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Monday, January 27, 2020

Ron Darling believes Nationals are vindicated for Strasburg shutdown

The Nationals rose to contention in 2012, emerging from the depths of the NL East standings to establish themselves as soon-to-be perennial contenders behind a young core highlighted by back-to-back No. 1 overall picks Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.

But heading into that campaign, Washington announced that Strasburg would be placed on an innings limit in what was his first full season back from Tommy John surgery. It was a highly scrutinized move at the time, as the Nationals won 98 games but went into the playoffs without their young phenom.

MLB Network analyst and former major-league pitcher Ron Darling joined D.C. Sports on Thursday to talk about the Strasburg shutdown, which came in at No. 17 in NBC Sports Washington’s Big Twenty series that highlights the 20 biggest sports stories in D.C. over the first 20 years of the decade.

“I remember just thinking to myself, ‘What a shame that Washington’s not going to have him in the postseason,’” Darling said. “But more importantly, I just tried to concentrate on—there is no team in baseball that is gonna make a decision that is gonna hurt the player and hurt their ball club.

Would you agree with this sentiment?

 

QLE Posted: January 27, 2020 at 01:00 AM | 36 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: nationals, ron darling, stephen strasburg

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   1. majorflaw Posted: January 27, 2020 at 05:15 AM (#5919479)
“there is no team in baseball that is gonna make a decision that is gonna hurt the player and hurt their ball club.”

The obvious comp is Matt Harvey. There was a game somewhere in the 2014-2016 seasons when the Nats were playing the Mets in NY, Strasburg vs Harvey. During the game Mets fans chanted “Har-vee’s better, Har-vee’s better” repeatedly and, at that moment in time it appeared accurate. Everything that has happened since suggests that the Nats were cautious and correct in their handling of Strasburg while the Mets exchanged the second half of Harvey’s career for a World Series appearance. And now, while Strasburg, WS MVP in tow, will be well-compensated for what looks like the balance of his career, Matt Harvey is, at least temporarily, out of baseball. Yeah, I’d say the Nats handling of Strasburg has been vindicated.
   2. Dog on the sidewalk has an ugly bracelet Posted: January 27, 2020 at 06:12 AM (#5919481)
I am not a fan of the results-oriented approach. More pitches obviously means more risk, but to credit the shutdown for Strasburg's success many years later (or to blame the extra innings on Harvey's decline) feels like Fun With Narratives. Maybe it's a significant factor. Maybe not. Who knows?

That said, there are a lot of people who spent much of the past decade mocking the Nats for their handling of Strasburg. Not so much the past few months though.
   3. McCoy Posted: January 27, 2020 at 06:48 AM (#5919482)
The Nationals won the WS in Stephen's 10th season. This isn't 1932, folks.

Secondly, as was argued back then they had more than one route to take with his pitcher usage.
   4. McCoy Posted: January 27, 2020 at 06:52 AM (#5919483)
Finally, this is like criminals and police. The police only have to catch the criminal once while the criminal has to be perfect dozens of time. Stephen missed the 2016 playoffs. A series they lost 3-2. In 2015 they finished in second place with again Stephen missing significant time.
   5. PreservedFish Posted: January 27, 2020 at 07:54 AM (#5919484)
I am not a fan of the results-oriented approach. More pitches obviously means more risk, but to credit the shutdown for Strasburg's success many years later (or to blame the extra innings on Harvey's decline) feels like Fun With Narratives.

Correct.

The truth is unknowable. Which doesn't make great copy.
   6. Bug Selig Posted: January 27, 2020 at 08:56 AM (#5919493)
there is no team in baseball that is gonna make a decision that is gonna hurt the player and hurt their ball club.
Marty Barrett says #### You.
   7. Rally Posted: January 27, 2020 at 09:12 AM (#5919497)
The obvious comp is Matt Harvey. There was a game somewhere in the 2014-2016 seasons when the Nats were playing the Mets in NY, Strasburg vs Harvey. During the game Mets fans chanted “Har-vee’s better, Har-vee’s better” repeatedly and, at that moment in time it appeared accurate.


Would have to have been 2015. Harvey did not pitch in 2014, and in 2016 the goose was already cooked, 4-10 with a 4.86 ERA - and that season looks good compared to what came after.

Did not seem like the Mets overused Harvey that year, he made 29 starts in the regular season, 15 times going over 100 pitches but only once over 110, with a high of 115. In the postseason he made 4 starts, the first 3 under 100 pitches. Then the final game of the WS, where he was around 100 pitches with a 2-0 lead going into the 9th. Mets let him start the inning, he let 2 guys on while throwing another 10 pitches. They scored and the Mets lost in extra.

