In This Corner: Nats will survive without Stras
Now that the NFL season is underway, a lot of sports fans are forgetting about baseball.
Thankfully, in Washington that doesn’t seem to be the case thanks to the shut down of All-Star pitcher Stephen Strasburg.
Strasburg received Tommy John’s surgery last year and the plan for the entire year was to shut him down after he pitched roughly 160 innings to prevent further injury to his arm.
That plan was highly scrutinized by fans and analysts alike after the Nationals had a season that no one expected, rocketing to the top of the National League East and boasting the best record in the majors.
While this is an unprecedented season for the Nationals, it doesn’t mean that Strasburg should still be pitching.
As a fan, I would much rather take a trip to the National League Championship Series and have a loss to the Reds or Cardinals than have Strasburg pitch late into the season, re-injure his arm, and be out for an extended period of time next year. That’s when the Nationals will really be looking to capture a World Series title.
Although the team’s front office is being criticized now for taking Strasburg out of the rotation, if they chose to keep him in and Strasburg suffered some sort of an injury that impacted the rest of his career, they would be torn to shreds by the media.
Many fans are afraid that because Strasburg is done, the team’s chances of reaching the National League Championship game or the World Series are gone.
While a World Series championship could be tough without Strasburg, it’s certainly not out of the question.
In the playoffs, the Nationals’ No. 1 pitcher will likely either be Gio Gonzalez, who became the first pitcher in the majors to 19 wins Monday night against the Mets and has a 2.93 earned run average and a 1.13 walks plus hits per inning pitched, or Jordan Zimmermann, who doesn’t have nearly as many wins but has a 3.01 ERA and 1.17 WHIP.
Toward the back end of the rotation, Washington has Ross Detwiler, who has had a breakout season so far, featuring a 9-6 record and a 3.23 ERA, and Edwin Jackson, who has one of the strongest personalities in the clubhouse, not to mention nine wins.
If starting pitching isn’t your thing, the rest of the Nationals’ lineup is starting to heat up and get healthy at the right time.
First baseman Adam LaRoche is having a career year and is currently fourth in the National League in home runs and sixth in runs batted in.
Rookie outfielder Bryce Harper has also put his name back into the race for National League Rookie of the Year, hitting 18 homeruns and batting .259.
Now that Jayson Werth and Michael Morse are both back from injury, there’s not a single hole in Washington’s lineup.
The one hole that was there was filled right before the trade deadline, when the Nationals traded for catcher Kurt Suzuki, who isn’t the best catcher by any means, but is an improvement over the struggling Jesus Flores.
Even if Strasburg was still in the pitching rotation, he isn’t likely to shut out any playoff team, and the Nationals would still have to score runs, and would still have to have a solid bullpen to finish what Strasburg or any of the other pitchers would start.
Thankfully, closer Tyler Clippard is recovering from his mid-season slump, and now has 30 saves and a 3.09 ERA.
Even if Nationals fans were to look at all of these stats, most of them will still choose to panic and say that General Manager Mike Rizzo “gave up” on the season.
Washington’s chances of making a postseason push have only dropped slightly with the loss of Strasburg.