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  1. Why not limit his postseason to 3 starts (hypothetically)? One in the NLDS, 1 in the NLCS and 1 in the WS? That’s 18 extra IP. If he throws 175 in the reagular season, 18 more IP isn’t gonna make his arm fall off.

    Comment by David — August 24, 2012 @ 4:49 pm

  2. The answer was blatantly to start him later in the season.

    But why does he need to pitch at all right now anyway? If he’s not going to pitch in the post season there’s no reason for him to pitch now.

    Also it’s not hard to work him back up to just 5 innings. He could probably skip a month, pitch 3 innings one time, then go 4 the next time. Then be at the start of the post season at 152 IP, ready to go 5 in his next start.

    Alternatively he could be game 3 starter instead of game 1 starter, then pitch a max of 5 times in the post season but probably less.

    Comment by joeiq — August 24, 2012 @ 4:51 pm

  3. The only way this could have worked out is if they had a REALLY strong feeling that they would make the playoffs, then decided to not bring Strasburg int othe rotation until May/June, meaning no early-season wear on his arm. So short of being psychic, they couldn’t have planned for this any better than they have.

    One thing that gets me is that the Nats are getting flak from DeRosa and Werth, two guys who have been pretty frequent DL visitors for a couple of years. They should understand the injury risk better than anyone else on the roster.

    I support the decision to shut Strasburg down. There’s no guarantee they’ll compete in the future, or that Strasburg will not get hurt with this plan. Like it was said, Zimmermann or Gonzalez might get hurt next season, causing a slip in the rotation’s effectiveness. However, we know that the more chances you give a person to get hurt, the more likely he is to get hurt. If you have a 10% chance to get hurt and go out 10 times, you’re more likely to get hurt than if you only go out once.

    Just as there’s no guarantee that Strasburg (or another guy in the rotation) won’t get hurt next season, there’s no guarantee Strasburg won’t get hurt this season. What if they ignore the limit, and he gets hurt in his final regular season outing, tearing his rotator cuff and causing him to miss all of 2013? You’ve then lost him for 2013, without getting him for 2012, either. You’ve caused a catastrophic injury without any real gain in the process.

    There’s just a greater risk of injury coming off of injury and without the built-up arm strength from a full MLB season than if you’ve got this usage in 2012 going into 2013. I wouldn’t want to risk not only hurting him, but causing massive damage to the team’s medical staff’s credibility and deflating fan interst if he goes down.

    Comment by Keith — August 24, 2012 @ 4:52 pm

  4. Pitching him now helps preserve their division lead, which Atlanta and New York can tell you is a big deal. There has been mention that it might be worse to stop and start him than to let him get going, though.

    I would say maybe only allowing him to go 3 innings the whole rest of the way (regular season and playoffs) is another route, but does that put him in a mindset to overthrow and cause injury? The same could be said about making him the playoff closer.

    Comment by Keith — August 24, 2012 @ 4:54 pm

  5. What if you take that route and he blows out his arm in the NLCS? It might not cause his arm to fall off, but it might. There’s not way to know when a guy will go out and lose his durability. It might be inning 160, it might be inning 200. All we know is that the more you let him attempt to get hurt, the more likely he is going to get hurt.

    Comment by Keith — August 24, 2012 @ 4:55 pm

  6. On that much rest between starts?

    Comment by John — August 24, 2012 @ 4:59 pm

  7. The entire Nats staff has missed 2 starts due to injury. The likelihood that that will happen again in the next 8 years? Close to nill. This is the year, go get that ring and roll the dice that Strasburg can get you 3 postseason starts without his elbow tearing to shreds.

    Comment by David — August 24, 2012 @ 5:06 pm

  8. The Nats have consistently said that they’ve been told by doctor’s that increasing the rest in between his starts is BAD for his arm. His arm has grown accustomed to throwing roughly every 5 days, so suddenly giving him ~10 days between starts would be a bad thing.

    Comment by Nitram Odarp — August 24, 2012 @ 5:08 pm

  9. I can’t believe increasing rest is bad for injury prevention. (As I look down at the scars on my arm)

    Comment by John — August 24, 2012 @ 5:09 pm

  10. If your arm is used to bouncing back after 5 days, then you suddenly don’t let it work for 10 days, what’s it going to do when you try to throw? Your control wmight be rusty, or it might be stiff.

    Comment by Keith — August 24, 2012 @ 5:13 pm

  11. How would they have known at the start of the season that they wouldn’t need him making every start possible just to win the division? They weren’t even the favorites to win the NL East coming into the season according to most people. This is just hindsight at its finest.

    Why does he need to pitch now? To build up innings so that he’s better prepared to throw 200+ innings next season. They would prefer not to jump him from ~150 innings this year (most of his career) to 200+ innings next year.

    As for working him back up to 5 innings, did you skip over the comments from Dr. Andrews? Shutting a guy down and then trying to build him back up is dangerous. It may be more dangerous than just allowing him to continue pitching uninterrupted. Apparently the Nats own doctors have specifically advised them not to do it. It’s easy for you to say it’s not hard when you don’t have to deal with the potential fallout of going against the advise of medical professionals and perhaps effectively ending the career of a generational talent (recovery rate from a 2nd TJS is ~15%).

    Comment by Nitram Odarp — August 24, 2012 @ 5:18 pm

  12. Yeah, but like I said, what if he tears something at the end of the regular season? What if they make the postseason, lose, and Strasburg gets hurt along the way? Will it be worth it to risk 3 or 4 World Series runs for 1?

    You said yourself, teams don’t go a season with only 2 lost rotation turns much. They’re one of the better pitching teams in baseball, and even losing one of their starters for the whole season might not wipe away their team for next season (they’re up 6.5 games, and I don’t think that any of those arms has accrued 6.5 WAR).

    Other teams will lose pitchers, same as Washington. I understand that it’s hard to take a pass on a playoff run, but how much damage coudl you do to your team morale, fan morale, and future prospects if Strasburg goes down?

