Right now, the Washington Nationals starting trio of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez is one of the best in baseball
Washington Nationals‘ starter Gio Gonzalez continues to shine on the mound this season, lowering his 2017 ERA to a tidy 2.59 after seven innings of one-run ball against Miami on Wednesday. While the Nats’ rotation has taken a backseat to the offense this year, Gonzalez and his ‘Big 3’ partners – Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg – are still trucking along as one of the most consistent trios in baseball.
The 2012 season is a nice marker for these three starters. Strasburg returned from Tommy John surgery that spring, coinciding with Gonzalez’s first year in a Washington uniform. Scherzer was still in Detroit, but 2012 was when he cemented himself in the American League.
Since the start of 2012, Scherzer, Strasburg, and Gonzalez have been three of the most consistent pitchers in baseball. Here are their individual ranks in four key categories:
If you look around the league, only three other teams have grouped together three pitchers in the top-20 in WAR on their roster at the same time: the Red Sox (Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello), the Cubs (Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, Jake Arrieta), and the White Sox (Sale, Quintana, Jeff Samardzija).
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Those groupings are nowhere near as consistent as the Nationals’ trio. Price has had two of his worst seasons since joining the Red Sox in 2016 and Porcello stumbled into a Cy Young season between two otherwise mediocre campaigns.
In Chicago, Quintana joined the Cubs just last month, and Arrieta is amidst a steep decline after a meteoric rise to the top in 2014-15. The South Siders paired their three arms for only one season, and Samardzija posted a 4.96 ERA. Not exactly dominance among those three rotations.
However, in Washington, Scherzer has elevated his game to a Hall of Fame level since joining the Nationals. Injuries have prevented Strasburg from reaching his true potential, but even 90 percent of his initial draft expectations equates to one of the best pitchers in the National League. Last, but not least, Gio Gonzalez remains as steady as they come for a third starter.
Scherzer, Strasburg, and Gonzalez have toed the rubber 426 total times for the Nationals, including 243 times since 2015. Over the past 2.5 seasons, Washington’s winning percentage in ‘Big 3’ starts is nearly 50 points higher than the team’s overall winning percentage (.609 to .562).
Obviously, teams have a better chance to win with their best pitchers on the mound. But the Nationals have been remarkably fortunate for three starters to remain that consistently productive. In their 15 combined seasons with Washington, Scherzer, Strasburg, and Gonzalez have only posted an ERA worse than 3.79 one time (Gonzalez in 2016).
The Washington Nationals lineup has been the story this season, and rightfully so. Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon, and Ryan Zimmerman will all garner MVP votes. But with these three starters holding down the fort, Washington has as good a chance as anyone to knock off the historic Los Angeles Dodgers.
All statistics via Fangraphs.