We’re all cooped up with not much to do. Thankfully, that also means we have time to step back and reflect on some aspects of life that we may not have otherwise. It’s also a chance to look back at the last decade in sports.
The Nationals had somewhat of a fairytale decade. They went from cellar-dwellers of the NL East and the entire major leagues — five years removed from relocating from Montreal — to perennial playoff contenders, and then capped it off with a World Series championship.
There’s a lot to reflect upon, from stars of the era to short-term contributors that you may have forgotten. With that, I’ve decided to recap the decade that was for the franchise by unveiling an All-Decade roster. However, before doing so, I thought it would only be fair to recognize some of the best players that couldn’t quite make in into my top 25. After all, the franchise’s core wasn’t entirely consistent — not even from 2012 until the end.
To start, here are the pitchers that can be loosely identified as Nos. 8–14 for the franchise during the 2010s.
No. 1: Patrick Corbin
The Stats (2019): 14–7 in 33 starts (202 innings), 3.25 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 238 strikeouts
The only debate here is whether Corbin should be in the top 25. On many staffs, he would be an ace, and you couldn’t ask for a much better debut season on a new team. Statistically speaking, he was one of the best left-handed starters in the league in 2019, and he was part of a trio that anchored the staff as both a starter and out of the bullpen in the postseason.
So why isn’t he a top five starter? You’ll find out in Part 3 of this mini-series.
No. 2: Doug Fister
The Stats (2014–15): 21–13 in 50 games (40 starts, 267 innings), 3.10 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 161 strikeouts
Fister is a tough evaluation. He had a tough time staying healthy, and his production across seasons was also very uneven — so much so that he was demoted to the bullpen midseason in 2015. Nonetheless, he had a 2.41 ERA in 25 starts in 2014, which is far from an easy feat.
No. 3: Ross Detwiler
The Stats (2010–13): 19–26 in 69 games (54 starts, 331.1 innings), 3.53 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 202 strikeouts
Detwiler is a similar case to Fister, although over a longer span of time. He was eased into becoming a big leaguer — in part because the team had some veterans entrenched on their roster — but in 48 games (37 starts) from 2011–12, he had a 3.28 ERA. That number ballooned to over 4.00 the following year and he was removed from the rotation. However, that partly came down to there being a short leash because the mid-2010s starting staff was extremely deep.
It’s certainly possible that “National Det” would’ve rebounded if given the opportunity, but his resume wasn’t bad even with that slight dip included — although his 2014 season, in which he made no starts, has been omitted here.
No. 4: Anibal Sanchez
The Stats (2019): 11–8 in 30 starts (166 innings), 3.85 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 134 strikeouts
Much like Corbin, Sanchez only has one season in Washington to his name. It was a good one, but it also looks even better if you confine it to strictly post-injured list stint in May. He recorded a 3.41 ERA in his final 21 regular season starts, not to mention a 2.50 ERA in three postseason outings. Of course, he also provided a splash of fun-loving energy to the eventual World Series champions, and his veteran presence shouldn’t go understated.
No. 5: Livan Hernandez
The Stats (2010–11): 18–25 in 62 starts (387 innings), 4.02 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 213 strikeouts
Speaking of veteran presence, that’s precisely what Hernandez was for the early Nationals. He actually had two separate stints in Washington, the first of which included his second All-Star appearance — the first was the year before (2004) in Montreal. Still, he had one of his best seasons in 2010, sporting a 3.66 ERA in 211.2 innings.
Perhaps one of the only things more entertaining than watching the innings-eater pitch was watching him hit. He batted .221 in his career, which is great for a pitcher, hitting 10 home runs with 85 RBIs. One of those deep flies and 10 of the RBIs came in his two seasons in Washington during the decade.
All other pitchers who made at least 30 starts.
Jason Marquis (2010–11): 10–14 in 33 starts (179.1 innings), 4.82 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 102 strikeouts
John Lannan (2010–12): 22–22 in 64 starts (360.2 innings), 4.12 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 194 strikeouts
Edwin Jackson (2012, ’17): 15–17 in 44 starts (260.2 innings), 4.32 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 226 strikeouts
Dan Haren (2013): 10–14 in 31 games (30 starts, 169.2 innings), 4.67 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 151 strikeouts
Joe Ross (2015–19): 21–19 in 78 games (57 starts, 335.1 innings), 4.29 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 294 strikeouts
Closer: Rafael Soriano
The Stats (2013–14): 7–4 in 132 games (128.2 innings), 75 saves, 3.15 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 110 strikeouts
Soriano wasn’t the flashiest closer the Nationals ever had, but he was effective in the role — even if he didn’t seem like their best reliever during his tenure. He also had a signature celebration after every save (video via MLB.com).
