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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sorry Nats fans, but history is not written by the losers | HardballTalk

History won’t be any kinder if Strasburg blows out his arm at some point and never gets to the playoffs.

Nats fans can look at Zimmermann and Jackson’s bad starts and say “hey, they would have started anyway, so it’s not the fault of the shutdown.”  They can look at Ross Detwiler‘s great start on Thursday and say Stephen Strasburg’s playoff rotation replacement did just as good a job as Strasburg would have done, if not better.  They can also say that they twice came within one strike of advancing last night, and Stephen Strasburg would not have been throwing those pitches.  But guess what: it’s futile.

Because everyone else will note that the Nationals (a) willingly chose to enter the playoffs with their best pitcher on the bench; (b) lost a series in which they gave up 32 runs and had only one quality start in five games; and (c) used a starting pitcher in relief in Game 5 on short rest, so all hands — except for their best hand — were obviously on deck.

And no matter what holes you can poke in that argument, Nats fans, the fact is that your team did not advance. They lost, and losers do not get to write the history when it comes to such matters. Believe me. I know from experience.

Jim Furtado Posted: October 13, 2012 at 04:21 PM | 390 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: nationals, playoffs

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   101. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: October 14, 2012 at 07:38 AM (#4269265)
I've long argued the plan was dumb. But I wouldn't fire anyone. The team just had the best season in their history and it was mostly unexpected. I think you hvae to evaluate personnel on the whole of their work and the whole of the folks involved certainly merits another year.

Yeah, it would make a whole lot of sense to fire the people who built this team up from the ground and put it in a position to contend for years to come. Let's replace them with Bain Management and let strategy and tactics be decided by social media insta-polls. Washington fans will soon learn to love the results.
   102. Nats-Homer-in-DC Posted: October 14, 2012 at 08:20 AM (#4269276)
The baseball press is going to write what they want to write. Whether it's Montreal was screwed over by out of town owners and MLB rather than abandoned by their own local businessmen and fans. Whether it's Bobby Bonds is an alcoholic and his son a jerk for ignoring them. Whether it's amphetamine-taking Mickey Mantle is the best player ever while anyone connected to steroids should be banned.

History is written by those corrupt enough to own the pen and deny others to it.
   103. GuyM Posted: October 14, 2012 at 09:20 AM (#4269287)
Well, as I've said, the precise 160 IP figure is complete BS, but assuming it's carved in stone, then risking the division title is a given. It's unavoidable.

Yes, but your plan is creating MORE risk. Again, the arithmetic couldn't be simpler. Regular season innings:
Rizzo: 160
Treder: 160 - A*
*Number of innings reserved for post-season.

If you want to argue this risk is worth taking, then make that case. I don't think many fans would agree. And I know that by the time we got to the final Braves series, if Strasburg was on the bench while our lead was slipping away -- even though he had not reached his usage limit -- the outrage would have been incredible. And I suspect that some of the Rizzo critics here would have been joining in.

Rizzo critics seem to believe Strasburg would have had a huge impact on the post-season, but of little value in winning the division. Very weird outlook....
   104. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 14, 2012 at 09:30 AM (#4269292)
Yeah, it would make a whole lot of sense to fire the people who built this team up from the ground


They, or at least Rizzo, lost their way. He thought keeping pitchers healthy and developing young players was the end, not the means. He proved to be completely inflexible as circumstances changed. He pretended, or at least thought, that he had more evidence that his plan works than he has. Yocum had little to do with this plan, and wouldn't have had anything useful to add anyway the subject of whether 160 is better than Sunday starter.

Rizzo deserves to be let go.
   105. McCoy Posted: October 14, 2012 at 09:48 AM (#4269297)
Very weird outlook....

And yet the defenders have this outlook that somehow Rizzo chose the correct path and their proof? That it happened. Very weird.

Strasburg's last game was on the 7th of September and he was as you know already on the bench because he reached his innings limit. If the Nats had blown their lead against the Braves between the 7th and the time they played the Braves a week later and they kept on benching Strasburg the outrage would have been incredible. There were so many options available to Rizzo but he insisted only implementing his preplanned pattern no matter what and he gave no real good answers and might even have fibbed or exaggerated a time or two to sell it.

The only reason the outrage for benching Strasburg during the season wasn't larger than it was was because of fan hubris. When a team is rolling people tend to think they'll always roll and they tend to overestimate their ability and their chances.
   106. GuyM Posted: October 14, 2012 at 09:51 AM (#4269299)
Yeah, you cannot argue with a straight face that the plan they chose was more protecting of Strasburg's arm than any of several other reasonable options that would have allowed him to pitch in the postseason.

I suspect many of the creative alternative plans would not have offered equal protection. But let's assume there were several equally good alternatives. It doesn't matter, because every single one of them, by definition, involves putting the division title at greater risk. That's what advocates of the "middle path" seem unwilling to admit. Their position is:

1) It is arrogant to assume you will win future titles, but not to assume you will win this year;
2) Strasburg is essential in the post-season, but of little consequence for the pennant race;
3) You should prioritize winning this year over future years, but you should also prioritize future post-season games (hypothetical post-season games!) over winning the division now.

All these alternatives are basically nonsense, unless you want to admit that you don't really care about winning the division unless you have Strasburg in the playoffs (a position I can't believe many Nats fans would have supported in May, or August). Either man up and admit you want to blow through the IP limit, or accept that Rizzo's plan was as good or better than any other.
   107. Dan Evensen Posted: October 14, 2012 at 09:59 AM (#4269304)
It's hilarious that the Nationals - whose fans haven't had a good team in forever - shut down Strasburg as if they were in the middle of a late-90s Yankees run.

Actually, DC fans haven't even had a team in forever. You know, that whole 1972 - 2004 thing.
   108. McCoy Posted: October 14, 2012 at 10:02 AM (#4269305)
Strasburg missed the last 24 games of the season and the team won by 4 games. Two of his last three games were against Miami who by that point were not even on the same level quality as they were earlier in the season. He pitched 14 innings in those games. If they had shut him down then, as I suggested back then, he could have had 3 to 4 weeks of complete rest spent a week to two weeks getting back into shape and pitched a game in the regular season as a tune up/if necessary. Now what would that have cost them? How would that have significantly hurt their chances of winning the division?
   109. GuyM Posted: October 14, 2012 at 10:08 AM (#4269309)
If the Nats had blown their lead against the Braves between the 7th and the time they played the Braves a week later and they kept on benching Strasburg the outrage would have been incredible.

I agree. That scenario would have been a MUCH tougher test of Rizzo's resolve than what happened. Keeping SS on the bench while the division appeared to slip away would have been extremely frustrating for fans. I wonder whether Rizzo would have switched gears.

But now imagine this is all happening in the context of the Treder Plan: SS is on the bench, the division title is slipping away, and Rizzo says "we believe it would be safe for SS to make 5 more starts, but we prefer to keep him available for the playoffs, which we are still confident we will reach." Whatever level of outrage you were imagining in your scenario, you should now multiply by 10.
   110. McCoy Posted: October 14, 2012 at 10:12 AM (#4269311)

But now imagine this is all happening in the context of the Treder Plan: SS is on the bench, the division title is slipping away, and Rizzo says "we believe it would be safe for SS to make 5 more starts, but we prefer to keep him available for the playoffs, which we are still confident we will reach." Whatever level of outrage you were imagining in your scenario, you should now multiply by 10.


The Treder plan is basically based on flexibility and that is what most of us have been saying Rizzo needed to be. I'm not Treder but I seriously doubt his reply is going to be "tough" if a situation occurs where the Nationals are in jeopardy of losing the division and Strasburg is on the bench. The point of all the plans being suggested is that if Strasburg is going to have an innings limit then the Nationals should strive to use Strasburg in a way that every single one of those innings are important innings.
   111. Nats-Homer-in-DC Posted: October 14, 2012 at 10:20 AM (#4269314)
Step 1. Come up with two alternatives.
Step 2. Attack the decision.
Step 3. Bounce from one alternative to the next to deflect and attack again.
Repeat step 3 until your opponent gives up.

Oh, I thought this was the politics thread. It works here too.
   112. GuyM Posted: October 14, 2012 at 10:21 AM (#4269315)
Strasburg missed the last 24 games of the season and the team won by 4 games. Two of his last three games were against Miami who by that point were not even on the same level quality as they were earlier in the season. He pitched 14 innings in those games. If they had shut him down then, as I suggested back then, he could have had 3 to 4 weeks of complete rest spent a week to two weeks getting back into shape and pitched a game in the regular season as a tune up/if necessary. Now what would that have cost them? How would that have significantly hurt their chances of winning the division?

