A pessimist would look at the Nationals’ four game losing streak and think that asking the question of who their MVP is would be laughable. An optimist would say that despite losing four games in a row, they still have the best record in baseball, which is quite a statement in itself. Yet, optimist, pessimist, super-fan, or outside observer, despite producing at a better level than any other team in the league this season, no one can point to one Washington National that sticks out as even a legitimate candidate for the league’s Most Valuable Player award.
I have yet to decide whether that is a good, bad, or irrelevant thing, but unquestionably it is fascinating. While the starting pitchers have been absolutely stellar, none have been consistently elite enough to join the rare ranks of Justin Verlander, Roger Clemens, or the other few five-day hurlers who have claimed the award. Besides, when an everyday observer looks at Washington’s rotation they can tell you without hesitation that among the team’s top three starters, not one has been truly more valuable than the other. On any given night Nationals fans have felt that they have the chance to match up against any ace because their starter is just as dominant.
Among the hitters, no everyday Nationals player is batter is hitting above .300, none are in the top-10 in RBI, home runs, runs, or WAR. A large reason for this can clearly be attributed with the team’s overwhelming injury issues this year.
Ryan Zimmerman is likely not a legitimate league-wide candidate because through his first 69 injury plagued games he hit.243/.308/386 with eight home runs and 40 RBI. In his last 43 games, he has hit .343/.416/.560 with eight home runs and 27 RBI, a true MVP pace. Ian Desmond was carrying the team for a bit, but an oblique injury forced him into a terrible slump, which inevitably forced him out of the lineup for a month. Mike Morse and Jayson Werth have both been very solid this year, but both also missed enormous chunks of the season due to injuries themselves.
One player who has been healthy for the majority of the season is first baseman Adam LaRoche. He very likely was the team’s first half MVP, carrying them during a time of dead offense by hitting .255/.340/.496 with 15 home runs and 53 RBI through the team’s first half. However his overall .261/.334/.481 clip with 23 home runs and 78 RBI is hardly MVP worthy.
Despite all these woes, however, Washington has scored the sixth most runs in the National League. They have allowed the fewest runs in the Majors, and they have the best record in baseball. Despite the massive inconsistencies in their lineup, the overwhelming injuries to their best players, and the constant shifting of defensive positions among just about everyone on the field, the team has carried on an excelled. For that reason, I think you can very reasonably argue that Mike Rizzo and Davey Johnson are the MVP’s of this team. The construction of this roster was a thing of beauty, and the ability to lead a group of young kids through this type of adversity, while keeping a smile on their face the whole way through, is downright legendary.