Memo to Nationals: Stop making your pitchers as wimps

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The Nationals decided to give Jordan Zimmermann a long layoff during the All-Star break.

Rather than having him start against Atlanta in the weekend, they started him last night against the Astros. The results were terrible.

Zimmermann allowed a season-high six runs and seven hits in five innings, and that was enough for him to be  the losing pitcher in the Nationals’ 7-6 loss.

He started off well by striking out two batters in the first inning, and in the second inning, he gave up a hit-me pitch to Clint Barmes , who hit a two-run home run to give the Astros a 2-0 lead.  He never was the same after that. He lost it altogether in the fourth inning, which the Astros scored four runs off him to take a 6-2 lead.

Zimmermann’s velocity was not there after that home run to Barmes, and eventually, the Astros was hitting his pitches hard in that ill-fated fourth inning.

There’s no question the layoff affected his performance. He was rusty, and he couldn’t keep up as the game went along.

This should have never happened in the first place.  He should have pitched no later than Saturday or Sunday at best.

Pitchers are a creature of habit. They need to pitch every fifth day based on their regimen. They like to work out couple of days and then, have their arm rested for the day of the game.  That is the routine that they stick with.

How does not playing for a week help a pitcher be effective? There’s no question the Nationals wanted to give Zimmermann a week off to rest his arm. They want to limit his innings as best as possible.

It’s been well-known for some time that the Nationals are not going to let Zimmermann pitch in September. That’s fine, but this is crazy to have him rest for a week.

This is overdoing it. Teams try too hard when it comes to overprotecting their pitchers. Whatever happened to the days when pitchers pitched instead of worrying about what will happen to their arm? As a kid growing up in the 70s, I saw a pitcher going out nine innings and pitch every five days. There were no worries if his arm was going to break or not.

Those were the good old days. Now, there has been too much worrying about when a pitcher is going to get hurt or not.

It started with Kerry Wood. He pitched in 1998 as a rookie, and he led the Cubs to the playoffs by going deep in games and pitching as many innings as he want. He had the ball every fifth day.

Then, Wood was hurt, and he was never the same pitcher again. Teams are now worried about how they are going to use a pitcher. There are pitch counts and innings limit. What’s next? Giving a starter two-weeks off?

It makes me want to puke. The babying of the pitchers is beyond annoying.

Players are going to get hurt no matter what. That’s part of baseball. It’s no different when a driver drives a car. He or she is going to be involved in an accident. No one can control these events.

If teams are so worried about injuries, they are better off trading that pitcher away.  In life, everything is a risk, so the Nationals can’t worry about whether or not the arm of Stephen Strasburg or Zimmermann will fall off. If they are hurt, so be it. Teams can’t operate whether guys are hurt or not.

The Yankees did all they could to make sure Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes  were healthy. Guess what? Those two are still injury-prone.

Chamberlain has always been on an innings limit, but he recently had a Tommy John surgery. Hughes had an arm problem this year, and he is now trying to come back from it.

That should be a sign that even if a team protects their pitchers, it doesn’t work.

The Nationals can protect their starters all they want, but there’s no guarantee. They did all they could to protect Strasburg, but he had Tommy John surgery last year. It makes one wonder what is the point of all this.

It seems like this organization is scared about what’s going to happen. They should follow what the Rangers are doing, which they let their young starters pitch by going at least seven innings, and they don’t get caught up with the innings limit, which is the opposite of what most franchises do.  This extends also to their minor league system.

It helps Nolan Ryan has a clue on how to operate pitchers. He used to go deep in games as a pitcher. He had the mentality of pitching complete games, and he would consider it unacceptable if he did not get it done.  He needed to make as many appearances as he could during the season.

Now, the Rangers are taking his mentality. That’s what the Nationals have to do.

Rob Dibble had it right last year when he told Strasburg to pitch in pain and not worry about it.

Unfortunately, the organization fired him as their color analyst for telling the truth about their franchise player and how they do their business.

Maybe they should heed Dibble’s advice and start doing the right thing.

 

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Tags: Jordan Zimmermann Stephen Strasburg Washington Nationals

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