Baseball’s major awards season concluded Thursday night, when the Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera claimed his second straight American League Most Valuable Player award and the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen capped a phenomenal season with his first-ever NL MVP award. The Nationals, following their disappointing 86-win season, finished with only one winner: Ian Desmond and his second straight Silver Slugger award.
A year ago, after their 98-win season and first-ever postseason appearance, the Nationals had hauled in six awards: silver sluggers for Adam LaRoche, Stephen Strasburg and Desmond; a Gold Glove for LaRoche; an NL rookie of the year plaque for Bryce Harper; and a NL manager of the year trophy for Davey Johnson. Even the standouts of the 2013 season didn’t do quite enough to crack the top finishers for the individual awards.
With a 3.25 ERA and 19 wins, which tied Adam Wainwright for the NL lead, Jordan Zimmermann didn’t even sneak into the top five in NL Cy Young voting. He finished seventh with 21 points; he received six third-place votes and three fifth-place votes. There’s no sane argument against Clayton Kershaw’s landslide Cy Young credentials: a 1.83 ERA, 16-9 record, 232 strikeouts and 236 innings. He was followed, in order, by Wainwright (19-9, 2.94 ERA), Jose Fernandez (12-6, 2.19 ERA), Craig Kimbrel (50 saves, 1.21 ERA), Matt Harvey (9-5, 2.27 ERA) and Cliff Lee (14-8, 2.87 ERA).
Again, when examining these seven pitchers’ peripheral statistics, it is difficult to place Zimmermann above some of these pitchers. All six other pitchers had better ERAs, WHIPs, opponents’ batting average, FIPs and xFIPs than Zimmermann. The right-hander had a spectacular season and was the Nationals most consistent pitcher but, even then, this year’s competition was stiff and Zimmerman’s brief post-All Star break slide hurt his resume.
Only one other Nationals player placed in major award voting. Jayson Werth finished 13th in NL MVP voting with 20 points; the lone seventh-place vote coming from CSN’s Mark Zuckerman. The finish was the second-highest of Werth’s career; he finished eighth in 2010. But by some measures, Werth’s 2013 season may have been better than his 2010 campaign. He hit .296/.388/.532 with 46 doubles, 27 home runs and 85 RBI over 156 games in 2010. Despite missing 33 games in 2013, Werth posted a .318/.398/.532 triple slash line along with 25 home runs and 82 RBI. Games played should matter, and that probably hurt Werth’s case, but his 2013 OPS of .931 was the best of his career and tied for the second best in the NL this season. Some of his rate stats were among the top 10 in the NL this season.
In fact, in the Nationals’ brief history, Werth’s season was historic. His OPS was also the second-best among qualified hitters in Nationals history. Nick Johnson’s 2006 season — Nick Johnson! — takes first place, in large part, because of an absurd .428 OBP. (See the chart below.) By some advanced metrics, such as wRC+ (park/league-adjusted weighted runs created), Werth’s season was actually the finest-ever for a Nationals hitter. His 160 wRC+, which means he created 60 percent more runs than the league average, tops Michael Morse’s 2011 output of 148 wRC+.