    This is a bad position. Like it’s been said, there is no real knowledge of the situation to pick a real IP limit. The only way that’ll happen is if someone tries to push a young guy too far and he gets hurt. So, quesiton: Do the Nationals want to be the reason that 160- or 180-inning limit becomes scientifically sound?

    There’s not a god amount of evidence on this matter, but how many times has it been said that you shouldn’t increase a young arm’s load by more than 30 innings from one season to the next? One example of that is how Mat Latos ended up immediately after his first heavily-worked season. He has arm issues and missed the start of the season.

    Comment by Keith — August 24, 2012 @ 5:18 pm

  13. I can’t say with certainty that it is, but I certainly don’t know enough where I’d be comfortable doing it if the doctors told me not to.

    Comment by Nitram Odarp — August 24, 2012 @ 5:20 pm

  14. They’re not talking 150 innings, for the record. They’re talking 160-180. If he hits 180, upping it to 200 the next season’s not a big deal. What IS a big deal is that if they make the playoffs next seaosn, you might be talking an increased workload in the 230-inning range, maybe more.

    Comment by Keith — August 24, 2012 @ 5:20 pm

  15. Hmmm…who should I believe doctors or a anonymous John from the internet?
    But if you want to play armchair physiologist, dig this: Ever sit in a car for a really long time. How easy is it to run the instant you get out?

    Comment by KDL — August 24, 2012 @ 5:23 pm

  16. Please stop suggesting this. There was NO WAY to know the Nats would be looking at a deep run in the playoffs in late March. Starting him late gives him a SHORTER off-season before the first one they planned on letting him loose for real. Anyone who suggests now that they should started him up later in the season is Monday-morning quarterbacking to the nth degree.

    Comment by KDL — August 24, 2012 @ 5:27 pm

  17. For the record I’m a Nats fan since they were French Canadian, and I thought the second Wild card was the team’s best shot at the playoffs. Planning on having this team in this position would have been a bit foolish – especially since the window Rizzo has been building toward for a couple years now is 2013-2015ish.

    Comment by KDL — August 24, 2012 @ 5:31 pm

  18. I was replying to the OP’s suggestion that if they’re not going to use him in the playoffs, they might as well shut him down now.

    Comment by Nitram Odarp — August 24, 2012 @ 5:31 pm

  19. I confess that I don’t quite understand the Nats’ approach. If you’re going to stick to a hard 180 innings/season cap, why not also stick to a hard 90 pitches/game cap?

    If you had done that from the outset, you could probably have now alternated 5 inning and 3 inning starts for Strasburg until the end of the year and gotten some useful post-season work from him while still respecting limits.

    Comment by Mike Green — August 24, 2012 @ 5:35 pm

  20. Chipper Jones voicing his opinion about whether or not a healthy player should sit because he might get hurt. That’s like a double-reverse inverted yin-yang of irony with a twist.

    Comment by Choo — August 24, 2012 @ 5:43 pm

  21. Is it easier to run if you last sat in the car five days or ten days ago?

    Comment by Phrozen — August 24, 2012 @ 5:50 pm

  22. I’ll admit it. I came away from this article pretty convinced of the logic and was a doubter before.

    You wonder if this helps or hurts their odds of getting an extension done.

    Comment by Jesse — August 24, 2012 @ 5:55 pm

  23. Had Strasburg hypothetically pulled a hamstring 6 weeks ago, would the Nats have benched him once he had healed??? I think not. He would have pitched at first opportunity, with around a 100 pitch limit.

    Comment by michael saunders — August 24, 2012 @ 5:55 pm

  24. Maybe it’s not only the pitches he’s throwing in games they’re worried about. They could also be worried about how many times he has to get his arm warmed to pitch in the first place. I don’t think anyone’s ever shown that they have a hard cap based solely on innings.

    Comment by Nitram Odarp — August 24, 2012 @ 6:03 pm

  25. In fairness to Chipper (I know you’re joking FWIW), his comments were pretty tame. He said he understood it from the Nats side, but as a player in their clubhouse he’d be a little disappointed.

    Comment by Nitram Odarp — August 24, 2012 @ 6:07 pm

  26. You really think they would have let him go 100 pitches immediately after he came back? I think they’d take at least 3 weeks (maybe more) to have him build back up to that level.

    Comment by Nitram Odarp — August 24, 2012 @ 6:09 pm

  27. Jaime Garcia’s first start after 2 months on the DL was 107 pitches/8 IP. The Cards sure didn’t baby him……..

    Comment by michael saunders — August 24, 2012 @ 6:31 pm

  28. They’re getting flack from Werth? Source please? I’ve not seen anything remotely like that. I knew about DeRosa, but since he’s likely at the end of his career (and even if he continues, won’t be back with the Nats), he doesn’t care at all about the potential future impacts. He just wants his ring. I get it from his perspective, but I’m glad that team management isn’t thinking that way.

    Comment by John C. — August 24, 2012 @ 6:47 pm

  29. I love the commenters (professional and amateur) that don’t want to acknowledge that the Nationals had a chance to walk through all of these options as well as talk to the Doctors. Given a choice between trusting Dr. James Andrews and Dr. Lewis Yocum (the foremost authorities on the surgery) or trusting Rob Dibble, Mitch Williams and Leo Mazzone … well, it’s not a real leap. Limiting the innings is the way to go.

    Once you limit his innings at some point, there is a huge honking problem with every single plan that would have stretched Strasburg out so he could pitch into the postseason. All of the “stretch him out” plans assume knowledge of what we are much more sure of now – that Strasburg can pitch his way through 25+ starts. Coming into the season, that would have been one huge assumption for a guy with five post-TJ MLB starts. If Strasburg had picked up nagging, unrelated injuries along the way (fielding, running out a HR, etc) this could easily have resulted in the Nats leaving Strasburg innings on the table at the end of the season. Which both affects the standings this year and potentially affects the number of innings that he throws next year (because of the need to monitor workload increases for pitchers <25).

