What a great season the Washington Nationals produced in 2012. Yeah, we still hurt. Yeah, we are still raw. We are just a few strikes away from advancing to the National League Championship when all collapsed. We still feel it.
However, we do not lose sight on what a great season the Nats had. They finished with the best record in Major League Baseball. They finished with the best record in Washington DC pro baseball history. They clinched their first post-season play for a DC baseball teams since 1933. They won the National League East division title for the first time ever. Truly, as inspiring season. This team is super young, built to last. and are not battle hardened. We only see good things ahead.
Time for our season ending awards. All three DCPSR owners share your awards. Tom Blaz will give some analysis, Tom Threlkeld provides his picks, and I provide picks and comments where it feels right. Here we go . . .
Washington Nationals MVP: 1B Adam LaRoche
The Vote: Blaz: Ian Desmond, Threlkeld: Adam LaRoche, Me: Adam LaRoche
We saw signs in 2011 and Desmond joined the list of elite Major League Baseball shortstops in 2012. Desmond committed only 15 errors this season, amazing for such a difficult position that receives so many chances, night in and night out. Desmond delivered in a big way at the plate and on the base paths and carried the team for a stretch midseason.
My Comment: I just can't overlook a guy that put up 33 home runs and 100 RBI.
Washington Nationals Offensive Player of the Year: 1B Adam LaRoche
The Vote: Unanimous decision.
Adam LaRoche had a career year at the plate and was a reliable source of run production in the middle of the lineup all season long. With Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Mike Morse and others missing time due to injury, LaRoche was a solid left handed bat, providing big time production from April to October.
Washington Nationals Pitcher of the Year: Gio Gonzalez
The Vote: Blaz: Stephen Strasburg, Threlkeld: Gio Gonzalez, Me: Gio Gonzalez
Gio Gonzalez should also receive consideration, but his post season struggles need to be included. Strasburg bounced back from Tommy John surgery and posted more strikeouts than base runners allowed. Strasburg was a rock in the rotation and his presence went a long way towards preventing long losing streaks. Strasburg is the leader of this rotation and we got out first chance to see him in extended action in 2012.
My Comment: Gio was one of the best pitchers in the major leagues this season. He was the only pitcher in all of baseball to post a 21 win season. Gonzalez led all starters on the Nats in wins (21), ERA (2.89), and strikeouts (207). He also posted the lowest WHIP of the starters, 1.13. You could make a case for Stephen Strasburg and even Jordan Zimmerman. But in my book, Gio's numbers spoke clearly and he should clearly be a leading candidate for the Cy Young.
Nats Reliever of the Year: Tyler Clippard
The Vote: Blaz: Clippard, Threlkeld: None, Me: Clippard
When Drew Storen went down in Spring training, the Nats tried a myriad of options in an attempt to replace him as closer. Henry Rodriguez? Brad Lidge? After brief successes, Manager Davey Johnson turned to his reliable setup man and he delivered in a big way. Clippard's numbers rivaled those of the game's top closers and he didn't get the role until well into the season.
My comment: Not much more to add. The Nats had a seriously good bullpen until the playoff series. That bullpen was led by Clippard. A case could also be made for Craig Stammen. In 88.1 innings, Stammen posted a 2.34 ERA. The nod here goes to Clippard, because with the Drew Storen early season injury, the Nats were struggling at closer until Clippard entered the role.
Rookie of the Year: Bryce Harper
The Vote: Unanimous decision.
No doubt with this one. Harper was a major factor in the Nationals drawing the second highest attendance on the road this season. Bryce is an option in centerfield for the short term, but would be better served at one of the corner outfield positions in the long run. A tremendous season by a teenager, whose enthusiasm influenced the rest of the team.
My comment: Bryce is a complete stud. That's it.
Surprising Player of the Year: Ian Desmond
The Vote: Blaz: Detwiler, Threlkeld: Desmond, Me: Desmond
Was at times considered on the outside looking in with Chien Ming Wang and John Lannan battling for the fifth spot in the rotation. Detwiler was solid for most of the season and turned in a sparkling performance in Game 4 when the Nats were facing elimination. Detwiler turned the corner this season, just when it appeared he was getting lost in the shuffle.
My Comment: 25 home runs? Really? Did anyone really expect that? His previous high was only 10. .292 batting average? What? His previous was .269. His slugging percentage jumped from mid to high .300s to .511. And did anyone really expect Ian Desmind to be an All Star at the beginning of the season? If you did, you are lying.
Most Disappointing Player: Chien Ming Wang
Vote: Blaz: Edwin Jackson, Threlkeld: Wang, Me: Wang
This is a difficult category as most everyone that was counted on, delivered. Jackson was inconsistent and the Nats could have likely done as well or better with other options. Jackson is seeing a long term deal for much bigger money and won't get it here.
My Comment: I am so sick of the Chien Ming Wang hype. Can the Nationals get off this train in 2013 please.
Should the Nationals have shut down Stephen Strasburg? No
The Vote: Blaz: No, Threlkeld: Yes, Me: No
Did it work with Jordan Zimmerman, it appears so. Can you count on a magic season every year and a chance at the post season? No. The players were obviously upset with this decision and by shutting him down you open yourself up to second guessing. Failing to make the NLCS after having the best record in all of baseball is a disappointment.
Player Most Likely to Depart: Edwin Jackson
The Vote: Blaz: LaRoche, Threlkeld: Jackson, Me: Jackson
Adam LaRoche will likely seek big free agent dollars and a long term contract. I imagine the Nationals would like to exercise their option, but it is mutual and LaRoche should see to capatilize on a career year at the plate and a gold glove performance in the field.
My Comment: Jackson commanded $11 million last season. He ate innings and provided what the Washington Nationals thought they would get. However, I think the Nats will decide they can get the same type of on and off again performance from a guy like John Lannan at a major discounted rate. However, I am not convinced the fourth spot may very well be settled by a pitcher not yer on the roster.
Position in Most Need of Upgrade: Centerfield
The Vote: Blaz: CF, Threlkeld: Bullpen and fourth starter, Me: CF
If Adam LaRoche departs for free agency, Mike Morse needs to be moved back to first base. There are plenty of options, but the Nats need a traditional lead off hitter and I would like to see B.J. Upton brought to town.