Knowing the Nationals had an innings limit in mind all along and by the way, that absolutely is the right thing to do here — it's certainly fair to question why they didn't space out Strasburg's starts to leave some innings for late-September-October. Especially when right from the beginning, the Nationals looked to be postseason worthy, as they broke out of the gate at 14-4.
But it's too late for that debate now — and instead, it's time to pose the question: How much will the Strasburg shutdown hurt the Nationals' postseason chances?
The answer: Maybe not as much as you think. Because while there's no denying Strasburg's potential impact in October, the Nationals' rotation without him still stacks up nicely against the rest of the likely NL playoff rotations. Here's one comparison/ranking:
1. San Francisco: Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong/Barry Zito
2. Cincinnati: Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey
3. Washington: Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler, Edwin Jackson
4. St. Louis: Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook, Jaime Garcia/Chris Carpenter
5. Los Angeles: Clayton Kershaw, Josh Beckett, Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang
6. Atlanta: Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Kris Medlen, Paul Maholm
7. Pittsburgh: A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, James McDonald, Kevin Correia/Jeff Karstens
There's not much separating the top three or four rotations here, and the Dodgers have arguably the NL's best pitcher in Kershaw, assuming his hip issue doesn't linger.
The Giants' postseason experience and Tim Lincecum's 5-4-3.22 second half could give them a slight edge. On the other hand, Ryan Vogelsong's 11.17 ERA in his last five starts is alarming.
The Reds' one-two punch of Cy Young Award contender Cueto and Latos is as good as any, but Arroyo and/or Bailey must step up a bit.
The Cardinals' rotation has been there, succeeded at this, and possibly will get an unexpected contribution from Chris Carpenter. But other than Kyle Lohse, their ERAs are relatively high.
Meanwhile, even without Strasburg, the Nationals will run out four power pitchers who rely mostly on fastballs that run in the 92-96-mph range — three of whom have sub-3.23 ERAs, the other at 3.85.
Gonzalez's acquisition from the A's should earn general manager Mike Rizzo some NL Executive of the Year votes. After all, it's Gonzalez — and not Strasburg — who leads the Nationals' rotation in wins, innings pitched and opponents' batting average.
Zimmermann is Success Story Exhibit A of the Nationals' plan for post-Tommy John surgery use, having preceded Strasburg by a year in the process.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
And if you're not aware of what Detwiler has been doing, you've missed out on one of the NL's best starters since the All-Star break (5-3, 2.98 ERA, 1.085 WHIP). The No. 6 overall pick in the 2007 draft finally has put it together after dealing with mechanical issues and hip surgery.
The other thing that should jump out here is that several of the other rotations also have suffered losses — not Strasburg-level losses, but key ones nonetheless.
The Braves lost their most-effective first-half pitcher — Brandon Beachy — after 13 starts, and have received next to nothing from injury-riddled Jair Jurrjens.
The Dodgers just lost No. 2 starter Chad Billingsley (elbow) for the rest of their season, on top of Ted Lilly's earlier season-ending injury — which makes Beckett's acquisition all the more important.
The Cardinals recently moved their most-effective first-half starter — Lance Lynn — to the bullpen after an extended period of struggling due in part to a pumped-up innings total for the former reliever.
And the Pirates' rotation is leaking oil, with Jeff Karstens' last turn skipped due to a hip flexor injury, and James McDonald struggling.
So it's not a stretch to think that the Nationals — with their still-very-good rotation supported by an offense that sits third among the NL playoff contenders in runs scored, and a bullpen with the third-lowest ERA among the NL playoff contenders, will be formidable postseason challengers even without Strasburg. After all, they are 67-46 in games Strasburg didn't start.
HBT: Robinson Cano homered twice while David Phelps had the longest outing of his career as the Yankees topped the Blue Jays 7-2 this afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
Taking a look at some of the greatest catchers off all time.