Riggleman noted yesterday that Jordan Zimmermann will have an innings limit this year. I don't necessarily have a problem with that, especially for Jordan. He's never thrown a lot of innings. 134 in 2008, 99 in 2009 and 70 last season. To have him throw 230 innings would be silly.
But I hope the Nats aren't strict interpreters of pitch limits. It's Feb 16th. The Nats have a number in their head on how much ZNN should pitch this year. That's fine... for right now. Come April 1st they should have another number. May 15th another, the All-Star break another. ZNN needs to be evaluated on an ongoing basis. With that being said - it's best if the Nats don't actually release their number to the press. Right now all that's been said is "not 200" - which is fine. I don't think the Nats are going to run into a scenario where Jordan NEEDS to pitch that last week. The minute they put a 150 or 175 out there, that will become a focus for the media covering the team and that interest may hurt the Nats making adjustments to it along the way.
The other day I noted the (potential) staffs ERAs for this season. I think they were reasonable numbers. Averaged the Nats would have a starter ERA in the neighborhood of 4.30. Last year it was 4.61. You could look at this in two ways.
The staff won't be good next year, but it will be better.
The staff will be better next year, but it won't be good.
Same notion - two different take-away feelings. I tend to fall into the latter group (big surprise) where the takeaway feeling is one of general disappointment. This is because even with an improvement of 0.30 in ERA the Nats will only move from 14th in the NL all the way to 13th. The median value is right around 4.00, which means the Nats would have to have another significant jump in them, after the expected one, to be even "average". The improvement is not so much about the Nats getting better but about the Nats being very very bad last year. I can't get excited about a mere move to meh.
I will say though that the move IS important for the season after this one. If they can get to the 4.30 range this year and Strasburg comes back to pitch in the neighborhood of how he did in 2010, it bodes well for a staff that's at LEAST average in 2012. Maybe a savvy signing, some unexpected development, or a good trade and the Nats are looking at a one of the better starting staffs in the NL the year after next.