    More importantly, any plan that stretches Strasburg out means more innings by lesser pitchers, which has a direct impact on the standings. Less Strasburg means more John Lannan and Chien-Ming Wang (and Lannan can’t pitch only against the Braves). For the Nats, that’s kind of a “Yikes” moment. And the huge honking problem is that those games lost in the standings would potentially cost the team their present first place status in the Division. And this year being a Wild Card team sucks because of the one game play-in. For the Nationals, the choice of:

    (1) Winning the Division (and possibly home field advantage throughout the playoffs) with a cushion enabling you to rest your players and set up your rotation of Zimmermann, Gonzalez, Jackson and Detwiler however you like it based on matchups; and

    (2) Fighting tooth and nail down the stretch to get a “one and done” wild card game before you even get to the NLDS, hindering you ability to get the most Strasburg starts in the playoffs even if he stays healthy.

    it’s not irrational to assert the Nationals chances of winning the WS this year are better with Strasburg pitching to the limit in the regular season but not in the playoffs, as that better enables the Nationals to win the Division outright and thus avoid the “coin flip” of a wild card play-in game.

    By formula: [WS odds as Division Champion, no Strasburg in playoffs] > [WS odds as a wild card team, with Stras in playoffs].

    Because even if the Nats approach the wild card game with Strasburg on the mound, the opponent could well match him: Lohse for the Cardinals, Kershaw for the Dodgers, or any of the top 3 of the Giants would essentially make the game a coin flip, so a 50/50 chance in that scenario that the Nationals don’t even make the NLDS. Given that if you take Strasburg’s stats out of the rotation the Nationals still have the best ERA in MLB, that just firms up the argument. And running it out this way also ensures that you don’t leave any Strasburg innings on the table. As a final bonus, those games that he misses are in September, when expanded rosters give the Nationals more flexibility to try to mix & match their way to a win and many of the opposing teams are running out the string and giving their minor league players some experience.

    The more you think it through, the more you realize that the Nats have already thought this through.

    Comment by John C. — August 24, 2012 @ 6:58 pm

  30. Garcia had 5 minor league starts. Yes, he built back up to 100+ pitches.

    Comment by Brandon — August 24, 2012 @ 7:01 pm

  31. no actually that was Garcia’s 5th start after his injury, he made 4 starts in the minors, and pitched just 2.1 IP in his first start back and went more than 5 In just one of the 4 starts.

    Comment by jesse — August 24, 2012 @ 7:02 pm

  32. Dr. James Andrews is an excellent orthopedic surgeon. That he can diagnose and treat a range of sports injuries lends no credence to his ability to forecast Strasberg’s health, or what measures would help insure that health–especially not an arbitrary innings limit. At best the crux of your argument is an appeal to authority, and given the qualifications of the authority and what it is he is commenting on, an errant appeal to authority.

    What precedes this centerpiece argument:

    the unfalsifiable assertion that Jordan Zimmerman’s innings cap was a success; that he benefited from that innings cap.

    And what follows:

    fuzzy opining about the relationship between minor and major injuries

    a red herring about sudden injury

    a red herring about minor injuries also impacting pitcher performance joined with a glancing straw man referencing “broadcasters”

    are even less substantial/substantiated.

    This builds to the sweeping conclusion that: “Whether or not 180 innings is a sensible cap, I think we can all agree that it would be risky to put an extra 40 playoff innings on the arm of a 24-year old who’s coming back from Tommy John,” a statement which deftly builds from a false premise, and, then, as if to mask that gross fallacy, invents an imaginary congress of adherents that can “all agree” on something that is manifestly false.

    In your own words: “The second prong of the argument, the playoff argument, is basically conditional on the first.” So, by your own logic, since you could not prove that Strasberg will benefit from capping his innings, you must conclude Washington can not possibly justify a move that will “sorely hurt,” a potential playoff team, “by depriving [the Nationals] of their fireballing ace.”

    Though I appreciate the attempt to defend the seemingly indefensible, this post only further reinforces my belief that Mike Rizzo is being disastrously conservative, making a critical decision as if by sortilege–worse, making a critical decision as if by fear of Will Carroll and boogeyman statistical chicanery. And thereby trading Washington’s best chance at a World Series title for delay and hope of Divine Intervention. If Rizzo had a lick of sense, he would have avoided the injury prognostication business altogether, and thereby avoided the need to make an irrational decision to forestall forces he can not control. Instead his team and its fans suffer so he can save face.

    Comment by Broken Tenor — August 24, 2012 @ 7:45 pm

  33. Their current plan can not be the best possible plan.

    If holding Stras to 160 or 180 is absolutely necessary then a clearly better plan would have been to find the best way to reduce his innings as long as they maintain their division lead with a target of having him finish the season with 20 or so innings to spare for the much higher leverage innings in the playoffs.

    The only way they haven’t completely screwed this up is if they are bluffing and he will still pitch in the playoffs. That’s quite simply all there is to it.

    Comment by BillWallace — August 24, 2012 @ 8:24 pm

  34. I’m sorry Skeptics’ Guide, other than your general awareness of logical fallacies, what exactly is your argument in favor of letting Strasburg pitch?

    Comment by HST — August 24, 2012 @ 8:34 pm

  35. Chipper is just jealous he doesn’t have the luxury of only playing every 5th day. Instead he has an inverse SP schedule of playing 4 days then 1 off.

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — August 24, 2012 @ 10:19 pm

  36. google search “logical fallacies”>apply as much as you can to the article>use phrases like “sweeping conclusion” to sound articulate>still fail because you don’t actually know what the hell you’re talking about

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — August 24, 2012 @ 10:23 pm

  37. That would be true if they knew from the get-go that they were going to be leading the Division. With the Phillies coming off a 100+ win season, the Braves a young and dangerous team, and the Marlins seemingly about to embark on another of their free agency spurred “banzai to the World Series” you would have needed a pretty good crystal ball.

    Going through the season the Braves have been right there for the division right up to the last ten days. With a powder puff schedule after they get through this road trip, the Braves STILL aren’t out of the division race. When are you going to take your foot off the gas and stretch out Strasburg?

    Even if you think that the Nationals have the Division now, Strasburg has now gone so far that, short of shutting him down RIGHT NOW, you aren’t going to get much out of him in the playoffs.

