Nats' Top 5 righty starters: Camerato's take

May 26th, 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. If you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

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

Here is Jessica Camerato’s ranking of the Top 5 starting right-handed pitchers in Nationals/Expos history. Next week: starting left-handers.

1. , Nationals (2010-Present)
Key fact: Strasburg was selected by the Nats with the first pick in the 2009 Draft

Look on the Nationals and Expos pitching leaderboards and Strasburg's name is littered everywhere. The homegrown right-hander owns the franchise high mark in strikeouts (1,695) and is second to Steve Rogers in wins (112-58), with the most since the relocation to Washington, D.C., in 2005.

Over his 1,438 2/3 regular-season innings, Strasburg holds a 3.17 ERA and 32.3 Wins Above Replacement, per Baseball-Reference, which is third in franchise history. Going beyond the Nats, Strasburg has the sixth-best ERA among active players and tallied the most wins in the National League (18) last season.

For all Strasburg has accomplished in his 10 years in Washington, it is his 2019 postseason performance that headlines his achievements. He became the first pitcher in Major League history to go 5-0 in the playoffs, and he won the World Series Most Valuable Player Award for his work. In the Nats' championship run, Strasburg fanned 47 and issued only four walks while posting a 1.98 ERA in six games (five starts). He came up clutch by throwing three scoreless innings out of the bullpen in the NL Wild Card Game win over the Brewers.

With a 1.46 career postseason ERA, Strasburg trails only Hall of Famers Mariano Rivera (0.70) and Sandy Koufax (0.95) among all-time pitchers who threw at least 40 innings.

“He’s been near and dear to my heart,” Nats general manager Mike Rizzo said after Game 7 of the World Series. “He’s grown so much as a person and as a pitcher. When we first drafted him, he was a stuff guy, more of a thrower than a pitcher. Now, he’s a complete pitcher, a pillar in our community and a leader on this ballclub -- a guy we lean on in critical situations.”

Strasburg’s accolades include three All-Star selections and the 2012 Silver Slugger Award, during which season he hit a home run with a .277 batting average. The Nationals signed him to a record seven-year, $245 million contract in December.

2. , Nationals (2015-Present)
Key fact: Scherzer threw two no-hitters, both in 2015

With all the standout performances Scherzer has had, it seems like he has been a member of the Nationals longer than five seasons.

Scherzer has won two of his three Cy Young Awards upon being acquired by Washington, and has a 79-39 record and 2.74 ERA in 158 regular-season starts with the club. During that time, Scherzer has been an All-Star five times has accumulated the second-highest ERA and bWAR (34.5) and third-most strikeouts (1,371) among all pitchers in franchise history. He also is the franchise's leader in win-loss percentage (.669) and strikeouts per nine innings (11.7).

Scherzer ranks second among active pitchers with 2,692 strikeouts. He is one of 11 pitchers in history (since 1900) with at least eight 200-plus strikeout seasons. With his epic showing against his former club in 2016, Scherzer joined Hall of Famer Randy Johnson as the only pitchers to throw a no-hitter and 20-strikeout game.

The ultra-competitive Scherzer exhibited his determination in the 2019 World Series. Scratched from his start in Game 5 with a neck injury, he bounced back to start in the deciding Game 7 and threw five innings. He went 3-0 with a 2.40 ERA and 37 strikeouts over 30 frames in the playoff run.

“I just believed that we were going to win,” Scherzer said during Spring Training of his Game 7 performance. “I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t too pumped for the moment. I believed we were going to win and that I could do the job that night. And what the job really was that night was for me to lay it all on the line.”

3. Steve Rogers, Expos (1973-85)
Key fact: Rogers played his entire Major League career with Montreal

A five-time All-Star, Rogers leads all franchise pitchers with 45.1 bWAR, 2,837 2/3 innings pitched, 37 shutouts, 393 starts and 129 complete games. Over his 13-year career with the Expos, he went 158-152 with a 3.17 ERA, 3.20 FIP and 1.232 WHIP.

In the 1981 NL Division Series, Rogers threw a six-hit shutout gem against the Phillies in a deciding Game 5. He tallied an 0.98 ERA and went 3-1 in two rounds that postseason.

The following year, Rogers earned the 1982 ERA title with a 2.40 ERA while finishing runner-up to Steve Carlton in the NL Cy Young Award voting.

At the plate, Rogers paces all pitchers with 122 career hits and 101 sacrifice bunts.

4. , Expos (1994-97)
Key fact: Martínez is the only Expos player to win a Cy Young Award

Before his dominance with the Red Sox, Martinez pitched to a 55-33 record and 3.06 ERA in Montreal. He won his first of three Cy Young Awards in 1997, when he went 17-8 and led all of baseball in ERA (1.90), hits per nine innings (5.9) and complete games (13). With those marks, he holds the franchise marks for lowest ERA and most strikeouts (305) in a single season.

Martinez’s 30.0 bWAR is fourth-best among all pitchers in Expos/Nationals history. He may have only pitched in 118 games during his time with Montreal, but he earned two All-Star selections and made the most of his appearances.

Martinez went on to become an eight-time All-Star, five-time ERA title winner, Triple Crown winner and All-Star Game MVP. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015.

5. , Expos (1986-93)
Key fact: Won the ERA title in 1991 (2.39)

Martinez ranks second among all Expos and Nationals pitchers with 1,609 innings, third with 100 wins and 233 starts and fourth with a 30.0 bWAR. He earned three of his four All-Star nods in his tenure with Montreal, during which he tied Pedro Martinez for fifth-best ERA (3.06) in franchise history.

On July 28, 1991, Martinez threw the only perfect game in team history. He struck out five over 96 pitches at Dodger Stadium. It was just the 15th perfect game in Major League history at the time.

Honorable mentions

, Nationals (2009-15)
On Sept. 28, 2014, Zimmermann threw the first no-hitter in Washington, D.C., since Bobby Burke did so in 1931 as a member of the American League Senators. It was also the Nats' first since the club relocated. Zimmermann fanned 10 and allowed only one walk in the regular-season finale against the Marlins. In his seven seasons, Zimmermann was 70-50 with a 3.32 ERA and 19.5 bWAR (sixth among right-handers).

, Expos/Nationals (2003-06)
Hernandez earned back-to-back All-Star selections from 2004-05. He led the NL in innings pitched in '03 and topped all of baseball in '04 and '05. Hernandez also paced all pitchers with 35 starts in ‘04 and ‘05. Offensively, he won the ‘04 Silver Slugger Award. Hernandez (70-72, 3.98 ERA) has the seventh-highest bWAR of franchise right-handers (17.4).