Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Though Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg won his sixth straight start Wednesday against Tampa Bay, striking out 10 in the process, there is something to take away from that outing that is far more important than Strasburg's record or his strikeout total.
The phenom has crossed the dreaded halfway point.
Prior to the season, Washington put a hard cap of 160 innings on Strasburg (9-1, 2.46 ERA, 110 strikeouts) as he returned for his first full year since he had Tommy John surgery back in 2010. The seven innings Strasburg tossed Wednesday night put him at 84 innings, 76 away from the limit with 96 games left to play.
If Strasburg continues to average six innings per start like he has over the first 14 turns through the rotation, he'll hit his limit in 12 or 13 starts. That would take him out of the game sometime in mid-August, unless Washington decides to skip a few turns.
There is a problem complicating all of this: the Nationals are in first place in the National League East after never finishing above .500 in any of the previous seven seasons since they moved from Montreal. And with no true top dog in the NL, the Nationals have a realistic chance to go deep in the playoffs, especially considering they have three dominant starters after Strasburg -- Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson.
But Washington's brass has made it clear multiple times that Strasburg will be shut down regardless of where the team sits in the standings, so as fantasy owners, we at least have to be aware that we may lose one the best pitchers in the game come August.
Depending on your league format, there are different courses of action you can take.
I wouldn't be so quick to trade Strasburg in a roto league. The 23-year-old will likely continue to pitch as well as he has so far, which will give his owners a decided advantage in four or five categories once August rolls around.
Owning Strasburg for another 76 innings will likely put your team close to the top of the league in wins, ERA, WHIP, strikeouts and K's per nine innings, provided you haven't built an abominable rotation around him of course.
If Strasburg is shut down, it will be a blow to your staff to not have him for another eight starts, but not a major one. Once you build a lead or get close to the top due to his dominant accumulations, you should be able to coast to the finish with the starters you have left.
Unless someone is willing to part with another elite-tier SP who won't have an innings cap in a straight swap for Strasburg -- which is unlikely considering other owners have the same information as you regarding the innings limit -- I would hold onto him for his remaining 76 innings.
Those in head-to-head leagues should have an entirely different strategy than roto owners.
If Strasburg is put out to pasture in August, you'll have to get by in the remaining weeks with a depleted staff just like roto owners. However, you won't have the benefit of having everything Strasburg did up to the point matter in the final outcome of the league.
Every one of Strasburg's starts -- from his 13-strikeout game at Boston on June 8 to the hypothetical no-hitter he'll throw in July -- will be worthless to you in the remaining weeks, because accumulation doesn't apply in head-to- head leagues.
Head-to-head owners should head to the trading market immediately and explore Strasburg's value. Like roto owners, it may be difficult to put together a fair one-for-one swap for another elite ace, because other owners know the righthander is getting shut down at 160 innings. However, there should be plenty of two-for-one deals you can cook up that may cause a minor hit to your staff from now until August, but will ultimately help your team down the stretch.
Look for deals for two mid-tier SP such as Zimmermann, Anibal Sanchez, Ryan Vogelsong, Jason Hammel, Madison Bumgarner, A.J. Burnett, Jackson, Shawn Marcum and Yu Darvish, or see if struggling aces like James Shields or even Felix Hernandez could be had in one-for-one swaps.
You may miss the damage Strasburg's 97 mph fastball will do from now until August, but once the fantasy playoffs come you'll appreciate having the ability to play a pair of eights rather than having to discard an ace and comb through a bunch of deuces on the free agent wire in order to find a replacement.
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