One of the biggest stories in baseball this season was the Nationals shutting down Stephen Strasburg. I liked it. Lots of people didn’t.
The argument against the shutdown was that they had a shot at a title and he would help them get there. We also don’t know enough about Tommy John recovery to know if he needed to be shut down.
But I think they had to do it. He wasn’t just a year and a half removed from Tommy John surgery, he had never thrown more than about 120 innings in a season before. How would his arm respond to a bigger workload after the surgery?
They didn’t need him to make the playoffs. That much is clear. Could he have made a difference in the playoffs? Sure, but he also could have pitched terribly, we’re just guessing. Gonzalez was lights out in the regular season and laid an egg in the NLDS.
I’m a big believer in building innings slowly. He already threw 40 more innings than he had ever thrown. I would be weary of going much higher than he did if he hadn’t had surgery, but the surgery sealed it for me. Strasburg is the future of that team, you can’t risk a second surgery because second Tommy John’s lead to careers in the bullpen.
We don’t know a lot about what causes injuries to pitchers, but what we do know is that pitching tired is a factor. Strasburg had never thrown this many innings and had missed an entire season. This sounds like a recipe for fatigue. He would tell you he isn’t tired because he wants to be a team guy, but I would wager he was tired.
It’s one thing to wear him out and make him tired going into next season, but it’s another to risk another injury. If he was my investment, I would shut him down. They had a good team and made it to the playoffs anyway. I would bet they’ll be back.
He’ll have something to say about that.