Bryce Harper wins NL outfield Silver Slugger

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by Amanda Comak

Silver Slugger IGWashington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was named a National League winner of the Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award on Thursday night, the first such honor of his career.

This is the fourth consecutive season in which the Nationals have had a Silver Slugger Award winner, and the first time the organization has had an outfield honoree since Alfonso Soriano in 2006.

“We are proud to see Bryce earn his first Silver Slugger award,” said Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo. “Watching Bryce play the way he did this year was a true pleasure. His historic season at the plate is a tribute to the type of talent he is, and I know I’m not alone when I say that I cannot wait to see what is next for this young man.”

“I’d like to say ‘Thank you,’ to the managers and coaches who awarded me with this incredible honor,” Harper said. “Most of all, I’d like to thank my teammates, the Nationals coaching staff and the training staff. I am humbled by their unwavering support and sacrifices, without which this would not be possible. It is a privilege and an honor to be recognized alongside this group of great players.”

Harper, who celebrated his 23rd birthday shortly after the 2015 season concluded, led Major League outfielders in a myriad of offensive categories. They included: batting average (.330), on-base percentage (.460), slugging percentage (.649), walks (124), OPS (1.109), and at-bats per home run (12.40). He led National League outfielders in home runs (42), extra-base hits (81) and at-bats per RBI (5.26).

The Las Vegas-native was also tops in Major League Baseball in Wins Above Replacement for the 2015 season with 9.5 (according to Fangraphs.com).

With Harper’s honor, the Nationals are one of only two National League teams (along with the Pittsburgh Pirates) to have a player earn a Silver Slugger Award in each of the past four seasons. Joining them with active streaks in the American League are the Detroit Tigers (2011-2015) and the Los Angeles Angels (2012-2015).

NATIONALS TO WIN LOUISVILLE SLUGGER SILVER SLUGGER AWARDS (2005-2015)
2006  OF Alfonso Soriano
2009  3B Ryan Zimmerman
2010  3B Ryan Zimmerman
2012  SS Ian Desmond, 1B Adam LaRoche, P Stephen Strasburg
2013  SS Ian Desmond
2014  SS Ian Desmond, 3B Anthony Rendon
2015 RF Bryce Harper

Dusty Baker: Higher Ground

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by Mike Feigen

The Nationals’ new skipper brings not just a wealth of managerial experience to the dugout, but a cultural consciousness that could make him D.C.’s baseball Renaissance man.

 

Nationals Park, quiet since it was shuttered at the close of the 2015 regular season, bustled with excitement on the morning of November 5. As media members gathered and club staffers prepared the press conference room for the arrival of the sixth full-time manager since baseball returned to the District, a spring-like energy pulsed through the ballpark despite the gray-skied autumn weather outside.

That afternoon, following an inspiring 35-minute press conference — after Dusty Baker introduced himself, and quickly charmed the assembled press, staffers, and fans — the decision made by the Nationals ownership and front office to install the 66-year-old Baker in their dugout was given instant validation. Outside, the vestige of clouds and rain had given way to warm, midday sunshine.

The breath of fresh air Baker helped usher in was meaningful and poetic.

Baker’s biography reads like something straight out of central casting: nearly 50 years of professional baseball experience, including 20 successful seasons as a player and 20 more as a Major League manager; six times an All-Star, twice a Silver Slugger, once a Gold Glove winner and once a World Series champion; three times a National League Manager of the Year, eight times the pilot of a 90-win team.

But this hire was about much more than just the resume. After enduring an unexpected end to the 2015 season, the Nationals’ organization knew it had to find the type of leader who could command the respect of the clubhouse, and restore a positive, winning belief in its fan base and community.

On that score, Baker’s track record is nearly impeccable.

“I want to get this team together as soon as possible, from top to bottom,” Baker said at his November 5 press conference. “Because the great teams I’ve been on and organizations that I’ve been in, from top to bottom, everyone believes.”

Asked what he’d say to his new team the first day of Spring Training, Baker said he actually believes the progress of cultivating organizational belief starts long before pitchers and catchers report, beginning with conversations he’ll have with players and personnel this offseason.