    Comment by John C — August 24, 2012 @ 11:11 pm

  38. With the corollary that, if you do shut down Strasburg RIGHT NOW, you open the door to let the Braves make it a real race again. No, thanks. I go with Rizzo on this one.

    Comment by John C — August 24, 2012 @ 11:13 pm

  39. If Strasburg is all that seperates the Nationals from World Series runs in the future compared to now(“Will it be worth it to risk 3 or 4 World Series runs for 1?”), then they’re not going to be making 3 or 4 World Series runs in the first place.

    When you have the best record in the league, you go for it, assuming it’s not April or something obviously. Strasburg’s arm could easily fall off, sure, but the monetary value from getting as far in the playoffs could be used to buy them an ace arm if they really wanted. And, again, if Strasburg being on your team is the only thing seperating them from 1 World Series run compared to 3 or 4, you’re not going to be making that many World Series runs in the first place.

    If you ask me, the safer bet is to go for it here and not risk any number of regressions(Ian Desmond’s .ISO rise from .104 to .222 and higher BA, Lombardozzi doing great despite horrendous BB% when his BB% was already trending down as examples), plus the risk that keeping him for the future of maybe getting those runs entails: Strasburg getting injured in the future and ruining those runs without getting him here.

    You also have to consider the Nationals have some good pitching depth: Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman, Ross Detwiler is coming into his own, plus any young arms coming up(A quick glance at the Top 15 Prospects list suggests possibly up to four, but I’m guessing a good half didn’t do good in the Minors, but I haven’t checked ATM). I think that the team can push through possibly injuring him enough that the payoff for at least giving him the first start of their first playoff series and then shutting him down or something is well worth the risk to try and win at least a series and the payoff it entails, if not get to the World Series.

    Comment by Ruki Motomiya — August 25, 2012 @ 1:09 am

  40. This is made out to be such a difficult issue by everyone. It’s not. The Nats knew about this entering the season. They could have waited until May 1 to start using him, which would have allowed him to pitch in the playoffs. Any idiot could have figured this out except for Nats management. This is what you get with a franchise that managed to miss the playoffs every year from 1982-2011.

    Comment by Brian — August 25, 2012 @ 3:16 am

  41. Shut him down now, let um loose in October, that’s why we do all of this you let your horse gallop and go get it!

    Comment by DodgersKingsoftheGalaxy — August 25, 2012 @ 4:06 am

  42. There is no hard 180 inning cap, it’s based on the feel of the FO/manager for when he’s starting to tire, and guided by a 50 page plan written up for them by doctors.

    Comment by ValueArb — August 25, 2012 @ 5:31 am

  43. Dr. Andrews obviously has more experience and insight into the risks and recovery rates of TJ patients than almost anyone, so you first argument is factually incorrect. Surgeons do more than cut/stitch, they do follow up work, studies, measure results, etc.

    And there is no hard 180 inning cap, so your next argument is a straw man.

    Comment by ValueArb — August 25, 2012 @ 5:36 am

  44. Oh, and this isn’t Washingtons best chane at a title, a 20 year old Harper blossoming in his second major league season combined with a healthy strasburg is even better.

    Comment by ValueArb — August 25, 2012 @ 5:39 am

  45. Let’s look at this from an “expected total World Series” perspective, through to 2017.

    This year, the Nats are approximately 13/2 (+650) – allowing for juice that makes them about 12% likely to win the WS. Suppose they announced they were going to run Strasburg through to the end: let’s be aggressive with our estimate and make them joint favourites at 9/2 (+450) – with juice, about 17%. So they’re giving up a maximum of 0.05 of a WS by shutting him down.

    Going forward, I would estimate the Nats, with a healthy Strasburg, start each season at around 12/1 – call that 6.5%. Without a healthy Strasburg, they’d be more like 18/1 – call that 4.5% . So if Strasburg gets permanently damaged by pitching 220+ innings this year, they’d lose about 0.10 WS over the next 5 years.

    Within this very simplistic model, if pitching Strasburg all-out this year leads to a 50%+ chance of Prior/Wood-type injury, they shouldn’t do it. From Strasburg’s perspective, the threshold probability should be even lower (since his career extends beyond the Nats team control years). And the Nats do have a duty of care to Strasburg (the exercise of which appears to be helping them to sign tough draft picks etc.)

    There are lots of complicating factors working in both directions – such as the risk that Strasburg starts pitching ineffectively this season, and the need to discount the value of future WS wins. But ultimately it’s a probability game.

    Comment by Aaron (UK) — August 25, 2012 @ 6:42 am

  46. You must have made a fortune backing the fourth-favourite Nats for the NL East at the start of the season, sir. Well done.

    Comment by Aaron (UK) — August 25, 2012 @ 6:44 am

  47. This is a weak defense (although it might be the best defense the Nats have). There is so much more going on here. I do not make my living making baseball decisions, but it seems to me that if I was told before spring training even started that my best player could throw 180 innings and not one more, I would have not started him on opening day. As a matter of fact, I might have brought him on slower and held him out till May. The Nats essentially did nothing to make sure that their best player was ready for a potential playoff berth. Instead they actually made sure that he would NOT be able to pitch in the playoffs under the 180 inning cap.

    By estimates, there was been a few hundred major leaguers who have had TJ surgery. Not all of them were starters… not even all of them were pitchers. Despite what anyone say, there is not a strong enough sample to base any sort of expectation on. Some have come back to full seasons, and some have come back to partial seasons. Very few were as talented as Strasburg before the injury and very few were as talented as him afterward.

    Next, the idea that “marginal innings tend to increase the likelihood of injury” is absurd. It isnt absurd because it is false, but absurd because it was true from inning 0 to inning 1 as well as being true for inning 180 to 181. First, I cannot say that I know the risk that each marginal inning over 180 has, but I personally have not seen anyone else know that risk either. Second, there is no evidence that Strasburg’s risk will be greater than any other pitchers.

    Lets stop saying this people are smart and accepting their advice. Lets ask for actual evidence.