No. But it also doesn't achieve much of anything. You've saved 14 IP, but he makes one tune up start so let's say you've banked 9 IP. Let's assume it takes SS some work to get back into shape after 4 weeks off, so we'll count that as 3 IP. So all you've done is given yourself one start (6 IP) in the NLDS. Maybe that's a good tradeoff, but seeing it the other way is hardly a firing offense.

Again, if you want to blow through the 160 IP limit, fine. But nothing else you do is going to make much difference.
   113. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: October 14, 2012 at 10:31 AM (#4269318)
If they had shut him down then, as I suggested back then, he could have had 3 to 4 weeks of complete rest spent a week to two weeks getting back into shape and pitched a game in the regular season as a tune up/if necessary


The doctors recommended against shutting him down and starting him up again as bad for his arm.
   114. McCoy Posted: October 14, 2012 at 10:43 AM (#4269323)
The doctors recommended against shutting him down and starting him up again as bad for his arm.

no they didn't. Rizzo didn't want to do that. Yocum was on record as saying rest was important and that a month off could be good for him.

No. But it also doesn't achieve much of anything. You've saved 14 IP, but he makes one tune up start so let's say you've banked 9 IP. Let's assume it takes SS some work to get back into shape after 4 weeks off, so we'll count that as 3 IP. So all you've done is given yourself one start (6 IP) in the NLDS. Maybe that's a good tradeoff, but seeing it the other way is hardly a firing offense.

Again, if you want to blow through the 160 IP limit, fine. But nothing else you do is going to make much difference.



So nop matter what happens he can't go over 160 IP? 160 equals perfect but 165 is horrible? If you give Strasburg a month off and then a week to two weeks to get back in shape he then can't pitch 20 more innings? Why? What is the evidence that throwing 170 innings in a season a year after TJ is bad but 160 is perfect? What is the evidence that taking a rest for a month when you get fatigued and then coming back and pitching 4 to 5 more games when you are fresher is bad?

But even if somehow 160 is a limit he cannot surpass how is it not better to have one or two starts (there is no reason to have Strasburg pitch 5 innings in a tune up start, especially if 160 innings is an absolute. I wouldn't count his working back into shape as innings against his limit since his limit number was created with throw days factored in.) of his starts be in the playoffs instead up against the Marlins?

   115. BDC Posted: October 14, 2012 at 10:44 AM (#4269324)
OK, my thinking about the criteria for judging the Strasburg Shutdown are evolving. I think that ultimately the Nationals' fortunes in any given year are irrelevant. The Nats may hope to win pennants while he's under their "control," but there are too many factors there to obsess about. You can never say that they've traded a series loss now for several series victories down the road; the context simply changes too much.

So the criteria have to be individual to Strasburg. If he has a career of decent length and effectiveness, then Rizzo was at least not wrong in shutting him down. No matter that the Nats lost this year: Rizzo's intention is to ensure Strasburg's longterm health, and he is very frankly conceding an advantage in 2012 to do so. No question in my mind there, though they seem to linger in other minds, and that's fine. Rizzo didn't make the wrong choice, even if the Nats limp along behind a good Strasburg till he hits free agency, and then he signs with the Rangers and wins three straight Cy Youngs while they win three straight World Series.

If Strasburg sputters henceforward, or throws another 200 fabulous innings next year and then his arm falls off, or if he takes the Mark Prior spiral toward oblivion, then one has to call Rizzo's move a failure. Particularly if he's got another 200 great innings and nothing more in his arm.

Obviously this is a continuum from "looks good" through "looks bad" with stops along the way. And it's entirely a post hoc judgment, which I know some people abhor. Strictly speaking, we should look at my two outcomes and say Rizzo was right if there's a better-than-even (or maybe considerably better than even) chance of the good outcome, no matter what the actual outcome. But in practice, you're interested in the outcomes. You don't look back on a horrible marriage and say "Well, back in 1991, that still had a 33% better chance of turning out happier than marrying Shirley Lapidus."
   116. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: October 14, 2012 at 10:59 AM (#4269332)
no they didn't. Rizzo didn't want to do that. Yocum was on record as saying rest was important and that a month off could be good for him.


I don't know about Yokum, but Andrews was much less sanguine.
   117. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: October 14, 2012 at 11:17 AM (#4269351)
Did the Natspos' master plan not work so very well? Oh, that's so vewy, vewy sad.
   118. McCoy Posted: October 14, 2012 at 11:34 AM (#4269360)
Andrews stated that he didn't really know and never addressed the plan as I suggested which is to shut him down and then get him back into shape over a matter of a week to two weeks.
   119. Joey B. has reignited his October #Natitude Posted: October 14, 2012 at 11:37 AM (#4269365)
I know this is a popular view here, but I don't get it. At what point did the "specialness" become apparent

Personally, I knew all the way back in May that the Nationals had built themselves an excellent team, and I even said so right here. I knew that because they didn't just start playing really well early this season, they started playing really well late last season.

When I first said it I don't think a lot of people quite believed it yet, but almost everyone else realized it within the next month or two after that.
   120. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: October 14, 2012 at 11:44 AM (#4269373)
I know this is a popular view here, but I don't get it. At what point did the "specialness" become apparent


There was a pizza party when Harper arrived on the short bus.
   121. jack the seal clubber (on the sidelines of life) Posted: October 14, 2012 at 11:51 AM (#4269377)
Still too bummed out to care about the argument. If Storen gets one more strike nobody is arguing about this.
   122. wealz Posted: October 14, 2012 at 12:00 PM (#4269390)
Rizzo deserves to lose his job over this if it was his decision, but something like this had to have ownership's blessing. The Lerner's got a $600M publicly financed stadium four years ago and the first real opportunity to somewhat make good on it they pull this.
   123. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: October 14, 2012 at 12:15 PM (#4269399)
Rizzo deserves to lose his job over this if it was his decision, but something like this had to have ownership's blessing.


Exactly. "Fire Rizzo" doesn't make much sense unless you believe that it was a unilateral decision on his part, rather than one that was endorsed by his superiors. To use Ray's "overruled or fired" construct, if you think he could have and should have been overruled, then the person who should be fired would be the one who failed to overrule him. Conversely, if you think he should be fired, then you're basically asserting that there was no one who could have overruled him. The exception would be a scenario where his bosses expressed reservations with his decision (at minimum), but basically said, "OK, but it's your ass if this blows up on us." If those facts were in evidence, then it would be more like "Rizzo should have been overruled AND now he should be fired."
   124. Bourbon Samurai Posted: October 14, 2012 at 12:22 PM (#4269403)
You guys are crazy. Rizzo is going to win executive of the year.

Love or hate the strasburg decision, he's built a great organization that is full of talent.
   125. Joey B. has reignited his October #Natitude Posted: October 14, 2012 at 12:26 PM (#4269409)
If Storen gets one more strike nobody is arguing about this.

I don't agree. If we were getting ready to face the Giants tonight, I think plenty of us would still be wishing that Strasburg would have been available.
   126. Steve Treder Posted: October 14, 2012 at 12:36 PM (#4269417)
Yes, but your plan is creating MORE risk. Again, the arithmetic couldn't be simpler. Regular season innings:
Rizzo: 160
Treder: 160 - A*
*Number of innings reserved for post-season.


No sh!t, Sherlock.

If you want to argue this risk is worth taking, then make that case.

That case has been made, over and over. There is risk in everything. There is risk in losing the division race, and there is also risk in losing the post-season tournament. There is risk in overworking Strasburg, and there is risk in underusing him. Balancing risk in a flexible, nuanced manner is what management is supposed to do.

But let's assume there were several equally good alternatives.

I haven't just assumed it, I've specified several of them. You've failed to address the specifics of any of them.

It doesn't matter, because every single one of them, by definition, involves putting the division title at greater risk. That's what advocates of the "middle path" seem unwilling to admit.

I thought it was so flipping obvious as to not require "admitting." But consider it roundly admitted. It's among the tradeoff of risks. It isn't some sort of "gotcha."

Their position is:

1) It is arrogant to assume you will win future titles, but not to assume you will win this year;


No. The position is that both are arrogant. But one was a lot more likely to be achieved by mid-season of 2012.

2) Strasburg is essential in the post-season, but of little consequence for the pennant race;

No. He's of consequence to both. The appropriate approach is to balance his availability in both.

3) You should prioritize winning this year over future years, but you should also prioritize future post-season games (hypothetical post-season games!) over winning the division now.

No. You should balance your deployment of resources as best you can, always.

Either man up and admit you want to blow through the IP limit, or accept that Rizzo's plan was as good or better than any other.

This nonsense utterly fails to address the alternative approaches I have specified in this thread.

