As someone that doesn't live in DC or the nearby area, covering the Nats gives me an interesting view on Washington sports. While writing this blog, in the columns I read, the interactions I have, I feel I gather a pretty good knowledge of how the DC area as a whole feels about a topic. At the same time when I'm not looking into Nats things, I'm exposed to the national view of DC topics. This has rarely been relevant, because since covering the Nats DC has rarely been relevant (in football or baseball, at least) but with the emergence of the Nats I have begun to hear the national media chime in on the Nats here and there. Of all things, this Strasburg shutdown has been crazy to follow.
Inside of the Nats world most people have either put their faith completely with Rizzo and his staff, or accepted the arguments they were making after deliberating the pros and cons. That's not to say it's been completely harmonious. A small but vocal segment did want Strasburg to pitch but even they understood where the Nats were coming from, and could be forced to choke down the maddening consistency of their decision making process. Outside of the Nats world, however, there was almost universal bewilderment and, surprisingly, actual anger. Not just from sportscasters, who you can't really trust since they are paid to spout nonsense to attract attention, but from regular fans. Guys just calling in to talk about sports in New York or North Carolina would express their disgust with the fact the Nats, a team they don't follow or care about, made this decision. I'm not talking, "Oh 2/3rds of the people out there wouldn't have shut Strasburg down" I'm saying I can probably count those that I heard either agreeing with the shutdown, or even saying "they get it", on one hand.
It's an incredible split, and one that in all honesty probably helps separate the people in DC that are in tune with the town, from those that are more national level guys who occasionally pose as locals. Again, not that you can't disagree with Rizzo, but if you read someone berating the shutdown decision and they back it with a knowledge that is clearly little more that "Strasburg is good!" then it's more a cry for attention than adding anything to the conversation.(and it's these people that did the most to hurt the cause of Strasburg pitching into October. Too much ignorable noise in with the reasonable analysis on the detractor side)
Now that the Nats have lost the "What if" game begins. We can never know exactly what would have happened but we can address some of the newer questions that have arisen.
If they kept pitching Strasburg then they wouldn't have pitched Jackson, who was terrible!
Nope, they totally would have, for reasons we went over. That's why he was 3rd even though that set up a R-R situation, which Davey likes to avoid. Detwiler was the clear 4th man and in a Strasburg led rotation would almost certainly have been 1st man out.
It's good the Nats pitched Strasburg like they did because if they pitched Strasburg like Medlen then the Nats are a Wild Card team.
It's possible, but rather unlikely. In Strasburg games before August the Nats were 14-7. To end up behind the Braves they would have had to have gone (assuming all else being equal) 9-12 instead. Not impossible, but consider that in the non "Big 5" starts by Lannan, Wang and Gorzelanny, the team went 6-6. Then also consider that Strasburg would have been pitching from the pen, strengthening that unit (imagine no Lidge or a lot less H-Rod). Do they still manage to go under .500 over those 21 games? The Nats were a very very good team, and it's likely while they were 14-7 with Strasburg, they'd have been like 12-9 or 11-10 without him. Not enough to change the tide. Now if the Nats pitched Strasburg like Medlen and the Braves pitched Medlen like Strasburg...
If the Nats had planned early to pitch Strasburg all year long then they wouldn't have needed Edwin Jackson and therefore... something?
There have been a lot of hard feelings about Edwin Jackson since the end of the year. He finished September with a 6.54 ERA and blew up in the playoffs. But for the 25 games before that he was a quality pitcher. If they don't sign Edwin then they are not only using Detwiler, who might have reacted poorly trying to pitch through that first rough patch where he lost his role, but probably Wang, who's early injury trouble seemed much more like an excuse to see how Detwiler pitches than an actual inability to start the season. They'd be more inclined to give Wang chances than they even seemed to be this year. Lannan also would have been in the mix, and he's fine, but could he have put up the 3.50 ERA Edwin did from April to August? I'm not sure. And at 166 IP, Ross Detwiler was already pushing his arm to it's season max. What if he was at 190 now? Would he have been as effective? I would bet not. "The Nationals + Edwin Jackson - 5 starts of Strasburg" are better than "The Nationals + 5 starts of Strasburg - Edwin Jackson"