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Saturday, September 08, 2012

Nationals shut down Stephen Strasburg, effective immediately

Declinin’ numbers at an even rate
Tech it up, tech it up
Buddy gonna shut you down

The Stephen Strasburg shutdown was previously believed to be after one more start, but plans seem to have changed. Davey Johnson announced to reporters (such as Byron Kerr) Saturday morning that Strasburg is done for the season, effective immediately.

Strasburg, 24, ends the season 15-6 with a 3.16 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 197 strikeouts in 159 1/3 innings pitched.

The Nationals have been put in a tenuous position. At 85-53, they sport the best record in the majors and Strasburg is among the most dominant pitchers in the league. He is also, of course, in his first full season since recovering from Tommy John surgery. So Johnson and general manager Mike Rizzo have been forced to balance success in 2012 with the future of the franchise’s ace. Their decision now is to protect the future of Strasburg and move forward with a still-solid rotation of Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson, Ross Detwiler and either Chien-Ming Wang or John Lannan.

Repoz Posted: September 08, 2012 at 12:18 PM | 234 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: nats

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   201. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: September 10, 2012 at 01:43 PM (#4231721)
But historically great pitchers have generally been used gently before age 25.


This is not true. Ignoring the pre-war guys a glance at the list of top WAR pitchers finds a listing of pitchers who were used a LOT before the age of 25. Clemens, Seaver, Maddux, Pedro, Carlton and Mussina all cracked 200 innings before the age of 25. Perry did it at age 25 and Niekro and Big Unit didn't do it because they weren't good enough yet. Part of the reason pitchers are historically great is because they are able to stay healthy.

Again, no one is arguing that some level of risk avoidance is prudent here. The issue is that the Nationals are being excessively cautious at a time when they should be a bit more willing to incur risk.

Pitching is unhealthy. If you bet on a pitcher getting hurt, you are probably going to win. At some point you have to take the gloves off and while the Nationals have every reason to think the future is bright...well, one year and 11 days ago the Boston Red Sox had the best record in the American League, were cruising to a playoff spot and were favored to win the division. Things change quickly.
   202. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: September 10, 2012 at 01:45 PM (#4231723)
Most Washington fans, unlike some people here, realize that the team controls the player (especially a player recovering from TJ) and not the other way around.

And most people, unlike gullible pseudo-Washington fans, realize the player controls the agent, not the other way around.


Okay, I think I get it: Strasburg is complaining about the shutdown more and more each day, but that's just a ruse, because he really does fear the consequences to his arm if he keeps on pitching.

Or is it because he's just scared of those American League hitters? Let's leave all options open.

And anyway, I thought that the deal here was supposed to be that this shutdown was orchestrated by Boras, who dictated it to Rizzo with the veiled threat that otherwise Strasburg would be on the first plane out of Washington the minute his contract expired. Please straighten me out on this.

My take is pretty straightforward by comparison. Rizzo sought the opinions of medical doctors whom he trusted. They told him that on balance, it would be advisable to tell him to start and continue Strasburg's year on a normal schedule, but to shut him down after 160-180 innings, like Zimmerman was last year, in order to give him extra rest before undertaking a full workload beginning in 2013.

Rizzo took their advice and informed Strasburg and Boras. Boras naturally approved, and Strasburg naturally balked, but Rizzo, being the boss, said that his was the only opinion that finally counted, and that was that. Sometimes a cigar is just a smoke.

   203. Ron J2 Posted: September 10, 2012 at 01:49 PM (#4231727)
#109 Ray, Craig was pretty specific in his recommendations. They basically amount to keeping pitchers under 25 to less than 170 IP and to be cautious about how hard you push them in any given start.

An awful lot of people missed the "under 25" bit.
   204. Ray (RDP) Posted: September 10, 2012 at 01:51 PM (#4231731)

Incorrect Ray. The evidence is fairly clear that it's best to be risk adverse with pitchers under 25. Craig Wright's study in The Diamond Appraised is one example. The study Rizzo cites is another.


