I’m not sure what compelled me to do this, but I was sitting there watching the Bachelorette with my wife and scrolling through Twitter when this hit me:
40 percent of the NL starting lineup from the Nationals. They've come a long way from Cristian Guzman playing a couple of innings late. https://t.co/bZsaTFVPHy
— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) July 10, 2017
They have come a long way. The Nats have five stellar All-Stars this year and could’ve had two more (Anthony Rendon and Gio Gonzalez). Compare that to the six seasons from 2006-11 when they had just six All-Stars.
Those were beyond lean years, and the team was flat-out terrible. You don’t get multiple All-Stars winning < 70 wins games per season. But that's in the past. Dredging it up is this list, which we'll run in reverse, not so much to build up suspense as to get to the more interesting ones quicker.
28. Cristian Guzman, 2008
First-half stats: .313 BA, .340 OBP, .424 SLG, 5 HR, 3 SB
Few players represent the Nats’ early years better (worse?) than Guzman. He was almost impossibly bad in the Nats’ inaugural season (.219/.260/.314!) and missed their entire second season with injury before rebounding to have decent years in 2007-08.
He’ll always have a strange place in my heart as a member of the “Fat Nats” infield alongside Dmitri Young and Ronnie Belliard, not to mention Jose Vidro and Vinny Castilla, but he never should’ve been an All-Star.
In fact, in 2008 I wrote on this very site that Jon Rauch should’ve gotten the nod over him. Jon Rauch! Remember him? Sure was tall.
It doesn’t matter, though, when you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel.
27. Matt Capps, 2010
Stats: 3.18 ERA, 23 SV, 33 SO, 1.412 WHIP
Sending Matt Capps to the All-Star Game should be cause for contraction.
Also, Adam Dunn was on Year 2 of back-to-back 38-HR seasons and had 22 at the break. Just send the big donkey, let him swing in the HR Derby and be done with it. Instead, we got Matt Capps.
Mom? Is that you? pic.twitter.com/uBm60ICdtr
— Internet?Contrarian (@bogcommenter) July 10, 2017
26. Bryce Harper, 2012
Stats: .282 BA, .354 OBP, .472 SLG, 8 HR, 10 SB
Bryce Harper is now 24 years old and playing in his fifth All-Star game. As seen above, he’s feeling himself. And it’s quite an achievement, but looking at his 2012, 2016 and 2013, he’s clearly the beneficiary of popularity.
And that’s okay. I want to see Harper — and guys like Harper, if they exist — in the ASG. Reward the most deserving players, sure, but don’t make it boring. Give me Harper in a down year over Cristian Guzman in a career year any day.
25. Bryce Harper, 2013
Stats: .264 BA, .371 OBP, .522 SLG, 13 HR, 8 SB
24. Bryce Harper, 2016
Stats: .256 BA, .399 OBP, .491 SLG, 19 HR, 13 SB
23. Tyler Clippard, 2014
Stats: 2.03 ERA, 1 SV, 53 SO, 1.225 WHIP
Speaking of, no one wants to see middle relievers unless they’re totally badass. Andrew Miller, for example, is okay because he’s fun to watch.
Clippard, though? He was a really good middle reliever with a great changeup.
22. Jordan Zimmermann, 2014
Stats: 6-5, 3.03 ERA, 101 SO, 1.212 WHIP
Love me some ZNN, but I’m kinda surprised he made the team with six wins and a 3.03 ERA.
21. Tyler Clippard, 2011
Stats: 1.75 ERA, 0 SV, 63 SO, 0.857 WHIP
All right, Clippard was badass in 2011.
20. Dmitri Young, 2007
Stats: .339 BA, .390 OBP, .512 SLG, 8 HR
Da Meathook! No problems with him being the token All-Star while batting .339. Bonus: This selection prompted me to create Da Meathook All-Stars.
19. Livan Hernandez, 2005
Stats: 12-3, 3.48 ERA, 78 SO, 1.407 WHIP
Love me some Livan, and at least he was a known guy. That WHIP, though.
