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Monday, June 14, 2010
Only the Nats can limit Strasburg

Like the rest of us, Murray Chass wants to see as much of Stephen Strasburg as possible. But with Nationals president Stan Kasten suggesting that Strasburg will throw only 100-110 innings in the majors this season, we're probably not going to see him in September:

I had to stop there, because if I kept going I would find so many things to disagree with that I'd break the Internet. So, just focusing on that snippet ...

Of course Glavine didn't go from 50 innings to 195, nor Smoltz 64 to 208. The Nationals are counting all of Strasburg's innings last season, but Chass is considering only Glavine's and Smoltz's major league innings. Glavine's innings actually went down in his rookie season: 201 professional innings in 1987, 195 in 1988. Smoltz's increase was tiny: 199 innings in 1988, 208 in 1989.

It's not that they were babied as major league rookies; it's that they weren't babied in the minors before getting promoted.

But you know what? Stan Kasten's more wrong than Murray Chass. The (so-called) Verducci Effect has been studied and studied and almost everybody finds the same thing: nothing. I don't know ... Maybe we're just not looking hard enough. But it seems an awfully thin reed from which to hang an organizational strategy for the care and feeding of young pitchers.

Granted, I wouldn't suggest that Strasburg should be allowed to throw 200 innings this season. I don't have any idea what the correct number is, and I doubt if anyone else does either. I do believe this is not necessarily "a different era" (as Kasten claims). I believe the Nationals' aim is to eventually get Strasburg to the point where he can throw 200-220 innings per season, and I believe it's foolish to assume that's his natural limit. I believe the current practice of limiting young pitchers to 100-110 pitches is foolish, and the practice of limiting veteran pitchers to around 120 pitches is more foolish.

I would love to see Strasburg stay healthy, and I would love to see him throw 250 innings in 2013. There's no obvious reason that both things can't happen. Except it pretty obviously won't, with the Nationals.