Skip to content

The Nats are on the brink, but let’s not blame the absence of Stephen Strasburg

Oct 10, 2012, 4:56 PM EDT

Ryan Zimmerman strikeout

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The Nationals had the best record in baseball and the best rotation heading into the postseason. But now, after consecutive awful outings by the pitching staff, the Cards lead the Nats 2-1 in this best of five series. They lost 8-0 today.

Edwin Jackson was shaky out of the chute, and gave up four runs on eight hits. He settled down a bit, but as he made way for the bullpen, the fire began to rage again, and before it was all done the Cards had hung eight on the Nats. Pete Kozma‘s three-run homer in the second was the big blow, but the Cardinals ended up needing only one run to secure the win.

The hittability of Nats pitchers led broadcasters Bob Costas and Jim Kaat to note the absence of Stephen Strasburg. And to note that his absence will turn into serious heat on Mike Rizzo and the Nats brass should Washington go on to lose this series.  I think they’re right about that.  And indeed, anyone who has read this blog over the past few months knows that I disagreed with the Nats shutting down Strasburg too. But let me say this: the way the Nats are losing this series shouldn’t bring any more heat on Rizzo for the Strasburg shutdown than he’s otherwise getting.

The Nats won Game 1 with Gio Gonzalez. They lost Games 2 and 3 due to poor outings from Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson. Guess what: barring a sweep, all three of those pitchers would have gotten starts in the NLDS. They needed Jackson and Zimmermann to pitch well even if Strasburg was there. They didn’t. The biggest difference will be seen in Game 4 when Ross Detwiler gets the nod, but his presence has yet to damage Washington’s chances.

Beyond the poor outings from Zimmermann and Jackson, the real culprit here has been the Nationals’ somnambulistic offense.  Washington was shut out today, leaving scads of runners on base — I counted 11. On Monday they were down 7-1 before the bats woke up. Even in the win on Saturday they scored only three. You can’t give up 22 runs in three games and expect good things, but you gotta score some runs yourself too, you know.

So no, I’m not changing my mind about the Stephen Strasburg shutdown. I still think it’s a bad call to willingly deprive yourself of your best pitcher entering a playoff series. And if the difference in this series ends up being one solid pitching performance, I’ll be willing to entertain the notion that Strasburg was as critical as people will soon be saying.  But, as it is right now, let’s not pretend that Stephen Strasburg’s absence is the difference here.  The Nats are in serious trouble, and it is because of a total team failure, not because of some front office decision.

Oh, it also has a lot to do with the fact that the Cardinals — who just so happen to be the defending World Series champions — are a good baseball team who have gotten strong performances from just about everyone. Let us not lose sight of that when everyone rushes to blame the outcome of this series on the absence of Stephen Strasburg.

Latest Posts
  1. There’s a “very good chance” the Red Sox trade Lackey and Lester

    Jul 30, 2014, 12:27 PM EDT

    red sox logo

    A major reshaping of the Red Sox rotation could be afoot.

  2. Comment of the Day: in the 60s they lamented showboating players too

    Jul 30, 2014, 12:03 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 11.00.30 AM

    Apparently, Gibson and Drysdale didn’t have the reputation of Gibson and Drysdale at the time.

  3. Twins “really want to move” Josh Willingham

    Jul 30, 2014, 11:50 AM EDT

    Josh Willingham Getty Getty Images

    According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com the Twins “really want to move” left fielder Josh Willingham before Thursday’s trade deadline, but a source tells him “I don’t think they’re getting any bites.”

  4. Yankees give “beat up” Brian Roberts some time off

    Jul 30, 2014, 11:26 AM EDT

    Brian Roberts Getty Images

    The good news for longtime Orioles second baseman turned Yankees second baseman Brian Roberts is that he’s stayed healthy this season after injuries derailed his career for most of the past four years and has already played his most games since 2009.

  5. Hey, Rube: Phillies pay dearly for Amaro’s misguided loyalty

    Jul 30, 2014, 11:07 AM EDT

    Ruben Amaro Jr., Getty Images

    The Phillies are paying the bills for their dynastic run, thanks in large part to Ruben Amaro’s mismanagement.

