The Stephen Strasburg debate continues. Our analysts ponder the possibility of a Strasburg postseason appearance, whether shutting him down is bad for baseball and who might start the Nationals' postseason opener.
1. Forget what the Nationals are saying. Do you think Strasburg will pitch in the postseason?
Mark Simon (@msimonespn), ESPN Stats & Information: I want to believe that the Nationals will change their minds on this, but I don't think they will. I think if Strasburg was going to pitch in the postseason, they would have already said so. But what if the Nationals lose a starting pitcher to injury in the next six weeks? It's not impossible. A lot of arms get weary this time of year. Then what do they do?
Franklin Rabon (@fjrabon), Capitol Avenue Club: No, I have to believe they will stick to their plan. Otherwise, what was the point in announcing it so firmly in the first place? If the Nationals were going to soften on the issue, they would have already begun putting out signals to that effect. This isn't the NFL, where a team can gain a strategic advantage by bluffing on matters like this.
Logan Burdine (@Logan_Burdine), Blake Street Bulletin: I'm inclined to believe the Nats. I don't necessarily agree with their policy, but the Nationals think they are right. If Strasburg does make an appearance, it would be a surprising change in direction.
2. True or false: Shutting down Strasburg would be bad for baseball.
Simon: False. It's not bad for baseball in the same way that other things would be bad for baseball. Is it sad for baseball … a little bit. For many teams and many players, the chance to win a World Series comes along once in a lifetime. The Nationals could do everything right for the next five years and not make the World Series once for any number of reasons. This year is a great opportunity for them, and it's too bad they won't be going for it full-throttle.
Rabon: Of course it is bad for baseball. Though the term is wildly overused, Strasburg truly is a once-in-a-generation talent. He is the sort of talent that if a casual or even non-baseball fan was to turn on a playoff game and see what Strasburg can do with a baseball, they might be inclined to become more invested in the product. And for long-term fans, any time you rob us of seeing a talent like that, we're annoyed. What are the Nationals waiting for with Strasburg? A year when they're perhaps the best team in baseball and could really win a World Series? It seems like a team that is the clear division leader is merely playing to just make the playoffs.
Burdine: Shutting down one of the game's brightest young stars for the playoffs is a bad thing for baseball. Perhaps not long term, but removing the best pitcher from the top-seeded team does some real damage to this year's playoffs. Plus, I always like a team that goes for it when they have a shot. It's dangerous to assume the Nationals will be back there every year.
3. If Strasburg is shut down, who should be the Nats' Game 1 starter?
Simon: It depends on who the Nationals are facing. The Giants, Dodgers, Pirates and Cardinals all have pretty good records in games in which the opposing team starts a lefty, so I'd say that Jordan Zimmermann might be the best option to pitch Game 1 against any of those teams. If they face the Braves (and remember, this year, two teams in the same division can play each other in the first round), I'd start Gio Gonzalez to neutralize Jason Heyward, Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman. Gonzalez wouldn't be a bad choice either way, but I think he's more liable to get hit by a team with a strong right-handed-hitting lineup.
Rabon: I'd guess Gio Gonzalez. He's been lights-out thus far this year, and it would help validate and remind people of a good move by their general manager -- exactly what they'll need without Strasburg.
Burdine: I'd go with Gonzalez. While he hasn't been as dominant as Strasburg, he's still been very effective this year. And he's easily the Nats' second-best pitcher.