Nationals Arm Race

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

Nats all-star review: 2013 and years past


harper and trout 2

Harper and Trout’s rookie appearance in the 2012 game was so special: I hope Yasiel Puig makes it this year. Photo unk.

Here’s my annual Nationals All Star representative post.   As with 2012 and 2011‘s post, I’m including a retrospective on our “illustrious” All Star representative history from years past.  If you read on and it sounds familiar, that’s because a lot of it is cut-n-pasted from the annual version of this post.  Even so, reading backwards to see who our All-star representatives were in the lean years is an interesting exercise.

Here’s a link to the All Star Rosters for 2013.


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Bryce Harper, Jordan Zimmermann
  • Snubs: Stephen Strasburg, Ian Desmond
  • Narrative: Harper comes in 3rd in the NL outfielder voting, ahead of some big-time names, to become only the second Nationals position player elected as an All-Star starter.  He was 4th in the final pre-selection vote, so a big last minute push got him the starter spot.   Harper also becomes the first National to participate in the Home Run Derby.   Zimmermann is 12-3 heading into the game and is on mid-season Cy Young short lists right now and is a very deserving pick.  Strasburg’s advanced stats are all better than Zimmermann’s, but his W/L record (4-6 as of this writing) means he’s not an all-star.  It also probably doesn’t help that he missed a few weeks.  Desmond loses out to Troy Tulowitzki, Everth Cabrera and Jean Segura.  Tulowitzki is having a very solid year and is a deserving elected starter (though he’s currently on the DL and I wonder if Desmond may still make it as an injury replacement), while Cabrera and Segura are both having breakout seasons.  Desmond is on the “Final vote” roster, but my vote (and most others’ I’m guessing) would be for Yasiel Puig there ([Editor Update: Desmond and Puig lost out to Freddie Freeman: I still hope Puig finds a way onto the roster).   Gio GonzalezRyan Zimmerman,and Rafael Soriano are all having solid but unspectacular years and miss out behind those having great seasons.

Trivia: With his 2013 selection, Harper has been selected as an all-star in every season in which he has appeared in a game.  As far as I can tell in baseball history, there’s only TWO other players in Major League History who can say this.  Name them (discuss in comments).


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Stephen StrasburgGio GonzalezIan Desmond, Bryce Harper
  • Possible Snubs: Adam LaRocheCraig 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.  Gonzalez’ first half was a prelude to his 21-win, 3rd place Cy Young season.  The inclusion of Desmond is a surprise, but also a testament to how far he’s come as a player in 2012.  Harper was a last-minute injury replacement, but had earned his spot by virtue of his fast start as one of the youngest players in the league.  Of the “snubs,” LaRoche has had a fantastic come back season in 2012 but fared little shot against better, more well-known NL first basemen.  Stammen was our best bullpen arm, but like LaRoche fared little chance of getting selected during a year when the Nats had two deserving starters.


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Tyler Clippard
  • Possible Snubs: Danny EspinosaMichael MorseDrew StorenJordan 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).


  • Nationals All-Star representatives: Matt Capps
  • Possible Snubs: Adam DunnJosh WillinghamRyan 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: 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: 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: 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: Alfonso Soriano
  • Possible Snubs: Nick JohnsonRyan Zimmerman
  • Narrative: Soriano made the team as an elected starter, the first 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: Livan HernandezChad Cordero
  • Possible Snubs: Nick JohnsonJohn 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).





11 Responses to 'Nats all-star review: 2013 and years past'

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  1. Desi is more deserving than Harper for this year’s team–he’s been our best position player all year. It would also have been nice for him to get to play this year after missing out least year due to injury. Maybe if Tulo can’t make it he’ll get his shot.

    It’s also amazing that Stras gets snubbed not only with an ERA half a run lower than his career average but at this moment lower than the favorite to start the game (Matt Harvey). Most people seem to be citing his dismal W-L record, but I wonder if his deliberate attempt to become a pitch to contact guy, thus lowering his K totals from the stratosphere might not also be a factor. After all, chicks may dig the long ball, but stat geeks love pitchers who are in Crash Davis’s immortal description, “fascists.” If so, shame on Stras for trying to make the transition from “thrower” to “pitcher” at such a young age (kidding, obviously).