I don't assert that Rizzo should be fired over this. In the grand scheme of GM responsibilities, it isn't that huge a deal. But to conclude that "Rizzo's plan was as good or better than any other" is ridiculous. That's why it is so ridiculed.
   127. Bob Tufts Posted: October 14, 2012 at 12:40 PM (#4269420)
In changing Stras' starts, you are plugging in one starter for another. If you change his innings per game to a lower number, you affect the entire bullpen and its usage - overuse and using people in different situations. As we have seen from some of the relievers in the playoffs, they don't do too well when placed in these different situations - the wimps that have to throw an extra 1/3 inning or come in with runners on base or have the misfortune to "close" with a four run lead or come into a tie game.

Once you make a decision to limit innings, the best course to avoid altering all of the moving parts in your pitching staff is to shut him down.

From someone who threw 130 total innings in 1977 and then 190 innings during his first full year of pro ball and injured his arm, then threw 120 innings in relief in 1982 and finished it off.


   128. McCoy Posted: October 14, 2012 at 12:51 PM (#4269426)
Strasburg was shut down on Sept 7th. No matter what they did as long as they were shutting Strasburg down they were affecting the entire bullpen and its usage. Secondly, as you know, rosters expanded in September thus mitigating this problem. Shutting him down for a month at the end of the season and starting him back up for the playoffs would have been a move that had the least amount of risk to the ballclub. Shutting him down completely for the season at the beginning of September carried with it much more risk.
   129. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: October 14, 2012 at 01:27 PM (#4269457)
Personally, I knew all the way back in May that the Nationals had built themselves an excellent team, and I even said so right here. I knew that because they didn't just start playing really well early this season, they started playing really well late last season.
When I first said it I don't think a lot of people quite believed it yet, but almost everyone else realized it within the next month or two after that.


As Michael Jackson said, you were not aloooonnnne.

Jim Bowden, March 28: "The Philadelphia Phillies will not make the playoffs... the Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals are much improved and it looks like the Phillies are heading back toward the pack."

Jayson Stark, April 3: "The whole sport is buzzing about this team."

Drew Storen, March 30: "We're the trendy pick for a lot of people.''
   130. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 14, 2012 at 01:29 PM (#4269459)

I suspect many of the creative alternative plans would not have offered equal protection. But let's assume there were several equally good alternatives. It doesn't matter, because every single one of them, by definition, involves putting the division title at greater risk.

I think the key should have been to preserve flexibility. The Nats won their division by 4 games. They were up by 6.5 when they benched Strasburg. At that point, they knew they had a very high likelihood of winning the division. If they had started Strasburg a little later in the season, they could have had him skip starts later, and maybe stretched him out to 180 IP to balance the potential risks and rewards. The strategy they embarked on at the beginning of the season, however, put them in a bad position to make adjustments (taking for granted that you couldn't shut him down and start him up again).

I don't think Rizzo should be fired for this. It may take several years to know how much the decision helped or hurt, and most GMs make much worse decisions than this on a yearly basis, without the positive accomplishments that Rizzo has under his belt.
   131. Depressoteric feels Royally blue these days Posted: October 14, 2012 at 01:49 PM (#4269471)
I am immensely amused by the confidence with which people here are pronouncing that Mike Rizzo -- after having built this team up from a disastrous shambles into a 1st place powerhouse within a brief span of time -- MUST be fired.
   132. Bob Tufts Posted: October 14, 2012 at 01:57 PM (#4269480)
Shutting him down for a month at the end of the season and starting him back up for the playoffs would have been a move that had the least amount of risk to the ballclub. Shutting him down completely for the season at the beginning of September carried with it much more risk.


They shut him down when the rosters expanded, so the bullpen effects were limited. Any reduction or shutdown during the 25 man roster period would have hurt the pen - and other starter's schedules.

I don't think Rizzo should be fired for this. It may take several years to know how much the decision helped or hurt, and most GMs make much worse decisions than this on a yearly basis, without the positive accomplishments that Rizzo has under his belt.


The asset value of the franchise is up, season tickets will rise...I think per "Network", "I’ll announce projected earnings for this team for the first time in five years. Believe me, Mr. Lerner’s gonna be rocking back and forth in his little chair, and he’s gonna say "That’s very good, Mike. Keep it up."


And...this:
If Storen gets one more strike nobody is arguing about this.


Or at least the intensity level subsides.
   133. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: October 14, 2012 at 02:42 PM (#4269507)
part of me wishes this had happened in 1977 and one of our esteemed historians had written a multi page article on the situation

that would be a lot more fun than this current day bluster

though i think the nats better make hay now in the short term. the brewers supplemented their young talent (yount, molitor) with older guys so the window to win opened and closed pretty quickly
   134. Joe Kehoskie Posted: October 14, 2012 at 02:43 PM (#4269509)
Rizzo deserves to lose his job over this if it was his decision, but something like this had to have ownership's blessing. The Lerner's got a $600M publicly financed stadium four years ago and the first real opportunity to somewhat make good on it they pull this.

Didn't Rizzo claim he told ownership that "If they don't do this, I'll make you fire me"?

***
You guys are crazy. Rizzo is going to win executive of the year.

Not unless he hacks into the voting. The media and other MLB execs have been blasting away at the decision.
   135. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 14, 2012 at 02:46 PM (#4269511)
So nop matter what happens he can't go over 160 IP? 160 equals perfect but 165 is horrible? If you give Strasburg a month off and then a week to two weeks to get back in shape he then can't pitch 20 more innings? Why? What is the evidence that throwing 170 innings in a season a year after TJ is bad but 160 is perfect? What is the evidence that taking a rest for a month when you get fatigued and then coming back and pitching 4 to 5 more games when you are fresher is bad?


There is no evidence. None. None at all.

"Rizzo did it" seems to be the only evidence needed. As SugarBear pointed out, people have this bizarre obsession with thinking that "insiders" know all and should be trusted without question. Even when they know what isn't so.
   136. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: October 14, 2012 at 02:49 PM (#4269514)
I am immensely amused by the confidence with which people here are pronouncing that Mike Rizzo -- after having built this team up from a disastrous shambles into a 1st place powerhouse within a brief span of time -- MUST be fired.

I haven't delved through the entire thread, but how many people other than Ray are actually saying anything as inane as this?
   137. zachtoma Posted: October 14, 2012 at 03:04 PM (#4269522)
I haven't delved through the entire thread, but how many people other than Ray are actually saying anything as inane as this?


Me. Though I admit I'd have a hard time doing it if I was actually in a position to because of the other successes he's had, I also don't see how you can let the clusterf### that was the organization's handling of Strasburg this year pass without some real consequences.
   138. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: October 14, 2012 at 03:25 PM (#4269534)
The media and other MLB execs have been blasting away at the decision.


Serious question: who actually votes for executive of the year?
   139. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: October 14, 2012 at 03:33 PM (#4269541)
I think this post by McCoy gets at the key point in the Guy-Treder dispute:
The Treder plan is basically based on flexibility and that is what most of us have been saying Rizzo needed to be. I'm not Treder but I seriously doubt his reply is going to be "tough" if a situation occurs where the Nationals are in jeopardy of losing the division and Strasburg is on the bench.
I think that trying to limit Strasburg's innings is sensible. I would have started him a bit late and skipped a few more of his starts, and maintained twin goals of (a) keeping Strasburg fresh to pitch his best down the stretch and in the playoffs and (b) limiting the stress of his arm. This is what every organization in baseball would do. It's an art, it requires weighing risks and working with the players and the doctors and the trainers.

It would be possible, under this scenario, that Strasburg might end up <gasp> breaking his innings cap by 20 or 30 innings. He probably wouldn't - as the season played out, you probably could have kept him to 140 and been fine. If he ended up having to throw 160 innings in the regular season and 30 innings in the postseason, it would be because the Nationals first had a pennant race go down to the wire and then made a deep run into the playoffs. That's obviously worth the risk of those 30 extra innings.
   140. Tim D Posted: October 14, 2012 at 03:35 PM (#4269546)
At the ASB the Nats were 49-34, 4 games ahead, best record in the league. They had reasonable expectations of at the very least meaningful baseball in September, if not October as well. SS had thrown 99 IP. They knew they were going to limit him. I cannot fathom one good reason nor have I seen one advanced here why a major league front office would not adopt a flexible approach at that point or at some point very shortly thereafter. As I indicated in post #1 I kept waiting for it, and was amazed to never hear it. I don't know that the Nats ever publicly acknowledged a magic number of 160 so I don't know that any of us should assume we are stuck with it. But even if we are, 60 IP is near a season's worth for a closer. Strasburg could have been re-distributed in a variety of ways, all of which would have kept him pitching into the critical last weeks of September. And contributing something, if not as much as a starter, to the pennant race. Add then the bonus that when they did make the playoffs you now have a choice, use him some more or shut him down. Shutting him down on September 7 it was a bit late to crank him up again in October. The choice had already been made. Had he pitched until the end of the season they could have re-evaluated. I don't think Rizzo should be canned but I would be concerned, were I a Nats fan, at the stubbornness, the lack of creativity, and the hubris of the apparent "we'll make it again" assumption. GMs trade off the present for the future all the time, but not when they are in first place. This was a very poorly managed decision. Rizzo and company chose the most rigid approach that will leave them the least vulnerable to criticism in the event of a future injury. But they gave up much more. I like their team and I hope they win. But if they don't it will be Rizzo's legacy, even if Strasburg wins 300 games.
   141. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 14, 2012 at 03:35 PM (#4269547)
I haven't delved through the entire thread, but how many people other than Ray are actually saying anything as inane as this?