    Lastly, if Strasburg runs a risk of getting injured over 180 innings so does the rest of the staff. Edwin Jackson should come forward and removed himself because after all he is a free agent again next season and doesnt want to look like damaged goods. Hell, if we are throwing the playoffs by benching our best player, shouldn’t we also sit Harper, Werth, Espinosa, Desmond, Zimmerman (x2), and Storen. We have long term commitments to all these guys and the last think we want is one of them getting hurt. It’s not like playing for a WS is the only thing that we play for, is it?

    Comment by Socrates — August 25, 2012 @ 9:26 am

  48. Anyone who thought the Nats were the 4th best team in the NL East doesn’t know too much about baseball. They added 3 very good starters, and could easily have projected better seasons out of Zimmerman and Werth. Meanwhile everyone could see that the Phils were a changing (and injured) team and that Miami was a lot of smoke but no fire. The handicapping coming into the season was that the Phils were the consensus team and that the Nats, Braves and Marlins could push them. As it turns out the Phils demise was quicker then most thought and the Nats were the deapest team of the three challengers.

    To anyone who thought that Nats where the concensus 4th place team… Duh!

    Comment by Socrates — August 25, 2012 @ 9:41 am

  49. You are completely misrepresenting the argument for shutting him down. It’s not that throwing more than 180 hurts a pitcher, it’s that major increases in innings over previous seasons in dangerous. The drop off from Strasburg to Detweiler in the playoffs is not enough to risk his future.

    Comment by Doncosmic — August 25, 2012 @ 10:07 am

  50. Keith – It’s possible that Strasburg “tears something” next April too. What happens then?

    Comment by Socrates — August 25, 2012 @ 10:10 am

  51. Why are you estimating a “healthy Strasburg”? I mean this is a guy that are assuming can’t make it through 210 innings despite the fact that he is currently healthy (very healthy by all accounts).

    Comment by Socrates — August 25, 2012 @ 10:12 am

  52. Saying I am “misrepresenting the argument” is like people saying (with no proof) that 181 is dangerous to his health. I very well may be (inadvertently) misrepresenting the argument, but I am not sure where exactly you are referring. Please correct me if necessary, but dont just say that without explaining how.

    Comment by Socrates — August 25, 2012 @ 10:15 am

  53. So the nationals think that 120 pitches in 5 innings is better than 90 in 7 innings? That makes no sense.
    As a physical therapist, the first thing we learn is every patient is different. That’s why putting a 180 inning limit is so ridiculous. If Strasburg reports he is feeling some discomfort at 175 innings, are the nationals going to tell him to keep going? Of course not. So if he’s feeling good at 185 or 190, why stop him? I would bet he will not have an injury at 181 if he has no symptoms at 180.
    The biggest problem I have is all of the decisions are being made without subjective info from the pitcher himself. It’s as if you were having a heart attack and the doctor gave you medication. An hour later you report that the chest pain is getting worse and the doctor said, well the medication should be working so sorry I’m not going to do anything else right now. If I worked for Washington, I would monitor pitch counts, velocity (for a decline) and his arm slot angle (from the pitch fx data). If you see a change in the last two, then shut him down. It makes way more sense at that point.

    Comment by Shawneecubs — August 25, 2012 @ 10:38 am

  54. I absolutely disagree with both of your premises: I think that the Nationals think that 120 pitches is worse than 90, and I think that they have asked for Strasburg’s input.

    When did the Nationals ever give any indication that they thought that 120 pitches was better than 90? Take a look at his pitch counts, by start:

    His season high is 119, but he has only exceeded 110 twice, and has thrown 100 or more in just 10 of his 25 starts. I think they’ve been very cautious with his pitch counts.

    Moreover, it’s clear that Strasburg supports the plan, as his agent Scott Boras said in a radio interview in Washington, DC:

    I don’t think there’s any question that Stephen Strasburg wants to pitch. And I think when you’re healthy, you feel you can pitch. The reality of it is is that when you go through these procedures, you’ve placed your career in the hands of a medical practitioner that you trust. And the great news is that Dr. Yocum’s advice, counsel and surgical expertise have returned Stephen back to his normal self.

    And I think everyone involved has great trust in the physician who’s done this. And therefore you’re going to have great trust in his protocols and advice and counsel as to what conduct you should exhibit in reaching the point where you can now determine that you’re back to normal. That will be in 2013, where you’ve reached that status.

    Comment by Alex Remington — August 25, 2012 @ 11:02 am

  55. Look. Of course this limit is better for Strasburg’s long term health then continuing to pitch, but:
    1) if 180 was the limit why not bring him on slowly this season (skipping April)
    2) Why not cut him off at 120, 140, 160 or another limit. Obviously the cut off could have been anything, and there is no empirical evidence that 180 is that number. It is surprising to me that Fangraphs is taking the position this is correct, but gut and feel. You might as well be telling us that the Twins run a quality organization.

    Comment by Socrates — August 25, 2012 @ 11:25 am

  56. “Fangraphs” isn’t taking any position. This is my personal position.

    There’s no empirical evidence that 180 is the number, certainly. But there are two possible arguments that result from that:

    1) Because there’s no evidence to support 180, the true innings cap should be greater than 180, which is what I argued against in the article
    2) Because there’s no evidence to support 180, the true innings cap should be less than 180, which I did not touch in the article.

    Frankly, if you believe the second argument, then you should have no problem with the main thrust of my article, which is that shutting down Strasburg is a good idea.

    Comment by Alex Remington — August 25, 2012 @ 11:32 am

  57. When I dont know an answer to a question, I avoid coming to a conclusion. I do instinctively believe that each inning he pitches (each pitch really) has risk. That said, 1) there is no telling how much more risk each pitch has over the previous pitch, and 2) there is no evidence that each pitch Strasburg throws is MORE risky than Verlander, CC, or Kershaw’s next pitch.

    Or thinking about it another way, if someone believes that Strasburg should be shut down, shouldn’t they be clamoring for Josh Johnson to be shut down. 1) he isnt playing for anything, and 2) he is a good bit more injury prone than Strasburg (who has really only had one injury as far as I know).

