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Friday, August 10, 2012

Call it the never-ending debate

The first thing you need to know about Stephen Strasburg’s Shutdown Day is that it’s GOING to happen.

No matter how loudly you scream, no matter how eloquently you argue, no matter how many compelling counterpoints you present, the Washington Nationals aren’t changing their minds. Period. That’s a wrap.

This is an excellent piece by Stark.

Joey B.: posting for the kids of northeast Ohio Posted: August 10, 2012 at 02:46 PM | 39 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: nationals

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   1. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: August 10, 2012 at 07:38 PM (#4205797)
Passan tweeted that Rizzo said that Strassburg won't exceed 180 innings. Dave Cameron proceeded to speculate on how the Nats could squeeze one playoff start into that limit by doing a bunch of stuff that Rizzo has repeatedly said they won't do. And of course, Rizzo didn't tell Passan that Strassburg will pitch 180 innings, just that he won't pitch more than 180 innings.
   2. shoewizard Posted: August 10, 2012 at 08:00 PM (#4205811)
Can his shutdown start tonight please
   3. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 10, 2012 at 08:09 PM (#4205816)
The Nats are being stupid. Flags fly forever. You never know when you'll be this good again. And you don't know if this will even protect his arm.

Take a walk on the wild side.
   4. McCoy Posted: August 10, 2012 at 08:28 PM (#4205821)
I'll believe it when I see it.
   5. The Yankee Clapper Posted: August 10, 2012 at 08:30 PM (#4205823)
RTFA. Quite detailed.

There is no guarantee, but the Nationals have researched this rather extensively.
   6. McCoy Posted: August 10, 2012 at 08:34 PM (#4205827)
Which doesn't really mean squat. They aren't the first team to research it extensively and they won't be the last to do it either. By all accounts Stephen is just another injury waiting to happen. He hasn't really changed his approach.
   7. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: August 10, 2012 at 08:40 PM (#4205830)
Do pitchers typically change their mechanics/approach after TJS? I wasn't aware that they do. Seems they mostly just treat it like getting a new set of Michelins -- the new ligament should be good for 80,000 miles or so.
   8. McCoy Posted: August 10, 2012 at 08:46 PM (#4205834)
Some do some don't. If you don't change then doomsday comes faster than if you had changed.
   9. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: August 10, 2012 at 08:52 PM (#4205837)
FWIW--which is, more or less, nothing--I'm with #3 on this one. Fire all your bullets, baby.
   10. Bill McNeal Posted: August 10, 2012 at 08:56 PM (#4205840)
If Strasburg walks into Rizzo's office and says "If you shut me down for the year when we're in a playoff race, or won't let me start when we make the playoffs, I'll demand a trade and/or refuse to sign past my minimum time in WSH", can he change their minds?
   11. Joey B.: posting for the kids of northeast Ohio Posted: August 10, 2012 at 09:00 PM (#4205843)
I agree 100% with the unnamed pitching coach in the article when he says that he doesn't understand how it is that the Nats can't be more creative about this situation in order to stretch him out a little longer. I just don't get it.

Also, say Strasburg had some kind of legitimate non-arm injury right now that put him on the D.L. for like a month or so. Are we supposed to seriously believe that they would still shut down for the rest of the season at the same time as if he didn't go on the D.L.? I don't believe that for even a second. Pitchers go on the D.L. for extended periods of time and come back to pitch again later in the season all the freaking time!
   12. fra paolo Posted: August 10, 2012 at 09:13 PM (#4205847)
The Nationals would be foolish to sit Strasburg down if they are in a pennant dogfight, and if they make the playoffs as a division winner.* There are no guarantees, and in spring training no-one thought this team would be better than a fringe player in the wild-card race.

What's happened through the first 110 games is great, and I know from following the team fairly closely that the players have fought very hard to get where they are now. What kind of message are you sending out if you don't back the rest of the team all the way?
_____
* I would go along with keeping him out of the wild-card playoff.
   13. Mayor Blomberg Posted: August 10, 2012 at 09:17 PM (#4205848)
Hersheiser wouldn't back off the innings he pitched in 88-89. That's fine, but after 89 his age 30 season, he was a 100 ERA+ pitcher with two pretty good years in Cleveland over the next 10 years.

Flags Fly Forever v. The Postseason Is a Crapshoot.

I like what the Nats say they have planned.
   14. McCoy Posted: August 10, 2012 at 09:22 PM (#4205852)
Hersheiser wouldn't back off the innings he pitched in 88-89. That's fine, but after 89 his age 30 season, he was a 100 ERA+ pitcher with two pretty good years in Cleveland over the next 10 years.