I've said that he deserves to be fired - not "must be." I was happy with overruling him as well.

But leave it to you to ask what the public polling is on an issue, as if that in itself is validation of your position.
   142. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 14, 2012 at 03:38 PM (#4269549)
I think that trying to limit Strasburg's innings is sensible. I would have started him a bit late and skipped a few more of his starts, and maintained twin goals of (a) keeping Strasburg fresh to pitch his best down the stretch and in the playoffs and (b) limiting the stress of his arm. This is what every organization in baseball would do. It's an art, it requires weighing risks and working with the players and the doctors and the trainers.

It would be possible, under this scenario, that Strasburg might end up <gasp> breaking his innings cap by 20 or 30 innings. He probably wouldn't - as the season played out, you probably could have kept him to 140 and been fine. If he ended up having to throw 160 innings in the regular season and 30 innings in the postseason, it would be because the Nationals first had a pennant race go down to the wire and then made a deep run into the playoffs. That's obviously worth the risk of those 30 extra innings.


I will co-sign this, as it is utterly reasonable.
   143. JL Posted: October 14, 2012 at 03:56 PM (#4269567)
So nop matter what happens he can't go over 160 IP? 160 equals perfect but 165 is horrible? If you give Strasburg a month off and then a week to two weeks to get back in shape he then can't pitch 20 more innings? Why? What is the evidence that throwing 170 innings in a season a year after TJ is bad but 160 is perfect? What is the evidence that taking a rest for a month when you get fatigued and then coming back and pitching 4 to 5 more games when you are fresher is bad?


Where is the evidence that Rizzo ever said this? Everything I have seen actually reported (as opposed to the opinions here) is that Rizzo had a goal in the 160-180 area , with the decision to sit him depending on how he was pitching and the like. As it was, based on his last few starts they decided to shut him down at 160. I have never seen that reported as an absolute limit.
   144. GuyM Posted: October 14, 2012 at 04:03 PM (#4269570)
I think that trying to limit Strasburg's innings is sensible. I would have started him a bit late and skipped a few more of his starts, and maintained twin goals of (a) keeping Strasburg fresh to pitch his best down the stretch and in the playoffs and (b) limiting the stress of his arm. This is what every organization in baseball would do. It's an art, it requires weighing risks and working with the players and the doctors and the trainers. It would be possible, under this scenario, that Strasburg might end up <gasp> breaking his innings cap by 20 or 30 innings.

If you're working with a limit of 190 IP, rather than 160, I agree you have a lot more flexibility. Whether you can make this work depends on how much extra work/stress is required to get SS active again after a multi-week shutdown, or by having him pitch in the pen and then move back to the rotation. I suspect no one involved in this discussion has the requisite knowledge to really evaluate that (including me). You would have basically had to shut him down by mid-August I think, and then spent the 2nd half of Sept. getting him ready for the post-season. Would that have seemed reasonable in mid-August? Maybe. And as it happens, that would probably have worked out OK. But in a tighter pennant race I think you have to re-activate him sooner, and probably at the cost of losing him in the post-season (which is still no worse than what happened).

But all of that is contingent on letting him pitch (potentially) an additional 30 IP. There's no way this works within the 160 IP limit, which was my point.
   145. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 14, 2012 at 04:07 PM (#4269577)

Where is the evidence that Rizzo ever said this? Everything I have seen actually reported (as opposed to the opinions here) is that Rizzo had a goal in the 160-180 area , with the decision to sit him depending on how he was pitching and the like. As it was, based on his last few starts they decided to shut him down at 160. I have never seen that reported as an absolute limit.


As best I can tell, this is fiction. I went back and looked at this last week. I only went back to July, but in July the news reports all referred to the Nationals "plan" to sit Strasburg at 160 IP. They even referred to a quote from Johnson where Johnson specifically said there was a 160-IP limit. By August Rizzo was claiming that there was no set IP limit, but the news reports had been saying otherwise. Zimmermann was sat down at 160. And Strasburg was magically shut down at 160.

The idea that there was no set 160-IP limit seems to be revisionist history, and it's of a bizarre sort because WTF difference does it make? The fact is that Rizzo did not adapt.
   146. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: October 14, 2012 at 04:07 PM (#4269580)
You would have basically had to shut him down by mid-August I think, and then spent the 2nd half of Sept. getting him ready for the post-season.
Not if you start him in May and skip his turn a couple times during the summer. That gets you basically through September.

And it's not a "190 IP limit". IP limits are dumb. I would not be trying to get Strasburg 190 IP in the regular season. I would be trying to keep Strasburg's workload from getting too heavy, keep his arm from being overstressed, and I was using IP as a proxy for that. It's possible that Strasburg, under my plan, would have started reporting pain in September, and I would have had to shut him down. The point is flexibility, balancing long- and short-term goals.
   147. Steve Treder Posted: October 14, 2012 at 04:21 PM (#4269597)
I cannot fathom one good reason nor have I seen one advanced here why a major league front office would not adopt a flexible approach at that point or at some point very shortly thereafter.

That's because there is none.
   148. GuyM Posted: October 14, 2012 at 04:39 PM (#4269643)
146: I see no conceivable advantage in skipping April. You want to have as much info as possible when deciding how/if to limit him. What do you gain with a May start?

It sounds to me like you have a 160 IP limit for regular season. Is that not true? Would you let SS go more?
   149. Steve Treder Posted: October 14, 2012 at 04:42 PM (#4269658)
What do you gain with a May start?

The answer to this question has been presented multiple times.
   150. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: October 14, 2012 at 04:46 PM (#4269666)
I see no conceivable advantage in skipping April. You want to have as much info as possible when deciding how/if to limit him. What do you gain with a May start?
I'm buying the argument that shutting down and then re-starting was recommended against by the doctors. Rizzo's been pretty clear that the doctors and trainers thought that caused added stress, and it's not unreasonable to me - the Yankees start-stop plan with Joba seemed dumb at the time and looks bad in retrospect. If you start Strasburg at the beginning of the season, you're looking at a nearly full season of pitching if you have him going to the playoffs. I want something less than a full season of pitching, so I take April off so that you don't have any start-stop-restart effects.
   151. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 14, 2012 at 04:58 PM (#4269684)
MCOA, the problem with the Joba plan was not start-stop but was the shunting from starting to relieving to starting to relieving to starting every 9 days with 40-pitch limits, etc.
   152. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 14, 2012 at 05:21 PM (#4269719)

146: I see no conceivable advantage in skipping April. You want to have as much info as possible when deciding how/if to limit him. What do you gain with a May start?

Two things:

1) An extra month of information when you are deciding what to do with him. If you know he's going to miss at least a month of the regular season, having an extra month of information about how you and your competitors are doing gives you the ability to use him less during the end of the regular season if you don't need him (and consequently, use him during the postseason).

2) When you're making this decision, you're closer to the post-season, so you don't need to worry about the consequences of shutting him down for a month and then starting him up again.
   153. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: October 14, 2012 at 05:27 PM (#4269740)
I'm buying the argument that shutting down and then re-starting was recommended against by the doctors. Rizzo's been pretty clear that the doctors and trainers thought that caused added stress, and it's not unreasonable to me - the Yankees start-stop plan with Joba seemed dumb at the time and looks bad in retrospect. If you start Strasburg at the beginning of the season, you're looking at a nearly full season of pitching if you have him going to the playoffs. I want something less than a full season of pitching, so I take April off so that you don't have any start-stop-restart effects.