So do you think that him going from 160-200 this year is a significant risk, and one which offsets the reward of having him pitch in the postseason?

(I still have yet to see "the study Rizzo cites." Is it public?)
   205. Ron J2 Posted: September 10, 2012 at 01:58 PM (#4231739)
would the first ever major league pitcher abuse lawsuit really prevail?


Already happened. Les Cain won a claim for several years salary for being forced (yes, at gunpoint. Billy Martin was the manager after all) to pitch through an injury.
   206. SoSH U at work Posted: September 10, 2012 at 02:03 PM (#4231750)
Okay, I think I get it: Strasburg is complaining about the shutdown more and more each day, but that's just a ruse, because he really does fear the consequences to his arm if he keeps on pitching.


Yes, that's it. His agent, whose job it is to represent his client, has been very agressively promoting this course of action. Strasburg has paid lip service to his outrage (effectively, I might add) but his employee's 180-degree stance suggests otherwise to me. Now, I suspect that Rizzo and Boras have convinced Strasburg of the impending doom if he deviates even the slightest from The Plan, but (ultimately) Strasburg is on board with the decision. So in an abstract sense he wants to pitch, but not more than he wants to protect his arm from the armageddon that accompanies exceeding the innings cap.

You're welcome to feel that Strasburg is helpless in the face of the big bad GM. Me, I think that sense of player powerlessness went the way of the reserve clause (particularly with an issue such as this, unprecedented in American team sports history, and one that can result in serious long-term damage to the player's reputation - believe me, there will be more than a few fans/writers who forever think of Strasburg as the guy who pussed out). If Strasburg was truly desperate to pitch in the postseason as he's claimed he is, he would have successfully fought for it (which would involve getting his very powerful agent to champion his, not the team's, cause).
   207. Ron J2 Posted: September 10, 2012 at 02:04 PM (#4231754)
I still have yet to see "the study Rizzo cites." Is it public?


I'd be surprised if it was. Still, it shouldn't be that hard to verify. Look for good young pitchers who had TJ surgery. See how their use the season after they came back predicts their value going forward.
   208. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: September 10, 2012 at 02:07 PM (#4231755)
Yes, that's it. His agent, whose job it is to represent his client, has been very agressively promoting this course of action. Strasburg has paid lip service to his outrage (effectively, I might add) but his employee's 180-degree stance suggests otherwise to me. Now, I suspect that Rizzo and Boras have convinced Strasburg of the impending doom if he deviates even the slightest from The Plan, but (ultimately) Strasburg is on board with the decision. So in an abstract sense he wants to pitch, but not more than he wants to protect his arm from the armageddon that accompanies exceeding the innings cap.

Where is Admiral Ackbar (not to mention Lyndon LaRouche) when we really need him?
   209. SoSH U at work Posted: September 10, 2012 at 02:08 PM (#4231758)
Where is Admiral Ackbar when we really need him?


I'll bite. Huh?

   210. ThisElevatorIsDrivingMeUpTheWall Posted: September 10, 2012 at 02:10 PM (#4231760)
Except that no matter what Strasburg says, Rizzo and Johnson won't pitch him, just like Johnson doesn't let him face another batter every time he says pretty please, and then has his little pouty face on the bench like every other starter in the world.
   211. ThisElevatorIsDrivingMeUpTheWall Posted: September 10, 2012 at 02:11 PM (#4231761)
If they spent money on that study, it wouldn't make sense to hand that competitive player development information to the rest of the league.
   212. Ron J2 Posted: September 10, 2012 at 02:15 PM (#4231765)
So do you think that him going from 160-200 this year is a significant risk, and one which offsets the reward of having him pitch in the postseason?


I don't have the MRIs and the medical advice that the Nats have. I'm reasonably confident though that the risk of a career affecting injury would go up significantly.