And got to the playoffs with Cleveland 3 years in a row. Doesn't seem like he gave up much to get that WS ring in 1988.
   15. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 10, 2012 at 09:30 PM (#4205861)

The Nationals would be foolish to sit Strasburg down if they are in a pennant dogfight, and if they make the playoffs as a division winner.* There are no guarantees, and in spring training no-one thought this team would be better than a fringe player in the wild-card race.

What's happened through the first 110 games is great, and I know from following the team fairly closely that the players have fought very hard to get where they are now. What kind of message are you sending out if you don't back the rest of the team all the way?


Right. If the Nats were the O's and looking super-fluky and were going to sneak in the playoffs as the last wild card, I'd say shut him down. But they have the best record in baseball. They are serious contenders and you don't know that you'll ever be in this position again in the next six years.
   16. Joey B.: posting for the kids of northeast Ohio Posted: August 10, 2012 at 09:34 PM (#4205864)
Hersheiser wouldn't back off the innings he pitched in 88-89. That's fine, but after 89 his age 30 season, he was a 100 ERA+ pitcher with two pretty good years in Cleveland over the next 10 years.

You have to keep in mind the important fact that professional athletes in team sports aren't just playing for themselves only; they're playing for a team and for their teammates as well.

You might think it sounds a little corny, but there truly is a substantial amount of esprit de corps amongst most athletes, a sense that they're all in the fight together and that they owe it to their current teammates to give everything they can possibly give to win.
   17. Mayor Blomberg Posted: August 10, 2012 at 09:50 PM (#4205873)
I get that, Joey; I also remember bobby Ojeda's essay a month ago or whenever it was. If I'm a GM and know I've got the youngsters the Nats have, I treat them with care. If I'm Strasburg, I go full throttle because that's what youth does.
   18. OsunaSakata Posted: August 10, 2012 at 09:50 PM (#4205875)
While Washington hasn't seen a World Series since 1933, this isn't Boston or Chicago whose fans never let you forget about the World Series drought. In Washington it's,"Hey, RG3 threw a touchdown pass in pre-season! Shut Strasburg down? Sure, whatever."

As far as 2012 is concerned, I can't confidently say that Strasburg is a clearly better playoff option than Edwin Jackson. Over the long run, I'd take Strasburg's future over anybody else on the staff. And that's the point of the exercise, giving up what I believe is a tiny bit of 2012 in exchange for future years. The current rotation is so good, the Nats are not losing very much by shutting him down.

I'm sure Scott Boras can convince Strasburg that a long career will give more opportunities to pitch in the post-season in the future. Even if he's old, as long as he's effective, there will be a contender who would be willing to trade for Strasburg.
   19. Mayor Blomberg Posted: August 10, 2012 at 10:09 PM (#4205889)
And got to the playoffs with Cleveland 3 years in a row. Doesn't seem like he gave up much to get that WS ring in 1988.


Status as an elite pitcher, I'd say probably about $8 million over the course of the rest of his career, and Dodgers didn't get any significant ROI after 89.
   20. The District Attorney Posted: August 10, 2012 at 10:18 PM (#4205892)
If the Nats were the O's and looking super-fluky and were going to sneak in the playoffs as the last wild card, I'd say shut him down.
I basically think this whole thing is crazy, but this is illogical. You'd shut him down if the team needed him to make the playoffs, but if they were a sure bet to make it without him, you'd have him pitch?

From my point of view, yeah, you might shut a pitcher down for the last week or two of the season if the outcome is clearly decided... but basically, the way to marry both "safety" and winning is to pitch guys at regular intervals for relatively short outings, starting in April and ending when you're eliminated.

Rizzo (whom I'm sure glad didn't get the Met job, as this point...) certainly sounds ultra-confident that the Nats will be contenders every year, no problem. And looking at the roster, you can see why he'd feel that way. I do agree with the often-made point that a team's short-term future isn't always what you'd expect from perusing the roster on paper. I think the even larger point is that Strasburg isn't signed with the Nationals for his career. If he's injured at 30 but is not on the Nats at 30, then that is not the Nats' problem.¹ So it's somewhat unknowable how good the Nats will be during the length of this Strasburg contract; it's very unknowable whether shutting him down will prevent an injury; and it's very unknowable whether an injury, if it occurred, would occur while he's still under contract to the Nats. Whereas, you do know that not pitching Strasburg in the playoffs makes it much less likely that you'll win playoff series. To me, that's the calculus.