    Comment by Socrates — August 25, 2012 @ 12:07 pm

  58. Wow! This might be the best comment ever.

    Comment by Baltar — August 25, 2012 @ 12:16 pm

  59. I guess you didn’t read the post. If you had, you would know why this is a terrible idea.

    Comment by Baltar — August 25, 2012 @ 12:22 pm

  60. Alex, my argument has to do with the fact there is an inning limit, not a pitch count limit. Of course I believe the nats are limiting the pitch count but a difference of 5 greater pitches per inning over 180 innings is 900 pitches, that’s nine extra starts.
    As for the physician, personally I would trust rehab professionals more like Kevin wilk for the rays or mike reinold of the red sox. These people study mechanics, arm angles, everything. They came out with a research article that showed injury rates based off of shoulder range of motion.
    My main problem is not whether he should pitch or not, it’s a number put down with out any subjective input and limited sketchy objective data.

    Comment by Shawneecubs — August 25, 2012 @ 12:33 pm

  61. Can you link that research article? I would love to see it.

    Comment by Socrates — August 25, 2012 @ 12:38 pm

  62. I still haven’t seen any evidence at all that the 30 innings he might pitch in this year’s playoffs are more likely to result in injury than the same 30 innings pitched next April. I’ll concede that the speculation that injury rate would be higher makes some sense. It also makes sense that the Nationals should be willing to accept some amount of increased marginal risk for their best player to pitch in the playoffs. Without a ballpark idea of how much (if any) additional risk there actually is, this is all just conjecture. Somebody above used a 50% chance of catastrophic injury. That seems absurdly high to me. Say Strasburg has a base 3% chance of catastrpohic injury in any given 30 innings (which would be roughly 20% over 200 innings), and that chance is increased to 5% for innings 180-210. Would you pitch him then?

    Comment by cowdisciple — August 25, 2012 @ 12:54 pm

  63. Agree. Well said.

    Comment by Socrates — August 25, 2012 @ 1:23 pm

  64. “Sortilege”? “Chicanery”? “Thereby”?
    Who talks like that?
    Save it for Cistulli!

    Comment by Jordan — August 25, 2012 @ 1:45 pm

  65. Again, I assume you must have made a fortune too. I actually tend to agree with you that the Nats were the best challengers to Philly (though the market didn’t quite take that view). But Philly (coming off 102 wins, even if aging) were still heavy odds-on.

    It seems pretty rational (without the benefit of hindsight) for the Nats to have put their Strasburg eggs into the making-the-postseason basket rather than the winning-the-World-Series basket.

    Comment by Aaron (UK) — August 25, 2012 @ 3:03 pm

  66. He has to sit. Season over. No question about it. You have a plan and you stick with it. He can’t be trusted to “know himself” because he got where he was by pushing himself. He won’t stop now.

    Comment by Tomrigid — August 25, 2012 @ 10:00 pm

  67. sure, the nats starting rotation hasnt had to deal with injury, but the everyday players have been hit pretty hard. laroche, zimmerman, werth, morse, ramos, 2 backup catchers, desmond have all had stints on the DL. trying to predict injuries is useless. the nats are going with the best info they can get from the most educated people they can find. how can you find fault with that?

    Comment by awgj — August 25, 2012 @ 10:58 pm

  68. I don’t get this.

    If you cap a pitcher at 160 – 180 innings you are effectively cutting out 6 weeks of his season. What difference does it make if he takes those 6 weeks at the beginning of the year or the end? A win is a win, regardless of whether it happens in April or September.

    If you pushed his starts back the team has a lot more options. They could be slowing him down NOW and have him rested and available to pitch all through the playoffs.

    I don’t understand your rationale. This isn’t armchair quarterbacking. I’m sincerely trying to understand what advantage you have by starting him early and ending early vs starting him late and ending late. Why is rest more important after this year vs before this year?

    Comment by BJsWorld — August 26, 2012 @ 2:24 am

  69. I didn’t have the Nats winning and I still would have delayed the start of his season.

    If the Nats don’t go to the playoffs you pitch him enough during the regular season to hit his 180 inning cap.

    If the Nats are on pace to go to the playoffs you start to slow him down in August – shaving an inning here and there. By the time you reach October you have an extra 20 innings or so before he reaches the magical 180.

    Frankly, I can’t see any advantage to starting him at the beginning of the season.

    Comment by BJsWorld — August 26, 2012 @ 2:31 am

  70. The point being made is that 180 innings is an arbitrary number, cultivated from an incredibly small sample size, with even a smaller number of direct comparables. It might be the best estimate that we can get today but that doesn’t mean that it’s right or correct. There’s a good chance that in 20 years we’ll look back and realize that inning caps like this do nothing to help improve the odds of a successful recovery.

    The fact that we are even talking about innings has always been curious. Seems like there are tons of factors that go into stress and wear and tear. I have to believe that a pitch on Mark Beuhrle’s elbow isn’t anywhere near as taxing as it is on Strasburg’s. That a high K/high pitch count guys innings aren’t comparable to pitch to contact/control specialists innings seems logical.

    Comment by BJsWorld — August 26, 2012 @ 2:44 am

  71. But isn’t this assumption, that he can’t make it 210 IP, based on not knowing he’s already thrown 145.1 and appears healthy?

    The right thing to do, based on the probabilities, changes with every pitch he throws.

    Dr. Andrews even says, “the highest injury rates they have is during the second year, when they’re coming back and really back up at top form and throwing and getting fatigued.”

    So, the chances of injury are highest when getting people back into form, not at this point, when Strasburg is already up and going. Plus, the Nats have been taking it easy on him other than just his innings. His pitch counts have been low, too. So, presumably of those 145 IP more of them are low stress than is typical.

    I think the Nats are safe to slow him down, giving him that 5/3 IP switching schedule, then pushing him back into rotation full-time when the playoffs start.

    If that means he pushes up towards 200 IP or above, so be it. If Dr. Andrews is right, the problem with recovering from Tommy John is getting ready for the second season, draw that processes out for Strasburg. Send him to extended spring training and get him up by May 1.

