Good Things Come In Threes
Awards season has never meant as much to the Washington Nationals as it does this year. As you may have heard, a trio of Nats were named finalists Wednesday night for several prominent National League awards by the Baseball Writers Association of America: Gio Gonzalez for Cy Young, Bryce Harper for the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year, and Davey Johnson for Manager of the Year. Whether or not those three take home their respective awards next week, their nominations as finalists are indicative of the tremendous seasons they all had.
There is another set of awards – for a completely separate trio of Nationals –doled out earlier tonight. Washington earned three Silver Slugger nods, the first such awards taken home by any Nationals since Ryan Zimmerman’s second straight honor in 2010. This year, while Zim was denied by a tremendous season from Padres third baseman Chase Headley, Ian Desmond, Adam LaRoche and Stephen Strasburg each took home the hardware as the best hitter at his respective position in the National League.
LaRoche’s selection was a no-brainer. He led all qualifying NL first basemen in hits (155), home runs (career-high 33), RBI (100), slugging percentage (.510) and OPS (.853). It may surprise some to know that the Silver Slugger is the first of the nine-year veteran’s career, but at a premium offensive position like first base, the competition is always stiff. LaRoche can place it on the mantle next to his Gold Glove, also the first of his career, which he was awarded last week.
Desmond’s win may be even more impressive, given the time he spent both on the Disabled List and playing at less than 100 percent this year. Despite playing as many as 32 games fewer than some of his fellow position-mates, Desmond led NL shortstops in home runs (career-high 25) to go along with a .292 average, .511 slugging percentage and .845 OPS. With his continued development over a full season next year, this could be just the first of many awards for the 27 year-old.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the three, though, is Strasburg, who entered 2012 batting just .038 (1-for-26) with 10 strikeouts in his Major League career. He made significant strides at the plate, compiling a .277/.333/.426 line with a league-high four doubles, one home run and seven RBI. Strasburg even batted .308 with runners in scoring position, as he developed into yet another offensive weapon at the bottom of the lineup.