Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Nats all-star review (2012 edition)


Gonzalez gets a very deserving NL All-Star selection. Photo unknown via

(Note: i’m copying a large chunk of 2011’s version of this post to give a running history of the Nats all-stars later on below).

MLB announced the 2012 all-star rosters and the Nats, for the first time in their history in Washington, have 3 representatives.  Here’s a discussion:


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Ian Desmond
  • Possible Snubs: Adam LaRoche, Bryce Harper, Craig Stammen
  • Narrative: The two starters Strasburg and Gonzalez were the obvious candidates, and my personal prediction was that they’d be the only two candidates selected.  The inclusion of Desmond is a surprise, but also a testament to how far he’s come as a player in 2012.  I entered the season figuring that Desmond would be closer to a demotion than the all-star team, and his power from the short stop position has been a huge shot in the arm to our challenged offense.  LaRoche has had a fantastic come back season but fared little shot against better, more well-known NL first basemen so his non-inclusion is not too surprising.  Stammen has been our best bullpen arm, but like LaRoche fared little chance of getting selected during a year when the Nats had two deserving starters.  Lastly Mr. Harper; he wasn’t on the ballot so fared little shot of being included, but has been put on the “last man in” ballot, up against a series of established veterans and future hall of famers.  We’ll see if celebrity wins out.  Before his slump the last two weeks he was clearly among the best hitters in the league despite his age.

(Editors Note: Harper was subsequently added on 7/7/12 to replace the injured Giancarlo Stanton).

Coincidentally, I thought Matt Kemp‘s decision to go public with his snub of Harper for the home run derby was both short sighted and disappointing.  If I was Bud Selig, I’d take the opportunity to make this year’s derby the most watched mid-season baseball event ever by forcing the inclusion of both Harper and uber-rookie Mike Trout.  Ask yourself this: 1) do you bother to watch the home run derby now?  And 2) if Harper and Trout were in it, would you watch this year’s version?  For me, even as an avid baseball fan I don’t bother to watch the event and wasn’t planning on it this year … but with these two guys in, it’d be must-see TV.  I hate it when Baseball misses such an obvious chance to showcase players and take advantage of the prevailing storylines of the season; it seems to happen year after year.

For a trip down Memory lane, here’s the Nationals all stars by year and talk about their selection, whether they were deserving, and who got snubbed each year.


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Livan Hernandez, Chad Cordero
  • Possible Snubs: Nick Johnson, John Patterson.
  • Narrative: The Nats went into the All Star break surprisingly in first place, having run to a 50-31 record by the halfway point.  Should a first place team have gotten more than just two representatives?  Perhaps.  But the team was filled with non-stars and played far over its head to go 50-31 (as evidenced by the reverse 31-50 record the rest of the way).


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Alfonso Soriano
  • Possible Snubs: Nick Johnson, Ryan Zimmerman
  • Narrative: Soriano made the team as an elected starter, the only time the Nats have had such an honor.  Our pitching staff took massive steps backwards and no starter came even close to meriting a spot.  Cordero was good but not lights out as he had been in 2005.  Soriano’s 40-40 season is a poster child for “contract year” production and he has failed to come close to such production since.  The team was poor and getting worse.  Johnson had a career year but got overshadowed by bigger, better first basemen in the league (a recurring theme for our first basemen over the years).


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Dmitri Young
  • Possible Snubs: Ryan Zimmerman, Shawn Hill (though I wouldn’t argue for either)
  • Narrative: Young gets a deserved all-star appearance en route to comeback player of the year.  Zimmerman played a full season but didn’t dominate.  Our rotation featured 6 primary starters, none of whom are still in the league now, though Hill showed flashes of dominance throughout the year.


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Cristian Guzman
  • Possible Snubs: Jon Rauch
  • Narrative: The first of two “hitting rock-bottom” seasons for the team; no one really merited selection.  Zimmerman was coming off of hamate-bone surgery in November 2007 and the team was more or less awful across the board.  Rauch performed ably after Cordero went down with season-ending (and basically career-ending) shoulder surgery.   Guzman’s selection a great example of why one-per-team rules don’t make any sense.  Guzman ended up playing far longer than he deserved in the game itself by virtue of the 15-inning affair.