I'm really not sure whether I'd take the risk. They've probably lowered the chance of some type of flag by a couple of percent (Stipulating that the seasonal difference between Strasburg and Jackson is the real difference. If Strasburg is "only" a 3.54 ERA pitcher because of fatigue, I'd shut him down in a heartbeat) but while they don't own his future, the years that they do own are the best value. IE the no arb and arb only years of an excellent pitcher are of tremendous value.
   213. Ray (RDP) Posted: September 10, 2012 at 02:17 PM (#4231767)
Already happened. Les Cain won a claim for several years salary for being forced (yes, at gunpoint. Billy Martin was the manager after all) to pitch through an injury.


Key distinction here: Nobody would be forcing Strasburg to pitch through an injury. (1) He doesn't have an injury, and (2) he has publicly stated that he wants to pitch. And (3) industry standard is to pitch a lot of innings once the pitcher returns from TJ. There would be zero basis for a grievance here.

Ron: At best these are general guidelines. And general guidelines should always have room for flexibility depending on the circumstances. The idea that Strasburg's re-injury risk increases significantly if he goes 200 in 2012 rather than 160 is not backed by anything; we just can't get that specific about these things.

And if the Nats wanted to cap his innings, they could have done so in June and July. Shutting him down for two months would not have been a Joba situation; with Joba the Yankees shunted him back and forth between roles. This would just be a situation akin to Strasburg spraining his ankle - i.e. suffering a non-pitching injury - and nobody would say boo about it had he (legitimately) sprained his ankle in June and come back in August. Nobody cares whether pitchers return after being shut down for 2 months in-season.

Had there not been a playoff situation here I wouldn't be complaining that they've shut him down.
   214. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: September 10, 2012 at 02:22 PM (#4231773)
Yes, that's it. His agent, whose job it is to represent his client, has been very agressively promoting this course of action. Strasburg has paid lip service to his outrage (effectively, I might add) but his employee's 180-degree stance suggests otherwise to me. Now, I suspect that Rizzo and Boras have convinced Strasburg of the impending doom if he deviates even the slightest from The Plan, but (ultimately) Strasburg is on board with the decision. So in an abstract sense he wants to pitch, but not more than he wants to protect his arm from the armageddon that accompanies exceeding the innings cap.

Where is Admiral Ackbar when we really need him?

I'll bite. Huh?


I ain't falling into that ####### trap, m'boy. You climb out of it yourself.
   215. SoSH U at work Posted: September 10, 2012 at 02:32 PM (#4231788)
I ain't falling into that ####### trap, m'boy. You climb out of it yourself.


No extrication necessary. You think it's perfectly natural that Strasburg and the guy who works for him would be making completely different statements on this issue. I think that's folly.


   216. Joey B. "disrespects the A" Posted: September 10, 2012 at 02:36 PM (#4231796)
Imagine if the Nationals fall just short of winning the World Series this year, and then he gets injured again next year in spite of all of these precautions they are taking, how much flack Rizzo and the team will get from almost everyone.

And in case someone thinks of throwing this stupid #### at me in response: no, I am absolutely NOT hoping that this happens!
   217. Ray (RDP) Posted: September 10, 2012 at 02:37 PM (#4231801)
I don't have the MRIs and the medical advice that the Nats have. I'm reasonably confident though that the risk of a career affecting injury would go up significantly.


The Nats can't have the MRIs of most of the pitchers in the study in order to do a comparison with Strasburg's MRI, so, I'm not sure exactly what value an MRI is or how they'd possibly be able to tell from the MRI that he was ok to pitch 160 innings but not to pitch 200.
   218. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: September 10, 2012 at 02:47 PM (#4231816)
No extrication necessary. You think it's perfectly natural that Strasburg and the guy who works for him would be making completely different statements on this issue. I think that's folly.

