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The Nationals could still make a run without Stephen Strasburg

Sep 8, 2012, 1:01 PM EDT

Nationals Getty Getty Images

The Nationals enter today’s action with the best record in baseball at 85-53. Yet with the attention given to the unique situation involving the shutdown of Stephen Strasburg, one would think they would be doomed without him. That’s just not the case. And it’s really a discredit to a well-balanced ballclub.

Nationals starters are first in the majors with a 3.29 ERA, but as Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post notes, their 3.31 ERA without him would still be the best. Gio Gonzalez (2.98 ERA), Jordan Zimmermann (2.99 ERA), Ross Detwiler (3.15 ERA) and Edwin Jackson (3.63 ERA) are all among the top 20 in the National League in ERA. Having Strasburg available would certainly enhance their chances of making a deep run in the postseason, but they are still pretty stocked in the rotation.

And that’s not even talking about the other areas of the ballclub. Nationals relievers rank fifth in the National League with a 3.34 ERA, even though Drew Storen missed most of the season following elbow surgery. The offense struggled early on due to injuries to Michael Morse, Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth, but with their full lineup finally in place, they are first in the National League and second in the majors with 280 runs scored since the All-Star break.

If the Nationals lose during the postseason, this decision will be questioned. If Strasburg gets hurt next year despite the shutdown, this decision will be questioned. If the Nationals never get this close again, this decision will be questioned. And rightfully so. But regardless of your feelings on the situation, it’s important to recognize that this team is about more than one guy.

  1. theawesomersfranchise - Sep 8, 2012 at 1:07 PM

    Nationals may not make the post season again for a decade as well.

    Good scouting and dead last finishes sure can make a HORRID GM look half decent.

    • verytalldad - Sep 8, 2012 at 8:03 PM

      This makes no sense. This team was built for the next 2 years, not this year. The fans are also on board with the whole thing.

    • dcfan4life - Sep 8, 2012 at 10:57 PM

      Your REALLY stupid. Have u seen the Rays, what they have done? The Pirates? The Athletics? My god man, do you even watch baseball??? Good scouting, player development, drafting and patience can make any bad club competitive. And bad scouting and drafting can ensure your terrible for years. Just ask the Cubs, Mets, Royals, Mariners, and Astros. Oh, and get your head out of your ass and watch some baseball dude.

      • theawesomersfranchise - Sep 8, 2012 at 11:49 PM

        When calling someone stupid…. be sure to get you’re and your correct

      • dcfan4life - Sep 10, 2012 at 4:34 AM

        Really, do u correct people in text messages too? Did i put the commas in the right place? Any missed caps? Hey, look, i put a u instead of you… Damnit correct me!!!

  2. shawndc04 - Sep 8, 2012 at 1:14 PM

    Thank god this is you D.J. writing this instead of Craig. Finally some balance and fairness on this issue.

    • natslady - Sep 8, 2012 at 1:29 PM

      Yeah, but it won’t get many clicks. Thanks for this! Now we play the games!

    • reediddy - Sep 8, 2012 at 2:06 PM

      “one would think they would are doomed without him.”

      Sentence 2.

      There might be balance and fairness, but there’s also no grammatical prowess

      • reediddy - Sep 8, 2012 at 2:07 PM

        otherwise, yes a fantastic post

      • D.J. Short - Sep 8, 2012 at 2:10 PM

        Ugh. It sounded right in my head! It’s fixed now. Thank you.

      • scatterbrian - Sep 8, 2012 at 2:28 PM

        No, they aren’t doomed without him. But they’re better with him.

        It’s asinine that those defending the shutdown are latching on to the idea that Nats are just as good without Strasburg. They aren’t. Yes, they’re still good, but they are better with Strasburg. They can win without Strasburg, but they have a better shot with him. You can defend the shutdown in other ways, but don’t try to convince us that this in insignificant, or that this doesn’t lessen their chances of going deep into the playoffs.

      • natstowngreg - Sep 8, 2012 at 2:49 PM

        No sane fan would argue that the Nats are better, or even the same, without Strasburg. Point is, the Nats are still a pretty good team without him.