And then what happens if the Nats miss the playoffs by a game because they went 8-14 in April and couldn't make it up once Strasburg's season began? I'm sure that our current Rizzo critics would've just STFU and told everyone how brilliant a move that was.
   154. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 14, 2012 at 05:34 PM (#4269760)
I'm buying the argument that shutting down and then re-starting was recommended against by the doctors. Rizzo's been pretty clear that the doctors and trainers thought that caused added stress, and it's not unreasonable to me


It's unreasonable to me. Since when have we ever heard that it is a problem for any pitcher, of any age, now healthy after any injury, to miss 1-2 months because he sprained an ankle or broke a finger or broke a toe? Since when have people said, "Oh no, don't bring him back after he heals, this might hurt his arm"? It would be just the same thing here - Strasburg would just take 1-2 months off - minus the broken toe.

Now all of a sudden doing that would be a huge problem. On what basis? None. Rizzo and his fans have pulled it out of their rears.
   155. Steve Treder Posted: October 14, 2012 at 05:34 PM (#4269761)
I'm sure that our current Rizzo critics would've just STFU and told everyone how brilliant a move that was.

Wrong. More likely we would acknowledge that there is risk inherent in every choice, and sometimes life's a #####, but given the information he had at the time, Rizzo's choice was entirely sensible and defensible. Sometimes good choices turn out poorly, just as sometimes bad choices turn out well. Not all analysis is results-based analysis.
   156. Mayor Blomberg Posted: October 14, 2012 at 05:37 PM (#4269767)
Always enjoy the folks telling us the truth about pitchers ignoring the former pitcher in the discussion.
   157. OsunaSakata Posted: October 14, 2012 at 05:39 PM (#4269776)
Washington, D.C. is, by nature, a risk-averse city. Rizzo made the risk-averse decision. Washington sports fans are generally okay with that, given that most of the bold, risk-taking sports moves have been disasters - Jaromir Jagr, Michael Jordan and Kwame Brown, the entire Jim Bowden tenure, the entire Dan Snyder tenure.

Now risk-averse is not the same as conventional wisdom, which by the response of the national press and former players, was vehemently opposed to shutting down Strasburg. The Lerner family, the owners, probably view Strasburg as very valuable piece of capital equipment that has just been repaired. They're not going to overuse it because it's not easily replaceable. And the possible prize of a championship in 2012 was not worth the risk.

You can argue that an owner playing in a publicly financed stadium and not trying to win a championship is a crime on par with the Black Sox throwing the World Series. But owners are allowed to not to try to win. Marvin Miller called collusion on par with the Black Sox. Owners, regardless of how much personal wealth or revenue they get from their other businesses are allowed to claim poverty and not put a winning team on the field.

They probably misjudged the PR firestorm, figuring that saying they did the same thing with Jordan Zimmermann would be a sufficient response. As far as the perception of arrogance, when the same question is asked every day with pretty much the same answer, it will sound stubborn. When alternatives are offered which have already been considered and rejected, that's essentially saying,"Yeah, we thought about it, but we think our way is better," and that will sound arrogant. But that's why you choose any alternative - because you think that way is better, not saying that the other alternatives don't have merit. But you have to make some choice, and you sound arrogant by judging it better than the alternatives.
   158. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 14, 2012 at 05:40 PM (#4269779)
Always enjoy the folks telling us the truth about pitchers ignoring the former pitcher in the discussion.


With all due respect to Bob -- and I have a great deal of respect for him, and love that he posts here -- I'm not sure what he could know about the issue of 160-IP vs. Sunday Starter vs. take July/August off, etc. The datapoints don't exist. That has been one of my main arguments.

I don't see how Bob could tell us that 160-IP is good, but 190-IP is not.
   159. Steve Treder Posted: October 14, 2012 at 05:47 PM (#4269798)
With all due respect to Bob -- and I have a great deal of respect for him, and love that he posts here -- I'm not sure what he could know about the issue of 160-IP vs. Sunday Starter vs. take July/August off, etc. The datapoints don't exist. That has been one of my main arguments.

I don't see how Bob could tell us that 160-IP is good, but 190-IP is not.


Indeed.
   160. Monty Predicts a Padres-Mariners WS in 2016 Posted: October 14, 2012 at 06:05 PM (#4269845)
If the Yankees lose in this round, does that mean that the decision to bench Alex Rodriguez was as dumb as the decision to bench Stephen Strasburg?
   161. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: October 14, 2012 at 06:08 PM (#4269852)
No.
   162. Steve Treder Posted: October 14, 2012 at 06:09 PM (#4269854)
If the Yankees lose in this round, does that mean that the decision to bench Alex Rodriguez was as dumb as the decision to bench Stephen Strasburg?

Given that the two situations are different in every important respect, no.
   163. zachtoma Posted: October 14, 2012 at 07:59 PM (#4270088)


It's unreasonable to me. Since when have we ever heard that it is a problem for any pitcher, of any age, now healthy after any injury, to miss 1-2 months because he sprained an ankle or broke a finger or broke a toe? Since when have people said, "Oh no, don't bring him back after he heals, this might hurt his arm"? It would be just the same thing here - Strasburg would just take 1-2 months off - minus the broken toe.

Now all of a sudden doing that would be a huge problem. On what basis? None. Rizzo and his fans have pulled it out of their rears.


Yes this was the lowest point of the entire farce. It's when the front office decided to just start actively insulting the intelligence of their fans.
   164. Bob Tufts Posted: October 14, 2012 at 08:04 PM (#4270093)
I don't see how Bob could tell us that 160-IP is good, but 190-IP is not.


I never made a comment regarding limits on innings pitched as the sole determinant of stress on a surgically repaired arm.

However, the Nats followed a similar program with Zimmerman last year post-surgery and he was fine in 2012. It may not be scientific enough for the residents of this site, but..... I guess because Jordan is not the next new thing the program that the team used to resurrect his career is not valid.






   165. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: October 14, 2012 at 08:22 PM (#4270118)
Rizzo's been pretty clear that the doctors and trainers thought that caused added stress, and it's not unreasonable to me - the Yankees start-stop plan with Joba seemed dumb at the time and looks bad in retrospect. If you start Strasburg at the beginning of the season, you're looking at a nearly full season of pitching if you have him going to the playoffs. I want something less than a full season of pitching, so I take April off so that you don't have any start-stop-restart effects.


And then what happens if the Nats miss the playoffs by a game because they went 8-14 in April and couldn't make it up once Strasburg's season began? I'm sure that our current Rizzo critics would've just STFU and told everyone how brilliant a move that was.

I'm sure that our current Rizzo critics would've just STFU and told everyone how brilliant a move that was.


Wrong. More likely we would acknowledge that there is risk inherent in every choice, and sometimes life's a #####, but given the information he had at the time, Rizzo's choice was entirely sensible and defensible. Sometimes good choices turn out poorly, just as sometimes bad choices turn out well. Not all analysis is results-based analysis.


With all due respect, Steve, I doubt if that sort of reaction would have been the norm here. More likely we would've been bombarded with cries of "Doesn't Rizzo know that April games count just as much as September games?" And given that that's one of the 10 Commandments of Sabermetrics, I find it hard to believe that it wouldn't have been invoked, and with every bit as much certainty as the current "Flags fly forever" mantra has been shouted from the time the shutdown was announced.

The truth is that there were two questions here: The pitch limit itself, and the timing of the shutdown.

On the first issue, Rizzo went with what he thought was his best medical advice, based on Strasburg's age and his recent TJS. You can agree or disagree with the idea that he needed a pitch limit, but then you're not the one who's going to be responsible in the case of a breakdown. When it comes to a property as valuable as Strasburg, caution is hardly the Crime Against Baseball that some people here are making it out to be.

And if you agree with the innings limit, then those innings have got to come from somewhere, and unless you want to experiment with a midseason shutdown, you're either going to have to cut innings from the start of the season or at the end. If you cut them at the start of the season, then two possible starting points are possible: Either you assume a playoff run and start him even later, which means you're without your "best pitcher" for a long stretch at the beginning of the season---when "the games count just as much as they do in September"; or you start him earlier to avoid that, and then risk having him exceed his limit by the end of the season. The point is that there's no free lunch, and there's no way around that, except by ignoring the innings limit altogether or by chopping his season into segments, which IMO would be insane----not to mention that the same argument about "sitting down your best pitcher" would apply just as much in July as it would in April or September.
   166. Tom Nawrocki Posted: October 14, 2012 at 08:30 PM (#4270136)
However, the Nats followed a similar program with Zimmerman last year post-surgery and he was fine in 2012. It may not be scientific enough for the residents of this site, but..... I guess because Jordan is not the next new thing the program that the team used to resurrect his career is not valid.


I have no doubt that the Zimmermann program was valid. But that's not the same thing as saying the Zimmermann plan is the only possible way to deal with a pitcher coming off TJ surgery, especially once the needs of the organization have changed.

