Thanks to everyone who’s weighed in on our season-ending Nationals poll - we’ve had a tremendous response so far, and I’ll keep the survey open for a couple more days. I’ll run through each of the categories below, reveal how you voted and add my picks:
MVP: This one was a runaway - or rather, it was the kind of rampage you’d expect to hear from the Transformers listening to European techno music. In a landslide, you picked Michael Morse (he of the aforementioned goofy walk-up song and Japanese bat humidor whose function he can’t explain) as the team MVP.
Morse has received 96.9 percent of the vote so far, making him the biggest winner in any category.
My pick: Morse. He was the one bright spot on a putrid offense, and gave the Nationals a legitimate power threat in the middle of their lineup after they lost two (Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche) to injury and another one (Jayson Werth) underperformed. And, he switched positions and played superb defense at first base. The Nationals probably don’t get anywhere near 80 wins without him.
Pitcher of the Year: In a fairly decisive vote, Tyler Clippard (55.6 percent) outpaced Drew Storen (23.2) and Jordan Zimmermann (19.6). Clippard, the Nationals’ lone All-Star in 2011, finished with an 0.838 WHIP and struck out 104 batters in 88 1/3 innings.
My pick: I’m torn on this one; Clippard had a tremendous year, but as a matter of principle, I’m typically inclined to favor a starting pitcher over a reliever, and Zimmermann blossomed into an ace this year. Still, because of how much he worked and how many dire situations he pulled the Nationals out of, I’m siding with the popular choice and going with Clippard.
Rookie of the Year: You picked Espinosa, handing him 64.3 percent of the vote to Ramos’ 35.7 percent.
My pick: I was asked over the weekend for my opinion on this by a beat writer with a Rookie of the Year vote, and I told him I’d pick Espinosa over Ramos in a close race for a spot on his ballot. He eventually went with Ramos because he put up such good numbers at a premium position, but considering the elite defensive range he showed at second, and how much he improved his average and on-base percentage after a slow start, I’m choosing Espinosa.
Favorite game or moment: The big winner here was no surprise. It was Ryan Zimmerman’s walk-off slam to beat the Phillies. That got 54.2 percent of the vote, with Wilson Ramos’ walk-off to beat the Mariners in June getting 19.8 percent.
My pick: I know how much the Phillies bug all of you in NatsTown, but I don’t get as worked up about that - even if that puts me on the naughty list around here sometimes. So that said, I’m going with Ramos’ homer to beat the Mariners. That comeback had so many twists and turns - Brandon League coming out of the game, the bleeders up the middle from Jerry Hairston Jr. and Danny Espinosa - that it set up more drama for Ramos’ home run, which he celebrated in typically elaborate fashion. That came right after the Nationals’ eight-game win streak, and was a better testament, I thought, to how gritty this team was. And it quickly led up to your choice for storyline of the year (spoiler alert!). More on that in a minute.
Most surprising player: Morse took this one, too, getting 54.1 percent of the vote to beat Jayson Werth (27.6 percent).
My pick: Having watched Morse last year, I wasn’t as surprised that he put up this kind of a season; what he did last year and this spring gave the year a sense of inevitability, like he was bound to do something big if he ever got a chance. So I’m going with Werth; as hard as it would have been for him to live up to that contract, I don’t think anyone expected him to struggle as much as he did.
Storyline of the year: In a close race, Jim Riggleman’s resignation and Davey Johnson replacing him took the lead, with 34.3 percent of the vote to edge the emergence of the team’s young players (31.3 percent).
My pick: It’s got to be Riggleman. When he stepped down on June 23, he did so in stunning fashion, resigning with the team coming off an eight-game win streak and playing over .500 as late as it had in a season since 2005. Everything that followed the announcement for the next 12 hours - Riggleman lambasting management in the middle of the clubhouse while players packed up for a road trip with music playing, trading barbs with Mike Rizzo in a series of interview, turning up for happy hour at a Bethesda bar - was surreal. I don’t anticipate I’ll ever cover something quite like that again.
Unsung hero: You picked Clippard here, at 43.9 percent of the vote. I’m not sure how much an All-Star can be unsung, but you filed the nominations for this one. I just work here.
My pick: I’m going to take some executive liberty here and vote for someone who wasn’t on my ballot, but probably should have been: pitching coach Steve McCatty. I was framing the question in terms of players when I put the ballot together, but was there anyone who did a better job behind the scenes than McCatty? The Nationals finished with a 3.58 ERA - the sixth-best mark in a league that includes the Phillies, Braves and Giants’ star-studded pitching staffs - despite not having anyone on the staff pitch 200 innings or win more than 10 games.
McCatty, a baseball curmudgeon-in-training who regards strikeouts as immaterial and sabermetrics as inane, put together a staff that got by the whole season by generating weak contact, keeping walks (and pitch counts) down and turning the ball over to a rock-ribbed bullpen. McCatty did more with less than anyone else on the team, and got little credit for it. And if you tried to recognize him for it, he’d probably give you the same disgusted look as if you tried to explain FIP to him.
So there you have it. I’ll be back with my season-ending grades for players, managers and the front office tomorrow. But in the meantime, let me know what you think of my picks.