It’s sort of unfortunate where all of this Stephen Strasburg innings limit talk leaves us. Sure, it makes for interesting discussion and great drama (not to mention the page views), but it’s distracting us from the real discussion and the real drama: just exactly how good is this kid going to be?
We’re witnessing the breakout season* of a player who could very well define pitching greatness for a generation, but we’ve been narrowed our focus to counting his innings and decrying the stupidity of Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo for even considering that he might deny us Strastober.
*Maybe breakout season isn’t quite the correct term; he was every bit as good in 2010 and 2011, but he threw fewer than 70 innings in each of those seasons.
His latest outing, which saw him allow seven runs (five earned) in five innings of work against the Miami Marlins on Tuesday evening, will undoubtedly serve to re-stoke the flame of this narrowly-focused debate. We will see the articles, blog posts, and tweets quoting his innings total (it’s 150.1 by the way, I had to sneak that in somewhere), but this time we will also see speculation about whether or not this is a sign that he’s hitting a wall or that his surgically repaired arm is beginning to fatigue.
In reality, though, Tuesday night was probably just a toe stub. A blip on the radar. A simple off-night. Just like the also-elites Justin Verlander (eight earned runs allowed in 6.2 innings against Kansas City) and Chris Sale (four earned runs in four innings versus Baltimore) also experienced on the very same night.
We could make a general manager the top story, or we could make the story the 23 year old pitcher who just now saw his season ERA climb to 3.05 and who leads the National League in strikeouts. The player who was trumpeted as the best pitching prospect you’ve ever seen and who has since proceeded to meet every expectation given of him. Strasburg was tabbed as the cornerstone of Washington’s rebuilding effort, and he’s been equal to the task as the most valuable player on one of the best teams in all of baseball (he leads the team in FanGraphs’ version of WAR).
Sure, it will be a shame if he doesn’t throw at all in the postseason, but let’s not let what might happen distract us from what’s unfolding right in front of us. And that’s the first great season of what could be a Hall of Fame career.
Matt Snyder can be reached on Twitter @snyder_matthew.