They shut down Zimmermann at a time when the team was 62-70 and had no hope of the postseason. There was literally no cost to that decision.
   167. Bob Tufts Posted: October 14, 2012 at 08:46 PM (#4270168)
I have no doubt that the Zimmermann program was valid. But that's not the same thing as saying the Zimmermann plan is the only possible way to deal with a pitcher coming off TJ surgery, especially once the needs of the organization have changed. They shut down Zimmermann at a time when the team was 62-70 and had no hope of the postseason. There was literally no cost to that decision.


As an economic entity, what does a major league baseball team want? To win a World Series? Yes, fans would want every team to go for it all every year, but the economic model that pays off is to be competitive for a playoff spot on a yearly basis. Rolling the dice and hoping for a championship (see Marlins, Florida and D'Backs, Arizona) isn't always the soundest business choice, as the payout for spending the extra dollars does not materialize - especially considering the three or four rounds of playoffs invloved. The decision by the Nats to follow inning limits is part of a longer term plan for the franchise in which Zimmermann and Strasburg as core members of their organization.

In other words, they're making money this year and in 2013 and that's fine by them!


   168. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: October 14, 2012 at 08:57 PM (#4270200)
They shut down Zimmermann at a time when the team was 62-70 and had no hope of the postseason. There was literally no cost to that decision.

Zimmerman was shut down on July 18, 2009 and started back up 13 months later. Strasburg was shelved on August 21, 2010 and returned 13 months later. The Nats' record at the time of Zimmerman's shutdown was 26-64, and at the time of Strasburg's shutdown was 53-70. The only difference between them was in the team's circumstances during their first full year of their return, and other than that there was no more or no less "cost" to either decision to shut down. In both cases it was clearly a medical decision.
   169. Tom Nawrocki Posted: October 14, 2012 at 09:02 PM (#4270212)
Zimmerman was shut down on July 18, 2009 and started back up 13 months later.


Zimmermann underwent TJ surgery in August of 2009, and 2011 was his first full season back, making that season analogous to Strasburg's 2012 season. In the 2011 season, Zimmermann was shut down at the end of August, when the team's record was 62-70. That was the shutdown I was referring to.
   170. Bob Tufts Posted: October 14, 2012 at 09:20 PM (#4270252)
How did deciding to bring someone back after Tommy John surgery to pitch in a pennant race work out for the career of Edinson Volquez?

   171. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: October 14, 2012 at 09:22 PM (#4270254)
Zimmermann underwent TJ surgery in August of 2009, and 2011 was his first full season back, making that season analogous to Strasburg's 2012 season. In the 2011 season, Zimmermann was shut down at the end of August, when the team's record was 62-70. That was the shutdown I was referring to.

Got it, Tom, but that still doesn't address the issue that unless you're opposed to both the shutdown and the innings limit, you're always going to be taking away (hypothetical) wins from one part of the season when you "give" them to another. And again, as the old sabermetric cliche goes, "A win in April counts just as much as a win in July or September."
   172. OsunaSakata Posted: October 14, 2012 at 09:27 PM (#4270275)
If Strasburg had suffered a non-arm injury, he would likely have gone through minor league rehab which would eaten into the 160 innings, instead now some of those innings are spent in the minors rather than the majors. Now shut down an uninjured Strasburg for 1-2 months. He'll have to go through a second spring training which will, again, cut into the 160 innings. Wouldn't it better to use those 160 innings in major league games rather than getting the arm strengthened up again? Not that deliberate mid-season shut down might not have been better solution, but is there any record of any pitcher being deliberately shut down mid-season, then brought back?

Let's say, instead that Strasburg got stretched out with more days of rest so that some of the 160 innings fell in the post-season? Would he able to pitch on regular 4-5 days rest or would he still be stretched out in the post-season? The firestorm would inevitably be worse if he couldn't pitch on standard rest. What if the post-season ended before the 160 innings? Would Strasburg then be limited to 170 or 180 innings in 2013?

Put this in front of a CEO. Forget "Flags Fly Forever" and consider only profit. Put a bunch of possible solutions in front of them. Then they say,"Didn't we have this problem last year? How did that turn out?" Great! Ninety-nine times out of a hundred the CEO says,"If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Do the same thing."
   173. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: October 14, 2012 at 09:33 PM (#4270304)
Put this in front of a CEO. Forget "Flags Fly Forever" and consider only profit. Put a bunch of possible solutions in front of them. Then they say,"Didn't we have this problem last year? How did that turn out?" Great! Ninety-nine times out of a hundred the CEO says,"If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Do the same thing."

Which according to some folks here practically amounts to a Crime Against Baseball.
   174. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 14, 2012 at 09:35 PM (#4270310)
They shut down Zimmermann at a time when the team was 62-70 and had no hope of the postseason. There was literally no cost to that decision.


Exactly. Again, nobody would have had a problem with shutting down SS if the Nats were 62-70 this year and out of it.
   175. zachtoma Posted: October 14, 2012 at 09:41 PM (#4270326)
Lol @ 'what would a CEO do?' Why oh why didn't we think to consult these wise, noble saints of American secular life?
   176. Bob Tufts Posted: October 14, 2012 at 09:47 PM (#4270342)
Let's ask a doctor.

"The fans need to understand that there's a real risk in pushing this," said Dr. James Andrews. "[Strasburg] is exactly right with what he's doing."

Andrews has performed thousands of Tommy John surgeries in his career, many on major league pitchers. Though he could not discuss the specifics of Strasburg's case because he is not Strasburg's doctor, Andrews emphasized that the second year of a pitcher's recovery from Tommy John surgery - the first year the pitcher returns to game action - is the most important period for the long-term health of the elbow.

"The re-injury rate is highest in the second year," Andrews said. "So standard procedure is to watch the fatigue factor the first year back [pitching]."


Despite all the recent advances in sports medicine, there is no quantifiable innings benchmark for a pitcher in his first year back from Tommy John, Andrews said. But if a pitcher does re-injure the reconstructed ligament, the statistics are grim. Andrews' Tommy John patients have an 85 to 90 percent recovery rate from the surgery, but for those unlucky few that have to redo the procedure, the success rate drops to 25 to 35 percent.

"A redo is a career-threatening operation," Andrews said. "You're dealing with the existing scar issue, and you have to re-drill holes into already weakened bones. The scar tissue bleeds more, so the infection rate is higher. You don't wish that on anybody."



Or another - Dr. Lewis Yocum, the person who did the surgery:

“I would like to correct the misimpression generated from today’s L.A. Times article, that I have not been a participant in discussions with the Washington Nationals regarding the recovery strategy for pitcher Stephen Strasburg. In fact, I have been contacted repeatedly and have had numerous discussions with the Nationals GM Mike Rizzo and the team’s medical personnel, as recently as mid-August. While the final decision was up to the team, as is standard practice, I was supportive of their decision and am comfortable that my medical advice was responsibly considered.”
   177. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 14, 2012 at 09:49 PM (#4270346)

Zimmerman was shut down on July 18, 2009 and started back up 13 months later. Strasburg was shelved on August 21, 2010 and returned 13 months later. The Nats' record at the time of Zimmerman's shutdown was 26-64, and at the time of Strasburg's shutdown was 53-70. The only difference between them was in the team's circumstances during their first full year of their return, and other than that there was no more or no less "cost" to either decision to shut down. In both cases it was clearly a medical decision.


Wait a minute, Andy - have you been mocking the people criticizing Rizzo without understanding what the relevant comparison is? See Tom's 169.

Shutting a pitcher down after he blows out his elbow is not the "shutdown" being referred to. Nor is that a "medical decision," any more than it was a "medical decision" to end Jeter's season after he fractured his ankle.
   178. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: October 14, 2012 at 10:04 PM (#4270390)
As an economic entity, what does a major league baseball team want? To win a World Series? Yes, fans would want every team to go for it all every year, but the economic model that pays off is to be competitive for a playoff spot on a yearly basis

It's quite frankly also the best way to increase your chances of winning a WS. Playoffs are crapshooty crapshoots. For the vast majority of playoff teams the odds of winning will be 12.5% +/- 2 or 3 (half that now for WC teams). No matter how great a player you are, being available for the playoffs is not going to move the needle by more than a fraction of a percent.

Making the playoffs otoh, increases your odds by a full 12.5% (blah new WC), and a healthy 5-win player goes a long way towards that, especially for a team expected to be in the hunt. The bottom line is, that the odds of success for keeping Strasburg healthy do not have to be very high, in order to make this a +EV move.
   179. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: October 14, 2012 at 10:20 PM (#4270443)
Wait a minute, Andy - have you been mocking the people criticizing Rizzo without understanding what the relevant comparison is? See Tom's 169.