“It’s something I have to feel,” Baker said about his approach. “(It’s) something that can’t be fabricated, something that can’t be fake, because guys can see when you’re not being genuine. I’ll see what this team needs, because I really don’t know exactly what they need.”

That flexible approach to handling players lends insight into Baker’s managerial style. He uses his instincts and deep baseball knowledge to guide his moves throughout the course of the season, relying on a roughly 7,000-game personal sample to inform his decision-making. According to President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo, Nationals fans won’t see a scripted, by-the-numbers style of managing in 2016; like some of the musicians he cited in his introductory press conference, Baker’s improvisational skills and feel for the rhythm of the game may be his greatest attribute.

Moreover, that free-flowing style will not preclude the dugout veteran using statistics and analytics in his game preparation. The game has evolved, and so has he.

“Adaptation is no problem for me,” Baker explained. “My friends call me ‘The Chameleon’ because they think I can adapt to any place, anytime, anywhere, and so I would like to think that I transcend different generations, like some musicians. I mean, Stevie Wonder still sounds good. And The Doors might sound even better.”

A self-described working man, Baker will first work with Rizzo to fill out the rest of the Nationals’ coaching staff. Baker’s connections within the game span his playing (Atlanta Braves, 1968-75, Los Angeles Dodgers, 1976-83, San Francisco Giants, 1984, Oakland Athletics, 1985-86) and coaching days (Giants, 1988-2002, Chicago Cubs, 2003-06 and Cincinnati Reds, 2008-13), giving him a multitude of options to fill the various assistant roles.

The club has already announced the additions of respected pitching coach Mike Maddux and first base coach and baserunning specialist Davey Lopes, who own a combined 37 years of Major League experience in similar positions.

Baker said he and Maddux had always shared a mutual interest in coaching with one another, and he and Lopes, who managed the Milwaukee Brewers from 2000-02, were best of friends from their playing days with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In the greater D.C. community, Baker has a close relationship with University of Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson that dates back some 50 years. He knows local politicians, “from the President on down,” he quipped at his press conference. He understands the large military influence in the area, having served as a reservist in the United States Marine Corps at Quantico during the Vietnam War era. He’s a business owner, an author, a philanthropist and a leader.

And while he’s never resided full-time in the District, he feels familiar and comfortable in his new surroundings.

“It’s like a family — it’s like coming home,” Baker said.

Baker’s ability to adapt to the pulse of the people around him, like his ability to work with his players, will also be welcomed by the greater Washington community.

The area, left without Major League Baseball from 1972-2004, is still rebuilding after just 11 continuous seasons of baseball after a 33 season absence. That lost generation of baseball fans, many of whom have children currently growing up with the Nationals, is slowly coming back into the fold and reclaiming their allegiances. When baseball returned 11 years ago, some neighborhoods, such as Wards 7 and 8 east of the Anacostia River, had little remaining infrastructure to support the game.

Recognizing that challenge, members of the Lerner family, in coordination with local civic leaders and Major League Baseball, have worked hard to bring baseball back to the children of the DMV, from the Nationals Youth Baseball Uniform Program to the instruction at the state-of-the-art Youth Baseball Academy in Southeast D.C.

Those endeavors have proven fruitful, particularly at the Academy, as cohorts of scholar-athletes — many of whom who were not previously exposed to baseball and softball — have learned the game as well as lessons in math, science, reading and personal nutrition.

And while Baker was explicitly hired to bring success to the Nationals baseball team, as the only African-American manager at the game’s highest level, he says he is excited to join a community with such a rich demographic fabric.

“I’m used to diversity, and this is probably the most diverse setting and most diverse town I’ve been in,” he said.

“I’ve felt a sense of responsibility the whole time I’ve been managing,” he continued. “I’ve had a sense of responsibility since I was a kid, in different walks of life. My parents were heavily involved in the NAACP when I was a kid, and I was in the Junior NAACP. There’s a sense of pride, and at the same time, hopefully I can help make a difference, because all the calls I’ve gotten, a lot of people say, ‘Hey man, it’s better to have you in the game then out of the game.’”

Having Baker back in the game will be a welcome sight to Nationals players and fans alike, a group collectively ready to turn the page on the 2015 season and take the next step after the division titles of 2012 and 2014.

