Stephen Strasburg is easily one of the most hyped young pitchers in the MLB and justifiably so. His strikeout rate is easily the MLB's best and his ERA currently ranks as the 13th best in the league.
And the more success he has during the 2012 season, the harder it will be for the team with the best record in the National League to pull back the reigns. The Washington Nationals have so many opportunities ahead of them in the 2012 season and to push as hard as possible towards reaching those potential opportunities is natural, but if doing so potentially risks the future of such an integral part of their team, it may not be worth it.
Since his Tommy John surgery in 2010, the Nationals have tried to be careful with the still fragile Strasburg. But without much reason to believe that the pitcher has current problems to worry about, the idea of putting an innings cap on the team's best pitcher is tough.
The Nationals have a lot of ground to give, meaning they'll probably stay in the race. Strasburg's innings aren't going to start counting backwards. This is going to be treated like a countdown, and it's going to be impossible to avoid. The Orioles and the Pirates will draw plenty of attention should they remain competitive, but everybody's going to weigh in on Strasburg, probably multiple times. It's going to be treated like maybe the biggest decision of the year.