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Ryan Zimmerman
  • Possible Snubs: Adam Dunn
  • Narrative: The addition of Dunn and Willingham to the lineup gave Zimmerman the protection he never had, and he produced with his career-best season.  His first and deserved all-star appearance en-route to a 33 homer season.  Dunn continued his monster homer totals with little all-star recognition.


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Matt Capps
  • Possible Snubs: Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham, Ryan Zimmerman, Steven Strasburg
  • Narrative: Capps was clearly deserving, having a breakout season as a closer after his off-season non-tender from the Pirates.  The 3-4-5 hitters Zimmerman-Dunn-Willingham all had dominant offensive seasons as the team improved markedly from its 103-loss season.  But perhaps the surprise non-inclusion was Strasburg, who despite only having a few starts as of the all-star break was already the talk of baseball.  I think MLB missed a great PR opportunity to name him to the team to give him the exposure that the rest of the national media expected.  But in the end, Capps was a deserving candidate and I can’t argue that our hitters did anything special enough to merit inclusion.


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Tyler Clippard
  • Possible Snubs: Danny Espinosa, Michael Morse, Drew Storen, Jordan Zimmermann
  • Narrative: While Clippard was (arguably) the Nats best and most important reliever, I think Zimmermann was a more rightful choice.  He was 10th in the league in ERA at the time of the selections and has put in a series of dominant performances.  Meanwhile Espinosa is on pace for a 28homer season and almost a certain Rookie-of-the-Year award (though a precipitous fall-off in the 2nd half cost him any realistic shot at the ROY), and perhaps both players are just too young to be known around the league.  Lastly Morse is certainly known and he merited a spot in the “last man in” vote sponsored by MLB (though he fared little chance against popular players in this last-man-in voting).

6 Responses to 'Nats all-star review (2012 edition)'

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  1. Can’t believe this wasn’t just an oversight on your part. If you go through the various “expert” predictions for the NL all-stars before they were announced, Clippard is on 80-90% of the lists. With Kimbrel, they are clearly having the top two reliever seasons in the NL. If it weren’t for the ridiculousness of Cueto and Grienke not selected, Clippard would be the biggest NL snub.


    3 Jul 12 at 11:49 am

  2. Clippard has been good for sure; Stammen has been better. But that being said, this isn’t 2011 when the team had no obvious out-field player and no obvious starter deserving selection. With 2 bonafide starters plus Desmond meriting inclusion, the likelihood of Clippard making the team went to about nil.

    Todd Boss

    3 Jul 12 at 12:10 pm

  3. […] • “Nats all-star review (2012 edition)” – Todd Boss, Nationals Arm Race […]

  4. […] • “Nats all-star review (2012 edition)” – Todd Boss, Nationals Arm Race […]

  5. I’d say the biggest Nationals snub was Zimmermann. If I needed someone to shut down the opposing team, I’d choose Jordan over Strasburg or Gonzalez. He’s been steadier and more reliable, and his ERA and IP show it.

    And Desmond just doesn’t belong there. Of all the shortstops, he’s second to last in Fielding percentage, tops in Ks, and it took his recent hot streak to get his OBP barely over .300. What a ripoff to Jed Lowrie.


    9 Jul 12 at 3:33 pm

  6. Zimmermann over Strasburg or Gonzalez?? Sorry, I disagree with that statement. Our two aces are just that; Aces, amongst the best 20 or so arms in the league. Zimmermann to me is a great arm no doubt, but not a transcendant talent like his rotation mates. I know his numbers are better so far in 2012, and perhaps this is a “making the leap year” for him that changes everything I’ve written in this paragraph, but he’s still far over-performing what he’s done in his career prior to this.

    Still am not quite sure how Desmond made the team. He’s improved over last year, but this seems to be to be more of an indication of the incredible lack of depth at the position in the NL this year. A quick glance at: shows this list of NL starting SS’s:
    east: Wilson, Reyes, Tejada, Rollins, Desmond
    central: Castro, Cozart, Lowrie, Gonzalez, Barmes, Furcal
    west: Drew, Tulowitzki, Gordon, Bartlett/Cabrera, Crawford

    Furcal your starter, Castro and Desmond selected. I can’t find the voting results to see how things fared, but looking at that list the obvious candidates to be included were Reyes (underperforming), Tulowitzki and Gordon (injured), Rollins (hot lately but awful early) and Lowrie. Just an off year for short-stops in the NL.

    Todd Boss

    12 Jul 12 at 1:54 pm

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