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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Newhan: Can Strassberg Really Be This Nonchalant About His Benching?

And like I told Washington’s Cheney after he blew his arm out in ‘63…“Stop hiding that weapon…use it or lose it!”

The befuddling aspect to me is the absense of vigorous argument from Strassberg, whose basic posture has been that he gets his information from the internet and that the decision is out of his hands.

  Give me a break.

  At 24 and obviously healthy, with his team hopeful that Strassberg represents repeated victories in the playoffs and no guarantee that the Nationals will advance that far next year or for several years, shouldn’t Strassberg be hammering on Rizzo’s desk and demanding to pitch out the season—no matter how far it goes?

  Instead, he is apparently satisfied pitching every fifth day into September and watching the golf channel in between starts.

  Rosters expand in September, so Strassberg will ultimately slip into an abyss and not be included on the 25 player post-season roster.

  The Nationals lead the NL in team earned-run average at 3.23, but Gio Gonzalez, 16-6, is the only Nationals pitcher other than Strassberg in double figures in wins.

  Will Strassberg be missed? What do his teammates really think, and what happens if another Nationals starters gets hurt in October when Strassberg won’t be available? Shouldn’t he be showing some annoyance at this decision, even though it is designed to extend his career in the view of Rizzo and Boras?

  It is possible that no prospective division winner has ever arbitrarily sat its ace, as the Nationals are about to do on the eve of the post-season.

  It is possible that no ace has ever simply shrugged and slipped away with a similar whimper instead of a bang.

Repoz Posted: August 22, 2012 at 03:58 PM | 126 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: business, nats

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   101. Joey B.: posting for the kids of northeast Ohio Posted: August 23, 2012 at 02:18 PM (#4216016)
Not only is his assessment of Z too high, but the other frustrating thing (and I know that you already know this Chris) is that Rizzo and the lickspittles at the Washington Post are talking as though he's already under full team control for the next 10-15 years or something.

I can understand why Rizzo acts this way for P.R. purposes, but it's kind of pathetic that the Post mindlessly apes this foolishness with no apparent critical thought.
   102. bunyon Posted: August 23, 2012 at 02:19 PM (#4216018)
Where does that line get crossed then? Is it ok if a pitcher cannot lift his arm above his shoulder or pick his kid up when he is done playing?

No, it's not okay. My take is that the risk of such long-term disability from pitching/baseball is fairly low. Not zero. But it is not zero for all players at any time. That is, Stephen Strasburg could dramatically lower the risk of long-term disability if he were to quit pitching and take up accounting.

Of course, his risk of long-term disability does not drop to zero even in accouting.

It is, in the end, how you weigh costs and benefits. While the Nats and Strasburg are completely free to weigh them however they like, I think they are dramatically overstating the risk and undervaluing the benefit. They are doing so to such an extent that I find them hard to root for. And I have been rooting for them as a good story. I like young stars who look to be the future of the game. But I can't imagine 30 years from now I'll look back and recollect fondly about that beautiful year when the Nats played it safe. That just isn't the stuff of greatness, which is what I look for in sports. YMMV of course.


Again, pitching is risky. It will be risky next year, too. It's risky for all their pitchers.

(Just saw this: I agree with post 100 - I think Y is low and Z is low. X isn't high but it is greater than zero.)
   103. Chris Needham Posted: August 23, 2012 at 02:28 PM (#4216033)
[101] Did you see Steinberg's post on this yesterday? All 4 major columnists at the Post have endorsed the shutdown. As has the editorial page. And then he linked to the KidsPost section -- it too had a pro-shutdown feature! I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry.
   104. OsunaSakata Posted: August 23, 2012 at 02:41 PM (#4216057)
Did you see Steinberg's post on this yesterday? All 4 major columnists at the Post have endorsed the shutdown. As has the editorial page. And then he linked to the KidsPost section -- it too had a pro-shutdown feature! I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry.


Won't somebody think of the children?
   105. Joey B.: posting for the kids of northeast Ohio Posted: August 23, 2012 at 02:59 PM (#4216085)
If we don't shut him down this instant, all the poor little kids reading the KidsPost section will never get to see Stevie leading the Nats to their glorious seventh W.S. championship in the year 2024.
   106. NTP Nate Posted: August 23, 2012 at 03:16 PM (#4216105)
As a Nats fan I guess I'm weird (hell, I know I am) but I want to see Stefen Strausbourg healthy and pitching like he's capable of for the next 10 years, even if he's not doing it for the Nationals. It's good for my enjoyment of baseball. If conservative (or if you prefer, over-conservative) handling makes that even a little more likely, I'm in favor of it.