    All of these opinions are being argued with a huge amount of ignorance, even on the doctors’ ends. If you don’t know why patients are most likely to get re-injured at the start of the second year, then you still know nothing about how to prevent that from happening. So, without any clear indication that plan A or B will lead to higher or lower injury rates, you might as well just go for what increases your chance of winning the most.

    So with this I believe Aaron’s comment above is on the right track. All the Nats need to do is draw on as much knowledge as possible and come up with injury risk rates with each action (which seemingly don’t change much), combine those with win projections (including post-season weighting) over the next few seasons, and come up with what they believe will give them the most (important) wins. And when you’re faced with entering the playoffs as potentially the best team in baseball, its probably going to be hard cooking the numbers to justify sitting your best pitcher, which also might be the best pitcher in the game, inning for inning.

    Comment by Wally — August 26, 2012 @ 3:34 am

  72. Alex, you’re creating a false choice.

    There are many other arguments possible, one of which is that there is no cap (at least not in this general IP range).

    Ask the pitcher how he feels and watch him for signs of fatigue. If someone is healthy one minute, there is no reason to believe he will spontaneously injure himself in one arbitrary moment relative to another.

    Comment by Wally — August 26, 2012 @ 3:47 am

  73. Is it easier to run if you’ve been sitting in that car for 5 days or 10 days since the last time you ran.

    Comment by Jason — August 26, 2012 @ 9:29 am

  74. I continue to think the travesty in this situation is the Nats not recognizing their status as contenders in late-May and running a 6-man rotation, skipping every 4th or 5th Strass start, putting him on stricter pitch counts, or otherwise limiting his use gradually so he could hit the 180 IP mark on Nov 1.

    Comment by Adam — August 26, 2012 @ 2:36 pm

  75. MMMM…….reasonably talented young pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery where the team wants to limit total innings and stress, but needs a plan to work through any October run (if possible). See: Medlin, Kris.

    Comment by timmythomas — August 26, 2012 @ 2:50 pm

  76. Are you really advocating the Medlen plan for Strasburg?

    That would mean arguing that the Nationals should have kept Strasburg in the bullpen for most of the season, then sent him down to the minors to “stretch him out” for the rotation, then put him back in the bullpen when they called him up from the minors, and then finally putting him in the rotation.

    Do you really think that’s the best strategy for Strasburg or for the Nationals?

    Comment by Alex Remington — August 26, 2012 @ 3:15 pm

  77. I think that the Nats are trying to avoid a situation like what happened to Fransisco Liriano. Stud pitcher, had TJ surgery in Nov ’06, came back on ’08 and just hasn’t been the same as pre-TJ. Did Minnesota pitch Liriano to much? no, not even 100 innings. That said, Liriano is perhaps what the Nats are trying to avoid. They don’t want Strasburg to become inconsistent, erratic, only showing flashes of the stud he once was. While nobody can predict or totally prevent injury, one can take precautions against it.

    From the fans point of view, I hate what the Nats are doing. There is no guarantee that they will be back to the playoffs, or even (if they make it at all) the WS. Just ask NFL Dan Marino about that. But, I think they are doing the right thing in injury avoidance, and letting the arm build strength. Next year, if the offseason goes normal and well, we wont have this discussion at all. And the same goes for future years.

    Comment by Cidron — August 26, 2012 @ 3:42 pm

  78. I am pretty sure that Dan Marino never made it to even one World Series, so why ask him? :)

    Comment by Danny — August 27, 2012 @ 1:53 am

  79. All the people who are saying that starting him later, and getting 160 regular season innings and 20 post-season ones to reach 180, despite the fact that none of them thought that the Nats were favourites to win their division are being irrational. Also, this allows no flexibility for him missing a start or two for a niggle here or there. If they had gone with this plan, missed the playoffs and got 130 innings out of Strasburg, the same people would have been calling them morons, especially when he had to be limited next season due to the innings jump as well.

    Comment by Simon — August 27, 2012 @ 4:57 am

  80. It’s also important that Strasburg throws pretty much the full quota of innings this year, so that they can let him throw all season and potentially through the playoffs next year without having a huge innings jump. I’m guessing the average number of innings he gets through if you start him in May is around 145, given that most of the time he’ll miss a few starts and the Nats don’t always qualify for the post-season. Would you be comfortable jumping him from 145 to 230 or so next year?

    Comment by Simon — August 27, 2012 @ 5:00 am

  81. You miss out the strain put on his arm by warming up for starts and innings if you go with a pure pitch count approach. Anyway, they’re pretty similar, assuming that the Nats have a good idea what the average number of pitches that Strasburg throws in an inning is.

    Comment by Simon — August 27, 2012 @ 5:04 am

  82. What’s Adam Wainwright’s inning limit considering he just came back from Tommy John? #Lawyered

    Comment by Michael — August 27, 2012 @ 9:24 am

  83. I’m on my phone, so this is the mobile link. I can get you more specifics if you want.

    Comment by Shawneecubs — August 27, 2012 @ 10:11 am

  84. They didn’t know if they were going to make the playoffs, so what happens if they pushed the start of his season back 6 weeks, meaning he missed at least 5 or 6 additional regular seasons starts, and they don’t even make the playoffs? They could have possibly cost themselves the playoffs by starting him late and they saved up starts that he now can’t even make. What happens if he goes down to a minor injury during the season and misses a couple weeks? Now you have more innings left over than he can possibly throw, even if you make it to the WS.

    Comment by Nitram Odarp — August 27, 2012 @ 10:15 am

  85. There’s no way you could have pushed the start of his season back 6 weeks and still gotten him to 180 innings like you say you would have BJsWorld. As it stands now, having started right at the start of the season, he’s only going to hit 180 with ~2 starts left in the regular season.

    Comment by Nitram Odarp — August 27, 2012 @ 10:18 am

  86. 2 words: Mark Prior

    Comment by harryddunn — August 27, 2012 @ 11:20 am

  87. Thank you for writing this! I am in favor of the shutdown and a huge Nats Fan. It has been bugging me how many in the baseball world (including players) think shutting him down is a bad idea. It only makes sense to me. Gio the best Nat pitcher anyway.

