Nats' Top 5 lefty starters: Camerato's take

June 2nd, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their careers while playing for that club.

These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only. Here is Jessica Camerato’s ranking of the Top 5 starting left-handed pitchers in Nationals/Expos franchise history. Next week: relief pitchers.

• Nationals/Expos all-time team: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF | RF | RHP

1. , Nationals (2012-18)
Key fact: González has the highest bWAR among franchise left-handed pitchers (21).

González made an immediate impact when he was acquired from the Athletics for the Nationals' franchise-high, 98-win 2012 season. That year, he led all of baseball with a career-best 21 W’s -- the top single-season mark in Nationals/Expos history. González also paced Major League Baseball with a 2.82 FIP and 0.4 home runs per nine innings. His overall 21-8, 2.89 ERA performance in 32 starts (including two complete games) with 207 strikeouts earned him his second straight All-Star selection and third place in National League Cy Young Award voting.

In seven seasons with the Nats, González went 86-65 with a 3.62 ERA in 213 games. Among the franchise's left-handers, he posted the most wins (fourth in the franchise), innings (1,253 1/3) and strikeouts (1,215). At the plate, González homered in three consecutive seasons (2012-14). He also appeared in four postseasons for Washington, starting in eight games (0-0) and accumulating 27 strikeouts and a 4.91 ERA over 29 1/3 innings.

The Nationals traded González to the Brewers in August 2018. He ranks 12th among active players with 130 wins.

2. Jeff Fassero, Expos (1991-96)
Key fact: Fassero recorded a career-high 222 strikeouts (third in the NL) in 1996.

Fassero began his Major League career at age 28 out of the Expos' bullpen. He worked his way into the rotation and became Montreal’s Opening Day starter from 1994-96.

Fassero led the Expos in wins (15 in '96), ERA (2.99 in '94, 3.30 in '96) and strikeouts (140 in '93, 222 in '96) during his tenure as a starter. On Aug. 11, 1996, against the Cubs, he fanned 14 batters over eight innings and set the franchise mark for most strikeouts in a game by a left-handed pitcher.

Fassero’s 16.1 bWAR, 58 wins, 850 innings and 750 strikeouts are second to only González among franchise lefties. During his six years with the Expos, he was 58-48 with a 3.20 ERA over 100 starts.

3. , Nationals (2019-Present)
Key fact: Corbin has the highest strikeout percentage (28.5) among the franchise’s lefties.

Corbin needed only one season to make his mark on the Nationals. The two-time All-Star signed with Washington entering his seventh Major League season. He went 14-7 with a 3.25 ERA over 33 starts. Last year, he led all lefties by holding opposing left-handed hitters to a .190 batting average and .248 slugging percentage, while his 238 strikeouts paced all NL southpaws.

Corbin’s regular-season performance was a buildup to the Nationals' World Series championship run. He made three starts and five appearances out of the bullpen (2-3, 5.79 ERA). In a standout Game 4 NL Championship Series performance -- in which he reached the 200-strikeout mark -- he fanned 12 Cardinals batters in just five innings. With that, Corbin became the first pitcher in Major League playoff history to strike out 12 without tossing more than five frames. He notably earned the win in Game 7 after throwing three scoreless innings in relief.

4. Carlos Pérez, Expos (1995-98)
Key fact: Pérez earned an All-Star selection as a rookie.

Pérez began his Major League career in 1995 with a splash -- a 10-8 record and 3.69 ERA that garnered an All-Star nod and a fourth-place finish in NL Rookie of the Year Award voting. He missed the following season because of injury, and returned in ‘97 to throw a Major League-best five shutouts. With that mark, he is tied with Steve Rogers, Dennis Martinez and Bill Stoneman for most shutouts in a single season in franchise history.

Pérez made 23 starts in ‘98 before being traded to the Dodgers mid-season. In three years with the Expos, he was 29-31 with a 3.78 ERA over 78 starts. Pérez ranks first among the franchise's left-handers in shutouts (6), second in complete games (13), sixth in bWAR (6) and innings pitched (511 1/3), and seventh in strikeouts (298).

5. Mark Langston, Expos (1989)
Key fact: Langston's 2.39 ERA in 1989 is the third-lowest by an Expos/Nationals pitcher in a single season.

Langston arrived in Montreal via one of the franchise’s memorable trades. On May 25, 1989, the Expos acquired him in a deal that sent future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson to the Mariners. Langston would only play the remainder of that season with the Expos before signing with the Angels as a free agent, but he made a strong showing in a short time.

That year, Langston was 12-9 and led the Expos with a 2.39 ERA and 175 strikeouts, in spite of starting in the fifth-most games (24). His 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings also topped all NL pitchers. Langston’s 23.7 strikeout percentage ranks fourth among franchise left-handers. He has a 4.9 bWAR with Montreal.

Honorable mention
Kirk Rueter, Expos (1993-96): Rueter holds the highest winning percentage (.676) among all franchise pitchers with a minimum of 30 decisions. He posted a 25-12 record and 4.03 ERA over 59 games (all starts) with the Expos. Rueter was traded to the Giants for Mark Leiter in 1996.

Chris Nabholz, Expos (1990-93): Nabholz recorded the fourth-most starts (88) and fifth-most innings (535 1/3) among franchise left-handers. Playing his first four Major League seasons in Montreal, he went 34-29 with a 3.51 ERA and 7.2 bWAR.