Which Nat owns the best offensive season?

November 30th, 2020

What makes a standout season? Is it home runs, accolades, durability of games played or an X-factor that makes a performance noteworthy? In this article, take a look at some of the most memorable individual seasons by a Nationals position player.

1. , 2015
Key fact: Unanimously voted the National League Most Valuable Player by the BBWAA

Name a statistical category, and Harper was all over it in 2015, as he became the franchise’s first MVP Award winner. During his age-22 season, Harper led the National League in home runs (42) and runs scored (118). He also topped all of baseball in on-base percentage (.460), slugging percentage (.649), OPS (1.109) and OPS+ (198) while posting career highs in batting average (.330) and hits (172) in 153 games.

Harper became the third-youngest player to win NL MVP at 22 years, 353 days old -- behind only Hall of Famers Johnny Bench (22 years, 298 days in 1970) and Stan Musial (22 years, 316 days in '43).

“All I wanted to do was stay healthy, be on the field every single day,” Harper said after being named MVP. “[I believed that] if I could do that, I would have this award by the end of the year."

For his work in 2015, Harper holds the franchise’s single-season marks in offensive WAR (9.1), OBP, OPS+, at-bats per home run (12.4), walks (130), times on base (301) and offensive win percentage (.854). That season, he continued garnering accolades with his first Silver Slugger Award and third All-Star selection.

2. , 2009
Key fact: 7.3 bWAR ranks second among Nationals position players, behind only Bryce Harper’s 2015 MVP season

The question was not if but which one of Zimmerman’s 15 seasons with the Nationals would be included on this list. This was close with his 2017 performance, so check out the Honorable Mention section for that year.

In Zimmerman’s fifth Major League season, he slashed .292/.364/.525 with an .888 OPS and 133 OPS+ in 157 games. He more than doubled his runs (110) and RBIs (106) from the previous year, and recorded 33 home runs along with career bests in 178 hits and 37 doubles. Zimmerman’s 30-game hitting streak (.382 batting average from April 8-May 12) was the longest in baseball that year and the longest by a third baseman since George Brett in 1980. He also tied Ichiro Suzuki’s mark for reaching base safely in 43 consecutive games.

Defensively, Zimmerman was named ESPN’s 2009 Web Gem Champion after pacing all players with 19 Web Gems and 61 Web Gem points. He led baseball in assists (325) at third base.

Zimmerman was one of just two NL players (along with the Dodgers' Matt Kemp) to win a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger Award that year. He also was named to his first All-Star team.

3. , 2020
Key fact: Became youngest player to win National League batting title

Soto established himself as a future MVP candidate with a monstrous hitting performance in 2020. Despite starting the condensed season on the COVID-19 injured list, the left fielder broke out at the plate with a .351 average to capture the NL batting title at 21 years old. He edged out NL MVP Award winner Freddie Freeman's .341 average.

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Soto’s .351 batting average over 47 games was the fourth highest by a player in his age-21 season or younger since 1900, trailing just Alex Rodriguez (.358 in 1996), Lloyd Waner (.355 in '27) and Jimmie Foxx (.354 in '29).

With a .490 on-base percentage, .695 slugging percentage, 1.185 OPS and 201 weighted runs created plus (wRC+) in 2020, Soto posted the highest rates by a qualified hitter since Barry Bonds in 2004. He tallied 54 hits, 13 homers, 14 doubles, 37 RBIs, 39 runs scored and 41 walks to 28 strikeouts over 196 plate appearances.

“I definitely think you haven’t seen the best of Juan Soto yet, that’s for sure,” manager Dave Martinez said in September. “He’s going to continue to get better in all aspects of the game. You’re talking about not only a potential MVP this year, but for many, many years.”

4. , 2019
Key fact: Finished third in NL MVP voting

In Rendon’s seventh and final season in Washington, he posted numbers that topped the team and the league. His career-high 126 RBIs paced all of baseball and are the most ever by a Nationals player. He also hit an NL-leading 44 doubles, tied for first with the Dodgers’ Corey Seager.

The third baseman slashed .319/.412/.598 with a 1.010 OPS and 156 OPS+ in 146 games. He led the Nats in hits (174) and runs (117), and tied Juan Soto with 34 home runs during the regular season. This was en route to Washington's World Series championship. Rendon's statistical highlights in the postseason included a 1.219 OPS in the NL Division Series, a .417 batting average in the NL Championship Series and two homers in the World Series.

Rendon earned his second Silver Slugger Award and first All-Star selection in 2019.

5. , 2006
Key fact: Set the franchise mark for most home runs (46) in a single season

Soriano played only one of his 16 Major League seasons with the Nationals -- and he made the most of it. That year, his career-high 46 home runs ranked fourth in all of baseball (third in the National League). Only one other Nats player -- Bryce Harper in his '15 MVP campaign -- has reached the 40-homer milestone.

Soriano scored 119 runs in 2006, the most by any player since the team’s relocation to Washington. He also posted a career best in OBP (.351), slugging (.560), OPS (.911) and OPS+ (135) over 159 games.

As if 46 home runs were not enough, Soriano paired them with 41 stolen bases to become the fourth 40-40 player in MLB history. He earned his fifth straight All-Star nod and third consecutive Silver Slugger Award that season.

Honorable Mentions

, 2016
Key fact: Posted a franchise-record .347 batting average

Murphy finished the 2016 season .001 shy of tying the Major League batting title, just behind the Rockies' DJ LeMahieu. He also ranked first in the NL in doubles (47), slugging percentage (.595) and OPS (.985) in his first season with the Nationals (142 games). Murphy’s performance led to a second-place finish in NL MVP voting. That year, he earned his first Silver Slugger Award and second All-Star selection.

Ryan Zimmerman, 2017
Key fact: Became the franchise's all-time leader in home runs, total bases, doubles and RBIs

The 2017 campaign was the year in which Zimmerman put his stamp on the franchise’s leaderboards. In his 13th season, he had career highs in home runs (36) while slashing .303/.358/.573 with a .930 OPS and 134 OPS+ over 144 games. Those numbers were good for top 10 in the NL in RBIs, home runs and slugging percentage. In the postseason, he smacked a go-ahead three-run homer in Game 2 of the NLDS. Zimmerman earned an All-Star nod and was named the NL Comeback Player of the Year.

, 2018
Key fact: The second Nationals player to play 162 games, joining Ryan Zimmerman in 2007

Perhaps the best of Turner still is yet to come, but his third full Major League season already was notable. That year, he was one of seven players to appear in all 162 regular-season games, leading to an MLB-best 664 at-bats and NL-leading 740 plate appearances. The speedy shortstop also topped the NL with 43 stolen bases.

On July 5, Turner belted his first grand slam and recorded eight RBIs (tied for most by a leadoff hitter in MLB history) as the Nats came back from a 9-0 deficit against the Marlins. He also compiled a 13-game hitting streak and a 24-game on-base streak in his age-25 season.