The Nationals continued their tremendous year entering September with the MLB's best record, and Strasburg enters his final two starts of the season with a 15-6 record, 2.98 ERA and the National League lead in strikeouts with a 195.
In almost a blink of the eye, all of the greatness will disappear into the background as the Nationals prepare for the playoffs. A Cy Young candidate shut down when his team has a legitimate shot at a World Series championship.
So what could the Nationals have done to preserve Strasburg to pitch in the playoffs?
During the season, many speculated that GM Mike Rizzo should place Strasburg on the DL in the middle of the season to preserve his innings. The major flaw of course being that Strasburg would be shut down only to begin again later on. It would have been the same situation if Rizzo had shut down Strasburg in August and started him up again in September. DL stint or no DL stint.
The most ideal situation to keep Strasburg under his limit would have been to start him up later in the season rather than shutting him down early on.
The Nationals had to have felt that they had a good enough team to make the playoffs this season after finishing with 80 wins last season, improving their team with key pitching acquisitions and watching the MLB add another wild-card spot.
The reward would have outweighed the risk in this situation. Aiming to make the playoffs should be every team's goal in the spring, so why not preserve Strasburg for the playoff run by starting him up sometime in May.
Sure, in hindsight it is easy to play the blame game, but this team was prepared to make an impact in the National League this season. If they fell short, there would have been disappointment all around the organization anyways.
Strasburg would have been able to get his innings in simulated games after the season concluded, and the Nationals would not have been left to second guess what could have been.