The injury bug continues to run rampant throughout the teams atop the NL East, now claiming Nationals’ star Stephen Strasburg. Washington placed him on the DL today with a sore elbow. This is his second stint on the DL in 2016, suffering a back strain that took him out of the lineup from mid-June to early July.
Strasburg had been struggling on the mound as of late. While he started the season 15-1, he’s 0-3 in his past three starts with a 14.66 ERA and a BAA of over .414. While this loss hurts the Nationals and their rotation, they sit a comfortable 8.5 games ahead of the second place Marlins in the division, so the situation certainly isn’t dire. With that said, this could also have implications for the Nationals in the long-term: both for this year’s postseason and beyond. First off, it is unknown just how long Strasburg will remain out of the rotation. Hopefully, it’s just a 15-day DL stint that could actually prove beneficial to Strasburg’s mentality amid a rough August. But it’s unknown how long it will take for Strasburg to return to his full potential, and with the postseason a little over a month away, the Nationals can’t afford to put Strasburg on the mound if he can’t pitch his best.
This also has implications for the Nationals organization well beyond the 2016 season. The Nationals took a risk with Strasburg earlier this season, giving him a seven-year, $175 million contract. While Strasburg certainly has the talent to justify such a hefty contract, he hasn’t yet displayed the longevity of some top of the line pitchers. Strasburg made just 23 starts in 2015, and has already matched that total in 2016. This specific injury isn’t going to doom Strasburg or the Nationals, but will be Strasburg’s sixth appearance on the DL in as many years in the MLB. His only full season came in 2014. He even skipped this year’s All-Star Game in order to avoid any unfortunate injuries.
The Nationals now have two of their five Opening Day rotation starters on the DL, with Joe Ross still rehabbing in Syracuse. A.J. Cole will come up to make his first Big League appearance of 2016 on Monday against Baltimore. The start will be the second of Cole’s career, the first coming against the Braves in 2015. With Syracuse in 2016, he’s 8-8 with a 4.26 ERA in 22 starts.
With the division looking fairly secure at this point in the season, I don’t expect to see Ross or Strasburg rushed back into the rotation before both the organization and the pitchers feel like they’re back to full form. The only potential implication I see could come from playoff seeding. The Nationals are currently the second seed in the NL, five games behind the Cubs and five games ahead of the Dodgers. I don’t think there was a realistic chance of Washington catching the Cubs even with a healthy roster, but the Dodgers might be able to move within striking distance while the Nats’ rotation is weakened.
This report used information from ESPN.com