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Point/Counterpoint: Does Harvey in WS change view on Strasburg?


Point/Counterpoint: Does Harvey in WS change view on Strasburg?

THIS WEEK'S DEBATE: Does the Mets' successful use of Matt Harvey this postseason make you view the Nationals' shutdown of Stephen Strasburg in 2012 any differently?

MARK ZUCKERMAN: No. I know it's trendy to bring up the Strasburg shutdown again now because the Mets have taken the complete opposite approach with Harvey and now are heading to the World Series, but it's way too simplistic to make an apples-to-apples comparison here. Yes, both pitchers had Tommy John surgery early in their major-league careers. And yes, both pitchers are represented by Scott Boras. But that's really where the comparison ends. People don't point this out, but Harvey had considerable more professional experience than Strasburg at the time of his injury. Harvey was in his third pro season, was 24 years old and had thrown 483 1/3 total innings. Strasburg? He was still in his first pro season, had just turned 22 weeks before blowing out his elbow and had thrown a total of only 123 1/3 innings. The shutdown wasn't just because Strasburg was returning from surgery. It was because he had never thrown that many innings before. Harvey had. Look, every pitcher is different. No two are the same, and so what's best for one may not be best for another. On top of all that, we don't know what the long-term effect of this will be on Harvey. He may very well pitch the Mets to a championship, but we simply don't know yet how his arm will respond next year to this much workload. Maybe he'll be fine, maybe he won't. Regardless, it doesn't change my opinion of Strasburg's usage in 2012.

CHASE HUGHES: I wouldn't go as far as to say the Harvey situation specifically has changed my thoughts on the Strasburg shutdown, as the Mets didn't exactly handle his innings limit smoothly this year and, as Mark notes, much of it depends on how Harvey performs over the next several years. But, the way things have transpired for the Nationals over the last three seasons has definitely altered my view. First of all, I agreed with the decision to shut down Strasburg at the time and I commended the Nats for how they stuck with their plan. And I am not saying they made a mistake by doing what they did. But with the benefit of hindsight, I think it's clear they should have handled the situation differently. I'm not saying they should have simply let him continue pitching to 200 innings or whatever it would have been. If you believe that, please show yourself out of the room because that involves ignoring doctors and decades of established medical research. That is by far the worst argument of all. I do now think, however, that they should have done something creative to make him available for the postseason. I don't know if that's skipping starts, giving him an extended All-Star break, going to a six-man rotation, or simply beginning his season later. A lot of it would depend on advice from doctors. But not having Strasburg for what could end up being the Nats' best chance to win a World Series in this era looks worse and worse as each year passes. Harvey pitching in the World Series is just perhaps another reminder of what could have been.

MZ: The problem, though, is you're assuming Strasburg's presence alone would have made a significant difference for the Nationals in the 2012 postseason, when all the evidence suggests it wouldn't have done that. The guy simply wasn't pitching well prior to the shutdown. He was, arguably, the team's fourth-best starter at that moment, behind Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson. What reason was there to believe he would have pitched well against the Cardinals in the NLDS? And if you'll recall, only one member of the Nats' postseason rotation recorded a quality start in that series: Ross Detwiler, who only got the chance to start Game 4 because of Strasburg's shutdown. But now we're delving into an argument that should've run its course a long time ago. The point is this: There's no way to know with any certainty how best to use young pitchers coming off major elbow surgery. Maybe letting them pitch a whole lot is best for them. Maybe restricting their innings is better. We simply don't know the answer, and probably won't for years to come. This we do know: Matt Harvey is likely to end 2015 having thrown roughly 215 big-league innings, the last 24-to-28 of them in high-stress situations. That's a really big workload, given the fact it comes in his first season back from a torn elbow ligament. Is it worth the risk for a shot at a World Series title? Maybe. But we just don't know yet.

CH: I get the argument how Strasburg perhaps would not have made a difference in the NLDS against the Cardinals, as Detwiler was their best pitcher in the series and he would have been bumped from the rotation if Strasburg was in there. And I do not think the way the Mets have handled Harvey should be followed step-by-step by other teams in the future. They didn't necessarily get it right, either. But I think the way the Nats dealt with Strasburg also fits that description. Teams are still trying to figure out the best way to do this and both situations have perhaps become cautionary tales to varying degrees. I think it's telling how the Mets decided after watching what the Nationals did in 2012 to choose a different course. I would imagine many around the industry feel the same way. The unfortunate thing for the Nats is that the what ifs and questions of what could have been may never be answered if Strasburg leaves in free agency after the 2016 season. I think we all realized at the time that the argument would never truly be settled until the Nationals did something in the playoffs with Strasburg in store. With his contract up after next season, that debate could live forever. I think one thing we can all agree on is that's not good.

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2018 MLB Wild Card Playoff Race: The Dodgers are back


2018 MLB Wild Card Playoff Race: The Dodgers are back

The Los Angeles Dodgers have flipped the National League West, the Tampa Bay Rays are making a valiant run, and the Washington Nationals are hanging in there.

Races heading into the 2018 Major League Baseball Postseason still find a way to stay interesting after 150 games. 

The NL Central, NL West, AL and NL Wild Card battles are all going to be watched under a microscope with less than two week's worth of games remaining. Not too far away either is the NL East. 

Joining the Boston Red Sox, the Cleveland Indians are only the second team to clinch a postseason spot. They claimed the AL Central crown and will make the playoffs as the No. 3 team in the AL Bracket. No one though has clinched a position in the National League yet, and likely will not until the final week. 