¹ Perhaps the counterargument here will be that other pitchers will sign with the Nats because they are so protective of arms. We'll see. I find it highly unlikely.
   21. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 10, 2012 at 10:22 PM (#4205897)
I basically think this whole thing is crazy, but this is illogical. You'd shut him down if the team needed him to make the playoffs, but if they were a sure bet to make it without him, you'd have him pitch?


I should have been clearer. I'd limit his regular season innings, but no way in heck would I shut him down for the playoffs.
   22. robinred Posted: August 10, 2012 at 10:24 PM (#4205898)
I agree with a lot of post 20. Also, I have a really, really, really hard time seeing doing this when your team has the best record in baseball.
   23. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: August 11, 2012 at 12:43 AM (#4205949)
it's very unknowable whether shutting him down will prevent an injury


People keep saying this, but the whole point of TFA is that the Nationals are very confident that what they are doing is the best thing for the long-term health of Strasburg's arm. And that very prominent people who know a whole helluva lot more about sports medicine in general and this surgery in particular than any of us do are convinced that shutting him down is the right thing to do. This is not about us saying that Rizzo is an idiot; it's about us saying that James Andrews is an idiot.

it's very unknowable whether an injury, if it occurred, would occur while he's still under contract to the Nats


Strasburg is under the National's control for four more years. So what if you did know that pitching him through September and October would cost him the second half of 2013 and the first half of 2014, and you also knew that the Nats would miss the playoffs by one game in each of those seasons? I get the feeling that the "flags fly forever" crowd would still pitch him.

you do know that not pitching Strasburg in the playoffs makes it much less likely that you'll win playoff series


Or maybe you don't know this at all. From TFA:

He just came off a six-start stretch in which he had a 4.60 ERA and allowed as many home runs (six) as he had given up in his previous 15 starts combined. And an ESPN study last week also showed that he was tied for the major league lead in most "stressful innings" (i.e., innings of 30 pitches or more).


It's not like Strassburg is the best starting pitcher on the team or anything. Why is everybody so certain that a worn-down Stephen Strassburg throwing his 183rd through 190th innings of the season gives the Nationals a better chance to win a playoff game than seven innings of Ross Detwiler or Edwin Jackson?

I'm sure Scott Boras can convince Strasburg that a long career will give more opportunities to pitch in the post-season in the future.


I'd guess that Scott Boras is very pleased with Mike Rizzo's desire to protect Stephen Strassburg's long-term health.
   24. McCoy Posted: August 11, 2012 at 12:55 AM (#4205956)
Status as an elite pitcher, I'd say probably about $8 million over the course of the rest of his career, and Dodgers didn't get any significant ROI after 89.

Largest 3 year contract ever signed

They got 1989 out of him. Plus from 1991 to 1994 he was averaging 2 WAR a season despite 1994 being a strike shortened year and him being injured in 1991. That seems like a pretty good ROI to me.
   25. McCoy Posted: August 11, 2012 at 12:57 AM (#4205959)
People keep saying this, but the whole point of TFA is that the Nationals are very confident that what they are doing is the best thing for the long-term health of Strasburg's arm.

That's great that they are confident but the experts have no idea if their approach will work or not.

TFA explicitly states that the medical experts are not telling the Nationals to shut Strasburg down.
   26. McCoy Posted: August 11, 2012 at 12:59 AM (#4205961)
Strasburg is under the National's control for four more years. So what if you did know that pitching him through September and October would cost him the second half of 2013 and the first half of 2014, and you also knew that the Nats would miss the playoffs by one game in each of those seasons? I get the feeling that the "flags fly forever" crowd would still pitch him.

Well, if I knew that I'd go out this offseason and gets some players that will get me that win.
   27. Spectral Posted: August 11, 2012 at 01:00 AM (#4205962)
it's very unknowable whether shutting him down will prevent an injury


While it's surely unknowable in the most literal sense, as this is entirely a probabilistic decision on the Nationals part and there's no way to run any sort of control experiment to determine what would have happened if they'd taken the other route, the Nationals seem pretty confident they have a good idea that this decreases his likelihood of being injured. While I don't know that this is the case, they seem to be basing it on conferring with biomechanical and surgical experts and giving it quite a bit of careful consideration; this is more depth than any of us are likely to have on the matter. Also, as noted in the article, there's a little bit of a "try something" element to it that I don't mind at all. We're never going to know if there's a true "better way" to do it than what teams have been doing if no one tries.

Whereas, you do know that not pitching Strasburg in the playoffs makes it much less likely that you'll win playoff series.


