Strasburg’s 2012 Innings Limit

I’m not sure how a team that has designs on contention can regulate the innings of the pitcher upon whom the hopes of the franchise are resting, but that’s what the Nationals intend to do with Stephen Strasburg in 2012.

In this ESPN Story, GM Mike Rizzo doesn’t give an exact number for Strasburg, but you can presume it’s somewhere in the 160-175 range.

That number of innings are fine…for your fourth starter; but what are the Nats going to do for the top three slots in their rotation?

They’re said to be ready to spend some money and be aggressive; the name C.J. Wilson has been mentioned; it’s doubtful they’ll want to ante up the cash to get CC Sabathia if (when) he opts out of his Yankees contract, but it was the Nats who gave Jayson Werth $126 million, so you can never say never.

Jordan Zimmerman isn’t going to be ready to give them 200 innings; John Lannan can and is a nice pitcher, but is certainly not an ace. Can they expect 200 innings from Chien-Ming Wang? Doubtful.

What you’ll have, again, is a team that relies heavily on its bullpen; so heavily that the bullpen might be exhausted as it’s been over the past few years with the reliever-abusive Jim Riggleman running the club; Davey Johnson is more judicious in his handling of pitchers, but if Johnson comes back, I’m curious to see how he handles the Strasburg innings-limit situation.

When he was the Mets manager and Dwight Gooden was a 20-year-old phenom and ace and was in the middle of a historic 1985 season, the club was in a desperate run to make the playoffs; GM Frank Cashen went to Johnson and told him basically, “the kid’s going to pitch nearly 300 innings this year and it’s too much; do something”. Johnson, who never met a GM he couldn’t annoy with his sarcasm and ginormous ego responded by basically saying, “what do you want me to do?” and following up with, “how about you give me a computer printout of how many innings and pitches he’ll be allowed to throw; then by the time he reaches the limit, I can go out to the mound holding the printout, show it to him and pull him?”

Johnson’s mellowed since then and he’s more agreeable to the limits predicated on young pitchers by the front office. Gooden’s situation was 25 years ago. But Johnson still thinks he’s smarter than everyone else and many times, he’s right.

So Strasburg will be limited in what he’s allowed to do next season; but I’m curious if the Nats are in contention in September and Johnson’s managing the team, will he toss those limits out the window to try and win? Or will those parameters be ironclad and adhered to at the expense of a possible playoff spot?

It’s then that we’ll see if Johnson still has his insubordinate managerial fastball and ignores the front office trying to win.

It wouldn’t be the first time. But it might be the last.

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  1. #1 by Bip on September 28, 2011 - 11:06 pm

    By 2012 Strasburg will have had a year and a half to recover. Is that still a relatively short amount of time? How long after TJ surgery can a pitcher resume a normal workload? Also, is the innings limit in place partially because SS never conditioned himself to the 200 innings threshold in the first place? In other words, if Strasburg had already had a 200+ inning season in the past, then would there be less need for an innings limit in 2012 because he was already conditioned to pitch a lot of innings?

    • #2 by admin on September 29, 2011 - 2:44 pm

      He should be able to function with only reasonable parameters as to his innings-pitched (170-190). Tim Hudson and Chris Carpenter are two pitchers who came back from Tommy John and threw 200 innings in their first full season following the returns, but Strasburg hasn’t even reached 200 total innings in his career as a professional.
      He’s been babied and they can’t suddenly turn around and stop babying him; this is where the problem with babying becomes circular.
      He had the injury so early in his career and while they were still limiting him, he couldn’t have had historical durability of over 200 innings pitched as Hudson and Carpenter had.
      The Tommy John ligament is supposed to leave the pitcher stronger than before, so wouldn’t it make sense to use him more when he returns from the injury rather than less? And they reduce his workload to a certain degree as wear and tear rebuilds?
      They’re paranoid and afraid of him getting hurt which is exactly what happened to begin with despite all their best efforts to “protect” him.

  2. #3 by Dave Wakeman on September 29, 2011 - 6:09 pm

    I think that they should take the Nolan Ryan approach and let the kid pitch. If nothing, we have seen that the babying seems to do more damage, or just as much, as allowing the player to pitch.

    Is Joba still in the majors?

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