Yes, I do think it's natural that a pitcher wants to pitch, and that an agent wants to protect his investment. I also think that it's natural that a pitcher who wants to pitch would want to make sure that his fans didn't think he was comfortable sitting down, and that an agent who wants to represent more first round draft choices would want it to be known to future prospects that he wasn't going to be funneling them to a GM who thinks like Billy Martin or Rob Dibble. How odd of me.
   219. SoSH U at work Posted: September 10, 2012 at 02:49 PM (#4231822)
I also think that it's natural that a pitcher who wants to pitch would want to make sure that his fans didn't think he was comfortable sitting down,


Oh, I'm sure he wants that. That's exactly why he's saying it, even while being on board with the decision that his employee is championing.

   220. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: September 10, 2012 at 02:50 PM (#4231823)
Already happened. Les Cain won a claim for several years salary for being forced (yes, at gunpoint. Billy Martin was the manager after all) to pitch through an injury.

Workman's comp claim. A hundred eleven bucks a month for life.

Plus what Ray said.
   221. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: September 10, 2012 at 03:10 PM (#4231849)
I also think that it's natural that a pitcher who wants to pitch would want to make sure that his fans didn't think he was comfortable sitting down,

Oh, I'm sure he wants that. That's exactly why he's saying it, even while being on board with the decision that his employee is championing.


IOW you think that the only one jerking us around with a falsehood is Strasburg himself, and that he really doesn't want to pitch** in spite of his repeated proclamations to the contrary. IYAM any distinction between that sentiment and the ones expressed by the yahoos on the talk shows is pretty hard to discern.

If you think that Strasburg is being a coward, then just say so, but dont think for a second that he has any power to override Rizzo's decision, or that he has any way of causing a public stink without having it backfire in his face. You've got a perfect right to disagree with Rizzo's decision, but don't expect a 24 year old pitcher to sacrifice his reputation with his team just so he can prove to you and the yahoos that he "really" wants to pitch.

**or wants to pitch "bad enough", whatever that's supposed to mean
   222. SoSH U at work Posted: September 10, 2012 at 03:33 PM (#4231877)
If you think that Strasburg is being a coward, then just say so, but dont think for a second that he has any power to override Rizzo's decision, or that he has any way of causing a public stink without having it backfire in his face. You've got a perfect right to disagree with Rizzo's decision, but don't expect a 24 year old pitcher to sacrifice his reputation with his team just so he can prove to you and the yahoos that he "really" wants to pitch.


I've made no comments that would lead one to the conclusion I think Strasburg is a coward. In fact, I've said repeatedly, in discussions with you, that I'm impressed that Strasburg is able to place his long-term considerations over his short-term wants, which is something most young athletes are incapable of.

But I don't subscribe to your contention that Strasburg has no power, because I think that's bullshit. Keeping Stephen Strasburg (and, to a lesser extent, the guy who works for him) happy is important to the Nationals, just as keeping him healthy is. And a Stephen Strasburg who was thoroughly and permanently pissed at the organization for keeping him from the playoffs wouldn't really make for a successful plan (and Strasburg would not have to make any of this publicly known, as you keep insisting, just as long as Rizzo knew it).

So yes, I will continue to believe that if Stephen Strasburg wanted to pitch in the postseason as much as Stephen Strasburg has said he wants to pitch in the posteason, he would be pitching in the postseason. Because I believe players of Stephen Strasburg's caliber are no longer powerless over their careers, as the past 35 years of baseball have demonstrated.

   223. Rants Mulliniks Posted: September 10, 2012 at 03:37 PM (#4231882)
Workman's comp claim. A hundred eleven bucks a month for life.