I'd buy that it's less likely, but I don't know that I'd go to muchless likely. They're not going from Stras to a replacement level pitcher in the postseason, they're changing the potential starters from Strasburg-Gio-Zimmermann to Gio-Zimmermann-Jackson. Jackson's been an above average pitcher for awhile now, I don't know that there's really all that big of a difference in any given series.
   28. The District Attorney Posted: August 11, 2012 at 01:04 AM (#4205963)
the whole point of TFA is that the Nationals are very confident that what they are doing is the best thing for the long-term health of Strasburg's arm. And that very prominent people who know a whole helluva lot more about sports medicine in general and this surgery in particular than any of us do are convinced that shutting him down is the right thing to do. This is not about us saying that Rizzo is an idito; it's about us saying that James Andrews is an idiot.
That's just totally wrong. The doctors are saying that young pitchers get hurt a lot and they're glad a team is "showing concern" and "drawing attention to" this issue. You could in all probability do a very similar article where you interviewed some doctors about the risk of concussions in football. It still wouldn't justify a team's decision not to play their star quarterback in the playoffs because he might get a concussion.

All James Andrews or anyone else can really tell us is that 1) it's safer not to pitch than it is to pitch, and 2) pitching "fatigued" is dangerous. (But he can't give us a definition of "fatigued" that can be put into effect before a season begins. Nor can he tell us how long the guy needs to rest before he's not "dangerously fatigued" anymore.)

Look, if there was no "plan" to shut Strasburg down, September came around, and the doctors, kinesiologists, etc. determined that he wasn't looking good and it was time to wrap him up... I sure as hell would not second-guess that! But the Nats have apparently decided that that's bound to happen, so it's silly to wait and see if it happens. Seriously, does that make sense?

Strasburg is under the National's control for four more years. So what if you did know that pitching him through September and October would cost him the second half of 2013 and the first half of 2014, and you also knew that the Nats would miss the playoffs by one game in each of those seasons? I get the feeling that the "flags fly forever" crowd would still pitch him.
Of course not. And I have no clue what the point of your strawman is anyway. "What if you knew..." doesn't address "it's unknowable."
   29. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: August 11, 2012 at 01:06 AM (#4205966)
TFA explicitly states that the medical experts are not telling the Nationals to shut Strasburg down.


Well, yeah, because (as the article explicitly states) it's not their decision to make. BUt eh article also states that "if we were to judge the Nationals' stance on Strasburg strictly from a sports-medicine perspective, there would be almost no question that shutting down a pitcher with his history, before he pitches past the point of arm "fatigue," is an intelligent approach to protecting their player."

And so what if the experts are not certain that their approach will help? The point is that they are certain that the other approach will hurt.
   30. McCoy Posted: August 11, 2012 at 01:09 AM (#4205969)
And so what if the experts are not certain that their approach will help? The point is that they are certain that the other approach will hurt

What other approach? The experts are concerned about a pitcher pitching when he is fatigued. That's it, that is all they care about. They aren't saying they should have Strasburg pitch 160 innings or 180 innings or 50 innings. They don't want him to pitched fatigued. There are a number of ways the Nationals can avoid having Strasburg pitch fatigued and in fact the experts were quoted as saying shutting down a pitcher for a short while would do a pitcher good.
   31. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: August 11, 2012 at 01:13 AM (#4205971)
Of course not. And I have no clue what the point of your strawman is anyway. "What if you knew..." doesn't address "it's unknowable."


Only that some of the posts in these threads seem to elevate the importance of "it's unknowable" to a level that I don't think it deserves. And some of the logic relies on it's own strawmen, for instance in drawing an equivalence between a flag that Herhiser already won by possibly pitching more than he should have and a pennant that Strassburg may or may not win by possibly pitching more than he should.
   32. Spectral Posted: August 11, 2012 at 01:14 AM (#4205972)
Look, if there was no "plan" to shut Strasburg down, September came around, and the doctors, kinesiologists, etc. determined that he wasn't looking good and it was time to wrap him up... I sure as hell would not second-guess that! But the Nats have apparently decided that that's bound to happen, so it's silly to wait and see if it happens. Seriously, does that make sense?


This is a good point, and it makes me wonder if Rizzo has imposed a somewhat arbitrary limit almost to save Strasburg from the potential for what should be an objective evaluation from being not so objective with so much on the line. I know I'd find it pretty easy to talk myself into deciding that Strasburg's not fatigued and therefore can obviously go longer without being shut down.

