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Stephen Strasburg’s new innings cap: 180

Aug 10, 2012, 4:30 PM EDT

Mike Rizzo once said that Stephen Strasburg would be capped at 160 innings this year. Then he said that he’d be subject to some non-specific innings limit, governed by “the eye test,” whatever that means.  Now something somewhat more specific:


I still have to believe that this is all subject to change depending on the Nats making the playoffs, which they seem a really good bet to do, and going deep in the playoffs which, with Strasburg, they have to be favored to do.

If Rizzo shuts down Strasburg and he’s not available for critical starts either down the stretch or in October, he’d be crucified.

  1. icanspeel - Aug 10, 2012 at 4:36 PM

    I still don’t get inning limits in the sense that.. if a pitcher has a 40 pitch inning and then goes 4 innings with 40 pitches total, how can you even compare it based on the inning stat alone? Seems pitch count, along with types of pitches thrown would be a better indicator.

    • Tim OShenko - Aug 10, 2012 at 5:14 PM

      This is something I’ve wondered about, too, though I look at it from a different angle. I wonder how many pitches MLB starters typically throw per inning. What’s the average, do some pitchers truly get their outs on fewer pitches, that type of thing.

      I strongly suspect that the league average is about 15-18 pitches per inning, with the majority of starters falling in the 13-20 pitch range. I’m basing this solely on observation, but it seems that for every 9-pitch inning a starter throws, he’ll have a 25 or 30-pitch inning at some point.

      In other words, though you’re right that counting innings may be a little misleading, I’d wager that it basically amounts to the same thing as pitch count, when you consider how short and long innings even each other out over time.

      • Lukehart80 - Aug 10, 2012 at 10:41 PM

        After playing around on Baseball-Reference a bit:

        Among qualified starters, Tim Lincecum has thrown the most pitches per inning this year, with ~17.84, Bartolo Colon has thrown the fewest, with 14.03. Strasburg is at 16.18.

        So, you get a little less than a 4 pitch difference between the extremes. Over 7 innings that would certainly add up, but since Strasburg is very near the league average for pitches per inning, going by pitches instead of innings would not make a dramatic difference in his case.

  2. ezthinking - Aug 10, 2012 at 4:37 PM

    With this on Rizzo is going to get killed worse than Cashman was for the Joba Rules. This easily could be their only shot at the title for the next 10 years. Health, luck and competition can shut them out of the playoffs next year and for years to come.

    Go for it while you can.

    • avallstar - Aug 10, 2012 at 4:44 PM

      Are you retarded? Only shot for 10 years? Our top 3 starters are under 27, and our entire hitting lineup is in the prime of their careers, with Bryce Harper only getting better over the coming years. Oh, and best team in the NL isn’t luck. Maybe playoff wild card is luck, not this record. AND we were missing several of our best players for a large chunk of the season like Morse, Werth, and Storen.

      • madhatternalice - Aug 10, 2012 at 4:47 PM

        Oh, and best team in the NL isn’t luck.

        Best team in the majors! Best record in baseball! Don’t be shy about it :)

      • ezthinking - Aug 10, 2012 at 4:49 PM

        You’re right, mail in the post-season this year, they’ll be back every year, in fact, why do the Phillies and Braves even keep playing this year and in the future, they can’t possibly win.

        Now, where’s the gal with the Kool-Aid? I hear the ship is coming soon.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Aug 10, 2012 at 4:59 PM


        As a Nats fan should know, a lot can change in a year. Any year a team has a shot at the playoffs they would be wise to look at it as a rare and precious opportunity. Look at Boston/Atlanta last season if you think I’m wrong.

      • madhatternalice - Aug 10, 2012 at 5:06 PM


        What a stupid comment. No one is saying anything about “mailing it in.” It’s not like there’s no one else to pitch if Strasburg is limited or shut down. Go back and play in the sandbox.

      • Reflex - Aug 10, 2012 at 5:24 PM

        The top three starters have bad mechanics, all three throw with an inverted W, two have already had Tommy John surgery, and one just recently complained of a sore shoulder. The Nats are very good, but I see their window, pitching wise, as this season and next. After that its a crapshoot and mounting injuries will reduce this staff to unreliability.

        Its possible that Rizzo spends a ton on incoming pitching. Thier offense is looking better and better, and if they move Rendon to second they could have a very nice lineup(assuming Harper continues to improve and Zimmerman ever avoids injury). But pitching will remain a concern, and is likely where they’d be smart to spend their money going forward.