After a brief introduction and an opening statement at his press conference, Baker received his cap and No. 12 jersey. He put on the cap, curling the brim in his hands, and cracked a smile.

“My son wants me to wear a flat bill,” he said with a grin. “I can’t do it.”

Then he stood tall, stretching his 6-foot-2 frame. On went the jersey.

“My mom used to be a model,” he said. “She used to go like this.”

Baker spun and sashayed his hips on the dais. The crowd laughed. The clouds were lifted. The Nationals were back in business.

Nationals name Dusty Baker manager

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals named Dusty Baker as manager on Tuesday, agreeing to terms on a multi-year contract that makes him the sixth field manager in Nationals history.

Baker, 66, brings nearly 50 years of professional baseball experience to the Nationals, including 20 years as a Major League manager, six as a coach, and a 20-year playing career that was highlighted by 19 decorated seasons in the Major Leagues.

A three-time National League Manager of the Year (1993, 1997, 2000), Baker is the 17th-winningest manager in baseball history, and his 1,671-1,504 career managerial record slots him second in the win column among active managers behind only San Francisco’s Bruce Bochy (1,702). Washington is Baker’s fourth managerial stop, coming to the Nationals after time in San Francisco (1993-2002), Chicago (2003-2006) and Cincinnati (2008-2013).

“We were looking for a manager to help us achieve our ultimate goal of competing for a World Series championship,” said Theodore N. Lerner, Managing Principal Owner of the Nationals. “During our broad search process we met with many qualified candidates, and ultimately it was clear that Dusty’s deep experience was the best fit for our ballclub.”

Baker, an All-Star, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, and World Series-winning player, has produced seven postseason teams during his 20-year managerial career, including five division championships (San Francisco, 1997 & 2000; Chicago, 2003; Cincinnati, 2010 & 2012), and two wild card appearances (San Francisco, 2002; Cincinnati, 2013). Baker, a coach for the 1989 Giants World Series team, managed the 2002 San Francisco Giants to the World Series, clinching the National League pennant over the St. Louis Cardinals in five games, before falling in seven games to the Los Angeles Angels.

His 1,555 games and 840 victories with San Francisco rank second only to Hall of Famer John McGraw’s 4,405 games and 2,604 wins in Giants history, and his 2003-04 Cubs teams were the first to post consecutive winning seasons in Chicago since 1971-72.

As a player, Baker participated in the postseason four times (1977, 1978, 1981 & 1983), and played in three World Series (1977, 1978, 1981). He earned himself the National League Championship Series MVP award with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1977 (hitting .357 with a .438 on-base percentage and .837 slugging percentage in four games against Philadelphia), and a World Series ring, playing left field for the 1981 Dodgers.

​“I am so pleased to welcome Dusty Baker to the Nationals family,” said Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo. “In getting to know Dusty and identifying what we wanted in the next on-field leader of our team, we are excited to have him on board.

“Dusty’s experience, as a winning player, coach, and manager, is vast and varied. We are excited to bring him to Washington and put his steady demeanor, knowledge and many years in the game to work in our favor. I think I speak for the entire organization when I say I am very much looking forward to working with him.”

Baker, a six-time All-Star (twice as a player: 1981 & 1982; three times as a member of the coaching staff: 1994, 1997 & 2001; once as manager: 2003), brings a wealth of experience to the manager’s seat in Washington. His teams have finished first or second 12 times in his 20 years, and won at least 90 games in a season on eight occasions.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the former outfielder is one of just six managers in MLB history to win a division title with at least three teams, joining former Nationals skipper Davey Johnson, Billy Martin, Lou Piniella, Joe Torre, and Tony LaRussa. He is also one of only four in MLB history to produce at least 1,500 hits as a player and win at least 1,500 games as a manager, joining Piniella, Torre and Fred Clarke on that list.

Born Johnnie B. Baker Jr. on June 15, 1949 in Riverside, Calif., “Dusty” Baker currently resides in California with his wife, Melissa, and has two children, Natosha and Darren. A 1967 graduate of Del Campo High School in Carmichael, Calif., Baker attended American River College in Sacramento, Calif. and was inducted into the Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame in 2013.