        The Nats won without Michael Morse, Ryan Zimmerman, Drew Storen. Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond, Wilson Ramos, and Drew Storen at various times this season. But somehow, Stephen Strasburg is so special, they can’t win without him? Because he was so hyped? Good grief.

      • D.J. Short - Sep 8, 2012 at 2:50 PM

        I don’t think anybody is saying they are “just as good.” Their chances would obviously be better with him.

      • natstowngreg - Sep 8, 2012 at 3:54 PM

        Right. However, someone claimed (above) that we Nats fans were saying, the team is as good or better without Strasburg. That erroneous pnotion needs to be countered with the actual views of actual Nats fans.

  3. scatterbrian - Sep 8, 2012 at 2:07 PM

    If Strasburg is so unnecessary for the Nationals to win, why don’t they just trade him?

    • kevinleaptrot - Sep 8, 2012 at 4:14 PM

      Not unnecessary scatterbrian, it’s just the the Nats are really stacked at pitching, and the offense is starting to take off as well. Defense has started to slip, and the Nats inability to keep other teams from running on them is worrisome, but overall they’re playing lights out this season, probably far better than Davey and Rizzo expected. They’re going to be hard to beat thought, with or without Stras.

    • verytalldad - Sep 8, 2012 at 8:10 PM

      “If Strasburg is so unnecessary for the Nationals to win, why don’t they just trade him?”

      Glad we have the reasoning of a six year old in the comments section.

    • dcfan4life - Sep 8, 2012 at 11:03 PM

      Last time i checked one player cant make a team win. Ask Arod when he was in Texas winning MVPs for a last place club. But good players help. The Nats are built to sustain injuries. This team lost as many players to injuries as the Phillies, but the Phillies couldnt counter there injuries, the Nats have been in first virtually the entire season. Strasburg is no exception. He may be our best pitcher, but it isnt by far. Zimmerman and Geo are amazing. And the underrated Detweiler could be a number one on some teams. This team is shutting him down knowing they can still win without him. And they will. Dunno about the World Series, but NLCS for sure.

      • mazblast - Sep 9, 2012 at 2:41 PM

        To win the NLCS, you must first win the NLDS. Ask last year’s Phillies about this.

  4. chill7183 - Sep 8, 2012 at 2:17 PM

    Thank you!

  5. elmo - Sep 8, 2012 at 2:21 PM

    It’s kind of unfortunate that the shutdown will likely be judged, with perfect 20/20 hindsight, through the lens of what the rest of the team does in September and October of this year. Whereas it will be several years before we can judge how it actually affects Strasburg’s career.

  6. chill7183 - Sep 8, 2012 at 2:23 PM

    by the way, can you write an article about how terrible this home plate umpire in the nationals game is!

    • natstowngreg - Sep 8, 2012 at 2:52 PM

      Indeed. Though it must be said, he’s been bad for both sides. The Fish hitters have done a better job at taking advantage.

  7. Kevin Gillman - Sep 8, 2012 at 2:56 PM

    Maybe I am wrong, but I just don’t think the Nationals will make it past the NLCS. One reason is because they have never made the playoffs before, and it’s a completely different animal than the regular season. While those four can get past the regular season without Strasburg, I just don’t think they can go deep in the postseason with the pitching. Everyone is accustomed in their roles….Strasburg is number one, Gio is number 2, Jordan is number 3, Edwin, number 4, and Detwiler number 5. And those numbers are important in the postseason, since teams face the best pitchers. For instance, who will you take your chance with, Matt Cain, or Detwiler? How about Tim Hudson Vs Edwin Jackson? It’s taking a very big chance without their ace, and furthermore, there is no guarantee Washington makes it back to the playoffs with Strasburg on the team. None. You take the chance, and see what you can do.

  8. nygf - Sep 8, 2012 at 3:06 PM

    Yes, given how the ’86 Mets and ’08 Phillies were set up to win multiple championships in the following seasons, I bet their fans were thrilled Dwight Gooden and Cole Hammels were not shut down in those years.