Maybe with a postseason shutdown Harvey is still a dominant pitcher today. But I sure don't have any confidence in that. If the amount of pitching he did in 2015 put him over the edge, seems to me that even with a shutdown he would have hurt himself anyway in 2016.
   8. Skloot Insurance Posted: January 27, 2020 at 09:30 AM (#5919499)
Ron Darling is a terrific broadcaster, but he's off base here.

When the Nationals decided in October 2012 that future value superseded present value, they were guaranteed Strasburg's services only through the 2016 season.

I don't disagree with the premise that the organization "did right" by Strasburg, but to assume that he would have remained in Washington beyond 2016 is not analyzing the decision in good faith.
   9. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: January 27, 2020 at 09:36 AM (#5919501)
Maybe with a postseason shutdown Harvey is still a dominant pitcher today. But I sure don't have any confidence in that. If the amount of pitching he did in 2015 put him over the edge, seems to me that even with a shutdown he would have hurt himself anyway in 2016.

He was coming off of TJ surgery in 2015 and there was concern about his workload, as well as conflicting views expressed by Harvey about how much he wanted to pitch in the playoffs. He pitched well in the postseason, but struggled in 2016 (although looks like some of that was bad luck -- he had a 3.47 FIP) and was never the same after that. From Wikipedia:

In September, Harvey's agent, Scott Boras, publicly expressed concern with the Mets' stated plans to allow Harvey to pitch around 190 innings in the regular season, and also pitch "a reasonable amount" in the postseason. Boras suggested that better medical advice, allegedly given by Dr. James Andrews, was to cap the innings at 180, and no postseason activity.[56][57] Harvey initially appeared to agree with Boras,[56] in contrast with his cultivated image of toughness and desire to compete and win at all costs, including having previously objected to efforts by the Mets to both proceed cautiously in his recovery with respect to the timetable for his return (in 2014 Harvey expressed a desire to come back from the injury early, while the Mets followed a conventional recovery timetable[58]), and curtail his innings in 2015 by employing a six-man rotation.[59][60][61] After backlash against Harvey's initial comments from Mets fans and the media,[56] Harvey wrote in The Players' Tribune that the innings limit only applied to the regular season and that he would pitch in the playoffs.[62]


It's impossible to know what would have happened with Harvey if he had been handled more conservatively -- his injury history after the TJ was idiosyncratic, and there were other concerns about his work ethic, lifestyle and conditioning as well.
   10. Scott Lange Posted: January 27, 2020 at 09:43 AM (#5919503)
I don't disagree with the premise that the organization "did right" by Strasburg, but to assume that he would have remained in Washington beyond 2016 is not analyzing the decision in good faith.


First, he doesn't make that assumption, either in the excerpt or in the article. He says that Strasburg having a great career vindicates the decision; he doesn't say anything about the Nationals being the ones to reap the benefit.

Second, it seems quite possible that the Nationals' treatment of him increased the chances of signing the 2016 contract extension with them, so even if Darling had been focused on the benefit to Washington, he would still have a solid basis for concluding the decision was vindicated.

Third, what possible basis do you have for charging him of bad faith? That's a hell of an accusation. I mean, I think your take on his comments was wildly off-base, but I still give you credit for sincerely believing what you said.
   11. PreservedFish Posted: January 27, 2020 at 09:58 AM (#5919508)
When the Nationals decided in October 2012 that future value superseded present value, they were guaranteed Strasburg's services only through the 2016 season.

I'm glad you're not my boss.
   12. The usual palaver and twaddle (Met Fan Charlie) Posted: January 27, 2020 at 12:02 PM (#5919579)
[1]

There was a game somewhere in the 2014-2016 seasons when the Nats were playing the Mets in NY, Strasburg vs Harvey. During the game Mets fans chanted “Har-vee’s better, Har-vee’s better” repeatedly and, at that moment in time it appeared accurate.


It was 2013 and in that moment, he absolutely was.
   13. flournoy Posted: January 27, 2020 at 12:33 PM (#5919596)
I disagree with Darling here. Way too much can happen in seven years to draw a straight line causation between their decision in 2012 and their playoff run in 2019. Especially since Strasburg spent over six months on the DL from 2015 to 2018, so any argument that they protected his long-term health is pretty speculative.
   14. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 27, 2020 at 12:40 PM (#5919599)
Oh! Darling...
   15. PreservedFish Posted: January 27, 2020 at 12:43 PM (#5919603)
An actually answerable question is, can the Nationals feel good about their decision to bench Stasburg all those years ago? And the answer to that has to be 'yes.'
   16. Itchy Row Posted: January 27, 2020 at 12:54 PM (#5919611)
And the Expos are vindicated for trading Randy Johnson.
   17. The Yankee Clapper Posted: January 27, 2020 at 01:04 PM (#5919614)
An actually answerable question is, can the Nationals feel good about their decision to bench Stasburg all those years ago? And the answer to that has to be 'yes.'
Exactly. The Nationals sought out the best medical advice they could get on Strasburg, and followed the recommended course. Saying they might have been able to get away with cutting a few corners doesn’t justify that alternative.
   18. Skloot Insurance Posted: January 27, 2020 at 01:07 PM (#5919616)
First, he doesn't make that assumption, either in the excerpt or in the article. He says that Strasburg having a great career vindicates the decision; he doesn't say anything about the Nationals being the ones to reap the benefit.