Baker, who is a prostate cancer survivor (2001), served in the United States Marine Corps Reserve from 1969-75. Baker also has experience as a broadcaster, working for ESPN’s Baseball Tonight in 2007 and, most recently, for TBS as a studio analyst this past postseason.

Bryce Harper, Wilson Ramos Named Rawlings Gold Glove Finalists

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By Kyle Brostowitz

The finalists for the Rawlings Gold Glove Awards were announced Thursday morning by Rawlings Sports, and for the fourth consecutive year, the Washington Nationals have two players among the honorees.

GoldGlove NoTextRight fielder Bryce Harper and catcher Wilson Ramos were named finalists at their respective positions, the first time for each player. The awards will be announced on November 10 on ESPN.

Harper is up against strong competition for the award, facing off against  St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Jason Heyward and New York Mets right fielder Curtis Granderson.

Ramos is also included in a talented group, up against St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey.

Harper made the transition to right field in 2015 and immediately displayed a strong arm and advanced defensive instincts that made him one of the best right fielders in the National League. He ranked fourth among National League right fielders in the SABR Defensive Index (4.9) and, according to FanGraphs.com, Harper ranked second in Outfield Runs Saved (2) and fourth in Total Defensive Runs Saved (7). According to STATS Inc., Harper ranked third among National League outfielders in Range Factor/9.0 innings (2.07) and Putouts/9.0 innings (2.01). STATSAST DATA

Ramos led National League catchers with a career-best 36.2% catcher caught stealing percentage, throwing out 17 of 47 potential base stealers. His 17 caught-stealings were his most since he threw out 19 in 2011. According to FanGraphs.com, Ramos led National League catchers in Defensive Runs Above Average (11.2) and was tied for first with San Francisco’s Buster Posey in Defensive Runs Saved (9). He ranked second, behind Posey, in SABR’s Defensive Index (8.6).

Ramos was behind the plate for both of Max Scherzer’s no-hitters (June 20 vs. PIT and Oct. 3 at NYM) and, combined with being behind the plate for Jordan Zimmermann’s no-hitter on the final day of the 2014 season, joined some exclusive company in 2015. Per STATS, Inc., Ramos is the 14th catcher since 1914 to catch three or more no-hitters and, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, he is the first ever to catch three in a 162-game span.

Each manager and up to six coaches on each staff voted from a pool of qualified players in their league, and cannot vote for players on their own team. As in 2014, Rawlings also included a sabermetric component to the Rawlings Gold Glove Award selection process, as part of its recent collaboration with the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).

The SABR Defensive Index accounted for approximately 25 percent of the overall selection total, with the managers and coaches’ vote continuing to carry the majority.

The winners of the 2015 Rawlings Gold Glove Awards will be announced Tuesday night, November 10, at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN in a special one-hour Baseball Tonight.

Fruits of their Labor: Nationals Youth Baseball Academy Hosts Fall Harvest at ‘Field of Greens’ Urban Garden

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Nationals Youth Baseball Academy scholar-athletes and community members got to truly experience farm-to-table eating on Wednesday when they conducted a fall harvest to celebrate the Academy’s urban farm, known as the ‘Field of Greens’.

Scholar-athletes, Academy staff and DC Greens staff harvested and taste-tested fall vegetables grown at the Academy.

Scholar-athletes took home their harvest and a deeper understanding of how food impacts personal and community health.

“Wednesday’s harvest event marked the Academy’s introduction to being a true ‘food production site,’” said Tal Alter, executive director of the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy. “The scholar-athletes that took part in harvesting, taste-testing and pumpkin painting will grow up with this resource at their disposal, which will be complemented by holistic food education programs. This is an exciting accomplishment for us and consistent with our three core pillars – character development, academic enrichment and improved health.”

In September, the Academy expanded the ‘Field of Greens’, a 1,000-square-foot urban farm, in an effort to improve food access and food education for Academy scholar-athletes, their families and residents of Ward 7.

The expanded ‘Field of Greens’ became a reality with support from Walmart and DC Greens – a local organization striving to connect communities to healthy food through education, access and policy.