  6. Ubaldo Jimenez makes rehab start, buys everyone steak and lobster

    Jul 30, 2014, 10:47 AM EDT

    Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees Getty Images

    Ubaldo Jimenez kicked off a minor-league rehab assignment Tuesday at Single-A, tossing 4.2 innings of one-run ball as he comes back from a sprained ankle suffered when he stepped in a hole in a parking lot.

  7. Coco Crisp has “chronic degenerative changes in his neck”

    Jul 30, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT

    coco crisp getty Getty Images

    “We’ve all come to the conclusion that it’s something we’re gonna be battling the rest of the season.”

  8. Photo of the day: The giant Cubs mohawk of incredible sadness

    Jul 30, 2014, 9:46 AM EDT

    Camera

    In which we as whether a certain hairstyle can be more painful than a large tattoo.

  9. Matt Kemp has a huge game just before the trade deadline

    Jul 30, 2014, 9:15 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 8.47.45 AM AP

    Will any GM in need of a bat take notice?

  10. “Gibson and Drysdale” alert!

    Jul 30, 2014, 8:55 AM EDT

    Bob Gibson

    A cliche even more prevalent and ridiculous than the old “If The Boss Was Still Alive” cliche.

  11. And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

    Jul 30, 2014, 7:24 AM EDT

    90s

    The Yankees and Rangers gave us a retro night in Arlington.

  12. Dodgers announce Vin Scully will return for 2015 season

    Jul 29, 2014, 11:17 PM EDT

    vin scully getty Getty Images

    Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times passes along the fantastic news that Vin Scully will return to the Dodgers’ broadcast booth for the 2015 season. It will be his 65th season calling Dodgers baseball.

  13. Jon Lester scratched Wednesday amid trade speculation

    Jul 29, 2014, 10:50 PM EDT

    jon lester getty Getty Images

    Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan wrote Tuesday afternoon that “sentiment among competing executives is unanimous” that the Red Sox will trade left-hander Jon Lester before Thursday’s July 31 deadline. And this news will only add to that thought.

  14. Video: Jose Abreu slugs MLB-leading 31st home run

    Jul 29, 2014, 10:21 PM EDT

    jose abreu getty Getty Images

    Watch as White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu slugs a two-run seventh-inning shot off new Tigers reliever Joakim Soria on Tuesday night at Comerica Park in Detroit …

  15. Rays are “talking and willing” to trade ace lefty David Price; Cardinals and Dodgers interested

    Jul 29, 2014, 9:34 PM EDT

    david price getty Getty Images

    CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman heard from a Rays-connected source Tuesday that the Rays are “talking and willing” to trade ace left-hander David Price and the Cardinals and Dodgers are known to have interest.

  16. Cubs shift setup man Neil Ramirez from Triple-A Iowa to the major league disabled list

    Jul 29, 2014, 8:41 PM EDT

    neil ramirez getty Getty Images

    The Cubs made the curious decision to option reliever Neil Ramirez to Triple-A Iowa on Saturday despite his 0.96 ERA in 28 innings, but that option has now been voided and Ramirez has been transferred to the 15-day major league disabled list with a sore triceps.

  17. Michael Pineda ready for rehab assignment

    Jul 29, 2014, 7:58 PM EDT

    michael pineda getty Getty Images

    MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports that right-hander Michael Pineda threw a successful simulated game on Tuesday afternoon in front of manager Joe Girardi and has been cleared to begin a minor league rehab assignment later this week.

  18. Phillies wanted Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, and Julio Urias from Dodgers for Cole Hamels

    Jul 29, 2014, 7:03 PM EDT

    cole hamels getty Getty Images

    FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi reported Monday that the Phillies have made ace left-hander Cole Hamels available ahead of Thursday’s July 31 trade deadline, but the asking price on him is apparently sky-high.

Featured video

Red Sox shopping Lester and Lackey
Top 10 MLB Player Searches