   107. Chris Needham Posted: August 23, 2012 at 03:40 PM (#4216149)
[106] I'd say the majority of Nats fans are like you. I think it's only a small minority who think they should keep pitching him. (again, with the caveat that he be monitored closely for fatigue, rather than something more preemptive like the team is doing).

If Rudy Guiliani running his mouth weren't bad enough, now there's some bum named Jimmy Andrews flapping his gums, supporting the shutdown.
   108. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: August 23, 2012 at 03:54 PM (#4216167)
[101] Did you see Steinberg's post on this yesterday? All 4 major columnists at the Post have endorsed the shutdown. As has the editorial page. And then he linked to the KidsPost section -- it too had a pro-shutdown feature! I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry.

Maybe that's because all of the above are actually Nats fans who have the interest of the franchise down the road in mind, unlike the vast majority of people who profess their love for "the game" when they advise Strasburg to go full speed ahead and would say "that's a shame" if he wound up on the DL next year.
   109. NTP Nate Posted: August 23, 2012 at 04:05 PM (#4216185)
Chris - To which I'd reply, I assume, based on some of the few things that have been said, that the team is doing both. Monitoring his performance, effectiveness, fatigue-level, and tracking his total workload. My personal suspicion is that the "shutdown" is a moving target based on a combination of factors, but that it's 99.44% sure to happen by mid-to-late September. And that makes sense to me, both intuitively and upon reflection.

But I'm a Rawlsian "veil of ignorance" supporter when it comes to designing social systems and rehab plans.
   110. Tom Nawrocki Posted: August 23, 2012 at 04:18 PM (#4216201)
Did you see Steinberg's post on this yesterday? All 4 major columnists at the Post have endorsed the shutdown. As has the editorial page. And then he linked to the KidsPost section -- it too had a pro-shutdown feature!


Derek Bell would be proud.
   111. Joey B.: posting for the kids of northeast Ohio Posted: August 23, 2012 at 04:22 PM (#4216207)
OK, I know that an uneducated dunce like myself probably shouldn't even deign to ask questions of a man like Dr. James Andrews, but here we go:

“The problem with shutting him down and getting him out of his cycle and then all of a sudden putting him back in, means you’ve got to recycle him,” Andrews said. “In other words, you can’t take him at a high level, shut him down for a month and then get back immediately to a high level. That could be dangerous, also."

Major league ballclubs do this kind of thing all the time, Doctor Andrews. Pitchers get injured, they go on the D.L. for a month or so, and then they rehab a little bit and come back to pitch at a high level that same season. Are you telling me that every team in baseball is taking dangerous risks with their pitchers? What evidence, if any, do you have that doing this is dangerous, doctor?

“But that’s a good question,” Andrews continued. “The problem with that is starting him back up. You all know that the major injuries occur any time when you start somebody back up early in the season when they’ve been off."

We "all know this", really? What data do you have to support this statement? Oh and by the way, we're not "early in the season" any longer, doctor.

"So it’s a little bit unknown to be able to do that and do that safely."

Whoa, it's "a little bit unknown"? In other words, you're really not sure? It almost sounds like you don't have much evidence to support what you're saying here, doctor.

"I don’t know how that would actually benefit him."

The Nationals don't exist for the sole purpose of benefiting Stephen Strasburg, doctor. This is a team of 40 guys, not Baby Jesus and 39 other guys.

"It could benefit him, it could benefit the team, but also it may be dangerous to start him back up with appropriate rest."

MAY be dangerous. There's another weasel word that makes it sound like you don't really know for sure, doctor.

"So I’m sorry to say, but it’s a damned if you do and damned if you don’t deal.”

Huh?? No offense doctor, but this is gobbledygook. It's a meaningless throwaway line to try and cover for the fact that you're not really 100% sure that you know what you're talking about.
   112. Chris Needham Posted: August 23, 2012 at 04:34 PM (#4216217)
[109] I think you're right on that. That's why the IP thing has always been a bit of a floating target. But that raises the question (I'd put begs here just to annoy the pedants who lurk) of if that's the case, then why are they comfortable announcing they're giving him 5 more starts? How do they know that that's the magic number?