“We are teaching students that nutrition is key to being both a scholar and an athlete,” said Lauren Shweder Biel, co-founder and executive director of DC Greens. “It is especially important in a community where there are so many struggles surrounding food access. This is an ideal location to expose kids to food and planting, and we are excited to be here making fresh food fun!”

Additional harvests will take place throughout the autumn.

Max Scherzer named NL Player of the Week

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by Amanda Comak

Following a week in which he carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning and then turned in perhaps the most dominant no-hit performance in Major League history as an encore, Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer was named the National League Player of the Week on Monday. Major League Baseball made the announcement on MLB Network.

In his final start of the 2015 season, Scherzer held the New York Mets hitless in a 2-0 victory on Saturday night, striking out 17 and allowing just one baserunner — on an error by third baseman Yunel Escobar. Scherzer, who also no-hit the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 20 at Nationals Park, became just the sixth pitcher in Major League history to throw two no-hitters in the same season, and just the fifth to throw two in the same regular season.

He is the first, however, to throw two no-hitters in the same season without walking a single batter in either contest. Hall-of-Famer Pud Galvin threw no-hitters in 1880 and 1884 in which he did not issue a single walk.

While Scherzer joined Johnny Vander Meer (1938), Allie Reynolds (1951), Virgil Trucks (1952) and Nolan Ryan (1973) as the only pitchers ever to throw two no-hitters in the same regular season (and including Roy Halladay (2010) if you add the postseason), he is the first to throw no-hitters against two postseason-bound teams in the same season.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Scherzer’s 17 strikeouts (a career high, besting his 16-strikeout performance at Milwaukee on June 14) tied Nolan Ryan for the MLB record for strikeouts in a no-hitter – a record that had stood alone since Ryan struck out 17 Detroit Tigers on July 15, 1973. On Saturday night, Scherzer appeared to grow stronger as the finish line neared, striking out a franchise record (Nationals/Expos) nine consecutive batters from the sixth inning to the ninth inning.

And all of that came on the heels of 7.1 innings of no-hit ball in his penultimate start of the season, an eight-inning performance vs. the Cincinnati Reds on Sept. 28. All told, the final week of Scherzer’s 2015 season featured a 2-0 record and a 0.53 ERA (1 ER/17.0 IP), two hits, three walks and 27 strikeouts.

After Scherzer’s tremendous performances, the Nationals are the first team since the 1960-1961 Milwaukee Braves to throw three no-hitters in a 162-game span (Jordan Zimmermann, Game No. 162, 2014; Scherzer Games No. 69 & 161, 2015).

This is the third Player of the Week award of Scherzer’s career after he earned the honor earlier this season (June 15-21, 2015), when he threw his first no-hitter. He had previously taken home the award on June 24, 2013 as a member of the Detroit Tigers.

As an organization, Scherzer is the Nationals’ 18th weekly honoree. He adds to the haul from Bryce Harper (May 4-10, May 11-17, & Sept. 14-20, 2015), Stephen Strasburg (Sept. 14-20, 2015 & June 7-13, 2010), Zimmermann (Sept. 22-28, 2014; June 2-8, 2014), Adam LaRoche (Sept. 1-7, 2014), Jayson Werth (June 30-July 6, 2014), Ryan Zimmerman (July 16-22, 2012; Aug. 15-21, 2011; July 30-Aug. 5, 2007), Josh Willingham (July 27-Aug. 2, 2009), Cristian Guzman (Aug. 25-31, 2008), and Nick Johnson (May 31-June 6, 2005) as honorees.

Nationals announce 2015 organizational awards

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By Kyle Brostowitz

The Washington Nationals named first baseman Jose Marmolejos their Minor League Player of the Year and right-handed pitcher Austin Voth their Minor League Pitcher of the Year. The club also named right-handed pitcher Austen Williams the recipient of the third-annual Bob Boone Award.

farm graphicMarmolejos, 22, led the South Atlantic League in hits (145), doubles (39) and RBI (87), ranked second in the league in slugging percentage (.485) and batting average (.310), and ranked third in OPS (.848) while playing in a team-high 124 games for Washington’s Single-A affiliate. He paced the Nationals’ Minor League system in hits (145), doubles (39), RBI (87), slugging percentage (.485) and batting average (.310).

