Having a very early Nationals MVP discussion

Yeah, 31 games in is a pretty arbitrary point to start having a team MVP discussion. I’m aware of that.

But, hey, let’s have it anyway.

We’re now five weeks into the season, and when you look over the Nationals roster, there are a number of guys who could be in the team MVP picture to this point.

At least three of the Nats starters could be in the discussion. Stephen Strasburg (3-0, 1.64 ERA, 51 strikeouts), Gio Gonzalez (3-1, 1.72 ERA, .156 batting average against) and Ross Detwiler (3-2, 2.10 ERA, .208 batting average against) all merit having their names tossed out there.

Jordan Zimmermann certainly has pitched well, and Craig Stammen (2-0, 1.08 ERA) has been exceptional in relief.

But if I had to pick a Nationals MVP today, it would be Adam LaRoche by miles and miles.

And miles.

The Nats pitchers have obviously carried this team through the season’s first five weeks. But without LaRoche, I’m seriously not sure if the Nationals are over .500 right now.

After last night’s performance, in which he hit what turned out to be the game-winning two-run homer in the sixth inning, the first baseman is hitting .327 with six home runs and 21 RBIs this season, leading the team in all three categories.

He’s reaching base at a .421 clip and is slugging .582, also both tops of the Nationals.

LaRoche ranks fifth in the National League with a 1.003 OPS, which, if he stays on this pace, would crush his career-best OPS of .915. He’s in the top-10 in the league in average, home runs, RBIs, walks, walks per plate appearance and multi-hit games, all despite missing four games last week because of a sore right oblique.

Beyond the numbers, however, LaRoche has been a consistent, stable force in the middle of the Nationals’ order. He’s been the one the Nats have leaned on time after time, and he seems to keep coming up with clutch hits when the team needs them most.

LaRoche had the game-winning homer last night, and he smacked what looked like a game-winning two-run home run in the series opener against the Pirates, only to watch as Pittsburgh came back in the bottom of the ninth off Henry Rodriguez.

He’s driven in nearly one-fifth of the Nats’ runs on his own and has also provided solid leadership on a young team.

Strasburg is one of the best starters in the majors right now. Gonzalez has been stellar and Detwiler, Stammen and others have surprised and delivered really strong performances so far.

But if I’m picking Nationals team MVP to this point, give me Adam LaRoche.

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