Nats GM Mike Rizzo said earlier this year that they were going to shut down Stephen Strasburg at 160 innings. The Nats, of course, are in first place and look absolutely legit. So it made sense for Joel Sherman of the New York Post to ask Rizzo if he’s still feeling cool with shutting Strasburg down. Yep:
When we talked by phone yesterday and the topic was broached, Rizzo said, “Joel, you are killing me.” Then he promised, “This is the last time I am discussing this with any member of the media. It is well-chronicled. It is not changing … To ask [Strasburg] to throw 200 innings now [off those previous totals], that is not a prudent way to do business with a 23-year-old, top-of-the-rotation starter we plan to have for a long time. It’s is going to be painful, and we are going to take grief. But I will not shy away from it. I am the caretaker of this organization for the long haul.”
I totally understand the logic there. But I will totally understand the outrage if, in the middle of a playoff push that could lead to a World Series run, the Nats put their best pitcher on the shelf.
Can you imagine what would happen if the Nats lost out on a playoff spot by a couple of games after seeing Chien-Ming Wang get six or seven starts he wouldn’t have otherwise had?
The long-term health of Stephen Strasburg is essential to the future of the Nationals franchise. But so too is not pissing off your fans. I don’t envy Mike Rizzo in having to make that decision, but I think I’d keep a more open mind about things than he seems to have now.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.