Washington Nationals “Best of the Rest” Pitchers of the 2010s

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. 814 for the franchise during the 2010s.

Starting Pitchers

No. 1: Patrick Corbin

The Stats (2019): 147 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 (201415): 2113 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 (201013): 1926 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 201112, 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): 118 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 (201011): 1825 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.

The Omissions

All other pitchers who made at least 30 starts.

Jason Marquis (201011): 1014 in 33 starts (179.1 innings), 4.82 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 102 strikeouts

John Lannan (201012): 2222 in 64 starts (360.2 innings), 4.12 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 194 strikeouts

Edwin Jackson (2012, ’17): 1517 in 44 starts (260.2 innings), 4.32 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 226 strikeouts

Dan Haren (2013): 1014 in 31 games (30 starts, 169.2 innings), 4.67 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 151 strikeouts

Joe Ross (201519): 2119 in 78 games (57 starts, 335.1 innings), 4.29 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 294 strikeouts

Bullpen

Closer: Rafael Soriano

The Stats (201314): 74 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): 33 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): 72 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 (201012, ’16): 714 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 201012 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 (201417): 811 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 (201618): 74 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 (201516): 24 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.

The Omissions

Anyone to make at least 70 appearances or record at least 5 saves.

Doug Slaten (201011): 43 in 80 games (57 innings), 0 saves, 3.47 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 49 strikeouts

Tom Gorzelanny (201112): 88 in 75 games (16 starts, 177 innings), 1 save, 3.56 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 157 strikeouts

Henry Rodriguez (201113): 47 in 111 games (113 innings), 11 saves, 4.22 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 112 strikeouts

Ryan Mattheus (201114): 77 in 145 games (142.1 innings), 0 saves, 3.60 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 79 strikeouts

Aaron Barrett (201415, ’19): 63 in 93 games (72.1 innings), 0 saves, 3.86 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 85 strikeouts

Jonathan Papelbon (201516): 46 in 59 games (58.2 innings), 26 saves, 3.84 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 47 strikeouts

Sammy Solis (201518): 57 in 141 games (127.2 innings), 1 save, 4.51 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 136 strikeouts

Matt Grace (201519): 54 in 178 games (176.1 innings), 2 saves, 4.29 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 132 strikeouts

Oliver Perez (201617): 23 in 114 games (73 innings), 1 save, 4.81 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 85 strikeouts

Koda Glover (201618): 34 in 63 games (55.1 innings), 9 saves, 4.55 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 42 strikeouts

Brandon Kintzler (201718): 33 in 72 games (68.2 innings), 3 saves, 3.54 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 43 strikeouts

Ryan Madson (201718): 55 in 69 games (64 innings), 5 saves, 4.08 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 69 strikeouts

Wander Suero (201819): 1010 in 118 games (119 innings), 1 save, 4.16 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 128 strikeouts

Analysis

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s