Eight-Inning Setup: Matt Capps
The Stats (2010): 3–3 in 47 games (46 innings), 26 saves, 2.74 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 38 strikeouts
Capps will always be forgotten in this discussion, but he was one of the franchise’s best relievers in recent memory. He just didn’t provide the big moments that others did.
Oh, and he was also the guy Washington traded for Wilson Ramos. His departure may have been as valuable as his production for the team.
Seventh-Inning Setup: Matt Albers
The Stats (2017): 7–2 in 63 games (61 innings), 2 saves, 1.62 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 63 strikeouts
Albers has admittedly had a very rocky career, but he’s had two dominant seasons, and one of them came in Washington. It probably wouldn’t be wise to put him in a higher-leverage role than this, but he’s extremely worthy of one of the highest positions — at least for the sake of this roster.
Left-Handed Specialist: Sean Burnett
The Stats (2010–12, ’16): 7–14 in 222 games (155 innings), 9 saves, 2.77 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 155 strikeouts
Burnett wasn’t quite the fixture that some other guys were — which is a major reason why he’s not in my top 25 — but he was particularly valuable from 2010–12 when there wasn’t always a set closer. Sometimes he was a co-setup man, and other times he was more of a lefty specialist, but he was quite effective in both roles — so effective that he was re-acquired via trade in 2016.
Jack of All Trades: Blake Treinen
The Stats (2014–17): 8–11 in 185 games (7 starts, 223 innings), 4 saves, 3.39 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 190 strikeouts
Treinen was always a tantalizing prospect at the big-league level. He was close to unhittable in Washington, but his command was a bit spotty, particularly in high-leverage situations. There was never an exact role for him, but the more his role varied day-to-day, the better he performed. Unpredictability — which unfortunately faded late in his tenure, when he became an eighth- and ninth-inning man — served him well.
Mr. “Hope for the Best”: Shawn Kelley
The Stats (2016–18): 7–4 in 135 games (116.1 innings), 11 saves, 3.87 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 137 strikeouts
Every Nationals bullpen has to include a volatile, high-upside, 30-plus year-old reliever. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better fit for the position than Kelley.
Run prevention wasn’t Kelley’s strength, but he was often close to unhittable. He shouldn’t be remembered by the way things ended — but here it is anyway.
Emergency Lefty: Felipe Rivero
The Stats (2015–16): 2–4 in 96 games (98 innings), 3 saves, 3.67 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 96 strikeouts
Another lefty feels necessary, and it was always apparent that Rivero had upside. He didn’t tap into it unless he left for Pittsburgh — and changed his surname to Vazquez — but he had plenty of promising moments in Washington, too.
Anyone to make at least 70 appearances or record at least 5 saves.
Doug Slaten (2010–11): 4–3 in 80 games (57 innings), 0 saves, 3.47 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 49 strikeouts
Tom Gorzelanny (2011–12): 8–8 in 75 games (16 starts, 177 innings), 1 save, 3.56 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 157 strikeouts
Henry Rodriguez (2011–13): 4–7 in 111 games (113 innings), 11 saves, 4.22 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 112 strikeouts
Ryan Mattheus (2011–14): 7–7 in 145 games (142.1 innings), 0 saves, 3.60 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 79 strikeouts
Aaron Barrett (2014–15, ’19): 6–3 in 93 games (72.1 innings), 0 saves, 3.86 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 85 strikeouts
Jonathan Papelbon (2015–16): 4–6 in 59 games (58.2 innings), 26 saves, 3.84 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 47 strikeouts
Sammy Solis (2015–18): 5–7 in 141 games (127.2 innings), 1 save, 4.51 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 136 strikeouts
Matt Grace (2015–19): 5–4 in 178 games (176.1 innings), 2 saves, 4.29 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 132 strikeouts
Oliver Perez (2016–17): 2–3 in 114 games (73 innings), 1 save, 4.81 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 85 strikeouts
Koda Glover (2016–18): 3–4 in 63 games (55.1 innings), 9 saves, 4.55 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 42 strikeouts
Brandon Kintzler (2017–18): 3–3 in 72 games (68.2 innings), 3 saves, 3.54 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 43 strikeouts
Ryan Madson (2017–18): 5–5 in 69 games (64 innings), 5 saves, 4.08 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 69 strikeouts
Wander Suero (2018–19): 10–10 in 118 games (119 innings), 1 save, 4.16 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 128 strikeouts
The starting pitchers were fairly easy to decide on, although it would’ve been nice to find a spot for John Lannan and/or Edwin Jackson.
The relievers were much tougher. Guys like Ryan Mattheus and Brandon Kintzler were tough omissions, and save volume suggests that Jonathan Papelbon deserved a spot, but there were surprisingly a lot of quality arms to pick from. It really makes you wonder why the bullpen was such an Achilles heel for so long.
Stay tuned for the rest of the mini-series! Up next: the “best of the rest” position players.