      • bleedgreen - Aug 10, 2012 at 7:56 PM

        As a team that has been riddled with injuries the past few years, the Nationals should know that if you have everyone healthy RIGHT NOW, you have to take the opportunity to win while the iron is hot.

        Hell, look at someone like Timmy Lincecum… he’s had a fairly awful year, but he’s ‘healthy’. The same can happen to anyone. Sometimes people just fall off a cliff, sometimes people get hurt, sometimes people get figured out. You never know.

        Its amazing that the Nats (as of today) have 0 winning seasons. You have 1 season going well, and you’re puffing your chest out and talking trash.

        You should also notice that having an AWESOME regular season record means NOTHING evidenced by the 102-win Phillies LAST YEAR losing in the 1st round and now being in the basement. Things change in an instant.

      • jl9830 - Aug 11, 2012 at 3:46 PM

        Nothing is guaranteed in sports. You don’t just throw away a potential championship season because there’s no guarantee this won’t be the Nats best shot. It’s extremely unlikely for the NL to continue being this poor as a league. Who is to say Harper or Strasburg won’t have some terrible injury? The Nats should go for it this year.

    • brewcrewfan54 - Aug 10, 2012 at 5:23 PM

      While I agree the Nats should have a pretty good team for the next few years the fact is you should take the chance to win when it presents itself. You don’t know whats going to happen in the future. Some guys are going to have bad years, sometimes the bounces wont go your way, you’re going to have injuries and age will catch up to some guys sooner rather than later. They should go for it.

    • natslady - Aug 10, 2012 at 5:54 PM

      I don’t think Rendon will play second because of his ankles. It’ll be Danny and Espy, and maybe move RZ to first and put Rendon at third. He is SOME hitter, that’s for sure.

      • natslady - Aug 10, 2012 at 5:55 PM

        Sorry EDIT FUNCTION. Desi and Espy! Don’t you think Rendon is two years away–September call up in 2013?

      • Reflex - Aug 10, 2012 at 6:56 PM

        Without the ankle injury I’d have given him a shot at a June callup next year, but now it all depends on that ankle. It would be a shame to move RZ though, he’s a fine defender and I don’t know that 1B would be any better on him given the nature of his injuries.

  3. ezthinking - Aug 10, 2012 at 4:39 PM

    PS the Cubs – Cin game is totally full of clown plays today. Turn it on if you can.

  4. madhatternalice - Aug 10, 2012 at 4:41 PM

    If Rizzo shuts down Strasburg and he’s not available for critical starts either down the stretch or in October, he’d be crucified.

    By who? Certainly not by the fans. I’m a season ticket holder, and I know a LOT of people that come to Nats games. The overwhelming majority approve of shutting down Strasburg. Polls on the Washington Post website also show this to be true. We’d rather have a great pitcher for the next decade, and not have him pull a Kerry Wood just to win a World Series this year.

    No, if anyone “crucifies” Rizzo, it’ll be the media. So I’ll say what I’ve been saying here on HBT: when you want to pay someone 15 million dollars to work for you, then you can decide what they should and shouldn’t do. But as long as the Lerners are signing checks, they get to decide what to do with their players.

    • natslady - Aug 10, 2012 at 5:10 PM

      Oh, Rizzo is very creative with injuries. The simplest thing would be for Stras to “pull a hammy” or “strain an oblique” along about September 10.

      Why bother being honest or trying to do the best by a pitcher that has HALL-OF-FAME potential?

      This is a team where we would have been happy, believe me, HAPPY to win 87 games and take a chance on the one-game play-in. It was built for 2013. Just because 2012 happened doesn’t mean 2013 won’t.

      Look at the rotation sans Stras. You tell me that you don’t want to go into the playoffs with Gio/Zimmermann/Jackson/Detwiler? What’re they, chopped liver? You have not one but TWO Cy Young candidates in the rotation besides Stras.

      Suppose Stras pitches 200 innings and the Nats lose in the NLDS or the NLCS and don’t make it to the WS. Could happen. And he blows out his arm. What are you going to say to Lucas Giolito–sorry kid, you’re three years too late, no postseason for you, we ran the table in 2012?

      • bleedgreen - Aug 11, 2012 at 10:32 AM

        “It was built for 2013. Just because 2012 happened doesn’t mean 2013 won’t.”

