Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson has announced that pitcher Stephen Strasburg will be shut down for the rest of the season.
Last week, the Nationals indicated that Strasburg's final start would take place on September 12th. However, after giving up five runs over three innings last night against the Miami Marlins, the Nats decided to pull the trigger early.
Strasburg missed most of the 2011 season due to Tommy John surgery and from the outset Nationals GM Mike Rizzo had indicated that Strasburg would be shut down at some point during the 2012 season. It had been widely reported he would be shut down once he reached 160 innings. This has created more discussion than any other topic in MLB this season. After last night's start, Strasburg had pitched 159 and one third innings.
This is especially so because the Nats were not expecting to lead the NL East from pillar to post which has complicated the matter considerably. Frankly, I don't think all this babying does Strasburg any favors. If he's healthy then he should pitch.
As for the Nats, their starting rotation is arguably the best in MLB. In fact, you could make the argument that Gio Gonzalez, not Strasburg is the ace of that staff. Gonzalez has more wins and a lower ERA than Strasburg. Gonzalez along with Edwin Jackson, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler make for a strong foursome. John Lannan will become the number five starter in Strasburg's absence.
Strasburg finishes the season 15-6 with a 3.16 ERA. He struck out 198 batters while walking only 48 in those 159 and a third innings. Strasburg averaged 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 2012.
The Nats currently have a six and a half game lead in the NL East with 24 games left to play. Chances are shutting down Strasburg won't harm them. However, it should be noted the Nats have not had a losing streak of more than five games this season. Strasburg is a big reason for this fact. Eight of Strasburg's 15 wins came following a Nats loss. If the Nats collapse and fail to reach the post-season then both Johnson and Rizzo will be out of a job.
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