Well, if there was ever an easier time to get on the disability rolls......
   224. BDC Posted: September 10, 2012 at 04:07 PM (#4231908)
Having just read the whole thread at once, I must say that Ray convinces me 100%. If the Nats have Strasburg play through the end of his current contract, I cannot see how he could then sue them: for what, for having paid him $15M to play baseball when it turned out that he was not good or durable enough at baseball, long-term, all things considered, to earn another $150M at it? It seems like every prospect who washed out of the minors with an injury could sue his club for hundreds of millions, at that rate. It just makes no sense at all.
   225. spycake Posted: September 10, 2012 at 04:08 PM (#4231910)
At best, I am unimpressed with Rizzo and the Nationals.

It's not as if any of this was unforeseen. Strasburg pitched brilliantly in his return at the end of 2011, the team finished an encouraging 80-81, and this year was thought by many to be legitimate wildcard contenders (especially with the added wildcard). There was a very real chance they would be playing meaningful September and October games, for the first ever time since their arrival in Washington.

As it is, he chose the exact same method that he used with Zimmermann coming off a last-place 69-win season, in a year where they finished 20 games out of first and 10 games out of the wild card. It seems like not only is Rizzo treating all pitchers the same, he's also approaching all seasons the same. I guess that's consistency, but it's not terribly fun for this baseball fan.

I am still rooting for the Nationals, but I may change my tune if/when the playoffs become dominated by shots of Strasburg on the bench and the accompanying announcer commentary.
   226. Ray (RDP) Posted: September 10, 2012 at 04:29 PM (#4231924)
If the Nats have Strasburg play through the end of his current contract, I cannot see how he could then sue them: for what, for having paid him $15M to play baseball when it turned out that he was not good or durable enough at baseball, long-term, all things considered, to earn another $150M at it? It seems like every prospect who washed out of the minors with an injury could sue his club for hundreds of millions, at that rate. It just makes no sense at all.


Right. He is getting paid to play baseball. The risks to both sides are inherent in the contract. (His salary is being artificially suppressed by the CBA, but that is not relevant here.) The Nationals are paying him $X million knowing that he might break or perform poorly and therefore not give them a good return on their investment; Strasburg is guaranteed $X million even if he breaks or doesn't perform well.

If the Nationals are reckless in diagnosing an injury or demanding that he perform in spite of one, he might have some sort of a grievance, but "I was coming off of TJ and ready to pitch and you made me pitch 200 innings instead of 160" is completely out of the realm of what he could base a grievance on. Industry standard is for pitchers to go much more than this. KT's fantastical notion from earlier in the thread that Scott Boras could wave a 50-page study pointing to X pitchers out of a sample of Y who pitched 200 innings coming off of TJ and subsequently got hurt, and therefore Strasburg should recover something on that basis, is completely farcical. Indeed, the very fact that there were all of these pitchers going 200 innings coming off of TJ would immediately defeat any legal claim that Strasburg might have.

Pitching is inherently an act that risks an arm/shoulder injury -- or indeed that risks getting hit by a batted ball. In the misguided negligence scenario, Strasburg would assume those risks, and the idea that Strasburg could recover based on utterly foreseeable risks even in the circumstances of him coming off of TJ (which are not unique circumstances in any event) is completely non-sensical.

   227. Ray (RDP) Posted: September 10, 2012 at 04:31 PM (#4231926)
By the way, is KT a poster I should be familiar with? Is he an old poster with a new screen name? Who is the VA referred to earlier? Value Arbiter? Are they one and the same?
   228. rr Posted: September 10, 2012 at 04:32 PM (#4231930)
Value Arbitrageur was his old handle, yes.
   229. Ron J2 Posted: September 10, 2012 at 04:39 PM (#4231932)
Regarding the insurance side of things, I have family members with specific expertise. And as you'd expect their answer was, (my summary of very detailed answers) it depends on the wording of the policy. Both thought it unwise to disregard any specific recommendations of experts in the field though. (Again, how unwise depends on how specific the advice is)
   230. Ray (RDP) Posted: September 10, 2012 at 04:46 PM (#4231935)
It seems like every prospect who washed out of the minors with an injury could sue his club for hundreds of millions, at that rate. It just makes no sense at all.


