The Washington Nationals have been playing in DC since 2005, and in that time a number of talented catchers have played for the team (including one Hall of Famer!).
The following article highlights the top catchers in Washington Nationals history based on a player's career and single season wins above replacement (WAR).
Keep scrolling to learn more!
The Best Washington Nationals Catchers of All Time
A Quick History of the Washington Nationals
The Washington Nationals are a Major League Baseball (MLB) team that play in the National League (NL) East division. In total, they are the eighth major league franchise to play to Washington, D.C. Formerly the Montreal Expos, Washington was chosen as its relocation city in 2004, and the Nationals began playing in 2005.
Professional Baseball Returns to DC
One of the last players to wear a Montreal Expos uniform, Brad Wilkerson, was the first batter in Washington Nationals history on April 4, 2005. The Nats' first home run was hit in the same game by Terrmel Sledge.
Two days later, the Nationals earned their first franchise win, defeating the Philadelphia Phillies 7 - 3. A little over a week later, the Nationals won their first home game at RFK Stadium, defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks, 5 - 3.
The Nationals went on their first hot streak, winning 15 of 17 games from May 29 to June 15, 2005. Later in the season, the Nationals called up Ryan Zimmerman, who proceeded to get 23 hits in 58 at bats.
At the halfway point of the season, the Nationals were first in the division with a 51 - 30 mark. A second-half stumble ended the Nationals' first season with an 81 - 81 record.
Another franchise first took place on May 19, 2006 when the Nationals faced the Baltimore Orioles in interleague play. A month later, a record crowd at RFK Stadium saw the Nationals beat the New York Yankees on a walk-off home run by Zimmerman.
On September 16, Alfonso Soriano stole his 40th base of the season against the Milwaukee Brewers to become just the fourth MLB player to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in a season.
The '07 Season Through 2012
The Nats opened 2007 having lost four starting pitchers from 2006. Injuries took their toll from day one, losing Cristian Guzman and Nook Logan. Later in April, Jerome Williams was was injured, followed by John Patterson, Jason Bergmann, and Shawn Hill.
All of these injuries contributed to a 9 - 25 start and a 73 - 89 campaign for the '07 Nats.
On March 30, 2008, Nationals Park was opened with a 3 - 2 win over the Atlanta Braves. However, there was very little to cheer for that season, as the Nationals struggled to a 59 - 102 record, last in the NL East.
A highlight of the 2009 season in DC was Josh Willingham’s two grand slam home runs against the Milwaukee Brewers on July 27. On the last day of the '09 season, the Nationals had a 15-inning win in the longest game in franchise history.
On June 7, 2010, the Nationals made the biggest move in their short history by selecting Bryce Harper first overall in the draft.
The next day, Stephen Strasburg made his big league debut. He dominated the Pittsburgh Pirates for seven innings, striking out 14.
Sellers at the trade deadline, the Nationals sent Matt Capps to the Twins and Cristian Guzman to the Rangers. The Nationals ended up winning just 69 games for the season and added outfielder Jayson Werth in the off season.
The following season, the Nationals went above .500 on June 23, which was their first time above .500 since 2005. They ended up finishing the season with a record of 80-81.
In 2012, the Nationals made the playoffs for the first time in their history. They were the first MLB team from Washington, DC to make the playoffs in 79 years.
Bryce Harper won the NL Rookie of the Year and he, along with Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond, and Ryan Zimmerman all hit over 20 home runs. Gio Gonzalez ended up going 21 - 8 that season and finished with a strong 2.89 ERA.
2013 to the 2019 World Series
The Nationals won 86 games in 2013 and had five players surpass 20 home runs. That season Jordan Zimmerman was the ace of the staff, going 19 - 9 with a 3.25 ERA.
Following the '13 season, Matt Williams was hired to replace Davey Johnson as manager.
The Nationals won the NL East on September 16, 2014 behind the arms of Doug Fister, Jordan Zimmerman, and Tanner Roark, each of whom finished the season with an ERA under three.
After an injury-plagued 2014, Bryce Harper put together a career season in 2015. He hit 42 home runs with a .330 batting average and won the NL MVP award. Pitcher Max Scherzer threw a no-hitter on June 20 and had an ERA of 2.96 for the season.
The 2016 Washington Nationals won the NL East, but they fell to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS. The following season saw the Nationals win another NL East title with a record of 97 - 65, but this time they lost to the Chicago Cubs in the playoffs.
After a lackluster 2018 season, the Nationals lost Bryce Harper to the Philadelphia Phillies for a then-record $330 million over 13 years.
Despite losing Harper, the Nats were the surprise team in the major leagues in 2019. They entered the playoffs with a strong 93 - 69 record.
They then proceeded to defeat the Milwaukee Brewers, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the St. Louis Cardinals to enter the World Series.
The Series was close, but the Nationals ended up defeating the Houston Astros in seven games to win its first World Series championship in franchise history.
After the 2019 Championship
Following the '19 season, Anthony Rendon headed to the Los Angeles Angels in free agency. In the pandemic-shortened season in 2020, the Nationals struggled to a record of 26 - 34 and missed the playoffs.
The 2021 season was also proved disappointing in DC, as the Nats played sub-.500 baseball for most of the year. At the trade deadline, the Nationals unloaded Max Scherzer and Trea Turner, as the rebuilding process began.
In short, the Washington Nationals have made five playoff appearances, won one World Series championship, and have a regular season record of 1313 wins and 1337 losses (.493 winning percentage) between 2005 and 2021.
Wins Above Replacement (WAR)
Commonly referred to as WAR, Wins Above Replacement is a baseball metric designed to measure one player’s overall contributions to his team.