        Conversely, just because 2012 happened doesn’t mean 2013 will. If you have the chance to win this year, and you’re in 1st place, why wouldn’t you want your best ace on the mound in the playoffs? Do you think that Bill Belichick would ever sit Tommy Brady in the playoffs just because he’s afraid he might get hurt and kill the chances NEXT year? You shut people down when the season is lost, not when you have a chance to go deep into the playoffs/world series.

      • jl9830 - Aug 11, 2012 at 3:51 PM

        You were happy to win 87 games when you were 0-0, not now, with the best record in baseball. 87 wins now and the Nats would be given the “same old Nats” label. The Nats aren’t winning this year without Strasburg. You have to do all you can to win while there’s an opportunity, because you are assuming everyone will be healthy and productive over the next few years. That’s not that likely. There are myriad examples in sports history of teams who thought like you do and never made it back to the promised land. As long as Strasburg is showing no signs of injury, you have to go for the title.

        As for your Giolito example (which doesn’t make sense), would you rather tell the 2012 Nats, sorry guys, we’re PRE-EMPTIVELY shutting down Strasburg and taking away what could be your only shot at a title?

  5. kkolchak - Aug 10, 2012 at 4:44 PM

    Ha! I figured Rizzo was going to cave on the 160.

    At 180, Stras still has about 53 innings to go. If they limit him to no more than 6 innings per start, which they have been doing for the most part, that gives him 8-9 more starts, or 40-45 more games…in other words until almost the end of the season. The Nats SHOULD have at least a playoff spot locked down by then, which will really take the sting out of the shutting him down.

    • shawndc04 - Aug 10, 2012 at 4:54 PM

      I’m not sure that Mike “caved” on the 160; I don’t read it that way. The 180 is the upper limit, the absolute ceiling. The number could be lower. Secondly, I don’t believe that Mike ever specified 160. That number was assumed by the media because of the limit on Jordan Zimmermann. And as a season ticket holder and someone following this issue closely, the overwhelming number of Nationals’ fans are in agreement with his being shut down.

      • kkolchak - Aug 10, 2012 at 6:28 PM

        Had the Nats not been competitive this year, 160 would undoubtedly been the number, and I’m guessing that every inning over that amount will feel like a needle in Rizzo’s brain until Stras finishes the season unhurt and he can breathe a sigh of relief.

        I actually SUPPORT the innings limit, I just thought 160 was way too cautious unless Stras began feeling discomfort or something

  6. danaking - Aug 10, 2012 at 5:03 PM

    No one really knows why young pitcher get hurt. (Or why any pitchers get hurt, for that matter.) It’s a high risk profession. As was said above, not all pitches or innings are created equal.

    Given the concern with Strasburg is due to Tommy John surgery, I wonder if anyone has eve thought to giving him an MRI at some point to see how the arm is holding up? I know they’re used to see what an injury is; can they be used to anticipate one? Maybe to see if the ligament looks the same now as it did when he was cleared to pitch, using his healthy arm as a baseline?

    Any doctors out there want to set me straight, feel free.

  7. Francisco (FC) - Aug 10, 2012 at 5:05 PM

    Where’s natslday to weigh in on this?

    • natslady - Aug 10, 2012 at 5:17 PM

      Sorry, was working. I do that sometimes. See above. As Rizzo said on the radio the other day, I report to the Lerners, I report to the players in the clubhouse, I report to the DC fanbase. He does NOT report to pitchers on other teams, media critics, etc. I can’t speak for the players or the Lerners. But the fanbase is 84% behind him (that was a recent WaPo survey)–after it was clear the Nats were serious contenders in 2012. The local talk show hosts and commentators have been on board for months.

      All of us here are REALLY tired of this topic and would like to watch baseball with our TWENTY-FIVE players who are busting their butts. It seems like any time a “national” blogger or sports host wants clicks they bring up this topic. Rizzo is not changing his mind. See Stark’s article. Get over it people. Talk about Harper’s strike zone or something.

      • xmatt0926x - Aug 10, 2012 at 7:26 PM

        Call me crazy but I’m guessing if the Nats lose in this years playoffs without Strasburg, those survey #’s might change. Fans tend to change their minds depending on the current situation, believe it or not. Right now everything is all roses for the Nats fan base. It’s a little easier to hope for the best right now. Re-run those surveys if they lose the 1st series or even the actual World Series without Strasburg when all the fans aren’t in lala land anymore.