    7 Jul 13 at 12:18 pm

  2. In the Nats broadcast today they put up Desmond, Cabrera and Segura’s numbers side by side and, well, its pretty inexplicable how Desmond misses out in favor of the other two. Of course, if those two guys are “sole team representative” then that’s that. I’m guessing Tulo will bow out and Desmond will be an injury replacement.

    I think its entirely 100% about Strasburg’s W/L record. if he was 10-4 with the same numbers he’d be in the discussion for the start. I’ve got a draft post about Strasburg’s precipitous drop in swing-and- miss on his fastball that needs more research. Of course he’s lights out today with Ks so who knows. With another run a game of runs support he’d probably be 10-4 anyway.

    Todd Boss

    7 Jul 13 at 4:28 pm

  3. Keith Law came out with a similar article on all star snubs. He calls snubbing RZim for Pedro Alvarez the worst NL snub, even with the throwing errors and also says Stras should have made it too, although he wonders if the Nats asked Bochy to leave him off.


    7 Jul 13 at 5:30 pm

  4. Keith Law did a similar article about all star snubs. He listed Ryan Zimmerman as the most egregious (Pedro Alvarez got it). He also mentioned Stras, but wondered if the Nats asked him not to be included due to cautiousness.


    7 Jul 13 at 9:44 pm

  5. Zimmerman: eh. I don’t think its “egregious” that he was left out. Alvarez has been great.

    I also seriously doubt a team proactively prevents one of its own from being SELECTED to the team before it happens. Once he’s selected, yeah you then ask the manager to not play him b/c of injury issues. But this story smacks to me the continuing narrative that the Nats are “treating Strasburg with kid gloves.” Did they prevent him from pitching in 2012’s game, in a season they were limiting his innings and he was just returning from surgery for the first time? Nope. I don’t buy that one.

    Todd Boss

    8 Jul 13 at 8:49 am

  6. Believe 1 will be Roberto Clemente, perhaps second is Willie Mays?


    8 Jul 13 at 9:57 am

  7. Trivia Guess: No and No. Clemente didn’t make the all-star team his first 5 seasons, and Mays didn’t make the team his first two seasons, nor in 2 of the last three he played.

    Todd Boss

    8 Jul 13 at 11:21 am

  8. All Star game rosters have never been about whose most deserving, but rather about players the public wants to see. How else do you explain Cal Ripken making the AST, as a starter no less, in those many seasons when he was slumping badly at mid-year? Harper is one of the most exciting players in the game, and an obvious pick from the fans.

    I won’t comment on Todd’s great trivia item, since I know the answer from him. Speaking of Cal, he’s about as close as anyone else from making the list–he made it every year except the year before his rookie year when he was a late season call-up and had a few plate appearances.


    8 Jul 13 at 4:40 pm

  9. Griffey and ARod?


    8 Jul 13 at 7:10 pm

  10. Joe DiMaggio and Yu Darvish?

    I had a trivia question like that that I completely got wrong, and the correct answer was DiMaggio. Darvish was a rookie last year like Harper and he’s made the All-Star roster both years too.


    8 Jul 13 at 10:45 pm

  11. Melissa: you are absolutely correct! Dimaggio is the SOLE veteran/historical player who made the all-star team every year of his career. Meanwhile the two players Harper and Darvish both first appeared in the MLB in 2012 and made the all-star team, and have repeated the feat this year. Meanwhile if Yasiel Puig is elected he’ll be the 4th member of this club.

    That’s also the trick to this question with regard to Mike Trout; yes he made the AST in 2012 as a rookie, and again this year. However, we forget sometimes that he was a late 2011 callup, eliminating him from consideration here.

    Wally: A-Rod was a late-season call ups in his pre-rookie season, and Griffey missed a handful of years.

    Common guesses are Cal Ripken Jr, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays. In every case those guys either missed on their first or last seasons.

    Todd Boss

    9 Jul 13 at 9:08 am

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