Here's the thing to remember as people say "Shutdown was smart!" until the NLDS is over, where, if the Nats lost, it becomes "Shutdown was dumb!" again.
We know nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
We know nothing at all about whether the shutdown was a good idea because it was based on a hypothetical for which proving the negative is impossible. Here's what we might have, maybe, you can stretch and make an argument for, decided when it comes to the shutdown.
- If the Nats didn't shut Strasburg down and he was injured in the playoffs or in Spring of the following season, you could say the shutdown was probably a good idea.
- If the Nats didn't shut Strasburg down and they went on to win the World Series and he was a big part of the winning, you could say the shutdown was probably a bad idea.
- If the Nats did shut Strasburg down and they went on to win the World Series, you could say the shutdown was probably a good idea.
These equivocating, mealy-mouthed, maybes based on immediate results are the BEST we can say. For the first one, maybe he gets injured anyway. For the second maybe they would have won it anyway and maybe this hurts him long term. For the third, maybe they would have won it easier with him. We don't know. We can never know. We can't run alternate realities to see what would have happened. It's all conjecture.
Now we're years later. There are so many influencing factors on today outside of the shutdown that even mentioning it is idiotic. I'm more stupid for writing this piece about how it's stupid. Just because Strasburg is healthy right now proves nothing. Maybe pitching in the playoffs in 2012 would have made no difference on his arm. Maybe it would have hurt him, but the Nats would have made a trade for David Price and he'd be dominating, or rushed up Giolito and he'd be dominating. Who knows? Not you. Certainly not them.
What can you say about the shutdown? Same thing you could have said in October of 2012. I like it or I don't like it. Rizzo basically admitted a few days ago that he punted on 2012 by shutting Strasburg down when he said "I think the best team wins" in regards to the playoffs. He made the Nats worse. Of course that's how I see it. BUT maybe Rizzo figured the Nats weren't the best even with Strasburg, so losing him didn't matter. Or he thought that the Nats were the best even without Strasburg, so again losing him doesn't matter. Neither of these make sense to me but hey, I'm not in his head.
What I'm saying is you can basically ignore any article in the next few weeks that talks about the shutdown, unless it's titled "What I thought about the shutdown and why that moment has little to no bearing on the Nats of today" Anything else is a steaming pile of nothing.
We've kind of joked Strasburg's biggest problem is not himself but Kershaw. Strasburg was supposed to be the best and the fact someone else clearly is hangs over Strasburg regardless of how well he actually pitches. But that first part "Strasburg was supposed to be the best" is a bit unfair. If you take a look at Stras' early major legaue numbers and Kershaw's you can see that Kershaw had a leg up on being the best because he's always been unhittable. (led the league in H/9 in 2nd year never above 7.0 after that). Kershaw's issues were control based and the eternal question for guys like that are can they get control and remain unhittable. For 99 out of 100 guys the answer is no. For Kershaw the answer was yes. Strasburg seemingly can max out his talent and it'll be hard for him to pass Kershaw because Strasburg has never been as unhittable. (best H/9 in a full year was 6.7) He can get close, but the numbers aren't favoring him.
The way I'd describe the two is Strasburg is Mark Prior if he was healthy. Kershaw is Kerry Wood if he had great control. That chase, the goal of harnessing the ultimate raw talent and creating a "best ever" pitcher, is the goal that keeps scouts coming back for more. That's why the Henry Rodriguez's get their share of chances. In 2012 for the Nats his H/9 was 5.8. That's impressive. Problem is his BB/9 was 6.8. That's the worst. But it's that 5.8 that keeps people coming back and why the Nats, Cubs, and Marlins all took shots with him since then.
I suppose Oakland could still choke out (they lost another 2 one-run games bringing them to 2-9 in their last 11 one-run games, which they've played since the start of September, which is a crazy amount of 1-run games) but Seattle doesn't look inspired. The Tigers too could choke out but I'm just not seeing it. Really the race to watch is the NL Central. The Pirates have a tougher road (@CIN) than the Cardinals (@ARI) but one game is one game. Let's tie 'em up and make Sunday decide the division (because a 163 to decide a division isn't all that fun to me)