I have been doing a lot of thinking about the Fall of 2019 and the fantastic postseason that the Washington Nationals had from the un-believable 8th inning in the Wild Card Game v. the Milwaukee Brewers to the final strike against the Houston Astros. The past fall made me think about how did the Nationals get to this point? What was the turning point in Nationals history that made winning the 2019 World Series possible? I genuinely believe that the 2012 baseball season was that turning point.
If you don’t remember what happened during that season, don’t worry, I can’t tell you the exact details of that season, and most of you, I bet couldn’t either, however, what we all remember is the famous Strasburg Shutdown and Bryce Harper making his MLB debut with the Washington Nationals that year.
2012 Regular Season
2012 marked the 8th year of the Washington Nationals played in Washington DC and only the fifth season playing at Nationals Park in Southeast. In 2011, the Nationals finished third place in the NL East with a record of 80-81. During the offseason, the Nationals made several moves to pursue playoff contention in 2012. In December of 2011, the Nationals traded right-handed pitcher Brad Peacock and southpaw Tommy Milone and minor league prospects Derek Norris and A.J. Cole to the Oakland Athletics for another southpaw pitcher and future fan-favorite Gio Gonzalez. September of 2012 marked a couple of first for the Nationals, including making 2012 the franchise’s first winning record and first postseason berth since 1981, and the first for a Washington D.C. based team since the Washington Senators won the AL pennant back in 1933.
The Washington Nationals ended the season on top of both the NL Division and the NL East with a record of 98-64 with a home record of 50-31 and an away record of 48-33
Interesting Statistics about the 2012 Season
- The Nationals drew over 2 million fans at Nationals Park during the regular season, which was the first time since 2006 that over 2 million fans game to watch the Nationals.
- The highest attended home game was on May 19, 2012, where the Nationals drew 43,331 for a game against the Baltimore Orioles which the Nationals lost 5-6
- The lowest attended game was 14,520 against the Houston Astros (who were still playing as a National League team) on April 18, 2012, in which the Nationals won 3-2
- The average home attendance for the Washington Nationals was over 30 thousand which according to the Baseball Almanac attendence data whas the second highest since the Nationals arrival in Washington D.C. and the first time the Nationals averaged over 30k per game since they returned to D.C. in 2005.
The 2012 Washington Nationals Opening Day lineup
- Ian Desmond (SS)
- Danny Espinosa (2B)
- Ryan Zimmerman (3B)
- Adam LaRoche (1B)
- Jayson Werth (RF)
- Mark DeRosa (LF)
- Roger Bernadina (CF)
- Wilson Ramos (C)
- Stephen Strasburg
Manager: Davey Johnson
The Strasburg Shutdown
Stephen Strasburg made his Washington Nationals and major league debut on June 8, 2010, against the Pittsburgh Pirates. During his debut, Strasburg struck out every batter in the Pittsburgh Pirates lineup at least once and was the first pitcher in baseball history to strike out at least eleven batters without issuing any walks in his pro-debut. Strasburg not only picked up the win in his debut, pitching seven innings, allowing only two earned runs, no walks, and had 14 strikeouts, which set a Washington Nationals team record.
Only two months later, on August 27, the Nationals announced that Strasburg had a torn ulnar collateral ligament, which required season-ending Tommy John surgery, which then needed about 12 to 18 months of rehabilitation and that’s where the inning limit for the 2012 season placed.
Throughout the 2012 season, the focus would be on the development of Strasburg and on the innings limit that the team would place on Strasburg. In a February 20, 2012, Washington Post article written by Adam Kilgore, Nationals GM Manager Mike said “Nationals will not manipulate Strasburg’s pitching schedule in order to extend his season, letting him pitch every fifth game from the start of the regular season until he hits roughly 160 innings, and then ending his season… Even if it means playing in October without their best pitcher, Rizzo does not want to sacrifice Strasburg’s development.” Rizzo went on to describe the strategy and how the team didn’t want to sacrifice Stephen’s development “He’s a young pitcher that’s still learning how to pitch in the big leagues,” Rizzo went on to say “I think it’s unfair for him to get him ramped up in spring training, start the season on a regular rotation, then shut him down or skip him. We’re going to make him comfortable – regular rotation, regular rest. I think we’re deep enough that we can do that. We want to give him the best opportunity to get him into the rhythm of being a major league pitcher.”
Another important milestone that happened during the 2012 season was Bryce Harper debuting for the Washington Nationals.
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