I remain unconvinced that their approach is necessarily rational, but I don't think it's completely indefensible.
   33. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: August 11, 2012 at 01:18 AM (#4205974)
There are a number of ways the Nationals can avoid having Strasburg pitch fatigued and in fact the experts were quoted as saying shutting down a pitcher for a short while would do a pitcher good.


And I'm not arguing against any of that, and in fact argued in favor of several specific approaches in some previous threads. By "the other approach," I meant "innings limits are stupid." And of course, the "point of fatigue" is probably what Rizzo was getting at earlier with his much-maligned "eye-test" comment.
   34. McCoy Posted: August 11, 2012 at 01:19 AM (#4205975)
Orel Hershiser in 1991 signed a 3 year contract with the Dodgers for 10 million dollars. That contract made him the 9th highest paid pitcher in 1991. $500,000 shy of #1. In 1992 he fell to #21 and was 1.6 million behind #1 Dwight Gooden. In 1993 he fell to #32 and was 2.6 million behind Dwight Gooden. Not bad for a guy who was shut down at the beginning of the season and needed surgery to repair his torn rota tor cuff.

Doesn't really look like Orel lost much money by pitching all those innings in 1988 and 1989. In fact pitching all those innings is what got him the richest contract ever signed up to that point.

Edit: It appears that Orel earned his bonuses that were included in his contract for 1992 and 1993 so he made 2 million more dollars. With the bonuses added Orel becomes the 6th and 10th highest paid pitcher in the game in those years. Now an obvious caveat is that I don't know who else had bonuses and whether or not they made them.

According to Orel quotes at the time he turned down larger offers to go to Cleveland on a one year + option contract in 1995. It looks like the Giants wanted him and when they didn't get him they went with Terry Mulholland. The difference between the two that year was a whopping 7 wins. The Giants missed a shot at the playoffs because they got Terry instead of Orel.
   35. zachtoma Posted: August 11, 2012 at 01:23 AM (#4205977)
The Nats are being stupid. Flags fly forever. You never know when you'll be this good again. And you don't know if this will even protect his arm.

Take a walk on the wild side.


Absolutely. If the Nationals are going to be this stupid, they don't deserve to win any playoff games this year or ever. This is a franchise that has never been to the playoffs since it relocated and hasn't been at all since...??? ...a time before I can remember, and you're going to go into it without your best pitcher? The one who is arguably the best in the National League? By choice? All based on the specious notion that not pitching 4 or 5 games in Sept./Oct. - games which will be the most important in the history of the Washington Nationals - will prevent him from getting hurt later? If they go through with this, Rizzo deserves to be out of a job. It's idiocy on a spectacular level. It's offensive as a baseball fan - and I root for a division rival, I can't imagine how I'd feel were I a Nats fan. Seriously, how bad is that imagery - team gets to playoffs for the first time in ages, benches Cy Young candidate - do they even care?
   36. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: August 11, 2012 at 01:30 AM (#4205979)
reminds me of the hypochondriac who lived in a darkened germ-free room his entire life so he could die a healthy man
   37. Walt Davis Posted: August 11, 2012 at 01:37 AM (#4205981)
You'd shut him down if the team needed him to make the playoffs, but if they were a sure bet to make it without him, you'd have him pitch?

AG#1F explained the second bit but on the first bit ... "making the playoffs" as a wild card ain't wht it used to be. How many stops do you pull out to have the right to go to a coin toss? I don't know what a wild card team's chance of making/winning the WS was before (pretty good based on history) but that probability just got cut in half for team #4 (and increased a lot for team #5 but still...).

Are you going to trade prospects for a rental? Are you going to push your young starting pitchers? Are you going to not give your Sept callups exposeure to help their development? How far does it make sense to go to get into a coin toss?

That may not apply here. It applies more in the AL East or West (or NL East but not the Nats) where the 2nd place team doesn't have much of a chance of catching the division leader. All Baltimore and Tampa have to fight for is that coin toss so they had touch decisions on how far to push it ... and neither made any big moves at the deadline so I guess they both decided not to push it too hard. Detroit thought has a real shot at the Central title so their late season behavior should probably be pretty similar to what it was under the old system ... and the White Sox, trying to hold onto their lead and not fall into the coin toss have a big incentive to push things in the late season.
   38. PreservedFish Posted: August 11, 2012 at 05:11 AM (#4206011)
Jackson's been an above average pitcher for awhile now, I don't know that there's really all that big of a difference in any given series.


This is doodoo talk.
   39. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: August 11, 2012 at 05:12 AM (#4206012)
If they do this and Strasburg gets injured next season, I want Alanis Morissette to re-record "Ironic" with a new verse about Mike Rizzo.

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