After being shut down in 2012 after 159 1/3 innings due to his recovery from Tommy John surgery, Stephen Strasburg will be allowed to pitch as many as 200 innings during the 2013 regular season. This was something many could have guessed based on several factors, but the number ‘200’ was effectively confirmed on Monday by USA Today.
Nationals’ vice president of player development Bob Boone spoke with USA Today and said the Nats’ ace will be able to go beyond 160 this season, and that the team hopes he can get to 200.
Here is exactly what he said:
"To say there's no restrictions really means, 'Hey, we'd like him to pitch 200 innings,' " Boone said. "But, you're not gonna say no restrictions like you might have on Steve Carlton, who would throw 320 innings. You're not gonna do that. There's always restrictions, but the meaning is, 'We're not gonna shut him down after 160 innings.' "
Strasburg will push 200 this season in his second full campaign after undergoing Tommy John surgery in August of 2010. It makes perfect sense given the way the Nationals have treated pitcher Jordan Zimmermann’s comeback from the same procedure.
Zimmermann had Tommy John in 2009 and made his initial return during the 2010 season. He did his limit of 160 innings in 2011, going 161 1/3 innings before being shut down. And last season, his second full year back, he pitched 195 2/3 innings before starting Game 2 in the National League Division Series.
Strasburg going for 200 and perhaps not much more this season follows the course of Zimmermann and also confirms one more thing we should expect from him in 2013. That is that Strasburg is unlikely to go deep into ball games in order to preserve him over the course of the season. Don’t expect him to be pitching in the eighth inning or going for complete games, even if he is grooving through a gem of a start.
In 32 starts last season, Davey Johnson never let Zimmermann go past the seventh inning. 16 different times Zimmermann made it that through the sixth with one earned run or less and he was only allowed to hit 100 pitches in 12 of his starts.
Strasburg was treated similarly by Johnson and game-to-game there shouldn’t be a drastic difference from 2012. In 28 starts Strasburg also never made it into the eighth inning despite 11 games reaching the seventh having allowed one earned run or less. He hit the 100 pitch mark just 10 times out of those 28 outings.
What should be interesting is how Johnson and the Nationals treat Zimmermann in 2013, as it should have direct implications for Strasburg in 2014. Will they let Zimmermann go past 200 to, say, 220 or 240? Most of the league’s premier aces go several starts past 200 and if the Nats plan to ramp their starters up to that level, now might be the time.
Just looking at the near future, Strasburg should be able to hit 200 this season, depending on his health. He should also be able to pitch in the playoffs this time around, if the team qualifies of course.