I need an explanation

Stephen Strasburg, the Washington Nationals’ pitching phenom, will be limited to around 180 innings pitched this season. He’s under an innings pitched limit because this is his first season returning from  Tommy John surgery. Obviously, the Nationals, Strasburg (and his agent, Scott Boras) are invested in his health, production and future earning prospects. There’s no need for unnecessary strain on his elbow just coming back from such a grueling process as that procedure and rehabilitation.

The 180 innings pitched seems arbitrary, but is reasonable. He’s on pace however to surpass that limit by mid-September all while the Nationals would be in the middle of a pennant race and looking to win their division. They would make an appearance in the postseason for the first time since relocating to Washington.

Here’s where I need the explanation:

Why did Stephen Strasburg pitch every start he was scheduled to make since Opening Day? Why didn’t the Nationals hold back on Strasburg starting his season until May or June how teams like the Rays do with prospects and keeping them in the minors long enough to avoid free agency for an extra year? Why didn’t Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo plan ahead and have an extra starter on the pitching staff for that very reason? Why didn’t manager Davy Johnson skip a few Strasburg starts in the rotation to avoid racking up so many innings?

I don’t understand it.

The Nationals seemed to have had an effective plan to make this team competitive leading up to this season. They’re living up to their expectations and potential along with having productive seasons from role players on their roster like Danny Espinoza, Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond. They also have a few strong arms not named Stephen Strasburg. Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann have performed well so far – Gonzalez and Zimmermann being dominant for stretches in the season. Things are in the middle of coming together for them – they lead the National League East by six games. How can they screw up this Strasburg situation this way?

My argument has been to start Strasburg’s season late in May while having a delayed spring training. Injured players return in the middle of the season without having a normally scheduled spring training, why not Strasburg? If not that, then why not skip a few of his turns in the rotation earlier in the season? The Nationals have a capable roster and are talented enough to win on days he doesn’t pitch (the Nationals are 59-40 when he doesn’t start). The Nationals should not be in this situation right now.

So I ask you, why did the Nationals do this? What am I missing?


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