I'm sure you're correct about the context. I'm just not convinced that one can draw a straight line from October 2012 to October 2019, because it assumes facts not in evidence.

Strasburg was fantastic in 2019, and fantastic from start to finish. He might have been fantastic in 2019 whether he was shut down in 2012 or not. That is the crux of my "accusation."

Matt Harvey's situation does not map neatly to Strasburg's IMO.
   19. Ziggy is done with Dominican discotheques Posted: January 27, 2020 at 01:17 PM (#5919620)
Marcel puts Starsburg at a 3.62 ERA in 177 innings next year. That's nice better-than-average pitching.

He's signed through 2026 at $35,000,000 per year. Since he's getting older each year, nice better-than-average pitching is the best they should expect from that.

Teams should institute a rule prohibiting them from re-signing key members of WS winning teams. It seems like a recipe for bad decisions.
   20. jmurph Posted: January 27, 2020 at 01:31 PM (#5919623)
Teams should institute a rule prohibiting them from re-signing key members of WS winning teams. It seems like a recipe for bad decisions.

Though I understand it to some degree, I found it odd that they didn't seem to make much of an effort on Rendon but clearly weren't interested in letting Strasburg walk.
   21. PreservedFish Posted: January 27, 2020 at 01:39 PM (#5919628)
Steamer sees him as the 6th best pitcher in baseball. If a team like the Nationals can't handsomely reward an elite homegrown WS star, we might as well just throw the towel in on this whole professional baseball thing.
   22. The Duke Posted: January 27, 2020 at 01:39 PM (#5919629)
First of all, all bodies are different so if you had ten example is Harvey and ten examples of strasburg maybe you could start to draw conclusions. And I simply don’t buy the “more pitches means more risk”. Historically pitchers have been able to throw years and years of complete games. I don’t think they are pitching enough.
   23. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 27, 2020 at 01:57 PM (#5919635)
Marcel puts Starsburg at a 3.62 ERA in 177 innings next year. That's nice better-than-average pitching.

He's signed through 2026 at $35,000,000 per year. Since he's getting older each year, nice better-than-average pitching is the best they should expect from that.


Zips projects him at 5.2, 4.7, 4.4, 3.9, 3.5, 3.1, 2.7 WAR over the next seven years. That's seems quite a bit better than "nice better-than-average pitching".
   24. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: January 27, 2020 at 02:05 PM (#5919637)

Historically pitchers have been able to throw years and years of complete games.

The year after TJ surgery?
   25. Sunday silence Posted: January 27, 2020 at 02:19 PM (#5919644)
are we having this conversation if the Nats dont win the WS?

Hell at the start of the last season the Nats werent really considered a top contender. I mean I think they're always a factor cause the ownership seems to back up their words with money, but last year most people were saying it was a reload sort of year for them. So what would this conversation have been like one year ago?
   26. Panik on the streets of Flushing! (Trout! Trout!) Posted: January 27, 2020 at 02:22 PM (#5919646)
Oh! Darling...


great vocal performance. Thumbs up.
   27. DCA Posted: January 27, 2020 at 02:23 PM (#5919647)
Some things:

(1) The Nationals did not suffer from the shutdown. Strasburg's replacement, Ross Detwiler, pitched excellently: 6 IP, 1 R, 0 ER in a game the Nats won 2-1. Sub Strasburg for Detwiler and the Nats probably lose in 4 games, not 5. Stras has to pitch at least as well as Detwiler, or more likely, pitch perfectly and hit a bit in game 3 (in which Nats didn't score IRL), so that the series doesn't end when Jackson (IRL game 3 starter) blows game 4. Recall that the Nats wavered a bit about shutting Stras down and then he had a couple of poor outings before they made the final call.

(2) Harvey pitched 215 innings after missing a full year from TJ. Stras actually came back and started 5 games the previous season, then was limited to 160 innings. Harvey broke, Stras has continued to be very good (though not always healthy). Sample size is such that you can't attribute everything post-2012/2015 to how they were handled that season, but at worst it's a matched pair outcome very much in favor of the Nats' approach.
   28. The usual palaver and twaddle (Met Fan Charlie) Posted: January 27, 2020 at 02:40 PM (#5919665)
[25]

are we having this conversation if the Nats dont win the WS?


