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Looks like another season of Stephen Strasburg arguments is underway

Apr 2, 2013, 8:57 AM EDT

Miami Marlins v Washington Nationals Getty Images

Yesterday many heads were scratched when Davey Johnson pulled the allegedly innings-limit-free Stephen Strasburg after seven innings and a mere 80 pitches. Today Jason Reid of the Washington Post has a column up in which he vigorously defends the decision.

Thing is: the defense looks a lot more vigorous than necessary given that, at best, some folks asked Davey Johnson about why Strasburg was pulled. Which is a totally fair post-game question, especially given all the talk which has surrounded Strasburg and his workload. Reid, however, seems to think the very question is invalid, criticizing people in the game who last year second-guessed the Nats’ decisions, and going to P.R. Director lengths to defend Johnson and Mike Rizzo without even nothing that the “maybe Strasburg coulda gone another inning?” side of things is not an irrational query from some insane cabal.

Reid is entitled to his opinion obviously, but it’s striking how in-step most of the Washington Post’s opinions are with those of Nats’ management. To the point where even questioning that authority is looked down upon.

(hat tip to Kevin Reiss for pointing out Reid’s column)

  1. voteforno6 - Apr 2, 2013 at 9:07 AM

    It’s not an invalid question. It’s also an easy one to answer. Pitchers generally don’t pitch as much in the first few starts as they do the rest of the season. Also, Boswell suggested that, with all of the off days early in the season, Davey might want to get his bullpen some work as well.

    • El Bravo - Apr 2, 2013 at 10:37 AM

      People keep saying this, but most pitchers topped 100 yesterday, including young, lil Chris Sale. Kershaw has not restrictions and hasn’t for the last few years and he’s not that old. Stras could have, and probably should have, gone a full nine. It seems clear that they wanted to work the relievers than more than anything. I see no problem pulling him after 80 pitches considering Clippard and Soriano are behind him, but the reasoning about keeping his pitch count low for his first start or two is nonsense to me. The guy had spring training like everyone else and he’s supposedly not under any restrictions. Plus 100 pitches isn’t a TON of pitches and he likely would have only needed 95 to get through 9 at his pace yesterday. Basically the man was robbed a Maddux.

    • natstowngreg - Apr 2, 2013 at 1:06 PM

      I might have wondered more seriously if someone else were managing. Last season, Davey established a tendency to pull starters early. Consider that Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson each made every start, but none pitched 200 innings. Pulling a starter after 6 innings was more the norm than the exception for Davey. The downside was an overused bullpen, which faltered at the end of the season.

      If Davey continues to pull Strasburg early, I’ll start to get concerned. But not on Opening Day.

      As for The Washington Post, I won’t defend Reid’s column. I’d just note that Adam Kilgore wrote on Davey’s previously unexpressed unhappiness about this being his last season as manager. I rather think that Kilgore didn’t get his piece cleared by Mike Rizzo.

  2. paperlions - Apr 2, 2013 at 9:17 AM

    Sure, it is a valid question….it is also a wholly uninteresting one. Why is any pitcher pulled on opening day before reaching his “normal” mid-season workload even though he is cruising? Verlander was pulled after only 91 pitches and 5 innings, pitching a shutout in a 3-run game (at the time). The answer as to why he was pulled then is every bit is the exact same as the answer to the Strasburg question, and every bit as uninteresting.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Apr 2, 2013 at 9:22 AM

      Verlander had thrown 91 pitches, was not particularly sharp despite the good pitching line and it was about 30 degrees.

      • paperlions - Apr 2, 2013 at 9:29 AM

        Yeah, so, not very interesting, huh. Just like Strasburg had finished 7 innnings, the Nats have a lot of days off over the next 2 weeks, a 7 man bullpen that needs work, and the season is really long. All completely valid and totally uninteresting (in that, those are the decisions made by managers everyday, and thus, not really worthy of note).

      • paperlions - Apr 2, 2013 at 9:32 AM

        In short, the ONLY reason anyone cared was because of the pitcher’s name, ignoring that such decisions are regularly made at this point in the season regardless of the pitcher. Nolasco was pulled after 6 innings and 86 pitches in the same game and he was mowing down all of the non-Harper Nats.

      • nolanwiffle - Apr 2, 2013 at 9:32 AM

        Agreed. Complete games are noteworthy these days…….this was not.

      • schrutebeetfarms - Apr 2, 2013 at 12:38 PM

        The Twins lineup was about to figure Verlander out. That’s why he was pulled. I kid..I kid..

  3. mathieug79 - Apr 2, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    Who cares, The Washington Nationals bullpen is probably one of the strongest bullpen with at least 3-4 guys who would be closers on most teams.

