FanDuel - WFBC

September 08, 2012

SportsFilter: The Saturday Huddle:

A place to discuss the sports stories that aren't making news, share links that aren't quite front-page material, and diagram plays on your hand. Remember to count to five Mississippi before commenting in anger.

posted by huddle to general at 06:00 AM - 23 comments

Chris Kluwe's letter to Emmett C. Burns Jr., in response to his opposition of Brendon Ayanbadejo of the Ravens speaking out in favour of gay marriage, is a thing of beauty.

posted by dfleming at 09:07 AM on September 08

Ugh, does every Penn State game have to be nationally televised?

posted by phaedon at 11:52 AM on September 08

Ugh, does every Penn State game have to be nationally televised?

When Penn St. president Rodney Erickson was negotiating with the NCAA on the sanctions the school would face, Bob O'Brien had instructed him not to give in on two issues: 1) No death penalty, and 2) no loss of nationally televised games. So, networks snapped up the Penn St. games while the scandal was still a hot topic. And it'll flame up again later this month when Sandusky learns his sentence.

posted by NerfballPro at 12:45 PM on September 08

Stephen Strasburg's season is now finished.

posted by NerfballPro at 12:48 PM on September 08

They just mean Strasburg's regular season, right? If the guy has 3+ weeks off there's no reason he shouldn't be pitching in the playoffs. The reason for pitch counts and inning limits is that pitching damages the body, and if say a pitcher recovers 99% over 4 days, by the end of the season he could be gassed. But a 3 week vacation, and he'd be fresh and rested and repaired for the playoffs.

If they mean for the year, playoffs included, this is one of the dumbest things I've ever heard.

posted by hincandenza at 03:21 PM on September 08

I wondered that about Strasburg. It sounds like he's done for the year, and that's basically what Davey Johnson says too.

The Devon Walker news is horrible. None of the news reports have said if he had any feeling below the neck or not but man, you just hope to hell it's not that serious.

posted by evixir at 03:42 PM on September 08

If the guy has 3+ weeks off there's no reason he shouldn't be pitching in the playoffs.

No, he's done for the year.

They don't want to shut him down for a period of time and then have to start him back up. They are being extra cautious with him coming off TJ surgery.

It's like a min-version of why pitchers don't throw complete games in spring training. He'd have to work his arm back up to strength if he sat out for 3 weeks, and they don't want to put him through it.

posted by grum@work at 03:45 PM on September 08

That's just genius, take one of your best pitchers out of rotation on your teams first playoff appearance- and on the precaution, with little basis as I understand it, that another few games will be the breaking point. If they're that worried about his arm, why even pitch him at all this season? Why not delay his first start till May so you don't have to shut him down early at all?

TJ is not some experimental surgery, its been around for decades, and everything I've heard is that they are being more cautious with Strasburg than is medically warranted. And if you're Strasburg, it'll suck if in 20 years he's retiring with 300 wins... and no playoff appearances.

posted by hincandenza at 04:32 PM on September 08

Why not delay his first start till May so you don't have to shut him down early at all?

Good question. For the first time, the Nats have a team capable of winning a World Series and they're losing their best pitcher to a possibly arbitrary decision made in the off-season.

posted by rcade at 04:42 PM on September 08

I disagree. Resting for 3 weeks is a huge difference from resting 3 months. After 3 months all of your muscles have essentially forgotten how to pitch. That first few times you throw hard in the offseason your whole body will hurt because you use muscles pitching that don't get any work in a normal day to day. That fatigue causes you to change your delivery subtly, which can be problematic. Now, after 3 weeks, your arm and body will just feel great. You'd probably feel like you could send your fastball through a brick wall. Your muscles are still going to be conditioned to pitch, they don't forget that fast. Control could be an issue, though.

I know I don't torque my arm to the same extent as a major leaguer but I have to imagine it affects their body in a similar way. I also don't know anything about working a TJ elbow back to health so feel free to take my comment with a grain of salt.

posted by tron7 at 04:43 PM on September 08

Shutting him down for the playoffs seems stupid. Why not have him throw on the side for the next three weeks, do his normal workouts, etc, just not throw in games. I don't understand the point of not using your best player in the playoffs. They should have used a six man rotation or something; it's not like they couldn't see the issue coming (at least by May or so).

posted by yerfatma at 05:26 PM on September 08

I don't understand the point of not using your best player in the playoffs.