A former non-drafted free agent, Marmolejos had a particularly strong second half of the season, hitting .335 with 24 doubles, two triples, six home runs, 55 RBI, 27 walks and 37 runs scored in the final 70 games of the season. All told, the first baseman hit .310 with 39 doubles, five triples, 11 home runs, 87 RBI, 35 walks and 63 runs scored in 2015. For his efforts, he was named a South Atlantic League post-season All-Star.

Marmolejos is in his fifth season in the organization. He was signed by Modesto Ulloa on June 9, 2011 after going undrafted in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. On September 9th, he was selected eighth overall by Tigres del Licey in the 2015 Dominican Winter League Rookie Draft.

Voth, 23, led all Nationals farmhands with 148 strikeouts and he ranked third in the organization with a 2.92 ERA. His 148 strikeouts ranked second in all of Double-A and were tied for ninth in all of Minor League Baseball. Voth went 6-7 with a 2.92 ERA in 28 games (27 starts) for the Harrisburg Senators, Washington’s Double-A Eastern League affiliate.

A fifth-round pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Washington, Voth led the Eastern League in strikeouts (148), strikeouts/9.0 innings (8.47) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.70). He also ranked among league leaders in hits/9.0 innings (2nd, 7.67), WHIP (5th, 1.11), home runs/9.0 innings (5th, 0.57), ERA (8th, 2.92) and walks/9.0 innings (9th, 2.29). He earned Eastern League Pitcher of the Week honors September 7th and was named an Eastern League mid-season All-Star.

Williams, 22, becomes the third recipient of the Bob Boone Award, which is granted annually to the Nationals minor leaguer who best demonstrates the professionalism, leadership, loyalty, passion, selflessness, durability, determination and work ethic required to play the game the ‘Washington Nationals Way.’

Williams went 12-8 with a 2.58 ERA in 25 starts across three levels of Washington’s Minor League system. He began the season with Single-A Hagerstown before being promoted to Triple-A Syracuse for a spot start on June 4. He was then transferred to Single-A Potomac on June 11, where he finished the season. Williams struck out 106 batters, walked 33, surrendered just five home runs and posted a 1.10 WHIP while opposing batters hit .231 against him. He ranked among Nationals Minor Leaguers in ERA (2nd, 2.58), wins (2nd, 12) and strikeouts (T4th, 106).

Selected in the sixth round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft out of Texas State University, Williams was named a South Atlantic League mid-season All-Star after going 8-1 with a 2.10 ERA (17 ER/73.0 IP) in 13 starts for Single-A Hagerstown.

The Nationals will honor these players in a ceremony at Space Coast Stadium during 2016 Spring Training.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS ORGANIZATIONAL AWARD WINNERS

2015: 1B Jose Marmolejos (Player of the Year), RHP Austin Voth (Pitcher of the Year), RHP Austen Williams (Boone)

2014: OF Steven Souza Jr. (Player of the Year), RHP Lucas Giolito (Pitcher of the Year), INF Wilmer Difo (Boone)

2013: OF Billy Burns (Player of the Year), RHP Taylor Jordan (Pitcher of the Year), 2B Tony Renda (Boone)

2012: INF Matthew Skole (Player of the Year), RHP Nathan Karns (Pitcher of the Year)

2011: INF Steve Lombardozzi (Player of the Year), RHP Brad Peacock (Pitcher of the Year)

2010: OF Tyler Moore (Player of the Year), LHP Tom Milone (Pitcher of the Year)

2009: C Derek Norris (Player of the Year), RHP Brad Meyers (Pitcher of the Year)

2008: OF Leonard Davis (Player of the Year), RHP Jordan Zimmermann (Pitcher of the Year)

2007: OF Justin Maxwell (Player of the Year), LHP John Lannan (Pitcher of the Year)

2006:  INF Kory Casto (Player of the Year), RHP Zechry Zinicola (Pitcher of the Year)

2005: INF Kory Casto (Player of the Year), LHP Michael O’Connor (Pitcher of the Year)

Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg named co-NL Players of the Week

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by Amanda Comak

Following a week filled with dominance by both players, Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper and right-handed pitcher Stephen Strasburg were named co-National League Players of the Week on Monday.

