You pay a price for everything you believe that isn't true
Selig may force the Nats to pitch Strasburg?


Q.  What could happen if Stephen Strasburg is overused in 2012?

A.  He could get injured (again) or become ineffective in future seasons.


Q.  What could happen if Stephen Strasburg is shut down, due to false assumptions about innings and overuse?

A.  The Nationals could throw away a World Series championship and ruin one of the most exciting surprise seasons in recent memory.  Their players, who have worked hard for a chance to win in the postseason, could see that piddled away ... voluntarily.


Q.  Is there any precedent for this situation?

A.  I'm aware of no previous season in which a team voluntarily withdrew its young ace starter, from the postseason, because of innings-pitched dogma.


Q.  How do you know when Strasburg is overused, short of putting Earl Weaver in the dugout?  In SSI's view, how solid is the evidence for "increasing innings in Y2 leads to unacceptable injury risk?"

A.  About as solid as Jell-O.

Many years ago, saber blogs (such as HQ, which I admire) started counting "pitchers under age 25 whose innings increased by 50 in year two" and found some injuries.  The data wasn't that good, that I saw.  Just like Baseball Prospectus' Pitcher Abuse Points (PAP); James later demonstrated that the pitchers highest in PAP stayed healthier than average, but the dogma had already been entrenched.

We asked James about this innings dogma.  He replied, intuitively I think it's wrong.  But you can't fight dogma with intuition.  You would need a study proving that the dogma is wrong.  Superstition dies hard.

Most especially what the "IP + 50 = DL" arguments did not take care of, was this question:  "To what extent does simply pitching increase injury risk?"  Obviously a guy who throws 2,000 pitches in a season is (other things being equal) less likely to suffer wear and tear than somebody who throws 4,000.  Do you just tell pitchers not to pitch?


Q.  In SSI's view, does Strasburg's recent surgery play in?

A.  You certainly don't want to ride the kid hard this year.  


Q.  What options did the Nationals have, as opposed to "160 innings and then CLANG goes the door"?

A.  Many, such as:

  • Skipping some of Strasburg's starts, especially on off days
  • Using a 6-man rotation (all five of their starters are good)
  • Limited his innings to 5 per game, Erikkk-style (here is his game log)
  • Flipped him with a bullpen guy for 4-5 starts, the reliever going 4-5 innings, Strasburg going 2
  • etc etc

The big complaint seems to be that GM Mike Rizzo used the situation as an ego trip ... his telling reporters that Strasburg would be shut down, and then the reporter running back to Strasburg and getting a "Whaaaa?" in the locker room, and then Rizzo imperiously saying that Strasburg doesn't make these decisions, and stuff like that.

SSI respects GM's, but doesn't consider them infallible.  This whole situation appears to Dr. D to be a glaring example of old-school Theory X management.

Again, what's the price the Nats pay, if the "Innings + 50" dogma is unsound?  Nothing more or less than voluntarily throwing away their best shot at a dark horse World Series crown.


Q.  What are the implications for the Mariners?

A.  Next year, the Mariners might have four young starting pitchers who begin the year on the "160 innings" plan.  Next year, the 2013 Mariners might also find themselves where the 2012 Nationals are:  doing much, much better than they thought they would.

What the Nationals did wrong, is to fail to adjust to their Cinderella season.  The 2013 Mariners will not be operating without a precedent.  They can't afford to foul up a James Paxton situation the way the Nationals have Strasburg's.


Dr D



RockiesJeff's picture

Long time no see! Good articles and very good points on what the Nats could have done. I always wondered about picking an arbitrary number as an absolute when there are many factors that should be carefully monitored throughout. I would sat Stasburg for a few starts during the season in hope of letting him pitch in the playoffs....unless there were a variety of factors such as loss of velocity or such. Who am I though? LOL! Can't wait until the M's have to worry about several young arms.
Hope you are doing very well!!!!


JimPalmer Didn't seem to be too harmed by breaking the innings + 50 rule.
He did it twice as a young guy.
BobWelch did it three times
Guidry threw 56 innings in '76, AAA and Majors total. Went to 210 the next year.....didn't seem to wreck him.
Dogma is the word, Doc. The problem now is that the Nats have bought in completely. There is no right answer. If he pitches this year and gets injured next year, you know where all the blame will go, even though there will be no empirical evidence to link the two.
Rizzo mucked it up. There isn't a good out.
PItch him every 6th day with a 70 pitch limit. That would seem to be a good solution.
But perhaps too obvious.


talking about his client and the decision (at that time it was forward-looking) to abide by the IP limit and shut him down when he reached it. We need to remember this was not simply a GM unilaterally coming up with this. Boras made it clear it was a "committee" of himself, team management, and doctors. No doubt ultimately the team made the final decision, but you can bet Boras' clout as an ultra-super-agent, whose tentacles reach deep onto nearly every roster in baseball, had some serious impact on the decision.


The surgeon who fixed Strasburg's elbow states that he wouldn't have been able to give a solid answer on what was best for Strasburg's health.  Implying that Yocum believes, as I do, that no such answer exists.
Rizzo claims a 50-page meta-study on IP limits ... odd that in Rizzo's scour-the-four-corners-of-the-globe research, he didn't even verbally ask Strasburg's surgeon what he knew about it.


Scott Borass represents, basically, the core of that franchise. Strausburg, Harper, Werth, Jackson, Espinoza... He's got a lot of weight with the franchise.

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