Here is a look back at some of the top individual player seasons in Washington Nationals history
Over the Nationals 20 years of existence, the team has made the playoffs four times, won four NL East titles (2012, 2014, 2016, 2017), and a World Series title (2019). In the 2010s, the Nationals had the fourth-most wins regular-season wins (879), behind only the St. Louis Cardinals (899), Los Angeles Dodgers (919), and New York Yankees (921). Despite this, the team hasn’t always been successful. In fact, from 2006-2011, the Nats posted a losing record, signaling them as one of the worst teams in the league. Over the course of the team’s ups and downs, the players still put on a show.
Here is a list of some of the top individual player seasons in Nationals history. For this article, I only included seasons in Nationals history (2005-present, sorry Expos fans). To be included in this, the player had to spend the entire season listed with the team.
Max Scherzer 2015
In his first year with the Nats, Max Scherzer gave the fans a glimpse of what was to come. Scherzer became the sixth pitcher in MLB history to throw two No-Hitters in the same season. He finished 2015 14-12, with 2.79 ERA, and 276 strikeouts, while accumulating a WAR of 7.0. Scherzer finished fifth in NL Cy Young voting.
Max Scherzer 2016
After his dominant first season with the Nats, Scherzer’s encore was just as impressive. The veteran became the sixth pitcher to win the Cy Young in both leagues, joining Gaylord Perry, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, and Roy Halladay. Talk about elite company. Scherzer finished the season 20-7, with a 2.96 ERA, and 284 strikeouts, while accumulating a WAR of 6.2. On top of winning his second career Cy Young award, Scherzer led the NL in strikeouts, MLB in wins, and tied an MLB record. He tied the record for the most strikeouts in a nine-inning game (20), joining Roger Clemmens, Kerry Wood, and Randy Johnson.
Max Scherzer 2017
2017 saw Scherzer became the sixth pitcher in NL history to win the Cy Young award two or more times consecutively. Scherzer finished 2017, 16-6, with a 2.51 ERA, and 268 strikeouts, while accumulating a WAR of 7.3. He once again led the NL in strikeouts.
Daniel Murphy 2016
In Daniel Murphy’s first year with the Nats, he hit a career-high .347, with 25 homers, 104 RBIs, and an OPS of .985 (also all career highs). Murphy finished second in the NL in batting average and in the MVP race. Murphy’s defense held him back, finishing with a -1.0 dWAR.
Alfonso Soriano 2006
While Alfonso Soriano only played in one season with the Nats, he made it count. 2006 was the best season of Soriano’s career as he went on to make history. He became the fourth player in MLB history to join the 40-40 club (40 homers and 40 steals in a season), joining Alex Rodriguez, Jose Canseco, and Barry Bonds. Soriano finished the 2006 season hitting .277, with a career-high 46 homers, and 95 RBIs, while swiping 41 bags in 58 attempts.
2006 also marked the first season Soriano switched from second base to the outfield. This change in positions immediately paid dividends as Soriano became an instant on defense. Soriano led all NL left fielders in DRS with 18 and led MLB in outfield assists with 22. The veteran wracked up some NL MVP votes, finishing sixth, while also winning the NL Silver Slugger.
Soriano also set two milestones while reaching his exclusive club. Soriano became the only player to hit 40-40-40 (40 homers, 40 steals, 40 doubles) as well as 40-40-20 (40 homers, 40 steals, 20 outfield assists). Even though he left in free agency, Soriano made his mark in D.C.
Ryan Zimmerman 2009
Drafted number four overall in 2005, Ryan Zimmerman quickly became the face of the franchise and is the team’s longest-tenured player. When healthy, Zimmerman was the most dominant player on the team. After showing glimpses of his potential, Zimmerman put everything together in 2009. The face of the franchise hit .292, with 33 homers, 106 RBIs, and an OPS of .888 while accumulating a WAR of 7.1. Zim proved he could hurt teams on both ends as he flashed the leather. He led all NL third basemen in defensive runs saved (DRS) with 19, DEF with a 14.2, and out of zone plays (OOZ) with a 102.
2019 also saw Zimmerman add to his legend of Mr. Walk off. On September 6, 2009, Zimmerman launched his fifth career walk-off homer. He is now sitting at 11 walk-offs, which has him tied for eighth all-time. Jim Thome has the record with 13. But at the time, it was just another highlight in Zimmermans career year.
Zimmerman went on to be named to his first All-Star team, won the NL Gold Glove, his first of two NL Silver Sluggers, and finished 25th in NL MVP voting. Zimmerman’s 2009 season didn’t lead to him break any records, or leading the team on a deep playoff run. In fact, the Nats lost 103 games that year, which is the most in team history. Instead, Zimmerman impressed with both his bat and glove and recorded the fourth-highest individual bWAR in Nationals history (7.3).
Bryce Harper 2015
When he was drafted number one overall in 2010, Bryce Harper was surrounded by immense expectations. After bursting onto the scene in 2012 and winning NL Rookie of the Year, while also leading his team to the playoffs, Harper cooled off. It wasn’t until 2015, that Harper finally lived up to all of the hype that engulfed him.
Harper finished 2015, hitting .330, with 42 homers, 99 RBIs, an OPS of 1.100, and accumulated a WAR of 9.9. He led MLB in WAR, OBP, slugging percentage, and wRC+.The young phenom also won the NL Silver Slugger and the NL Hank Aaron Award. At the age of 23, Harper became the youngest player to be unanimously named MVP. He also became the first player in franchise history to win an MVP award, as well as the first player in D.C. history to win an MVP award. This is hands down the best season in Nationals history.
Max Scherzer 2018
Scherzer threw two No-Hitters in 2015 and won back to back Cy Youngs in 2016 and 2017 respectively, but his best season with the Nats occurred in 2018. He went 18-7, with a 2.53 ERA, and 300 strikeouts, while accumulating WAR of 8.8. Opponents were at Scherzer’s mercy as they hit a meager .188 with an OPS of .580 against him. The veteran led the NL in strikeouts for the third time in his career, led the MLB in wins for the fourth time, and tied an MLB record for five straight seasons with 250 or more strikeouts.
What did the future Hall of Famer have to say about his dominant 2018?
"“This was the best season of my career.”"
He lost out on his third straight NL Cy Young award to Jacob deGrom and his insane 1.70 ERA. Despite this, Scherzer showed age wasn’t a factor as he was 34. In a year that the Nats missed the playoffs and fell drastically short of expectations, Scherzer still put on a show.
Anthony Rendon 2019
After losing Bryce Harper in free agency, the Nationals entered 2019 as a mystery team. The baseball world wanted to know who would make up for the loss of Harper’s bat in the lineup. Well, the answer became Anthony Rendon. Rendon put the team on his back and went on to have a monster season. After being known as one of the most underrated players in the game, Rendon evolved into a bonafide stud. He finished the season hitting .319, with 34 homers, while leading the majors in RBIs, with 126, and accumulated a WAR of 6.3. Rendon set career highs in batting average, RBIs, homers, OBP, slugging percentage, and OPS.
Tony Two-Bags carried over his regular-season success into the playoffs, as Rendon was a pivotal reason the Nats won their first-ever World Series title. In the playoffs, Rendon proved to the world just how clutch of a hitter he is.
Rendon wracked up the accolades at the end of the season, as he was named to his first All-Star team, finished third in NL MVP voting, was named to the All-MLB First Team, and won his second NL Silver Slugger. With this being his last season in D.C., Rendon made sure to go out in style.