2012 – 18.2
This is the first of three Washington Nationals playoff teams to make the countdown. In Davey Johnson’s first year as manager, the team won 98 games, which is still a record for the most wins by any Nats team.
Bryce Harper did make his debut during that season, but not on Opening Day. The leader in WAR for the Nats that season was actually first baseman Adam LaRoche (4.1). LaRoche led the team in home runs (33) and RBI’s (100) and was third in on-base percentage (.343).
Outside of LaRoche, there were three other players (Ryan Zimmerman, Danny Espinosa, Ian Desmond) that finished with a WAR over two. Zimmerman and Desmond each hit 25 home runs while Espinosa stole 20 bases that season. The only negative WAR in that lineup was left fielder Mark DeRosa (-0.7).
Stephen Strasburg got his first Opening Day start that season. Of course, everyone remembers what happened with Strasburg at the end of the year, but he was second on the team in wins (15) and strikeouts (197) that season. Of course, the pitcher he trailed in both categories happened to have a career year in 2012. That would be Gio Gonzalez and his 21 wins.
On Opening Day, Strasburg gave up one run over seven innings at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs. He didn’t get the win that day, but the Nats did thanks to a game-tying walk by Jayson Werth in the eighth and a game-winning single by Desmond in the ninth.