Point/Counterpoint: What should the Nationals do with Stephen Strasburg?
Published: Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 23:09
Mike Peng: The Nationals are taking a huge risk shutting down Strasburg in my opinion. As of Wednesday, they have the best record in the majors as well as a 7.5 game lead in their division over the Atlanta Braves. Without Strasburg, that lead isn’t as big. With a good staff and solid lineup, they are poised to make a deep playoff run. But they’ll need their best pitcher if they want any shot at the World Series. Pitching is what makes the difference in the playoffs and he is their no. 1 guy.
Nick Danforth: I believe that the Nationals would be taking a huge risk if they do not shut Strasburg down. He is a young pitcher just one year removed from Tommy John surgery. They have a big lead but are not built around just him; 4 of their 5 regular starters have an ERA of 3.15 or less and John Lannan, who would replace Strasburg in the rotation, has an ERA of 3.46 in two starts. The Nationals would be able to overcome the loss of Strasburg for this season. Allowing him to pitch past his innings limit and risk injury could turn out to be a much bigger blow to the team.
Mike: So far this season, Strasburg has not expressed any discomfort in his throwing arm at any point. Even Tommy John himself pitched an entire season after he first underwent the surgery. Add on the fact that the Nationals haven’t had a winning season since they relocated to Washington in 2005. If they fail to make a successful run in the postseason this year, they could very well miss out on a great opportunity to create something special for that city. It would be a disservice to all of their loyal fans who stuck with them throughout the past eight years.
Nick: Although this is a great opportunity for the Nationals to give their fan-base something to cheer about, losing Strasburg would not negate that opportunity. The potential reward does not outweigh the potential risk involved. Overworking a pitcher can ruin a career. Mark Prior was seen as a savior for a struggling Cubs franchise, similar to how Strasburg is viewed with the Nationals. In 2003, Prior, just 22 at the time, pitched 211.1 innings and posted a 2.43 ERA with 18 wins and 6 losses. The Cubs went all the way to the NLCS behind Prior’s pitching before losing to the Marlins. However, Prior missed a significant amount of time due to injury over the next few years and won just 18 more games in his career before retiring in 2006 because of a shoulder problem. The Nationals cannot risk turning Strasburg into the next Mark Prior.
Mike: While it is true in Prior’s case that he was overworked early in his career, one thing that should be noted is that Prior’s 211.1-inning season came before his Tommy John surgery. Many pitchers who underwent the procedure, such as Kenny Rogers, Chris Carpenter, Josh Johnson and John Smoltz all went on to have successful careers without suffering any major setbacks.
Nick: For every Tommy John success story, there is another of failure. Jordan Zimmermann is like Strasburg in that he had an innings count last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He threw 161.1 innings last season and was shut down after that. This season he has come back strong and currently possesses a record of 9-8 with a 3.01 ERA. The Nationals had a plan with Zimmermann and it worked. They have a similar plan with Strasburg and should not be influenced by what the fans and the media think. Although it may not be the popular decision, it is the right one.