Harper – who currently leads the National League in several categories, including: batting average (.343), on-base percentage (.470), slugging percentage (.674), home runs (41), OPS (1.143), OPS+ (206), runs scored (116), and WAR (9.6) – had quite a week at the plate. In seven games, Harper hit .519 (14-for-27) with a .576 on-base percentage and a 1.111 slugging percentage. He clubbed five home runs and one double, walked five times, drove in 10 runs and scored 12 times as the Nationals went 6-1. Harper struck out just three times in his 33 plate appearances from Sept. 14-20.

During this stretch, Harper became just the second player in Nationals history to tally 40 or more home runs in a season, joining only Alfonso Soriano (46, 2006).

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Harper’s 96 career home runs are the fourth-most for any player in Major League history before his 23rd birthday, joining only Mel Ott (115), Eddie Mathews (112), and Tony Conigliaro (104). At 22 years, 335 days old, Harper also became the sixth-youngest player in MLB history to hit 40 home runs in a season, again joining Ott (1929: 20 years, 203 days) and Mathews, (1953: 21 years, 316 days), as well as Johnny Bench (1970: 22 years, 249 days), Joe DiMaggio (1937: 22 years, 285 days), and Juan Gonzalez (1992: 22 years, 331 days).

Strasburg, who joined right-hander Pedro Martinez as the only pitchers in franchise history to post back-to-back 13-plus strikeout games with his performances on Sept. 9 and Sept. 15, set a Nationals record (2005-present) by tallying 37 strikeouts in his past three starts – the most for any Nationals pitcher in a three-start stretch.

The right-hander went 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA, allowing just one earned run over 15 innings in two outstanding performances at Philadelphia (9/15) and vs. Miami (9/20). Strasburg struck out 24 batters last week and walked just two, holding opponents to a .135 average, .167 on-base percentage and .192 slugging percentage.

During his season-best eight-inning performance at Philadelphia, Strasburg tied his career high with 14 strikeouts and limited the Phillies to one hit. He generated swings-and-misses on 30 of 55 swings, a 55 percent swing-and-miss rate – the highest by a pitcher in any start of at least 100 pitches in the past 10 seasons.

This is the third Player of the Week award of Harper’s career, following back-to-back honors in May (May 4-10, 11-17), the second of Strasburg’s career (also June 7-13, 2010), and the 16th and 17th such honors for the Nationals organization.

They join Max Scherzer (June 15-21, 2015), Jordan Zimmermann (Sept. 22-28, 2014; June 2-8, 2014), Adam LaRoche (Sept. 1-7, 2014), Jayson Werth (June 30-July 6, 2014), Ryan Zimmerman (July 16-22, 2012; Aug. 15-21, 2011; July 30-Aug. 5, 2007), Josh Willingham (July 27-Aug. 2, 2009), Cristian Guzman (Aug. 25-31, 2008), and Nick Johnson (May 31-June 6, 2005) as honorees.

Nationals announce 2016 schedule

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals announced their 2016 schedule on Tuesday, in conjunction with Major League Baseball, revealing an 81-game home slate that will begin with the home opener on April 7 vs. the Miami Marlins. The 83rd home opener in D.C. since 1901 will come after the Nationals begin the season at Atlanta with a two-game series April 4-6. Visit nationals.com to view the full schedule.

800x800-Schedule-wasNationals Park will play host to 11 homestands, four of which will span 10 days, and include 13 weekend series. The home schedule will be highlighted by visits from the American League Central in Interleague play. The Nationals will welcome the Minnesota Twins (April 22-24), Detroit Tigers (May 9-11), and the Cleveland Indians (Aug. 9-10), and will visit the Chicago White Sox (June 7-9), the Kansas City Royals (May 2-4), and Cleveland (July 26-27).

The Nationals will celebrate with holiday crowds twice in 2016, first with the annual Fourth of July contest, as the Milwaukee Brewers visit the nation’s capital for the nation’s birthday, and concluding with a visit from the Philadelphia Phillies on Labor Day (Sept. 5).

