The Unknown Crisis also known as Max Scherzer

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Like his eyes, Max Scherzer seemingly had two different seasons in 2015 – one powerful, striking and attention-grabbing, like his blue eye, and one mediocre, flying under the radar, like his brown eye. Even though Scherzer posted a 2.79 ERA, starting 33 games and pitching a career high 228.2 innings, the stats that will forever be associated with his historic campaign last season which included two no-hitters, there was still a hugely problematic span for the big righty.

From April to June, Max Scherzer headlined the NL Cy Young Award Conversation, holding steady to a 1.75 ERA, striking out 130 and holding opposing batters to a meager .179 clip, all on top of a no-hitter that was one out away from a perfect game. But when the calendar turned from June to July, something clicked in Scherzer’s head – or rather, unclicked. His starts went from must-see events and guaranteed wins to a decent start and a good game, to a serious problem. From July 7th to September 7th, the “ace” posted an ERA of 5.11 in an average of 5 innings per start, numbers, that for two months, certainly doesn’t look like it should belong to someone who commands a $210 million contract. All of this was forgotten in late September and early October, when Scherzer posted a string of incredible starts, capped off by yet another no-hitter, against another playoff team, the New York Mets.

Nats fans ended the season with the notion of Scherzer as an incredible pitcher who enjoyed a historic season. While two no-hitters are an accomplishment that is unprecedented, the biggest factor in the Nationals rotation worked against them for two months, and that’s not acceptable.

But what, if anything, was behind this sharp decline that took the most dominant pitcher in the league to a mediocre starter who could barely last five innings?

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Sitting Strasburg: Is it the right idea?

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I was actually watching the game. The pitch. It was mid august of 2010. Nationals VS Phillies, Strasburg pitching. I had to watch – this rookie phenom was tearing up the majors. I forget the batter. I forget the inning. The pitch is what I remember. He immediately winced after the pitch, which was away. He was clustered by a group of teammates. The usual rowdy philly crowd had quieted a bit. When he walked off, we thought it was a two week thing. Here we are, on the two year anniversary, where it might of created one of the biggest problems the Nationals have ever seen in their eight years as a franchise – do you sit Strasburg?

In case you’ve been paying attention to baseball but living under a rock, this is the situation: Stephen Strasburg has a 180 innings limit after his Tommy John surgery. The Nationals are poised to make a playoff run. Do you sit Strasburg or take the risk?

One year ago, this wasn’t a problem. The nationals weren’t a playoff team. Strasburg is the future. If you hurt your future, you hurt yourself. Sit him. But now that the Nationals are a playoff team, it is a problem. Shutting down Strasburg won’t be easy. As a fan of the Nats, I say to play him, to forget these inning limits.  But I know that it’s the right move.

The Nationals look to be prominent for the next few years. When Strasburg is completely healthy, that is. They also have a number five pitcher waiting, John Lannan, who was the number one in 2010 before Strasburg. And if Strasbur did end up with an injury this year? The pain would be unbearable for any Nationals fan.

I understand he could possibly be a key component to a playoff run. But, the Nationals pitching staff can and will hold up without him. They are the number one rotation in the league, and a rotation isn’t one man.

The main argument against this is that you can’t take out your best pitcher this late in the season and this close to a playoff run.

Even if they don’t go far this time round, the Nationals will have a chance next year, the year after, and after that.

And they have to preserve this chance.

Even if it means ripping the ball from Strasburg’s fingers.