[108] That's right, Andy. I'm saying throw him until his arm falls off. Throw him until not just his arm, but his heart explodes. Until a river of Strasburg's blood trickles down the mound, growing the luscious green grass on that field on a crisp, October night, none of us will truly be happy. I dunno. That kind of "BABYKILLER!" rhetoric might work in the politics threads, but I like to think us pooping-pants frauds out here in civilization have more nuance than that. :)
   113. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: August 23, 2012 at 06:03 PM (#4216275)
OK, I know that an uneducated dunce like myself probably shouldn't even deign to ask questions

Finally a comment that many of us here can fully agree with.
   114. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: August 23, 2012 at 06:07 PM (#4216280)
[108] That's right, Andy. I'm saying throw him until his arm falls off. Throw him until not just his arm, but his heart explodes. Until a river of Strasburg's blood trickles down the mound, growing the luscious green grass on that field on a crisp, October night, none of us will truly be happy. I dunno. That kind of "BABYKILLER!" rhetoric might work in the politics threads, but I like to think us pooping-pants frauds out here in civilization have more nuance than that. :)

Nice, but my #108 comment wasn't directed at you, though I have little or no interest in experimenting with Strasburg's arm endurance for the marginal benefit of one out of many postseasons. It all comes down to risks and rewards, and I'm going with Rizzo's take on the matter.
   115. bunyon Posted: August 23, 2012 at 07:26 PM (#4216315)
As a Nats fan I guess I'm weird (hell, I know I am) but I want to see Stefen Strausbourg healthy and pitching like he's capable of for the next 10 years, even if he's not doing it for the Nationals. It's good for my enjoyment of baseball. If conservative (or if you prefer, over-conservative) handling makes that even a little more likely, I'm in favor of it.

Okay, but cutting IP for all their pitchers will increase the likelihood that they'll still be pitching 10 years from now. Should they go to a 7 man rotation? 10? Going out to pitch is risking arm injury - where is the line of too much risk?

Very few people are saying throw him until his arm falls off. We're saying that the risk/reward calculation Rizzo and all of Natland is engaging in is off. I want Strasburg to pitch a long time.

No, of course I'm not all that concerned with the state of the Nationals 10 years from now. That doesn't mean those that are are thinking rationally. Or that I'm not.

   116. Steve Treder Posted: August 23, 2012 at 07:40 PM (#4216325)
cutting IP for all their pitchers will increase the likelihood that they'll still be pitching 10 years from now.

Oh?
   117. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: August 23, 2012 at 08:53 PM (#4216371)
why are they comfortable announcing they're giving him 5 more starts?


When did this happen?
   118. bunyon Posted: August 23, 2012 at 09:35 PM (#4216398)
cutting IP for all their pitchers will increase the likelihood that they'll still be pitching 10 years from now.

Oh?


Using the logic behind the decision, I should have said.
   119. Chris Needham Posted: August 23, 2012 at 10:07 PM (#4216408)
[117] Yesterday. Davey announced that they'll shut him down for his last 2-3 starts. He'll finish with 30 starts, basically.
   120. Steve Treder Posted: August 24, 2012 at 12:45 AM (#4216463)
Using the logic behind the decision, I should have said.

Right. My point being that the logic behind the decision is based on the airy-fairest of evidence, yet no one seems to be questioning that foundation.
   121. KT's Pot Arb Posted: August 24, 2012 at 01:53 AM (#4216475)
I say it only as a fan of baseball. It may be the right thing to do - I don't know, and the folks making this decision don't either - but it is fingernails on the chalkboard to a what sports is supposed to be about. It isn't supposed to be about long term thinking and contracts and caution. It's supposed to be about going after the prize, beating your opponents, fighting.


What kind of baseball are you watching?

Do you root for the toughest golfer too? The one who prevails in sudden death despite his underwear bunching up?
   122. KT's Pot Arb Posted: August 24, 2012 at 01:58 AM (#4216477)
Obviously I don't know his exact health status. But the same could be said for every player not currently on the DL (or with no acknowledged injury issue), so I kind of work from the default position those guys are healthy. As far as I know, he's the only one of those seemingly healthy players that plans to not be playing in the near future.