I both acknowledged and responded to that point just two posts below that.
   180. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 14, 2012 at 10:32 PM (#4270472)
And then what happens if the Nats miss the playoffs by a game because they went 8-14 in April and couldn't make it up once Strasburg's season began? I'm sure that our current Rizzo critics would've just STFU and told everyone how brilliant a move that was.

Not if we are taking it for granted that we were only going to get 160 IP out of Strasburg anyway.

There are basically two schools of thought amongs the Rizzo critics:

1. The whole premise of limiting Strasburg's workload was stupid to begin with.
2. If the Nats had to limit his workload, they went about it in the worst way possible.

People in the first camp would be criticizing Rizzo no matter what if Strasburg didn't pitch a full season. People in the second camp, however, are taking it for granted that Strasburg was going to miss part of the season. If the alternatives were "miss playoffs by one game with Strasburg pitching May-Sept" and "miss playoffs by one game with Strasburg pitching April-August", I think we would have been ok with the former. You still got everything out of Strasburg that you could, theoretically. And if you were comfortably ahead in September, you could have skipped him for a start or two and maintained the ability to use him in the postseason without a 1-month layoff.
   181. CrosbyBird Posted: October 14, 2012 at 11:32 PM (#4270615)
There are basically two schools of thought amongs the Rizzo critics:

1. The whole premise of limiting Strasburg's workload was stupid to begin with.
2. If the Nats had to limit his workload, they went about it in the worst way possible.


I don't think anyone here is really arguing the first point. It would be pretty indefensible.

It seems like there are three legitimate criticisms here:

1) There is the appearance of inflexibility on the part of the Nationals. It certainly looks like there was a plan to stop as close to 160 as possible, and that this plan was committed to prior to the season. A team's first postseason since 1981 (or first ever, depending on how you count things) seems like something that might justify a slightly less conservative approach than a typical season might.

2) 160 innings is false precision, and a sample size of "looks like it worked for a different guy with the same injury a year before" isn't strong enough to indicate that it's the right number. (If innings even have a "right number," considering that all innings aren't created equal nor is it reasonable to assume that things just even out over within a pitcher-season.

3) Even with innings, there were other options for distributing those 160 innings. The Nationals could have occasionally skipped starts and/or pulled Strasburg a little earlier in individual games. They could have started his season a month later. They could have used him in the bullpen a little to reduce his innings.
   182. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 14, 2012 at 11:51 PM (#4270648)
2) 160 innings is false precision,


This is one of my biggest problems, among many.

And, as you say, all innings are not created equal - as long as we're engaging in this.
   183. Steve Treder Posted: October 15, 2012 at 12:21 AM (#4270661)
It seems like there are three legitimate criticisms here:

1) There is the appearance of inflexibility on the part of the Nationals. It certainly looks like there was a plan to stop as close to 160 as possible, and that this plan was committed to prior to the season. A team's first postseason since 1981 (or first ever, depending on how you count things) seems like something that might justify a slightly less conservative approach than a typical season might.

2) 160 innings is false precision, and a sample size of "looks like it worked for a different guy with the same injury a year before" isn't strong enough to indicate that it's the right number. (If innings even have a "right number," considering that all innings aren't created equal nor is it reasonable to assume that things just even out over within a pitcher-season.

3) Even with innings, there were other options for distributing those 160 innings. The Nationals could have occasionally skipped starts and/or pulled Strasburg a little earlier in individual games. They could have started his season a month later. They could have used him in the bullpen a little to reduce his innings.


All this.
   184. Steve Treder Posted: October 15, 2012 at 12:27 AM (#4270664)
With all due respect, Steve, I doubt if that sort of reaction would have been the norm here. More likely we would've been bombarded with cries of "Doesn't Rizzo know that April games count just as much as September games?"

Well, really, Andy, who gives an F what your prediction of what the reaction around here would be, and for that matter, what the actual reaction around here would be? The more interesting question is what the best choice for Rizzo was. The argument that Rizzo made the best possible choice is overwhelmingly drowned by superior counterarguments.
   185. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: October 15, 2012 at 07:52 AM (#4270730)
And then what happens if the Nats miss the playoffs by a game because they went 8-14 in April and couldn't make it up once Strasburg's season began? I'm sure that our current Rizzo critics would've just STFU and told everyone how brilliant a move that was.

I'm sure that our current Rizzo critics would've just STFU and told everyone how brilliant a move that was.


Wrong. More likely we would acknowledge that there is risk inherent in every choice, and sometimes life's a #####, but given the information he had at the time, Rizzo's choice was entirely sensible and defensible. Sometimes good choices turn out poorly, just as sometimes bad choices turn out well. Not all analysis is results-based analysis.

With all due respect, Steve, I doubt if that sort of reaction would have been the norm here. More likely we would've been bombarded with cries of "Doesn't Rizzo know that April games count just as much as September games?"

Well, really, Andy, who gives an F what your prediction of what the reaction around here would be, and for that matter, what the actual reaction around here would be?


Fine, but then why didn't you say that the first time, instead of making a prediction of your own?

The more interesting question is what the best choice for Rizzo was. The argument that Rizzo made the best possible choice is overwhelmingly drowned by superior counterarguments.

When all else fails, proclaim yourself the winner. Works for Ray, why not you?

Seriously, I'm absolutely amazed that the whole lot of you haven't been snapped up by one team after another----hell, they could make you the GM, the manager, and the team doctor all at the same time, and save themselves the unnecessary expense of having to pay three separate salaries. I haven't seen so much strategic erudition on display since the time that a TV monitor once caught Rob Dibble talking to himself.
   186. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 15, 2012 at 08:26 AM (#4270742)
Seriously, I'm absolutely amazed that the whole lot of you haven't been snapped up by one team after another


This argument used to sound witty before one team after another started snapping statheads up.
   187. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: October 15, 2012 at 08:42 AM (#4270746)
Seriously, I'm absolutely amazed that the whole lot of you haven't been snapped up by one team after another----hell, they could make you the GM, the manager, and the team doctor all at the same time, and save themselves the unnecessary expense of having to pay three separate salaries. I haven't seen so much strategic erudition on display since the time that a TV monitor once caught Rob Dibble talking to himself.
Of course, professional baseball people have been criticizing Rizzo harshly and along very similar lines to things that Ray, Steve, and I have said. Even if the appeal to authority had some general validity, in this case there's no divide between baseball professionals and internet talky folks.
   188. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: October 15, 2012 at 08:50 AM (#4270755)
management is paid to make decisions. some of them are based on a huge collection of 'known' facts. some decisions are based on intuition. some are a combination. the crux is that management make decisions and accept the consequences.

here's a story about decision-making that was regarded as 'crazy'

so a bearing company was acquired by another bearing company and the new owners asked the leadership how they priced bearings.

'well, we use the gold standard. when we develop a new bearing we weigh it, find out the price of gold and then price the bearing on that price'

the new ownership thought that was nuts so they demanded the acquired company determine the 'true cost' of a bearing. so the acquired company folks nodded and working with members of the new team they spent about 3-4 months breaking everything down and adding everything up to determine this true cost. when they were done they presented to the new new ownership their results.

in an effort to demonstrate why this answer was superior someone in the new leadership team asked a lackey to go find out the cost of gold that day. that number was provided so he took the price and multiplied it by the weight of several new bearings. in each instance the 'gold standard' price was almost equivalent to the 'true cost' price.

why am i sharing this story which is 100 percent true by the way?

because you can get to the 'right' answer a 1000 different ways. nobody's method is guaranteed to be better.

rizzo is wrong if the only acceptable output of his decision was for the nationals to win a world series in 2012. but then he was not just wrong about strasburg but umpteen different things.

   189. GuyM Posted: October 15, 2012 at 09:07 AM (#4270762)
The argument that Rizzo made the best possible choice is overwhelmingly drowned by superior counterarguments.

Wow, that's amazing. Not a single plan has been advanced that's better than Rizzo's (unless one favors the Ray Plan of letting Strasburg pitch until there are no more games scheduled, which I think is a reasonable position to take), and yet you continue to pretend there are multiple better choices.

Starting SS in May, BTW, makes zero sense. If your position is that "we'd like SS to throw 160 IP, but we'll go to 190 if it really matters" (replace 160/190 with your own choice), then the last thing you want to do is hold him out in April. In that case, you are deciding in March that it's more important to have Strasburg available for the playoffs than to actually, you know, make the playoffs. If the Nats fell short of winning the division by a couple of games using that plan, I would support firing Rizzo. (While, of course, you'd be defending his courage. LOL.) Does anyone really want to claim that the Nats "knew" in March that they would win at least 95 games?