Major League Baseball's definition of WAR is as follows:
“WAR measures a player's value in all facets of the game by deciphering how many more wins he's worth than a replacement-level player at his same position (e.g., a Minor League replacement or a readily available fill-in free agent).”
Different WAR formulas are used for pitchers and for position players, and the way that WAR is calculated differs by publisher (such as Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs).
Nonetheless, it is an very useful and popular measure, as it does a great job at capturing the comprehensive value that a player provides to his team.
For this article, I researched every Nationals catcher since 2005 and ranked them by career and single season WAR, using Baseball Reference as my source.
What follows is a summary of the top three Washington Nationals catchers ranked by career WAR and the top three seasons by a Nationals catcher, ranked by single season WAR.
Top 3 Nationals Catchers by Career WAR
Please note: The player must have at least 100 games played as a member of the Washington Nationals to be eligible for the career WAR list.
#1. Ivan Rodriguez, 68.7 career WAR
Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez is one of the greatest catchers to ever play the game.
A 14 time all star, Pudge was the 1999 AL MVP while playing for the Texas Rangers. To no one's surprise, Pudge was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot back in 2017.
Rodriguez is first among MLB catchers in many categories. As an example, Ivan Rodriguez is first all time in:
- Defensive games as a catcher in a Career: 2,427 games
- Career Putouts as Catcher: 14,864 putouts
- Hits in a Career by a Catcher: 2,844 hits
- Career Gold Glove Awards by a catcher: 13 Gold Gloves
- Runs in a Career by a Catcher: 1,354 runs.
... and more!
Rodriguez spent the majority of his career with the Texas Rangers. He also played for the Florida Marlins, the Detroit Tigers, the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros. Pudge's final two MLB seasons were spent with the Washington Nationals, from 2010 to 2011.
Rodriguez's extremely high 68.7 career WAR is third highest of any catcher in baseball history. It proves just how productive he was over his 21 year big league career.
#2. Kurt Suzuki, 19.9 career WARKurt Suzuki is a longtime MLB catcher with 15 seasons spent in the big leagues (thus far). Roughly four of those seasons were spent with the Nationals (2012 - 2013, 2019 - 2020).
The one-time all star and 2019 World Series champion has compiled a .257/.315/.390 slash line over his career. Suzuki has nearly 1,400 hits with 139 home runs and 715 RBIs, as of the end of 2021.
A traditionally strong defensive catcher, Suzuki’s lifetime fielding percentage as a catcher is .994, and his caught stealing percentage (CS%) is 23%. Suzuki has led league catchers in defensive games twice, in putouts twice, and in fielding percentage once.
#3. Matt Wieters, 18.2 career WAR
Matt Wieters spent two of his 12 big league seasons in DC (2017 - 2018). He originally gained prominence when playing for the Baltimore Orioles, where he was named an all star four times and won two gold glove awards.
Wieters is a lifetime .249 hitter who has amassed nearly 1,000 hits and approximately 146 home runs during his MLB career.
Behind the dish, Wieters gunned down 211 (32%) attempted base runners and maintained a .993 fielding percentage as a catcher. He led catchers in his league four different times in total zone runs, and twice in defensive games, double plays turned and putouts.
Top 3 Seasons by Nationals Catchers, Ranked by Single Season WAR
Please note: The player must have at least 60 games played in one season as a member of the Nationals to be eligible for the single-season WAR list.
#1. 2016 - Wilson Ramos (3.0 WAR)Wilson Ramos had a career-year in 2016, and he was a key contributor to a Nationals team that went 95 - 67 and finished first in the NL East.
Ramos had career highs in 2016 in hits (148), doubles (25), home runs (22) and RBIs (80), among other categories. Defensively, he caught nearly 1,100 innings that season and finished with a .997 fielding percentage and a CS% of 37%.
Unfortunately, Ramos' season ended in September when he suffered a torn ACL. Still, because of his productive year Ramos was named an NL all star and he earned a silver slugger award.
#2. 2013 - Wilson Ramos (2.5 WAR)Wilson Ramos earned the second highest WAR (2.5) of his career in 2013 despite only playing in 78 games due to a lingering hamstring injury. Additionally, Ramos’ 1.2 dWAR in 2013 was the second highest of his career.
He hit .272/.307/.470 with 16 home runs, 59 RBIs and a .777 OPS that year. Ramos spent 667 innings behind the plate in 2013, earning a fielding percentage of .987 and throwing out 29% of runners attempting to steal.
#3. 2011 and 2021 - Wilson Ramos and Yan Gomes (2.1 WAR)
Wilson Ramos’ first full season in the majors came in 2011, as he appeared in 113 games for the Nationals that year. He collected 104 hits with 15 home runs, 52 RBIs and a .267/.334/.445 slash line.
Ramos had a .993 fielding percentage behind the dish and threw out 23 runners attempting to steal, good for a CS% of 32%. His 2011 campaign earned him a top-five finish in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.
Yan Gomes matched Wilson Ramos’ 2.1 WAR during the 2021 season. A member of the 2019 World Series team, Gomes spent about two thirds (61 games) of his playing time in 2021 as a member of the Nationals before being traded to the Oakland A’s.
While playing for the 2021 Nats, Gomes hit .271/.323./.454 with nine home runs and 35 RBIs. Defensively, he maintained a .989 fielding percentage and threw out 36% of base runners trying to steal while with the ‘21 Nationals.
List of All Washington Nationals Catchers With a 2.0+ WAR Season
Earning a single season WAR that’s 2.0 or higher reflects a respectable year for any ballplayer in the big leagues. A few Washington Nationals catchers have reached or exceeded this mark since the team first began playing in 2005.
The below table shows each Nationals catcher who has had a 2.0 WAR or better season.
Thank You for Reading
Hopefully this article was a useful and interesting read. I know I learned a lot about the Nats in the process of researching and writing.
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