Of course he's hurt, he just had tommy john surgery, and pitched on his recovering arm for a year. All professional pitchers ate injured to some extent, the very act of pitching damages and tears down your arm.
   123. KT's Pot Arb Posted: August 24, 2012 at 02:44 AM (#4216488)

Right. My point being that the logic behind the decision is based on the airy-fairest of evidence, yet no one seems to be questioning that foundation.


No, its based on the best available evidence and no one else is qualified to question the decision.

The decision has been driven by "the experts", the doctors with the most experience doing the operation. Thwir opinions may only be slightly more accurate than a coinflip, but thats enough. Pitching coaches, managers and GMs are clearly less qualified, as are statistical analysts, since Ive yet to see an arm injury study that came up with an insight offering even a modicum of predictability.

And we dont even know the criteria the Nationals are using or even a single page of this large report that is guiding them. So no, you, I, and the brightest minds on this site don't have any abiilty to question the Nats on this decision.

We simply dont know if its a smart or dumb decision, the dummies are the ones questioning Strawburns manhood, or saying the Nats need to pull out all the stops for this season because they might never have this opportunity again. Thats defeatist, short term thinking of the highest order that is guaranteed to make it more likely the Nats future teams dont make the playoffs as often.
   124. robinred Posted: August 24, 2012 at 03:01 AM (#4216491)
or saying the Nats need to pull out all the stops for this season because they might never have this opportunity again. Thats defeatist, short term thinking of the highest order that is guaranteed to make it more likely the Nats future teams dont make the playoffs as often.


When I weighed on this a few days ago, I said it comes down to trusting Mike Rizzo, and others added, the medical information that he has,and his ability to evaluate it. That is a reasonable position. And, the fact that 10 teams will make the postseason every year certainly helps the Nats' chances to be in the playoffs several times over the next few years. But with all the hedging and uncertainty and unknowns, I think it is wise to remember a few of each:

Unknown: whether the Nationals will ever have a better chance to win the World Series than they do this year. No matter how many times you pound the table and call people dummies, you don't have the answer to this question. No one does.
Known: Strasburg is one of the most gifted pitchers in baseball, and the guy who replaces him will not be as gifted.
Known: It is a good idea to use your most talented players in the postseason.
Unknown: Whether this move will actually keep Strasburg from getting hurt next year.

As to the last one, apparently Rizzo feels that this move decreases the chances of future injury enough to make it worth the possible decrease in in the chances that Nats will have the final dogpile of the 2012 baseball season, and he knows more about Strasburg than we do.

But there is nothing dumb about questioning the risk/reward calculus here.
   125. Belfry Bob Posted: August 24, 2012 at 07:45 AM (#4216520)
I think it's all a plot to save Strasburg's arm so he can have more seasons pitching for the Yankees.

Seriously, I don't understand how Greg says my idea of starting him up later was ridiculous when he himself says the Nats were a 'marginal playoff team hope' coming into the season.

If that's the case, why not crank up your stud a little bit later on JUST IN CASE YOU WERE IN THE RACE late in the year? Yes, games in April count just as much and all that, but...

What would the hubbub be like right now if the Nats were just in the playoff HUNT and they were shutting him down? Wow.
   126. bunyon Posted: August 24, 2012 at 07:48 AM (#4216522)

But there is nothing dumb about questioning the risk/reward calculus here.


Right. Also, those criticizing those of us questioning the shut down seem to think we're arguing that Strasburg should go nine every fourth day. I absolutely would be careful. But if he feels good, is pitching well, doesn't look to be laboring, I wouldn't shut him down.

Hell yes the bar to pulling him or shutting him down is lower than it would be had he not had TJ. That doesn't mean the bar is lying a couple inches under ground.


And, of course, it's Rizzo's decision. I don't think it's the dumbest thing ever. I just don't think it's right.


As to what sort of baseball I'm watching, I watch games, played on fields with the goal being to win. I don't particularly care about games 10 years from now. There is simply no way to know how Strasburg will hold up, whether he'll reach his potential, etc. The Nats have an excellent chance to win the World Series this year. They are injuring that chance by shutting down a pitcher who does not appear in any trouble at all.


As I say, the best way to guarantee Strasburg's arm health is to never let him throw another pitch. Obviously that cost far outweighs the benefit. If you think he should pitch, at all, you acknowledge that some risk is worth it. We're simply arguing over where the line is and none of us knows for sure what the right decision is.
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