The All-Star Break is upon is, and it's been a disappointing first half for the baseball team in our Nation's Capital. There's still a lot of baseball left, and the Nationals have an uphill climb ahead of them. However, while we take this time to cover the All-Star festivities on this site, we can also reflect on the first 95 games of the Washington Nationals season. If you you disagree with any of these, or you have any others you'd like to add, let me know by tweeting me @TheNatsBlogJoe. I'll retweet the good ones.
Without further ado, here are some superlatives for the good, the bad, and the ugly so far.
Best Starting Pitcher – Jordan Zimmermann
This is obviously the easy decision here. He's the Nationals lone All-Star pitcher this season. He sports a 2.58 ERA and 3.08 FIP, which are both top 10 numbers in the National League. And while they don't really matter that much for evaluating quality of a pitcher, he does lead the NL in wins through the break.
Best Relief Pitcher – Tyler Clippard
Clippard is back at it again. He has had a few hiccups early, but he's continued to put up insane numbers. He has a 1.99 ERA at the break and is striking out 9.74 batters per nine innings. If Drew Storen hadn't been struggling so mightily this season, Clippard would be an obvious trade chip for the Nats this month, because he really should be closing somewhere.
Best Offensive Player – Ian Desmond
Not only has he become a fan favorite, but Ian Desmond has backed up his new leadership role in the clubhouse and on the field with another stellar offensive season. He's played all but one game this season, and despite being snubbed for the All-Star Game, he leads all MLB shortstops in WAR, HR, and RBI. Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper obviously could have fit into this category, but their injuries gave Desmond the edge.
Best Defensive Player – Denard Span
Ian Desmond could have easily won this category, too, with his superior range and arm at a hugely valuable position, but Denard Span is the first real center fielder the Nationals have ever had. Ever. And watching that guy play the position and track down fly balls is simply a thing of beauty. While his offense has struggled a bit, especially at away ballparks, he makes up for it in spades with his defensive prowess.
Biggest All-Star Snub – Ian Desmond
See: Best Offensive Player – Ian Desmond
Best Offseason Acquisition – Denard Span/Ian Krol
The Nats didn't make a whole lot of moves this offseason, but the Span move has proven to be valuable. Despite below-average career numbers on offense, he has done an impeccable job on the outfield.
Ian Krol, who was acquired in the Michael Morse trade this offseason, also deserves mention here. He hasn't been used in a lot of high-leverage situations, but he's succeeded in just about every situation. The hard-throwing lefty has a 1.80 ERA, a 2.39 FIP, and he strikes out almost eight batters per nine while walking less than one per nine.
Most Surprising Promotion – Ross Ohlendorf
Ian Krol, Taylor Jordan, and Erik Davis could all have made this list, but Ross Ohlendorf has had success at the MLB level when absolutely no one saw it coming. His new, improved, and hilarious wind up has helped him post a 1.84 ERA and 3.67 FIP while striking out almost eight batters per nine. His BABIP and ground ball percentage are both probably to low to sustain this level of success, but he's been a pleasant surprise so far.
Least Surprising Promotion – Anthony Rendon
Everyone saw an Anthony Rendon promotion coming at some point this season if he could stay healthy, and stay healthy he has. Our own Editor-In-Chief, Will, predicted Rendon's call up almost to the week. If he'd been with the team since April, he surely would have won the Best Offensive Player award so far with his .301/.352/.460 slash line and a 1.1 WAR that is good for fifth best on the team in only 43 games. This guy is around to stay, which leads me to…
Most Surprising Demotion – Danny Espinosa
I'm saying this is the most surprising considering pre-season expectations, obviously not considering his numbers once the season actually started. Both Espinosa's batting average and on-base percentage were below the .200 mark through more than a quarter of the season, and the Nats put him on the DL before optioning him to Triple-A Syracuse.
Espinosa has played a bit better in Triple-A after striking out at more than a 50% clip through his first couple weeks there, but the Nats have been playing him at shortstop down there to increase his value. It's hard to imagine him coming back as a full-time player in Washington considering Rendon's success.
Least Surprising Demotion – Henry Rodriguez
If you ask most Nats fans, this took about three seasons too long. He was designated for assignment earlier this year before being traded to the Chicago Cubs, who outright released him this week. HRod will probably catch on with some team that wants a minor league project now, but sadly, his chances at pulling it together are slim-to-none.
We mostly focused on positives here, because there will be plenty of time to lambaste the team for lackluster performances on this week's podcast and posts for the rest of the All-Star Week.