I don't understand why people keep thinking Strasburg is the Nationals' best pitcher.

Why not delay his first start till May so you don't have to shut him down early at all?

Because there was no indication that the Washington Nationals were going to be competitive in 2012, so waiting to start him would be just as silly as cutting him off early. Considering he pitched in 2011, there was no reason to delay the start of 2012

and everything I've heard is that they are being more cautious with Strasburg than is medically warranted.

I'm not sure you can really rant against being MORE cautious with a young pitcher. I'm not a Nats fan, but I'd rather they err on the side of caution.

I'd like to see him pitch, but I'm going to trust that the Nationals have FAR more detailed (medical) information about Strasburg's arm than any of us armchair critics will ever dream of having.

posted by grum@work at 07:15 PM on September 08

Debate Pits Strasburg's Health Against Wins

So at the start of this season long before the Nationals became a playoff contender team officials said they would take the advice of Strasburg's doctors. They put a limit on the number of innings he could pitch this year to protect his arm for the future.

posted by NoMich at 08:42 PM on September 08

Watching tennis today put a thought in my mind about the whole idea with pitch counts, innings limits, and the amount of rest between appearances for baseball pitchers. Jim Courier, one of the harder servers in men's tennis a few years ago, used to liken serving in tennis to pitching. I see these tennis players throwing 90 or more serves in a best-of-5 match, then coming back in 2 days to do it all over again. Why are their arms not wearing down? If there is somebody out there who can explain how the motion of a tennis serve is so different from a baseball pitch, I would like to hear about it. Perhaps those with more expertise than I have (anything more than a thimble full will exceed my level) can start a thread here. I think others would also like to hear some ideas. What I'm really pointing at is a discussion of the proposition that the amount of rest granted baseball pitchers is more than they really need.

posted by Howard_T at 09:00 PM on September 08

Well, I don't think there was no indication they'd be competitive; they were basically a .500 team the year before (a Pythagorean of 78 wins), and knew they'd be adding Strasburg back in and had also made deals to pick up an All-Star pitcher in Gio Gonzalez in the off-season. Not that it worksout that easily, but all other things being equal those moves alone could push them into 85-87 win territory... which is close enough for that second wild card they'd have to be thinking about it as a possibility. Also, the Nationals were on a fair number of people's radar as possible wild card team; about 1/3 of the experts surveyed picked them to win their division or at least pick up one of the wild card spots.

In other words, while no one would have picked them to have the best record in the Majors this year, the Nationals being in the playoff hunt come September should not be a total surprise to the GM and medical staff of this team; if it is, they are either terrible scouts or have crippling self-doubt. And if that was the case, it'd make sense to say "Well, we'll have him do a private spring training in April, and make his debut in May", to get him the same number of innings.

As for why they can't just rest him for the remainder of the season but bring him back for the playoffs, I'm mostly with tron7 and yerfatma on this one. The medical concerns are about cumulative wear and tear, since pitchers will accrue small, microscopic damage to their ligaments and tendons, which repair a little slower than they accrue. As they age, they repair even slower, and start to pick up arm injuries, trips to the DL, and eventually realize they can't pitch like they used to. Strasburg is all of 24, and his body heals as well as anyone's does (and more so than most TJ recipients, who are on the other side of their 30's).

The Nationals aren't shutting him down because they think his body will explode at any time for the rest of his career, and each start is like playing Russian roulette. They are doing it based on an innings count, and fear that- coming off surgery last year- having him pitch too many innings as part of a 5-man rotation would push the rehealing of this new/migrated body part past where long-term injury reoccurs.

But see, with a playoff spot a near certainty for the team, they can afford Strasburg to take 3 weeks off with light work on the side to stay fresh, which means he can heal his body far more so than in the normal 4 days off but without losing his touch like with the extended acclimation after winter necessary in spring training. Those microtears will heal up more than they've been able to start to start, and he'd come into the playoffs (or maybe a final warm-up start in the last few games of the season, capped at say 60-70 pitches) as a #3 who feels energized like he could throw a strawberry through a locomotive. In fact- and of course I'm no doctor- I suspect he'd have less risk of injury pitching in the playoffs after 3 weeks of rest/rehab style work, than he likely faced in his last few starts in August/September, when his body had been working regularly since spring training.

