John Smoltz was on NBC SportsTalk last night and gave his opinion of shutting down Stephen Strasburg, and it’s a pretty smart, informed and nuanced one:This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
I think Smoltz made a key point early: “maybe if they had to do it over again [the Nationals] would have done something without alerting everyone to what was going to happen.” They didn’t, of course, so here we are. It makes me wonder if the Nats realized that they’d be as good as they are and if they didn’t just figure that the season could be functionally over by late August so, hey, why not let him pitch regularly until shutdown as opposed to pacing him differently? Regardless, I agree with Smoltz’s point: if you have an innings limit, great, enforce it. But do so in a way that gets him through an entire season so as not to bollocks-up competitive expectations.
Also fun: when Eric Kuselias brings up Steve Avery and his heavy workload at a young age, comparing it unfavorably to the young workloads of Smoltz, Glavine and Maddux. Smoltz was not impressed with the analogy, noting that Avery had a different kind of motion — higher up, which was harder on the shoulder — and that he tried to pitch through injury.
That flowed into Smoltz’s general point, which was a good one: every pitcher is a different case. Some guys could throw 300 innings a year and never get hurt. Some guys could be treated as gently as can be and disintegrate. Genetics, physics, physiology and pure dumb chance all play into it, making it impossible for anyone to say for certain that a given workload will either hurt a guy or save a guy.
Fact is, Stephen Strasburg could be shut down now and destroy his arm on the first pitch of next season. Or he could be let loose for 250 innings this year and never feel so much as a twinge in his elbow. Or anything in between. Neither those of us who hate shutting down an ace in a pennant race nor the Nationals and Scott Boras who are relying on doctor’s advice have any real certainty about this. If we did, we’d have an insight into pitching and injuries that has thus far eluded every team, doctor and pitcher who has ever weighed in on the subject.