From his first pitch, a 97 mile per hour heater, through his dramatic final inning, the atmosphere in Nationals Park was electric during Stephen Strasburg’s Major League debut on June 8, 2010.
2010 was a season of improvement for the Nationals as they avoided the 100 loss mark for the first time in three seasons and saw future building blocks emerge that would help the Nats to higher heights in subsequent seasons. A 69-93 finish showed that there was still lots of work to be done however.
BEST OF TIMES- A Dazzling Debut
Stephen Strasburg’s amazing debut game on June 8th remains one of the franchise’s highlight events nearly six years after it took place. Strasburg was dominant in his first start, fanning 14 (including the last seven batters he faced) as the Nats defeated Pittsburgh 5-2. Strasburg would go 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 68 innings pitched. The 2010 story for the flame throwing righthander had a disappointing ending however, as Strasburg had to leave an August outing in Philadelphia with an injury to his elbow that would lead to his undergoing Tommy John surgery.
BEST OF TIMES- Dynamic Duo Part II
Few teams in the Major Leagues had as an effective one-two punch in the key spots in their lineup as the Nats did with Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn.
Following up on their successful 2009 campaigns, Zimmerman (.305, 25 homers, 85 RBI, .899 OPS) and Dunn (.260, 38 homers, 103 RBI, .892) were thorns in the side of National League hurlers again in 2010. It was true that as the duo went, the Nationals did as well as the pair was particularly productive in games that Washington won. Zimmerman hit .317 with 13 homers and 50 RBI in Nats’ victories, but Dunn was even better in the 69 games Washington won. He posted MVP-level numbers in those contests, hitting .342 with 30 homers and 73 RBI while putting up a 1.253 OPS.
BEST OF TIMES- Emerging Leaders
2010 was the year that the future started to come into focus for the Nationals. In addition to Strasburg, Washington saw several other young players emerge as potential players to count on in upcoming seasons.
Washington acquired hulking Michael Morse from Seattle in June of 2009 for veteran outfielder Ryan Langerhans and Morse showed his potential as a power hitter in 2010, hitting 15 homers and driving in 41 runs in 293 plate appearances. Another player acquired by trade, Tyler Clippard, built upon his successful 2009 campaign and an even better 2010 as he went 11-8 with a save and fanned 112 batters in 91 innings pitched.
The season also saw Drew Storen and Ian Desmond begin to play major roles for the Nats, as Storen went 4-4 with five saves as a late inning relief option while Desmond hit .269 with 10 homers and 65 RBI as the team’s primary shortstop.
Finally, the mid-season acquisition of catcher Wilson Ramos from the Minnesota Twins gave the Nationals hope that they had solved the void they’d had behind the plate for most of their six years in DC.
WORST OF TIMES- Road Woes and a June Swoon
As June began, the Nats had a respectable 26-26 record and appeared to be poised to post the best record Nats’ fans had seen since the 2005 campaign. One month later, Washington was reeling with a 34-45 mark following its losing 19 of 27 games in the month.
Washington’s worst month of the year featured a season high six game losing streak and another streak of five losses, as well as three heart-breaking walk off losses. The month highlighted a season-long problem for the Nationals, winning games on the road. The Nats were 2-13 in road contests in June (and 28-53 on the road for the year).
WORST OF TIMES- Holes Up the Middle
As good as the Nationals were on the corners with Zimmerman at third, Dunn at first, Josh Willingham (.268 avg, 15 homers, 56 RBI) in left and an emerging Morse in right, their troubles in three key spots in the lineup dragged the team down in 2010.
Veteran catcher Ivan Rodriguez contributed in ways that couldn’t be shown in the stats columns, but his .640 OPS was 21st among 25 catchers in the National League who had at least 200 at bats.
The Nats were equally unproductive at second base (neither Cristian Guzman or Adam Kennedy cracked the .700 OPS mark) and in centerfield (Nyjer Morgan had a .633 OPS and was caught stealing a National League leading 17 times).
WORST OF TIMES- A Need to Turn Up the Heat
Outside of rookie sensation Strasburg, the Nats’ rotation was made up of pitchers who were not strikeout pitchers. Washington’s staff was last in the National League in strikeouts in 2010, and none of the team’s pitchers with at least 13 starts posted a strikeout/nine innings pitched ratio greater than 6.0:
Livan Hernandez 33 starts 4.8 SO/9
John Lannan 25 starts 4.5 SO/9
Craig Stammen 19 starts 6.0 SO/9
Luis Atilano 16 starts 4.2 SO/9
Scott Olsen 15 starts 5.9 SO/9
Jason Marquis 13 starts 4.8 SO/9