I think that plan makes more sense while balancing the risk. And since they were nothing but cautious with him from the day they drafted him and he still had to get TJ surgery, sometimes you just gotta take chances. The Nationals might not make the playoffs again for a decade; the team and Strasburg would feel pretty awful if their chances this year are hampered by not having him pitch.

posted by hincandenza at 09:00 PM on September 08

Also, the Nationals were on a fair number of people's radar as possible wild card team; about 1/3 of the experts surveyed picked them to win their division or at least pick up one of the wild card spots.

..the best record in the Majors

The Nationals might not make the playoffs again for a decade;

Well, if a 1/3rd of the experts picked them to win the division or wild card (after finishing 9.5 games out of the playoffs the year before), and this year they have the best record in baseball, isn't it safe to assume that they'd be a favourite to make the playoffs next year?

Let's also not overlook that the Nationals might have seen something in Strasburg that suggested he was getting tired.

First 14 starts this year:
2.45 ERA, 84.0IP, 110K, 20BB, 9-1 (team was 12-2 in starts)

Next 14 starts this year:
3.94 ERA, 75.1IP, 87K, 26BB, 6-5 (team was 7-7 in starts)

As well, his line drive rate was up, his K% was down, his HR% was up, and he wasn't lasting as long as before.

posted by grum@work at 01:28 AM on September 09

Let's also not overlook that the Nationals might have seen something in Strasburg that suggested he was getting tired.

That rationale doesn't work because they made the decision before the season began, which is what they've insisted all along.

Complicating matters, Davey Johnson said this week that Strasburg was being pulled now more for mental reasons than physical ones. He said he was "not there 100 percent mentally."

The way the Nats are handling this is a mess. And how does it get better? They either win the Series while making their uninjured ace miss out on the experience or they lose in the playoffs and the second guessing never ends.

Why didn't they keep the inning maximum to themselves? That would've given them the option of treating the decision to pull him as a precautionary move based on perceived arm tiredness and concerns over his long-term rehabilitation from surgery.

posted by rcade at 11:49 AM on September 09

That rationale doesn't work because they made the decision before the season began, which is what they've insisted all along.

It's an explanation on why they might not have changed their mind when they realized that the team was going to make the playoffs.

posted by grum@work at 11:57 AM on September 09

The Nationals will have a PR nightmare on their hands concerning their decisions about Strasburg if they have a poor showing in the playoffs or even lose the division to the Braves in the next three weeks.

posted by NerfballPro at 12:42 PM on September 09

It's DC, so now that the Natinals have shown a spark of competitiveness, everything they do will be a PR nightmare.

posted by feloniousmonk at 03:58 PM on September 09

The Nationals will have a PR nightmare on their hands concerning their decisions about Strasburg if they have a poor showing in the playoffs or even lose the division to the Braves in the next three weeks.

The NFL has started, and the Washington team won their first game.

The Nationals will be lucky to be on page 5 in the sports section, and a mention on sports talk radio just before they go to the weather guy for an update.

posted by grum@work at 05:21 PM on September 09

I have been arguing this on Twitter with some Nationals fans, and here's the best argument I can give -- don't you think Rizzo and Johnson want to go to the playoffs this season? Isn't the fact they publicly made a decision which really causes them nothing but grief an excellent reason to think they have very strong evidence to think this is the right course of action?

posted by wfrazerjr at 10:06 AM on September 11

If the Nationals have made a mess of this, it is that they have not done a good enough job promoting the entire pitching staff, and have allowed the rest of the league to believe the Steven Strasburg is the entire staff. Nevermind that they have the current #5, #7, and #11 ERAs in the NL (in addition to Strasburg at #10), and nevermind also that they did the exact same thing with Jordan Zimmermann last season, and that has worked out fairly well as mentioned above. As a Nats fan, I can appreciate that if management had an idea of shutting Strasburg down they dropped that early rather than unexpectedly in September. In any event, as exciting as he is to watch, the idea that the Nationals are doomed without Stephen Strasburg is extremely myopic.

posted by bender at 11:00 PM on September 11

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