    • natstowngreg - Sep 8, 2012 at 6:36 PM

      Dwight Gooden and Cole Hamels weren’t coming off major surgery. Pitiful excuse for an argument.

      • nygf - Sep 9, 2012 at 11:01 AM

        That may be, but the main jist of my argument is nobody knows if another year is going to unfold like this for the Nats again. It’s possible Desmond, LaRoche, Gio and Jackson all have career years in the same season again, but maybe not. I say they have a shot right now, take it, and take it with your best pitcher.

  9. lucidsportsfan - Sep 8, 2012 at 4:17 PM

    They may still fair OK without him, but it seems insane to save him for the future when for them the future is right now. They may never get another chance.

    • natstowngreg - Sep 8, 2012 at 6:40 PM

      Or maybe they will get it done this season. Only a fool presumes to know how the playoffs will go. Such fools, no doubt, said that the Cards couldn’t win last season. Or the Giants the year before that.

  10. thefalcon123 - Sep 8, 2012 at 4:31 PM

    Oh, what a bunch of malarky. Seriously, when was the last time a team won a World Series without their best pitcher?

    • natstowngreg - Sep 8, 2012 at 6:43 PM

      Um, this is a trick question, right? Some team from the ’20s or ’30s that few remember?

      • thefalcon123 - Sep 8, 2012 at 6:50 PM

        The correct answer is the 1923 Yankees.

        Their best pitcher was playing had was playing the outfield*

        *For the purposes of this joke, I am conveniently ignoring the fact that Waite Hoyt, Carl Mays and Herb Pennock were on the 1923 Yankees.

    • Old Gator - Sep 8, 2012 at 10:53 PM

      1997 Feesh. Alex Fernandez tore his rotator cuff towards the end of the regular season.

      • Old Gator - Sep 8, 2012 at 10:54 PM

        Then again, the Gnats aren’t going into the postseason without Gio Gonzalez anyway.

  11. zer0s1gnal - Sep 8, 2012 at 4:41 PM

    We knew Strausburg was going to be shutdown. It is finally happening. I think the reason people really have an issue with this is because he has star power. The causal fan probably doesn’t know any of the other starting 5.

  12. bigleagues - Sep 8, 2012 at 5:42 PM

    It’s not the people who argue that the Nats can still win without Strasburg that bother me (the Cardinals won last year without Wainwright, from example) . . . it’s the people who:

    1) argue that the Nats won’t miss Strasburg in the playoffs when rotations are shortened;


    2) simply remove Strasburg’s stats from the Starters totals and proclaim that they would still have the best rotation in baseball.

    Losing a SP of Strasburg’s caliber may have more of a cascading effect on a team’s performance than many people think.

    Think of a Pitching Staff as a high performance engine. If a part needs to be replaced, you can go with the top of the line replacement or lesser quality alternative.

    Replace the part with the high performance option and the car will maintain its high level of performance.

    Replace the part with the lesser quality, less expensive part and the car will still run and get you from point (a) to point (b), but the overall engine performance will suffer.

    Removing Strasburg from the Nats rotation will have a residual effect between now and the end of the season. Maybe the Nats continue to win at the current pace. Maybe even, Lannan approximates what Strasburg averaged in each Start.

    But there are very few SP in MLB that have the lockdown potential from Start to Start that Strasburg possesses. I would argue that Gio Gonzalez, as consistent as he is, is not really a lockdown type pitcher. Mainly because he is still prone to throwing too many pitches and thus walking too many guys. Do that to most AL teams and watch how fast the game can get away from you.

    If Lannan or whomever can’t deliver consistently in their Starts, and their lead begins to slip a little, the other Starters may begin to press more, the bullpen may have to work more, the offense then feels more pressure to put more runs on the board. Then, suddenly, you have a team which had been pumping away on all cylinders, playing tight and pensive as many of them head into their first ever playoff series.

    Also, where Strasburg, Gio, Zimmerman and EJax would face the opponents top 4 – it’s now gonna be Gio, Zimmerman, EJax and Detwiler. And while the latter still looks pretty darn good on paper, it’s not even close to being as effective as the former, which is what got you to this point in the season with the best record in baseball.

