven batters during his latest outing.
The Giants may benefit the most because they struggle on offense. The team relies on Buster Posey for most of the offense, and Hunter Pence will need to step up with Melky Cabrera out.
San Francisco wins with pitching, and they have a staff that can compete with Washington. However, the Giants may have to play in a one-game wild-card playoff. If they do, they would be without their No. 1 pitcher against Strasburg (assuming the Nationals finished with the best record). Now, instead, they get to put their No. 2 against Washington's second pitcher.
Although they have work to do just to reach the playoffs, the Giants will nonetheless be better off with Strasburg's absence.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are trying to have a winning season for the first time since 1992. If they manage to finish above .500 and reach the postseason, the Nationals could be their first opponent as a wild-card team.
The Pirates faced Strasburg in May, and they were dominated by the right-hander. The ace struck out 13 batters in six innings and only allowed one earned run. He came away with the win, and he has a history of dominating Pittsburgh.
Early in the season, the Pirates struggled to score. The team began to score in the middle months, but have struggled overall lately. As a team, they are hitting under .250 for the season.
Andrew McCutchen leads the majors in hitting, but the rest of the lineup would likely be dominated by the ace.
The Atlanta Braves have a five-game lead for the first wild-card spot, and they are hoping to avoid a September collapse.
Since they play in the NL East, they have seen Strasburg quite a bit. Out of every team on this list, the Braves have the highest batting average (.263) against the young phenom.
Strasburg is 2-1 in four starts against Atlanta this season. In 18.1 innings this season against the Braves, he has allowed 11 runs and has 24 strikeouts. He has only pitched past six innings once in those four starts.
Atlanta has had some success against him, but they have scored more than three runs only once in their matchups.
Jason Heyward might miss Strasburg, as he is 5-for-8 against him this season. The rest of the lineup has decent numbers against him, but nobody has had more success than Heyward.
The Braves are scheduled to face the ace next Tuesday in Washington, and it may be the last time they see him in 2012.