    Comment by kick me in the GO NATS — August 27, 2012 @ 2:55 pm

  88. I think the Braves probably wish they’d had him starting sooner, given his excellent performance this year. Seems like their rotation was worse than expected, and they had to make trades to improve it, after seemingly having a surplus coming out of last year. So Braves fans should be ragging on the team for NOT getting him to that 160-180 innings he could have pitched. He probably won’t even have 140.

    There are plenty of assumptions being made. Is it hard to believe that there’s more than just innings and pitches going into this evaluation? The limit is there for developmental purposes in addition to a recovery timetable. He hasn’t pitched a full season even by prospect standards. The limit they probably place on a healthy first-year starter would be around 180 innings anyway. Now with the postseason, and no injury history, and little sign of major fatigue, they would push it, because obviously nobody pitches as much as playoff pitchers who’ve been healthy all season do, but Strasburg has had minor issues all along. From what I remember, he was trying to waive off the trainers and coaches when the tendon snapped. He may not be the best judge of his own health yet.

    Comment by mockcarr — August 27, 2012 @ 4:18 pm

  89. /facepalm.

    I meant, as an NFL analogy.. stud qb, made it to the superbowl in his first year, expected to go to many many more, and never did get back to the superbowl again.

    Comment by Cidron — August 27, 2012 @ 6:42 pm

  90. Dr. Andrews ‘shut him down/start him back up = bad’ actually undercuts the Nationals argument because it suggests that continuing to throw on the same schedule is far less risky that the risk he will inherently face next spring as he goes from not pitching meaningful innings for months to gearing it up for spring training.

    Look at Wainright and Carpenter recently who powered through playoffs and got hurt in the next spring. If Strasburg has a far higher risk of re-injury next spring, as opposed to mid-season, wouldn’t it be better to get the playoff push from him at any rate?

    Carpenter said he wouldn’t go back and shut himself down to play this season if it meant missing the WS. That’s saying a lot.

    Comment by Cus — August 27, 2012 @ 7:35 pm

  91. Socrates – my thoughts exactly. As though he pitches 180 innings and his arm is in pristine, gem mint condition. Then he throws 185 and suddenly it explodes on the mound and is put back together with rubber bands and chicken wire. An arm injury can occur in start one, or start 15, or start 30.

    Just continue to monitor his usage and don’t let him throw crazy innings or 130 pitches – ya know just like they have done all year.

    Comment by Jason B — August 28, 2012 @ 12:02 pm

  92. Just one fix:

    “Because even if the Nats approach the wild card game with Strasburg on the mound, the opponent could well match him: Lohse for the Cardinals…”

    I know Lohse is quite solid, underappreciated even, but Stras >>>>>>>>>>>>>> Lohse.

    Comment by Jason B — August 28, 2012 @ 12:04 pm

  93. “If Strasburg reports he is feeling some discomfort at 175 innings, are the nationals going to tell him to keep going? Of course not. So if he’s feeling good at 185 or 190, why stop him? I would bet he will not have an injury at 181 if he has no symptoms at 180.”

    Amen brother.

    Comment by Jason B — August 28, 2012 @ 12:09 pm

  94. I hear you about Lohse, but I wasn’t saying anyone is an exact equivalent – just that the game would essentially be a coin flip. Strasburg has been very good, yes (2.85 ERA, 1.11 WHIP), Lohse has been quite good himself (2.64 ERA, 1.08 WHIP). Strasburg walks more, but piles up the strikeouts; FIP and xFIP love him. Certainly if I had to chose one I’d pick Strasburg.

    But here’s the equalizer: Strasburg would have to pitch to the Cardinals’ lineup, while Lohse would be pitching to the Nationals’ lineup. The Nationals have certainly rebounded from their early season offensive woes to firmly middle-of-the-pack status (7th in runs, 5th in HR, 10th in OBP, 6th in OPS). The Cardinals are top shelf (1st in runs, 7th in HR, 1st in OBP, 1st in OPS).

    That game, my friend, is a tossup.

    Comment by John C. — August 28, 2012 @ 1:50 pm

  95. Horse nostrils.

    (1) At the end of May (May 30) the Nationals were in first place. By half a game over the Marlins. Not only that, but every team in the NL East was over .500. The Mets were 1 1/2 games back, the Braves 2, and the Phillies 3 back. Yep, definitely the time to start easing up on the gas …

    (2) And it would have been easing up, because going to a six man rotation would almost certainly push them back in the standings. Fewer innings for Strasburg though a six man rotation would have meant a lot more innings for John Lannan, Chien-Ming Wang, Tom Gorzelanny, Zach Dukes or Yunesky Maya. And fewer innings for Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler, since they would also be pitching every sixth day instead of every fifth day.

    Congratulations! Your plan has likely cost the Nationals the division lead, and may well cost them a playoff spot as well. On the bright side, Strasburg would be on the hill to pitch in the team’s last game of the season. October 3, against Philadelphia. At least they’d close strong.
    Strasburg’s innings are a big part of why the team is in the position it is in

    Comment by John C. — August 28, 2012 @ 2:08 pm

  96. Oh I don’t disagree. The Cards lineup > the Nats lineup. And in a one-game “win or go home” scenario, it’s all hands on deck. I’d like to see the MLB equivalent of the 24-16 LLWS game where a team came from 10 runs down in the last inning to send it to extras, only to then give up like 9 runs the very next inning. (Or a 1-0 pitcher’s duel, whichev.)

    Comment by Jason B — August 29, 2012 @ 12:37 pm

  97. Actually, Marino made it in his second season, not his first. In his first season, the Dolphins were defeated by the Seattle Seahawks in the first round.

    Comment by Ned — August 30, 2012 @ 2:49 pm

  98. I don’t really think they’re worried about him getting injured this year, I think they are worried about the innings jump taking a toll on his arm that will be cashed in on next year or later. For the most part people within baseball tend to agree that you usually don’t feel that backlash until the following year, like Hughes’ “dead arm” last year after 176 innings the year before.

    Comment by Chris Hines — September 7, 2012 @ 3:08 pm

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