    • verytalldad - Sep 8, 2012 at 8:06 PM

      This sounds like a fantasy baseball analysis. You talk like they are robots. Strasburg didnt throw 9 innings with no runs every game. He is usually out by middle of the sixth. This should have no affect on the bullpen and I think the other 4 starters stats speak for themselves individually.

      Strasburh was getting tired, which probably “makes the engine run a little worse.”

      At least Detwiler goes longer than 6 innnings once and a while.

      I dont think anybody watches the nats, you just read headlines and articles of writers who are so flabbergasted bc anything that they cant predict, drives them crazy.

      • bigleagues - Sep 8, 2012 at 11:22 PM

        First of all, I don’t think you read what i wrote carefully enough OR you didn’t comprehend what I stated.

        Secondly, and I don’t say this to too many people on HBT because most of us are extremely knowledgeable about the game and right or wrong, we all have our opinions – but you really irritated me with your tone, and your comments reveal the following to be true . . . I know more than you about baseball. Not fantasy baseball, but real actual, played on the field kind of baseball.

        – I’ve been watching the Nats all season. I watch a lot of teams throughout the year – but I’ve probably seen close to 30 Nats games this year between April through the end of August.

        – “This sounds like a fantasy baseball analysis.”

        Quite the opposite actually. In fact, what could be more of a fantasy-like analysis than simply subtracting Strasburg’s numbers from the Nats SP totals and declaring that they still have the best rotation?

        To believe and seemingly assert, as you did, that removing Strasburg from the rotation should have no effect on the bullpen and/or rotation – is about as sterile, static and fantasy numbers driven an observation as one can offer.

        – One terrible Start does not necessarily mean that he was getting tired. Could be true. But I think they pulled the plug because he was at the silly 160 IP limit and didn’t want to run him out there again in the obvious mental funk that he’s in and have his season potentially end with two bad starts that had nothing to do with physical capabilities.

        – That you walked right up to the edge of comparing Detwiler to Strasburg is beyond comedic.

        I like Detwiler. He’s a grind it out kind of guy who’s only starting to realize his potential. But Strasburg’s game is light years ahead of Detwiler’s. Detwiler has been allowed to pitch into the 7th because there isn’t an Innings limit on him. Do you really believe there weren’t games this season that Strasburg could have pitched past the 6th had there not been an innings limit on him?

        By the way, the Nationals are 10 games above .500 (19-9) in Games started by Strasburg this season; 14 games above .500 (21-7) in games that Gonzalez starts. And 5 games above .500 (16-11) in games that Zimmerman starts.

        That’s a grand total of 29 games above .500.

        The Nationals are 33 games above .500 . . . which means that all of the other pitchers (Starters and Relievers) combined account for the other 4 games.

        If you don’t think removing a guy whose team is 10 games over .500 in games he Starts can have a psychological, as well as, a practical effect on a team’s overall play, then I don’t what to tell ya.

        BTW, since you’re a big time Nats fan and all . . . tell us who was your team 8 years ago and why did you jump ship?

  13. verytalldad - Sep 8, 2012 at 7:33 PM

    Could?? does anybody here actually watch the nats? after today they had 18th last-at-bat win, 10th sudden death win, 33rd come-from-behind win.

    I guess Strasburg did all that. this team is incredibly balanced, will still have 4 top 20 pitchers. Multiple players having career years.
    I guess they COULD win the pennant and the series.
    The orioles could make a run, the nats based on everything we have seen will make a run. Replace Strasburg with john lannan the whole year and the nats still have a division lead.

    • bigleagues - Sep 9, 2012 at 3:45 PM

      scaryfallfad (verytalldad)

      “Replace Strasburg with john lannan the whole year and the nats still have a division lead.”


  14. vcupats - Sep 8, 2012 at 7:52 PM

    Enough. The Nats have played like the best team in baseball. Yeah we could “make a run” with a trophy in hand at the end. I am sick of everyone overlooking this team.

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