I'm a Nats fan, but I don't think the Nats are clearly the best team in the NL this year. Nats have and will continue to have problems shaking the Braves. If they don't beat the Braves, they're stuck in a do or die one game wildcard playoff. A 162 game season gets decided by one game. (5 or 7 games is still a crapshoot, but that's a lot better than just 1 game.) That's one big argument for not shutting down Strasburg for a few weeks/month, then bring him back in the playoffs; with that scenario, you may not win the division. (They could still lose the division with SS pitching, but the odds are a lot better with him pitching.)
The Cincinnati Reds are very good. Once Votto returns, they may be better than the Nats. They have the best relief pitching in all of baseball by far. And check out Chapman's stat line: 4-4, 1.26 ERA, 28-32 saves-save ops, 57 IP, 106!!!!!!! K, 0.68 WHIP (as of yesterday)
If you sit SS for a while, it may take him quite a bit of time to regain mid-season form. As Scott said, wasted pitches getting back up to speed and no guarantee he is still sharp. Have SS sit out every few starts, then you mess up the other 4 starters in the rotation. Hurts the team as a whole. Starting pitchers are pretty much creatures of habit.
hey should have had him start the season later if they were going to have a strict innings number.
OK, how much ridicule would the Nats caused around MLB (and in Philly in particular) if they stated back in April that we think we can win the World Series and we're not pitching SS until June? Nats had a huge improvement last year to finish at 81 wins. Most realistic predictions back in April were 85-90 wins at best, with a good chance at contending for a wild card spot. Hey, they got real good a year early.
Throwing a baseball overhand is an unnatural motion, so there is a lot of chance involved as to whether a pitcher will get hurt or not. That said, if you follow certain protocols, you tip the odds in your favor. That's what the Nats (specifically GM Rizzo) are doing. There is a lot of data on recovery from TJ surgery, and what they did worked real well for Jordan Zimmermann this year.
This year is gravy for me. Hey, I'm still glad we no longer have 100 loss teams. Man, those were rough years, especially with the invading marauders from up I-95. Barring major injuries, Nats should be even better next year as some of their young core matures (Espinosa, Desmond, Harper, Ramos, Storen, Jordan Zimmermann, Detwiler, etc.) Plus they have one guy in the minors (just promoted to high A ball), that many scouts think is as good as their big three starters. Plus their #1 pick in this years draft, Lucas Giolito (threw ~100 mph as a 16 yo), who signed with the Nats because he like how they handled pitchers with arm injuries.
Alex Meyer allowed one earned run in six innings on four hits and no walks, striking out seven. In his first five starts at Potomac, Meyer has a 0.93 ERA in 29 innings with 26 strikeouts and six walks.
Tom Boswell Q&A:
Q: Thomas, Was in Philly last week on biz and was listening to local sports radio. The station was doing a Phillies "down on the farm" segment. They had a Phillies scout on and he was talking about the Phils young talent when the conversation shifted to division rivals. This scout could not stop gushing about Alex Myer, the Nats pitching prospect. He basically said, "the rich will be getting richer" when Myer come up to the bigs. What do you think of this kid? Can he be that good?
A: That's what I hear about Alex Meyer, too.
After going 7-4 with a 3.10 ERA at Hagerstown, he was moved up to Potomac (A+) where he's 2-1 with a 0.93 ERA in five starts. Combined, he's 2.57 with 85 hits allowed in 119 innings with 40 walks and 133 K's.
Playoffs are a crapshoot, even if you go into them with the best team in baseball. Nats organization has adopted the strategy of get a core group of good players to contend for 5 years or so, and hopefully you get a World Series title (or two.) Hey, it worked for the Phillies! And the Braves back in the 90's.