    • 18thstreet - Apr 2, 2013 at 11:11 AM

      Who cares about anything?

      Let’s just stop asking questions at all, because lord knows a manager has never made a good decision for a bad reason, a bad decision for a good reason, or a good decision for reasons that he refuses to say.

      Let’s just assume that people like Grady Little and Bobby Valentine know oh-so-much more than we do and their genius should never be questioned. Why even bother holding a press conference at all?

      Some of us like to learn things, okay? And one of the ways to learn is to ask questions.

      • paperlions - Apr 2, 2013 at 11:24 AM

        Missing the point. The point is not to not ask questions, the point is to be discerning enough to ask good questions. Good questions lead to insight and understanding. This “question” is a lazy recycled one that leads to nothing.

      • 18thstreet - Apr 2, 2013 at 11:33 AM

        Not recycled at all. Last year’s story was about limitation on his innings. This year, we’re told that those inning limitations are off. This leads to several legitimate questions. In no particular order:

        (1) Despite the assurances of the GM, is Strasburg operating under an innings limit?
        (2) Does the manager believe that the GM is going to renege on the inning limit issue?
        (3) Why, given that he was pitching well against a bad team, was he taken out?
        (4) Did fact that there were many hard-hit balls in the prior inning factor in? Did Johnson believe, box score to the contrary, that Strasburg was losing effectiveness? Is he hurt?

        This sport is infinitely interesting. At least to me it is. And those aren’t rhetorical questions. And if the answer is bland, then there’s no reason to let the answer wind up in print, or whatever it is the kids read these days.

        I could go on. But those are the things I’d want to know. I was “watching” (on MLB.com) a different game yesterday was surprised that a guy who has thrown 7 scoreless innings was taken out. And then I saw it was after 80 pitches. And the answer that the manager gives does not settle the issue. Utilization does. Let’s say Strasburg throws 80 pitches next time. And then 78. And then 82. Would this not interest you?

        If there’s nothing to learn after the games end, why are we even on this blog at all?

      • paperlions - Apr 2, 2013 at 11:56 AM

        It is lazy because the decision to pull him at that point in time is no different that pulling any other pitcher in that situation. It’s a fabrication by making something that is common appear as if it is not, or that it requires scrutiny while ignoring the fact that the action in question happens all the time and is always ignored.

        And NO, the daily machinations of Strasburg’s pitch counts are not interesting in the least….unless you show me that the pattern is different from anyone else’s…which no one is doing.

        This is microscope journalism that tries to make something interesting by attempting to make it look different than everything else, when it is not….what range of pitch counts for Strasburg do you think is uninteresting? Under these guidlines any and every PC for any and every pitchers should be questions and chewed up thrice. No matter what the uninformative narrative is one of 3 things:

        1) OMG, Strasburg thew X pitches, the Nats are working him too hard

        2) OMG, Strasburg threw league average pitches, the Nats are no longer concerned about his injury.

        3) OMG, Strasburg was pulled without throwing as many pitches as a “normal” pitcher might or might not have in this situations, the Nats are still babying him.

        It is contrived, context-free silliness that is wholly uninformative.

      • nolanwiffle - Apr 2, 2013 at 11:40 AM

        (1) Doubt it
        (2) Probably not
        (3) It’s April 1st, the first game of the season, and Strasburg will have 32 more starts
        (4) Doubt it

      • 18thstreet - Apr 2, 2013 at 11:45 AM

        You know who might be able to answer those questions? The manager, during a time designated for asking questions about the game.

        Or Nolan Whiffle, making a few guesses. Same diff.

  4. psuorioles - Apr 2, 2013 at 9:39 AM

    When you have a pitcher that has sat down 19 straight and only threw 80 pitches you leave him in. Sometimes all a hitter needs is to see a different pitcher. I understand why they took him out and it worked, but not something I would have done.

    • natslady - Apr 2, 2013 at 10:12 AM

      He had also just put two guys on base, and escaped the jam by way of Harper’s and Espinosa’s throwing and some really questionable baserunning.

  5. sfm073 - Apr 2, 2013 at 9:40 AM

    If he was starting to struggle then I get it, if not then why not see If he could get another inning in with 10 to 15 pitches?

    • pdowdy83 - Apr 2, 2013 at 10:41 AM

      Well the inning before he had runners on 1st and 3rd with 1 out and the go ahead run at the plate and only got out of it quickly because of some less than stellar baserunning and solid defense behind him. To me that would be “starting to struggle.”

      • natslady - Apr 2, 2013 at 11:05 AM

        Exactly. Plus the Nats’ offense (other than Harper) was pretty dead. Preserve the win, preserve the win.

