Way before any MLB games were played this season, super-phenom ace pitcher for the Washington Nationals Stephen Strasburg had an innings cap of 160 innings for the 2012 season. Strasburg had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow late in the 2010 season. He was able to pitch at the end of last year after he completed rehab, but was limited to 24 innings through 5 starts. The Nationals are slow playing his comeback to a full work load knowing that Strasburg has a bright future, meaning they will protect his golden right arm at all cost.
After 13 starts this season (77 innings pitched), Strasburg is 8-1 with a 2.45 ERA and leads the National League in strikeouts with 100. Yes, 100 K’s in 77 innings. WOW! Even though his personal stats are flat out awesome, they probably will not be the headlining story through the next 83 innings he toes the mound.
The story will be whether or not the Washington Nationals stay true to their word and shut Strasburg down after 160 innings. Why will that be the story? Because for the first time since this franchise moved to Washington, the Nationals have a very real chance of making the playoffs.
The Nationals are 38-23 and currently sitting atop the NL East. 4.5 games ahead of the surprising second place NY Mets, and a full 9 games ahead of the struggling, last place Philadelphia Phillies.
Strasburg has been a huge contributor to a pitching staff that has been one of the best in baseball so far this year. Strasburg, along with lefty Gio Gonzalez have almost been unhittable. I would be flabbergasted if either were left off the 2012 National League all-star team.
Bottom line is that GM Mike Rizzo is going to be faced with an impossible decision and these will be two of his choices:
- When Strasburg hits his innings limit, sit him down and protect the future. Lord knows we don’t want to see a Kerry Wood/Mark Prior situation come about.
- Knowing that Stras is your best player and chance at ensuring a post season appearance, pitch him with intentions of making a run at the World Series.