Eight spots remain with the Astros and Yankees not being too far away from joining the list. At the rate the Dodgers are winning games (six of their last seven), they probably are not far off either. No matter what, Los Angeles is in a good spot after they once were at risk for missing the playoffs for the first time since 2012. 

One team that has fallen out of that conversation is the Atlanta Braves who were a game and a half from the top seed in the NL. Now they have lost four straight and leave the Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals still holding out hope. 

National League Postseason Picture:

Central: Chicago Cubs 89-62

West: Los Angeles Dodgers 84-68 

East: Atlanta Braves 83-68 

National League Wild Card Standings (Games remaining against Wild Card teams): 

Milwaukee Brewers: 86-66         +3.5 (3)
vs. Cincinnati (1)
@ Pittsburgh (3)
@ St. Louis (3)
vs. Detroit (3)
St. Louis Cardinals: 84-68         +1.5 (3)
@ Atlanta Braves (1)
vs. San Francisco (3)
vs. Milwaukee (3)
@ Chicago Cubs (3)
Colorado Rockies: 82-69            -1.5 (10)
@ LA Dodgers (1)
@ Arizona (3)
vs. Philadelphia (4)
vs. Washington (3)
Philadelphia Phillies: 77-73        -6.0 (4)
vs. NY Mets (1)
@ Atlanta (4)
@ Colorado (4)
vs. Atlanta (3)
Arizona Diamondbacks: 78-74    -6.0 (3)
vs. Chicago Cubs (1)
vs. Colorado (3)
vs. LA Dodgers (3)
vs. San Diego (3)
Washington Nationals: 77-75      -7.0 (3)
vs. NY Mets (4)
vs. Miami (3)
@ Colorado (3)

Since the last update, the Milwaukee Brewers and the St. Louis Cardinals have not done much to add to their leads in the Wild Card. Milwaukee playing against lower teams at home in the division, only won two games in their past two series, with one being Christian Yelich's cycle. St. Louis lost three out of four to the Dodgers, but rebounded to take two against Atlanta.

Still, they hold the final two spots and have benefited with the Dodgers running through the NL West.

While the Dodgers jumped past the Rockies for the lead in the division, if Colorado can rebound it will make for an interesting finish in the National League as a whole.

However, the Rockies can't even beat the lower tier teams, shutout twice in the Bay. The Rockies will have a say in how the remainder of the season plays out, especially in the NL East, playing the Phillies and the Nats as both are grasping for straws with the Braves sinking. 

Once again the Nationals are on the way out, looking in. They remain in the update only because they have a slight chance in the division (6.5 games back), and a real favorable schedule. At the same time, write-off the Arizona Diamondbacks, they are 4-13 in their last 17.

American League:

East: Boston Red Sox: 103-48 -- clinched postseason spot

West: Houston Astros: 95-56 

Central: Cleveland Indians: 84-66 -- clinched division

American League Wild Card Standings (Games remaining against Wild Card teams):

New York Yankees: 92-58      +8.0 (4)
vs. Boston (2)
vs. Baltimore (3)
@ Tampa Bay (4)
@ Boston (3)
Oakland Athletics: 90-61        +5.5 (0)
vs. LA Angels (2)
vs. Minnesota (3)
@ Mariners (3)
@ LA Angels (3)
Tampa Bay Rays: 84-66          -5.5 (4)
@ Texas (1)
vs. Toronto (4)
vs. NY Yankees (4)
vs. Toronto (3)

Just when it looked like the Yankees and the Oakland Athletics were going to be in a footrace for the top Wild Card spot, it evaporated. Losing once to the Baltimore Orioles, twice to the Tampa Bay Rays and another to the Los Angeles Angels, the Athletics faded. On the flip side New York got a huge win at home against the MLB-leading Red Sox.

The remaining schedule for each remain polar opposites as the calendar winds down. A race will still likely present itself.

Tampa Bay missed a golden chance to give themselves an outside shot. A sweep against Oakland, combined with the other results would have got them within 4.5 games. An extra-inning loss at home essentially ended their far hopes. Their record post All-Star break? 35-19.


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Strasburg fans 11, Nationals top Marlins 4-2

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Strasburg fans 11, Nationals top Marlins 4-2

Stephen Strasburg matched his season-high with 11 strikeouts and Bryce Harper tied a career-high with five walks as the Washington Nationals beat the Miami Marlins 4-2 Tuesday night.

Anthony Rendon drove in two runs for the Nationals (77-75), who entered Tuesday's game 7 games behind the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves and 7 games back in the race for the final wild-card spot.

Strasburg (9-7) pitched six innings and allowed two runs and five hits with two walks. At one point, he struck out six consecutive batters.

Sean Doolittle pitched a perfect ninth for his 25th save in 26 opportunities.

Peter O'Brien hit his third home run of the season and J.T. Realmuto had two hits and knocked in a run for the Marlins.

Adam Eaton and Trea Turner had consecutive RBI singles in the second inning to give the Nationals an early lead.

O'Brien's solo homer off Strasburg cut the Marlins' deficit to 2-1.

Rendon's sacrifice fly pushed the lead to 3-1, but Realmuto pulled Miami within 3-2 with a base hit in the fifth.

Rendon's single in the sixth pushed Washington's advantage to 4-2.

Sandy Alcantara pitched four innings for the Marlins and allowed six hits, six walks, and three runs.


Nationals: RHP Max Scherzer (17-7, 2.53 ERA) will begin a four-game series against the New York Mets on Thursday.

Marlins: RHP Jeff Brigham (0-2, 7.36) will take the mound on Thursday when Miami begins the final home series of the season, a four-game set against Cincinnati.