  6. chacochicken - Apr 2, 2013 at 9:54 AM

    I’m not concerned in the least. If a healthy Strasburg regularly throws 80 pitch 7 inning games that is likely many, many Nats wins.

    • chacochicken - Apr 2, 2013 at 9:55 AM

      Also, for what its worth, Davey regularly pulled Zimmerman last season with under 90 pitches going into the 7th particularly in close games. Its not just a Strasburg strategy.

  7. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Apr 2, 2013 at 9:55 AM

    Just look at Jordan Zimmerman last year for an idea of Strasburg’s usage this year. Zimmerman had TJ surgery a year before Stras, and they have basically been on the same plan. For the coming season, that would mean Stras having some relatively short starts (though it is tough to criticize 7IP on the first game of the season, regardless of pitch count).

  8. shawndc04 - Apr 2, 2013 at 9:59 AM

    Craig, it won’t be another season of this if you will leave it alone. You have beaten this to death. The Nationals may need those innings down the road, and one of their strengths at this point is the bullpen. Please give it a rest.

    • cubfan531 - Apr 2, 2013 at 10:30 AM

      Four guys in that bullpen had ERA’s below 3 last year. Knowing I’ve got that (plus Tyler Clippard), Strasburg gives me seven strong innings, I’d pull him. All about momentum and getting the win.

      I agree. It’s a non-story. Team’s ace goes out on opening day, throws seven shutout innings, gets the win. Everyone’s happy.

    • Old Gator - Apr 2, 2013 at 10:53 AM

      Craig has beaten this to death? Are you reading any other sports blogs, newspaper columnists or listening to any discussions on the radio or TV? Everyone is in on this issue. Its very unbiquitousness makes it a news story in its own right. Craig wouldn’t be doing his job if he ignored it. Moreover, he’s not a news reporter, he’s a feature blogger, which means it’s his job to discuss it and offer opinions as well as to note that it’s a live issue. And no, it isn’t going to go away if Craig ignores it. Because of last season, every time Davey pulls the kid short of the eighth inning there’s going to be discussion about his workload. Ergo, if the subject bothers you, skip the blogs about it. You’ll save yourself a lot of gratuitous frustration that way.

      • natslady - Apr 2, 2013 at 11:01 AM

        This I agree with, it isn’t just Craig. Just hear it discussed on Mr. Tony (local radio), etc., etc. Sometimes I think there is more interest in Stras (and Harper) than in the actual, y’know, game. Everyone has an opinion, but Davey’s is the only one that counts. Thinking about it, and also combined with the story about Davey “not retiring,” I get the feeling Davey is making sure everyone (players, fans, media, ownership) knows who is in charge.

        When Davey was off traveling, golfing, and accepting awards the notion of retirement might have seemed attractive. Now that he’s back “in the saddle” and has got that genius mind working, he doesn’t want to go on the retirement train like Chipper.

  9. cur68 - Apr 2, 2013 at 10:36 AM

    Sounds like the Nats have a plan for their starters. With their bullpen being as solid as it is, if they can keep their starters fresh all season by utilizing the ‘pen, then why not? Davey Johnson has a long range plan it seems. Keep an eye on this club and I bet you see ALL of the starting rotation handled the same way all season long.

    Preserving Starting Pitcher’s Arms (PSPA): the new Market Inefficiency.

    • 18thstreet - Apr 2, 2013 at 11:53 AM

      I agree with this. And if they have a plan, I’d like to know what it is!

  10. wethog66 - Apr 2, 2013 at 11:51 AM

    The columnists for the WaPost are all sub-standard. Boswell is on the Nats payroll. Wise is an ass. Reid was good on the Skins beat, but now he struggles. The young looking girl that covers the Caps does nothing but report what she see’s at practice. The only sports reporters at the WaPost worth a **** are Mike Jones, Mark Maske and Mike Lee.

    For the #1 newspaper in a town with 3 of the 4 professional franchises enjoying various forms of success the WaPost is a joke. Guess the rumored death of the Newspaper is near.

  11. Todd Boss - Apr 3, 2013 at 12:53 PM

    Here’s a fun fact: check out Strasburg’s 2012 game logs (http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/gl.cgi?id=strasst01&t=p&year=2012). Guess what happened in game 1 of 2012? He got pulled … after 7 innings and 82 pitches. Gee, seems awful similar to this year, except without the useless firestorm of posts and op-eds.

    Its the first game of the season. The time to push Strasburg into 110 pitch territory is not in April, but in August.

    • Todd Boss - Apr 3, 2013 at 12:54 PM

      Also, Verlander got yanked after just 5 innings and 91 pitches. Where’s all the holier-than-thou posts about how the Tigers are being overprotective with him??

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