If the Nats don't win the 2019 WS, odds are that Strasburg doesn't re-sign.
   29. Walt Davis Posted: January 27, 2020 at 02:44 PM (#5919668)
I think a key point is that the Nats put themselves in the position of taking all of the heat for the decision (and didn't waver) while the Mets apparently failed to get buy-in from Harvey/Boras then let Harvey take the heat. We don't know the alternative realities, we don't even know the medical advice in each case but the first one looks like a team/GM/coaches willing to put themselves on the line to protect a player's future while the second one looks like the Mets. The Nats might have hurt themselves by their decision; the Mets might have hurt Harvey with theirs.
   30. PreservedFish Posted: January 27, 2020 at 02:50 PM (#5919673)
Matt Harvey also gained about 30 pounds of dad bod during his rehab, and was felled by a brutal shoulder injury that is almost impossible to come back from.
   31. McCoy Posted: January 27, 2020 at 06:55 PM (#5919753)
Back in the day the "experts" denied recommending the course of action that Rizzo did for Strasburg.
   32. Adam Starblind Posted: January 27, 2020 at 07:11 PM (#5919757)
First of all, all bodies are different so if you had ten example is Harvey and ten examples of strasburg maybe you could start to draw conclusions. And I simply don’t buy the “more pitches means more risk”. Historically pitchers have been able to throw years and years of complete games. I don’t think they are pitching enough.


Harvey had thoracic outlet syndrome. Did he pick that up pitching in the 2015 postseason?
   33. Walt Davis Posted: January 27, 2020 at 07:22 PM (#5919763)
From our friends at Wiki:

There are many causes of TOS. The most frequent cause is trauma, either sudden (as in a clavicle fracture caused by a car accident), or repetitive (as in a legal secretary who works with his/her hands, wrists, and arms at a fast paced desk station with non-ergonomic posture for many years)[citation needed]. TOS is also found in certain occupations involving lots of lifting of the arms and repetitive use of the wrists and arms[citation needed].

So it might well have been an eventual outcome but surely "extra" innings in 2015 didn't help. And I would assume that repetitive use "under stress" increases the trauma so to the extent he was wearing down as the season went on and the stress of the playoffs would have added a bit more damage than your standard inning.
   34. spycake Posted: January 27, 2020 at 08:17 PM (#5919769)
(1) The Nationals did not suffer from the shutdown. Strasburg's replacement, Ross Detwiler, pitched excellently: 6 IP, 1 R, 0 ER in a game the Nats won 2-1. Sub Strasburg for Detwiler and the Nats probably lose in 4 games, not 5. Stras has to pitch at least as well as Detwiler, or more likely, pitch perfectly and hit a bit in game 3 (in which Nats didn't score IRL), so that the series doesn't end when Jackson (IRL game 3 starter) blows game 4. Recall that the Nats wavered a bit about shutting Stras down and then he had a couple of poor outings before they made the final call.


This is a little tricky -- I don't like assuming that everything would have unfolded the same if Strasburg was on the roster. In game 3, for example, Jackson had the Nats in a 1-0 hole before they came to bat, and a 4-0 hole before they came to bat a second time. They're professionals, but they're not robots -- I'm not sure how that game would have unfolded with a strong Washington SP performance out of the gate. For that matter, we don't know how game 2 or 3 or others would have unfolded with Detwiler available for length in the pen. (Stammen probably wouldn't have been first out of the pen in game 2 after throwing 24 pitches the day before; maybe Detwiler keeps that game closer, longer? Keeping Storen out of the game 3 lopsided loss would have theoretically left him fresher / less exposed by game 5 too.)
   35. Hank Gillette Posted: January 27, 2020 at 09:45 PM (#5919783)
Historically pitchers have been able to throw years and years of complete games. I don’t think they are pitching enough.


Some of them did. Others were out of baseball before the age of 30. Unfortunately, the only way to determine whether a pitcher can handle a heavy workload seems to be give him a heavy workload and see what happens. Is finding a pitcher who can handle a heavy work load worth losing any career at all from the ones who can’t?

Strasburg has proved to be relatively fragile. In light of that, I can’t see how Washington’s conservative use of Strasburg in 2012 can be seen as a clear mistake.
   36. PreservedFish Posted: January 27, 2020 at 10:05 PM (#5919785)
This is a little tricky -- I don't like assuming that everything would have unfolded the same if Strasburg was on the roster.


Agreed. In fact I think it's fair to assume that Strasburg was probably sulking and moping around the dugout during most of October 2012, spreading a veritable miasma of frustration that would have enveloped his teammates and materially affected their performances. It's almost a miracle they took the series to 5 games, given the circumstances. Who knows how far they might've gone with Strasburg's beaming countenance to inspire the more emotionally fragile performers, such as Kurt Suzuki (258 OPS) and Craig Stammen (11.57 ERA)?

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