The Washington Nationals are nearing the tipping point on Stephen Strasburg.
Their young ace bounced back from a poor start by beating the Miami Marlins on Sunday. He’s now 12-5 on the season and has struck out 160 in 127 1/3 innings.
That last number is the most important. The first-place Nationals have insisted that Strasburg will be capped at 160 innings this season, a year removed from Tommy John ligament transplant surgery. Would they shut him down early and bring him back for the franchise’s first playoff game since they were in Montreal in 1981? Or would they just shut him down until next spring, squandering a chance for a championship?
It seems extreme to do that, but they just might, even though the statistics are inconclusive at best.
Former Cy Young winner John Smoltz says the Nationals should let him pitch as long as he isn’t showing signs of wear. To protect his arm, give him an extra long offseason, and give him the first couple months of 2013 off.
“What they’re saying is he’s not going to pitch in the playoffs,” Smoltz said to The Sporting News. “They’re handcuffing themselves because they’re darned if they do, darned if they don’t. To me, there’s ways around [a shutdown].”
On to this week’s Monday Morning Manager:
Albert Pujols, Angels: Surging into the fringes of the MVP race, as usual. He hit .394 with six homers and 13 RBI last week. After his frigid start, he’s now ninth in the league in homers and is hitting .289.
A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox: One of the most underrated catchers ever. He has a career-best 21 homers on the season and has hit home runs in each of his last five games. Sunday’s was a pinch-hit homer in the seventh inning.
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: The reigning NL Cy Young winner has won three of his last four starts, and the Dodgers have won in five of his last seven starts, and he’s given up just one run in his last 16 innings.
Ryan Howard, Phillies: A season to forget in Philadelphia is even more of a season to forget for Howard, who missed the first half after his Achilles injury suffered in the playoffs last year. He struck out 10 times in 20 at-bats last week and is hitting .208 with four homers in 22 games.
Mark Trumbo, Angels: Cooling off a bit. He’s hitting .111 in August and was 2 for 24 with 11 strikeouts last week.
Ubaldo Jimenez, Indians: Cleveland is in an absolute tailspin, and the Indians’ ace isn’t pitching like it. He gave up 11 earned runs in two starts last week, and walks are coming back to bite him.
1. Cincinnati Reds (66-42, last week No. 1)
2. Washington Nationals (65-43, last week No. 2)
3. New York Yankees (63-44, last week No. 3)
4. Texas Rangers (63-44, last week No. 4)
5. Atlanta Braves (62-46, last week NR)
26. San Diego Padres (46-64, last week No. 26)
27. Kansas City Royals (45-62, last week No. 27)
28. Chicago Cubs (43-63, last week No. 28)
29. Colorado Rockies (38-68, last week No. 29)
30. Houston Astros (36-73, last week No. 30)