      • natslady - Aug 10, 2012 at 7:35 PM

        No, I don’t think so. The fans will spend all winter wondering if the experiment worked and Stras is JZ+++++. If he’s not, that’s when the fans might get on Rizzo’s case. So check back in September 2013, OK?

      • voteforno6 - Aug 11, 2012 at 12:40 AM

        Indeed. I have yet to find another fan at the stadium who doesn’t agree with the decision to shut him down. Not that it’s been talked about a whole lot, though. I think that this whole topic is more annoying than anything. With all the injuries that this team has had this year, I tend to focus on the people on the field.

    • natslady - Aug 10, 2012 at 5:40 PM

      BTW, didn’t mean that as a slam on Craig, who posts on many topics. Just that all the alternative plans, skipping starts, 6-man rotation, shutdown/startup, etc., have been thrashed out endlessly in our city.

      At this point, you pitch Stras for as far into the race as you can, build up a lead if you can, and then try to go as far as you can into the matches without him. Which is worse, tell him now, or tell him later? Because he certainly isn’t pitching 220 or 230 innings all the way to November. So, if he’s not going 230, why risk him going 210? If he’s not going 230, why risk him going 200 or even 190–doesn ‘t make sense.

      You either commit to him going 230 (Game 7) or you shut him down at 162-180 And that moment is when the best medical advice, the very limited history, and Rizzo’s scouting eye (which AIN’T a bad eye)–that moment is when Rizzo says it is.

      Mike Rizzo built this team. He built it last winter full knowing the situation, trading for Gio and signing EJax and stashing Lannon in triple-A. In Rizzo We Trust.

    • natslady - Aug 10, 2012 at 7:31 PM

      Here is another thing that may not be apparent to outsiders. This is not a baseball town. JZimm pitched great yesterday, but all anyone cared about was a rookie QB playing for a few minutes in a pre-season game. It’s going to take more than one playoff run–even a World Series run–to turn that around. This city needs a good baseball team for 5-7 YEARS.

      Let me say this also. Stras is a once-in-a-generation talent. If we can afford him (which is in doubt because of TV situation), he will delight this city for 10 years. Even if another Stras should appear, we won’t be drafting him, the Astros will, or the Rockies… Let’s go back to that rookie QB. After he played, some “regular” guy with the same initials came in, like the usual stiff he is–and that was your starting QB last year! Now, baseball isn’t football, and one pitcher doth not a team make. But when you see real talent, you treasure it. Because it is a treasure.

  8. chill1184 - Aug 10, 2012 at 5:58 PM

    I understand the logic regarding the limit; star pitcher, young, coming off TJ, etc but it just seems that Rizzo’s is hemming and hawing about it. Either you shut him down or you dont. Personally I believe the Nats rotation can handle Stras being out until playoff time but as we all saw last season alot can happen down the stretch. Granted he kinda brought this on himself by setting the limit on the first place. He had to have known in the back of his head that the media would harass him about it all season long.

    • natslady - Aug 10, 2012 at 6:08 PM

      Rizzo isn’t “hemming and hawing.” He said the other day that anyone who thinks Stras won’t be shut down doesn’t know what the h*** they are talking about. Sports talk radio played that clip all day over and over again because of the curse word. How many times does he have to say it?

  9. xmatt0926x - Aug 10, 2012 at 7:18 PM

    When you get a chance to win it all you go for it. It’s that simple. Yeah, the nats and their young roster of good players may compete every year for the next 5 years, but you never know. The window never seems to stay open as long as people think it will. Look at all the injuries in the game this year. Is it really far fetched to say Strasburg is likely to injure his arm again, with that electric stuff? The whole season is very fragile. One injury to just the wrong player can derail everything. One cold streak by an offense and it’s all over in any given playoffs. If you can win it all now, go for it. I don’t think you can assume anything.

    • natslady - Aug 10, 2012 at 7:33 PM

      No, you can’t. And you can’t assume that Strasburg will be the difference between making the playoffs and not making them.

  10. fmlizard - Aug 11, 2012 at 11:34 AM

    You draft a guy like Strasburg to win a World Series. Something they have a very realistic chance of doing this year. I can’t imagine shutting down your best player during what may well be the best shot you have at winning a title with him.

    Otherwise, you just might be saving him for a bunch of 85 win teams. Who knows?

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