   190. BDC Posted: October 15, 2012 at 09:23 AM (#4270768)
Starting SS in May, BTW, makes zero sense. If your position is that "we'd like SS to throw 160 IP, but we'll go to 190 if it really matters" (replace 160/190 with your own choice), then the last thing you want to do is hold him out in April

But isn't it fairly common (at least well-heard-of) to take a recently-injured player and keep him in extended spring training till sometime in May?

Whatever a team's chances at a pennant, and fully granting that wins in April equal wins in September, it's nevertheless obvious that wins in the postseason are more vital than those in the regular season. So why not ease Strasburg along and get him into the rotation by mid-May? If you don't make the playoffs, so much the better; he has a light workload his first season back. If you do make the playoffs, he gets to pitch a bit then. In either case, he's pitched five or four-1/2 months of the regular season to give what help he can there. And if there's actual injury on the horizon at any point, shut him down immediately; take no chances.

My comment is predicated on the idea that the team has "always already" made a disconnect between 2012 success and Strasburg. They're not going to press him to the limit to win anything; they're going to treat the season as an experiment in light usage. So why not use him "experimentally" in a way that deploys him best?
   191. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: October 15, 2012 at 09:36 AM (#4270775)
Beverage of choice if it's been mentioned, but Strasburg should have been the back-up, if not primary, closer in Game 5.

Just a terrible, utterly hubristic job by the Nats at all levels.

EDIT: By which is meant: Strasburg's season and usage should have been managed so as to be available to be used as the back-up, if not primary, closer in Game 5.
   192. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: October 15, 2012 at 09:36 AM (#4270776)
Seriously, I'm absolutely amazed that the whole lot of you haven't been snapped up by one team after another

This argument used to sound witty before one team after another started snapping statheads up.


But that still doesn't explain why they haven't hired any of you BTF geniuses,, especially given the bonus of your medical expertise.

--------------------------------------------------

why am i sharing this story which is 100 percent true by the way?

because you can get to the 'right' answer a 1000 different ways. nobody's method is guaranteed to be better.

rizzo is wrong if the only acceptable output of his decision was for the nationals to win a world series in 2012. but then he was not just wrong about strasburg but umpteen different things.


The irony is that two of the more prominent BTF exponents of "the regular season is the truest test of everything", "games in April are just as important as games in September", and "the postseason is just a series of crapshoot exhibition games" are also two of the more insistent voices here for making this one World Series the overriding priority.
   193. GuyM Posted: October 15, 2012 at 09:44 AM (#4270784)
Whatever a team's chances at a pennant, and fully granting that wins in April equal wins in September, it's nevertheless obvious that wins in the postseason are more vital than those in the regular season. So why not ease Strasburg along and get him into the rotation by mid-May?

Because it's equally obvious (to me) that wins in the regular season are MORE valuable if you need them to make the playoffs. And in March you have no idea if you will need them. I'm fine with a plan that says "let SS throw 160 IP by Sept 1, then allow him to pitch in Sept only if necessary to win the division." That makes sense (assuming you've decided that 180-190 IP is a reasonable health risk, given the payoff of a possible pennant). Deciding in advance that you'd rather lose the division title than give up SS for hypothetical playoffs makes no sense.

I think Andy gave an excellent summary of the issue above:
"And if you agree with the innings limit, then those innings have got to come from somewhere, and unless you want to experiment with a midseason shutdown, you're either going to have to cut innings from the start of the season or at the end. If you cut them at the start of the season, then two possible starting points are possible: Either you assume a playoff run and start him even later, which means you're without your "best pitcher" for a long stretch at the beginning of the season---when "the games count just as much as they do in September"; or you start him earlier to avoid that, and then risk having him exceed his limit by the end of the season. The point is that there's no free lunch...."
   194. Tom Nawrocki Posted: October 15, 2012 at 09:49 AM (#4270788)
Starting SS in May, BTW, makes zero sense. If your position is that "we'd like SS to throw 160 IP, but we'll go to 190 if it really matters" (replace 160/190 with your own choice), then the last thing you want to do is hold him out in April


Staerting in May makes zero sense if the Nationals planned to be flexible on the innings limit. But they weren't flexible on the innings limit.
   195. GuyM Posted: October 15, 2012 at 10:00 AM (#4270800)
Staerting in May makes zero sense if the Nationals planned to be flexible on the innings limit. But they weren't flexible on the innings limit.

And in that case it also makes no sense to start in May, unless you think SS wasn't ready to go at the start of the season (since he was pitcher of the month in April, perhaps we can set that concern aside?). Starting in May just reduces his 2012-2013 recovery time. And wouldn't you rather pick his replacement after you've had another 4-5 months to evaluate Wang/Lannan/Detwiler/whoever?
   196. Tom Nawrocki Posted: October 15, 2012 at 10:10 AM (#4270814)
Is anyone arguing that the Nationals should have started Strasburg's clock in May? I fail to see what difference that makes. If the team was only going to permit him 160 innings parceled out over roughly contiguous starts, it doesn't matter whether they extend from early April through early September, or from early May through early October. The value to the team is going to be the same either way.
   197. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: October 15, 2012 at 10:11 AM (#4270815)
160 innings is false precision, but that doesn't mean that all numbers are equal. They decided 160 innings was reasonably safe, above that there was increased risk. Given that the risk profile is admittedly poorly known for more than 160 innings, it strikes me that's a reason to be more conservative rather than less. You are asking the Nationals to make a different risk-reward calculation when everybody admits both the risks and rewards are not really calculable.

Let's say I give you two boxes and say you are to open one of them. In one, there is $100, and no bomb. In the other, I tell you there is somewhere between $100 and $1 million, but I am not sure how much, and there may or may not be a bomb inside that goes off when you open it. You're probably going to open the first box. Unless of course, you have an illness that is terminal if you don't get a $100,000 operation, in which case you gamble on the second box.

Which brings us to the question of perceived payoff. It seems to me that people are talking at cross-purposes here. The Nationals were risk-adverse, so they adopted a very low risk strategy. Not zero risk, naturally, but they felt they understood the risks of 160 innings enough that they were comfortable setting that limit. Most people here are not as risk-adverse. Which is fine, but is sort of a meta-criticism. Maybe you value a winning season as 1, a playoff appearance as 100, and a World Series ring as 100,000, so you are willing to gamble more for that 100,000, while the Nats ownership may value a winning season as 95, a playoff appearance as 100, and a World Series ring as 120, so they are less inclined to gamble for a modest payoff.
   198. spycake Posted: October 15, 2012 at 10:38 AM (#4270840)
Rizzo's Plan advantages:
1a) Greatest likelihood of reaching 160 IP
1b) Most flexibility for dealing with in-season injuries etc.
2) Greatest likelihood of consistent usage: no shutdown/startup or ramp-down/ramp-up required

Rizzo's Plan disadvantages:
1) High likelihood of being unavailable for pennant race in September
2) Almost certainly unavailable for playoffs in October

As much as I don't like the plan and think it was uncreative and mostly player/agent/CYA driven, it has a certain boldness in that fans and media focus more on September/October. Acknowledging that April is equal to September deserves credit, but the focus on October (playoffs) is pretty darn important and ostensibly shared by every player/team/fan ever.
   199. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: October 15, 2012 at 10:48 AM (#4270850)
Acknowledging that April is equal to September deserves credit, but the focus on October (playoffs) is pretty darn important and ostensibly shared by every player/team/fan ever.

But if shutting Strasburg down in April had wound up preventing the Nats from even making the postseason---and please don't wave away that possibility---then what?
   200. spycake Posted: October 15, 2012 at 11:05 AM (#4270872)
I'm curious, though: what would they have done if Strasburg had suffered a minor non-throwing injury in the middle of the summer? Almost certainly, they would have done a careful but generally standard shutdown/startup over 2-4 weeks rather than shut him down for the season at ~100 IP or whatever. It may not have been preferred, but it would have been acceptable and not considered a significant detriment to his long-term health.

Following from that, I'm not seeing how such a move, done very carefully and closely monitored, could not have been done in July/August given the standings, aiming for a September return and effectively pushing the target 160 IP date back about a month, allowing them to maximize Strasburg's usage in either critical pennant race games and/or potential playoffs, without over- or under-shooting the desired 160 IP target too much. With the same caveat as every other plan, that his actual physical condition/performance could always change the plan further.

Basically, by July, I think potential vital pennant race games and/or playoff games should have been an equivalent acceptable "detour" from the plan as a minor non-throwing injury. Like every plan, there would still be opportunities for second-guessing depending on the outcome, but it would have represented a more honest effort at fielding their best team for the playoffs, without taking the playoff appearance too much for granted.
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