(Screengrab via MLB Network)

You know what you’re going to hear more and more about if the Nats don’t make a major run in the next two months? Stephen Strasburg’s 2012 shutdown.

I know, I know. But regardless of how Strasburg was pitching at the end of that season, and regardless of health concerns, analysts will point out that the Nats’ strategy seemed predicated on future playoff runs, and that 2013 does not currently appear to be a playoff season.

For example, here was Larry Bowa on MLB Network’s ‘MLB Tonight’ this week.

“The baseball gods have a way of getting back to people,” he said. “Strasburg should’ve pitched last year. You don’t always get back. There’s no guarantees in this game, ever. I don’t care how young you are, I don’t care how much talent you think you have. You never know what’s going to happen injury-wise, guys going on the DL. When you’ve got a chance to grab that ring, you’ve gotta grab it.”

Still, Bowa and his MLB Tonight friends haven’t thrown in the towel on 2013 yet. Bowa and John Smoltz discussed Washington on Thursday night, and both thought things aren’t quite finished.

“If they had to pass five teams, nine games is a lot,” Smoltz said. “But I don’t’ think their pitching staff has given up and will give up. I think they’re dominating from the top three, and if they get any kind of breaks offensively and start being aggressive again, I think there’s a run in them. And I said this earlier today: If the season starts tomorrow, I still think they’re the favorites to win the division next year. That’s how much people around baseball believe in the talent they have. Now, they know that’s not a guaranteed right to go to the postseason; we talked about it last year, when they had that experience without Strasburg.”

“The big thing with this team right now is making a lot of mistakes,” Bowa said. “I love their pitching staff, and like John said, there’s not a lot of teams they have to jump over. That staff is capable of winning 10 out of 12. You saw what the Dodgers did; they came from way off the pace. This team is capable of doing that. Can they? We’re gonna have to wait and see.

“But you watch them play: they throw to the wrong base, miss cut-off men, inability to hit with men in scoring position, a lot of errors in the  infield,” Bowa continued. “You’re just giving away too many outs. Now, can they come out of it? Yeah, there’s enough time for them to come out of it. There’s too much talent. You go around position by position, that’s a good baseball team. I have no idea why they’re that far out. I mean, even playing as bad as they have been playing, they should be a little bit closer than they are. But let’s give credit to Atlanta.”

The men also discussed the team’s soon-to-be-open managerial job.

“I think it’s a great job,” Smoltz said. “I think it’s a great place to step into. Any time you can step into a pitching staff like that, that you can go out there and throw the ball to those guys and say I’m gonna watch you pitch and I’m gonna watch you pitch deep….”

“It would be a great opportunity for anybody to take that team,” Bowa agreed. “The talent at every position is right there….There’s not too many things that you need to fix this team. A tweak here or a tweak there. This team is ready to go again next year, and again, I still think they have one run left in them to maybe make a run at the wild card.”