Yeah, "I had a $15m contract and you made me pitch 200 innings in 2012 coming off of TJ and then I got hurt in 2013 and I would have signed a $150 million contract on the free agent market in 2015 had I not been forced to go 200 innings instead of 160" simply does not fly.

At that point it would be far too cost prohibitive for clubs to draft and sign good players.
   231. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: September 10, 2012 at 05:18 PM (#4231962)
If you think that Strasburg is being a coward, then just say so, but dont think for a second that he has any power to override Rizzo's decision, or that he has any way of causing a public stink without having it backfire in his face. You've got a perfect right to disagree with Rizzo's decision, but don't expect a 24 year old pitcher to sacrifice his reputation with his team just so he can prove to you and the yahoos that he "really" wants to pitch.

I've made no comments that would lead one to the conclusion I think Strasburg is a coward. In fact, I've said repeatedly, in discussions with you, that I'm impressed that Strasburg is able to place his long-term considerations over his short-term wants, which is something most young athletes are incapable of.

But I don't subscribe to your contention that Strasburg has no power, because I think that's ########. Keeping Stephen Strasburg (and, to a lesser extent, the guy who works for him) happy is important to the Nationals, just as keeping him healthy is. And a Stephen Strasburg who was thoroughly and permanently pissed at the organization for keeping him from the playoffs wouldn't really make for a successful plan (and Strasburg would not have to make any of this publicly known, as you keep insisting, just as long as Rizzo knew it).

So yes, I will continue to believe that if Stephen Strasburg wanted to pitch in the postseason as much as Stephen Strasburg has said he wants to pitch in the posteason, he would be pitching in the postseason. Because I believe players of Stephen Strasburg's caliber are no longer powerless over their careers, as the past 35 years of baseball have demonstrated.


That states it very well and pretty much ends it. You think I'm nuts and I think you're nuts. As a Nats fan, I'm just glad that Rizzo isn't listening to you, and that he has the sense to see past the trees to the forest.
   232. jingoist Posted: September 10, 2012 at 06:16 PM (#4232012)
To read some of these posts here you'd think we were revisiting the second shooter from the grassy knoll once again.

Here's my straight forward take on this business decidion:
GM and owners have a conversation about how best to handle this potentially most valuable asset of the franchise.
They decide caution and TLC are the best ways to ensure that the asset can be available for the longest period of time posible.
They build a strategy and get the buy-in from agent so that he urges his client to remain with Nationals when his contract expires in the future should the Nationals offer his client a market-value offer for his next deal(s).

All parties involved are being sensible with this extremely valuable asset.

Zimmerman may be the current face of the franchise but Harper and Strasburg are the faces of the future and if all things work as expected/hoped for, they will be in DC for many years to come packing fannies in the seats and increasing the franchises' value as the years go by.

The Lerner's didn't just fall off the back of the turnip truck as it drove through DC.
   233. The Yankee Clapper Posted: September 10, 2012 at 06:23 PM (#4232017)
And a Stephen Strasburg who was thoroughly and permanently pissed at the organization for keeping him from the playoffs wouldn't really make for a successful plan (and Strasburg would not have to make any of this publicly known, as you keep insisting, just as long as Rizzo knew it).

Not buying the phantom power of hollow threats. Strasburg should be aware that it is highly unlikely that the Nationals will allow themselves to be outbid for his future services, assuming he remains healthy. Telling Rizzo he'll take less money to play for a team he may not want to play for down the road isn't in Strasburg's best interest, and is unlikely to have any effect on the Rizzo/Lerner decision.
   234. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: September 10, 2012 at 06:35 PM (#4232027)
Strasburg should be aware that it is highly unlikely that the Nationals will allow themselves to be outbid for his future services, assuming he remains healthy.


Nah, the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Angels, could never outbid the mighty Nats for the services of an open-market Strasburg.

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