Weekends at Nationals Park will feature visits from the Miami Marlins (April 7-10, May 13-15, Sept. 30-Oct. 2), Minnesota Twins (April 22-24), St. Louis Cardinals (May 26-29), Philadelphia Phillies (June 10-12, Sept. 8-11), Cincinnati Reds (July 1-3), Pittsburgh Pirates (July 15-17), San Diego Padres (July 22-24), San Francisco Giants (Aug. 5-7), Atlanta Braves (Aug. 12-14), and Colorado Rockies (Aug. 26-28).

The Nationals’ road slate features two west coast trips as the club will travel to San Diego and Los Angeles in June (16-22) before closing that 10-game trip with a three-game set in Milwaukee. The Nationals will then head west once more at the end of July as they close a nine-game trip that begins in Cleveland (July 26-27), with stops in San Francisco (July 28-31) and Arizona (Aug. 1-3).

2016 ScheduleThe annual Beltway Series with the Baltimore Orioles will take place in August during a four-game home-and-home. The Nationals will travel to Baltimore at the end of a nine-game trip that starts in Colorado (Aug. 15-17), stops in Atlanta (Aug. 18-21) and wraps up in Baltimore (Aug. 22-23). The two Mid-Atlantic teams will then head down to D.C. to finish up the series with two at Nationals Park (Aug 24-25).

Nineteen of the Nationals’ first 22 games will come against divisional foes. Washington will finish the 2016 season playing 25 of their final 32 games within the National League East as well.

The Nationals will conclude the 2016 regular season with a seven-game homestand that will feature a four-game set with the Arizona Diamondbacks (Sept. 26-29) and finish with three games against the Miami Marlins (Sept. 30-Oct. 2).

All dates and opponents on this schedule are subject to change. Visit nationals.com to view the full schedule. To secure the best seats at the best price with a 2016 NATS PLUS Membership, visit nationals.com/natsplus, call 202.675.NATS(6287) or email at ticketinfo@nationals.com.

Nationals reinstate 2B Dan Uggla, select the contract of C Pedro Severino, and recall LHP Sammy Solis

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals returned from rehab and reinstated second baseman Dan Uggla, selected the contract of catcher Pedro Severino from Double-A Harrisburg, and recalled left-handed pitcher Sammy Solis from Triple-A Syracuse. Additionally, right-handed pitcher David Carpenter (right shoulder inflammation) was transferred to the 60-day disabled list.

Uggla, 35, returns to the Nationals after missing 22 games due to back spasms. The veteran second baseman played in seven games on rehab assignment, making stops with Single-A Hagerstown, Single-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg. Uggla hit .217 (5-for-23) with one double, one home run, two walks, six RBI and five runs scored.

In 56 games with the Nationals this season, 34 of them off the bench, Uggla is hitting .191/.294/.291 with four doubles, two triples, one home run, 16 walks and 14 RBI. In his last 87 Major League plate appearances, Uggla is 17-for-74 with two doubles, two triples, a home run, 13 RBI and 12 walks. His lone longball this season, a three-run shot in the ninth inning at Atlanta on April 28, completed the Nationals’ record-setting comeback victory over the Braves.

Severino, an exceptional defensive catcher, joins the Nationals for the first Major League assignment of his career. Signed by the Nationals at the age of 17, the Dominican Republic native entered the 2015 season considered the “Best Defensive Catcher” in the Nationals’ minor league system, according to Baseball America. Severino has thrown out 38 percent of attempted base stealers over the course of 331 minor league games.

The 22-year-old catcher, who was a non-roster invitee to the Nationals Major League Spring Training this year, was hitting .249 with 13 doubles, five home runs, 19 walks, and 34 RBI in 90 games with Double-A Harrisburg at the time of his promotion.

Joining the Nationals’ bullpen for the fourth time this season, Solis returns to the Major Leagues after having posted a 2.03 ERA in nine games at the Triple-A level. The left-hander is 0-3 with a 4.39 ERA in 20 Minor League games this season across Double-A and Triple-A, and is 1-1 with a 5.54 ERA in 10 Major League games.

Solis, 27, returned to the minors after his third MLB stint on July 30 and allowed just three earned runs in 13.1 innings. He earned two saves while holding opponents to a .178 average against during his time with the Syracuse Chiefs.

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