There has been a lot of talk about the Nats' 160 innings limit for Stephen Strasburg this season. Strasburg is coming off of Tommy John surgery. Many outside the beltway seem to be miffed by it. It's almost like they are irked at the Nats' audacity.
Part of me hopes Strasburg is allowed to pitch the entire year. After all, any pitcher could be injured during his next pitch. Strasburg's presence would give the Nats their best chance to win.
A bigger part of me appreciates the 160 inning limit. It worked for Jordan Zimmermann, who is having a great year one season removed from a 160 innings limit. The Nats are thinking long term. Why increase Strasburg's chance for injury for one season? The Nats are hoping he'll be around for the next ten or fifteen seasons. They have a good young team that should be in contention for awhile. Really only Ian Desmond is having a career year offensively, and it hasn't exactly been unexpected. One could reasonably expect the offense to be better in the coming years.
Several pitchers have had career years. But the Nats have done a great job of hoarding good young arms. If a pitcher struggles, there's another one to replace him. Plus, the Lerners have shown their willingness to spend money. So, this won't be the Nats only shot at the title. That belief helps to ease the angst caused by shutting down Strasburg early.
Without Strasburg, the Nats' rotation is no doubt weakened. But the team still has the pieces to compete. After Strasburg sits, the Nats will have two Cy Young candidates at the top of the rotation. Edwin Jackson provides a veteran third. Then Detwiler or Lannan would be fourth, or even both could replace Jackson if he struggles. The Nats still have a strong bullpen. A lot of playoff teams wish they had that pitching staff.
The offense has been heating up as well. The every day players have slowly become healthy and, in fact, the problem is hey have too much fire power. Steve Lombardozzi and Roger Bernadina, two starter-quality players, are relegated to the bench. So, the Nats will be alright this year.
Then, there's the possibility of the Nats finagling with Strasburg's starts to extend him deeper into the season. Some have suggested having him pitch every 6th day, but the Nats don't want to mess with his routine. Others say the Nats should put him on the DL for a while. The problem is that Strasburg struggled coming off the DL in 2010. The rust showed. Perhaps, the Nats can pitch Strasburg 3 innings a game. But that would kill the bullpen until September. And even then, Strasburg would go from pitching 3 innings a game to 7+ in the playoffs? Sounds like a recipe for disaster.
So, taking a long term view and having faith in the Nats this season, I believe they're doing the right thing by shutting Strasburg down early. I applaud the chutzpah and foresight associated with such a decision.