Ranking the Top 5 Seasons by a Nationals Player

Here’s a countdown of the best seasons any Washington Nationals player has had in the team’s 7 year history.  We’d love to hear your responses.  Hit up the comments.

5. Tyler Clippard’s 2011 Season

After leading the Nationals in wins in 2010 as a relief pitcher, Tyler Clippard put together the second best performance in Washington Nationals’ history as a reliever in 2011. As the only Nationals All-Star, he struck out 104 batters in 88.1 innings pitched creating 10.6 strikeouts per 9 innings. With a 1.83 ERA and a .838 WHIP, he was arguably the best set-up man in the majors.  He even led the league with 38 holds, 2 shy of the MLB record of 40.  Without Clippard, the Nationals may have never come close to their almost .500 record since the next best choice would have been the wild Henry Rodriguez, who had a 3.56 ERA and 45 walks.

4. Michael Morse’s 2011 Season

In a year where every Nationals player was struggling, Michael Morse became a star in the eyes of Nationals fans. It all began in Spring Training, when he showed his potential by hitting 9 home runs with a .364 BA.  This hot start did not transfer over to the start of the regular season, but when Adam LaRoche went down for the season and Morse received a definite starting spot, the kindling was ignited.  Hitting 31 home runs and bringing home 95 runners, he hit for a .303 batting average and a .550 slugging percentage.  He also provided the Nationals with great defense in the wake of losing a potential Gold Glover.  Although he was not awarded an All-Star position because of his slow start, he received enough votes to come in 19th in the MVP voting at the end of the season.  Morse sparked the Nationals’ offense and led them to the best season since 2005.

3. Chad Cordero’s 2005 Season

In the first full season as the Washington Nationals, no young player performed better than closer Chad Cordero.  In arguably the hardest position a player could play, he was the best.  He led the league with 47 saves while blowing only seven games.  He also tied the MLB record with 15 saves in one month.  With these achievements came a 1.82 ERA as well as a .969 WHIP in his 74 appearances.  He was the first Nationals player ever to be selected to the NL All-Star team.  In addition, he won the NL Rolaids Relief Pitcher of the Year and earned votes in both the Cy Young voting and the MVP voting.  Although he never produced a season quite like the one in 2005, and his career trailed off due to injury, Cordero will always be known for shutting down opponents and that flat brim cap.

2. Ryan Zimmerman’s 2009 Season 

Coming off what was the Nationals’ worst season ever in 2008, the only hope for the 2009 season was a completely healthy season from a young Ryan Zimmerman.  Mr. Walkoff did not disappoint.  In what is now considered the worst season in Nationals’ history, Zimmerman put together a career year.  He hit .292 with a .364 OBP and a .525 slugging percentage while driving in 106 RBIs, which gave him his first Sliver Slugger.  He also hit 33 home runs, 37 doubles, and three triples.  Defensively he was the best third baseman in the majors with a .963 fielding average at third base.  This earned him the team’s first Gold Glove.  He was also named to the All-Star team and came in 25th in the MVP race.  This season solidified Zimmerman as one of the top third basemen in all of baseball.

1. Alfonso Soriano’s 2006 Season

When it comes to Nationals history, nothing can compare to Alfonso Soriano’s only season with the Nationals in 2006.  Despite a modest .277 batting average, .351 on base percentage, and 95 RBIs, nothing else was average.  Soriano finished the year with 46 home runs and stole 41 bases, which made him the fourth player in the history of baseball to hit at least 40 home runs and steal at least 40 bases in the same season.  He was also the first player ever to hit 40 doubles in the same season he entered the 40-40 Club.  With this spectacular performance, he became the 1st player in Nationals history to earn a Silver Slugger and became the 2nd National to get an All-Star nomination.  His defense was also a little above average despite his past history.  Adding to his offensive prowess, he recorded 22 outfield assists, which is the most of any player in the 40-40 Club.  Ultimately, he finished 6th in the MVP voting, the best in Nationals’ history.  Many believe he was only that low in MVP voting because he played for the Nationals.  This great season will be hard to surpass, but hopefully in the future, fans will look back and see numerous others with better seasons than this.

Honorable Mentions:

Stephen Strasburg’s 2010 Season

One of the most anticipated debuts in Nationals history occurred on June 8th, 2010 when Stephen Strasburg took the mound against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  In seven exciting innings, he stuck out 14 batters while only giving up two runs on a home run. In his first three MLB starts, he set the record for most strikeouts in a pitcher’s first three starts with 32.  While his season was cut short to only 12 games because of a torn ulnar collateral ligament requiring Tommy John surgery, he made his presence known.  In 68 innings pitched, he struck out 92 batters resulting in an amazing 12.2 strikeouts per 9 innings and 5.41 strikeouts per batters walked.  He finished the season with 5 wins, 3 losses, and a low 2.91 ERA.

Cristian Guzman’s 2008 Season

Not many fans remember but during a very disappointing 2008 season, Cristian Guzman actually put together a terrific All-Star season.  This season can be summed up in one simple word: hits. In only 138 games, Guzman gathered 183 hits leading to a .316/.345/.440 slash line.  In addition, he hit 35 doubles and 5 triples.

Ryan Zimmerman’s 2010 Season

In 2010, Zimmerman continued his young career with another consistent season despite slight injury problems, which led to him missing 20 games.  During this season he hit .307 with a .388 OBP, earning him his second consecutive Silver Slugger award.  He also hit 25 home runs with 85 RBIs.  This all led to him coming in 16th in the MVP voting.

Adam Dunn’s 2009 and 2010 Season

In two years with the Nationals, Adam Dunn put together two strangely similar but efficient seasons.  In both 2009 and 2010, he hit 38 home runs with 105 RBIs in 2010 and 103 RBIs in 2009.  His slash lines were also close at .267/.398/.529 in 2009 and .260/.356/.536 in 2010.  Despite putting up slightly better numbers in 2009, he actually received MVP votes in 2010 to place 21st in the MVP race.  Dunn’s production made the Nationals a tough competitor but the huge number of strikeouts (376 in two seasons) that he collected hurt his chances of making the top five best seasons.

Joe Drugan

About Joe Drugan

Joe is the Managing Editor of The Nats Blog and host of the Nats Talk On The Go podcast. He's been blogging about the Nationals since 2010 and with The Nats Blog since 2011.