Stephen Strasburg has helped propel the Washington Nationals to the best record in the MLB, 30 games over .500 at 76-46 as the calendar approaches September. Though the Nationals have had huge success this season, shutting down Strasburg will be the reason that they will not be able to win the World Series in 2012.
Strasburg has a 14-5 record this season and will likely miss a final two or three starts down the stretch after he is shut down. Furthermore, he will miss the playoffs, probably the biggest blow the Nats could receive at this point. The absence of Strasburg will be doubly costly thanks to his season long dominance of teams with a records of .500 or better.
Taking a look at the Nats' starters against teams over .500 allows one to see what exactly they are missing with Strasburg out of the rotation. Although not all of the starters boast poor records against quality teams, none of them compare to the success that Strasburg has had. Strasburg has a 7-1 record against teams over .500, averaging 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings.
The sheer dominance he has against quality teams is going to be missed in the playoffs. The rest of the staff has done well, but has not been as dominate against winning teams.
Fellow ace, Gio Gonzalez, has racked up a 16-6 record, but has only gone 6-3 against winning teams. Jordan Zimmermann, the likely number two starter in the playoffs, has a 2-4 record. The other two potential starters to take the mound in the playoffs are Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler. Jackson is 4-2 against teams above .500, while Detwiler is 2-4 with an ERA 1.48 points higher than against sub-.500 teams.
The caliber of teams that the Nationals will face will require each pitcher to be on his game every night and them all to step up to the challenge.
The Nationals will suffer in the playoffs not simply because of the quality of pitching that Strasburg brings to the table but also the mental aspect of the game that his loss takes away.
Washington would have a significant edge on any team they face with Strasburg competing against any team's ace in Game One of a series. The Nationals could almost guarantee being up one game to none after the opening game of the series with Strasburg in the rotation. With Gio to follow, it would be one of the best one-two punches in the playoffs.
There will be immense pressure on this team when they enter the playoffs. Fans and players might not be focusing on the great season that they have had but rather the great season they had with a member of the staff who will not throw a pitch in postseason play.
The result of shutting down Strasburg will have a chain reaction that will cost the Nationals a chance at a title this season. This is a team capable of winning it all this year, if they go into October with their full arsenal.