18. Ian Desmond, 2012
Stats: .285 BA, .316 OBP, .515 SLG, 17 HR, 11 SB
Desmond had a nice stretch there where he won Silver Slugger three years in a row and picked up this All-Star nod to boot. Boring but solid.
17. Ryan Zimmerman, 2009
Stats: .288 BA, .354 OBP, .473 SLG, 14 HR
Zim 1.0! Kinda strange that he only made one ASG during the early years, considering he received MVP votes three times. Well deserved.
16. Wilson Ramos, 2016
Stats: .330 BA, .382 OBP, .536 SLG, 13 HR
Hell of a first half for the Buffalo, especially in light of the production from this year’s Nats catchers. Matt Wieters isn’t getting it done, is what I’m saying.
15. Stephen Strasburg, 2017
Stats: 9-3, 3.43 ERA, 128 SO, 1.127 WHIP
Stras is deserving, and I move him up a bit because he’s a big-name guy and it’s fun to watch him pitch. That counts.
14. Max Scherzer, 2016
Stats: 10-6, 3.03 ERA, 164 SO, 0.956 WHIP
This was the worst of Scherzer’s three first halves with the Nats. What a pitcher.
13. Chad Cordero, 2005
Stats: 1.13 ERA, 31 SV, 42 SO, 1.028 WHIP
The Chief! The Nats actually had two All-Stars that year, in part because Cordero was so damn good he ended up getting Cy Young and MVP votes.
12. Gio Gonzalez, 2012
Stats: 12-3, 2.92 ERA, 118 SO, 1.111 WHIP
Gio’s first — and best — season with the Nats. Hard to top.
11. Jordan Zimmermann, 2013
Stats: 12-4, 2.58 ERA, 95 SO, 0.967 WHIP
Led the league in wins that year amidst a three-year run as one of the best starters in baseball.
10. Alfonso Soriano, 2006
Stats: .272 BA, .338 OBP, .549 SLG, 27 HR, 20 SB
The 40-40 season! At least it gave us a reason to pay attention.
It was his only year with the Nats, by the way. Made it count.
9. Stephen Strasburg, 2012
Stats: 9-4, 2.82 ERA, 128 SO, 1.101 WHIP
His first full season back after Tommy John. You know, the one that ended with the never-ending shutdown debate.
8. Ryan Zimmerman, 2017
Stats: .330 BA, .373 OBP, .596 SLG, 19 HR
Zim 2.0! My favorite on this list. Love that he’s enjoying a second act, even if he doesn’t have a homer since hitting two on June 13.
7. Daniel Murphy, 2016
Stats: .348 BA, .387 OBP, .598 SLG, 17 HR
Coming off of a torrid 2015 postseason, Murphy signed with the Nats for a three-year bargain deal and then posted an MVP-caliber first half. At 31, he became Wade Boggs with power.
6. Daniel Murphy, 2017
Stats: .342 BA, .393 OBP, .572 SLG, 14 HR
Proving 2016 was real.
5. Max Scherzer, 2015
Stats: 10-7, 2.11 ERA, 150 SO, 0.780 WHIP
Max’s first season with the Nats. A 0.780 WHIP is insane.
4. Stephen Strasburg, 2016
Stats: 12-0, 2.62 ERA, 132 SO, 1.013 WHIP
Man, Strasburg really fell to Earth in the second half last year.
3. Bryce Harper, 2017
Stats: .325 BA, .431 OBP, .590 SLG, 20 HR
He’s more than earning the accolades this time around.
2. Max Scherzer, 2017
Stats: 10-5, 2.10 ERA, 173 SO, 0.779 WHIP
Baseball’s best pitcher (so far in 2017)? Baseball’s best pitcher (so far in 2017).
1. Bryce Harper, 2015
Stats: .339 BA, .464 OBP, .704 SLG, 26 HR
The MVP year. Peak Harper is as good as All-Stars get, especially Nats All-Stars.
Bonus: I did a podcast about this. Wanna hear it? Here it go.