Whenever we talk about Washington Nationals history, we can’t forget about the Montreal Expos, folks. The Nats didn’t arrive in the nation’s capital until 2005, but it’s been long enough that it’s easy to forget about the organization’s earlier history north of the border. While Washington’s single-season home run record holder accomplished the feat with the club in D.C., the Nationals home run leaders for a single season have heavy ties to Montreal thanks to a certain Hall of Famer.
Nationals Home Run Leaders: Top 5
Alfonso Soriano: 46 Home Runs in 2006
Alfonso Soriano spent just one season with the Nationals, but he make that year count. Not only did he turn it into a long-term deal with the Chicago Cubs, but he also became the fourth (and most recent) member of the 40/40 club. And, of course, the 46 home runs he hit ended up becoming a new franchise record. Soriano represented Washington at the All-Star Game that year, took home a Silver Slugger award, and finished in the top-10 of MVP voting for the second and final time of his career (he placed sixth).
He actually was on the cusp of breaking Vladimir Guerrero Sr.’s record entering September, as he already had 43 dingers with one month to go. Soriano finished with his worst month, which included just three homers and a .630 OPS, but it was enough to get him over the hump. Soriano did enjoy two months with double-digit homers (12 in May and 11 in August), and after swiping seven or more bags just once over his first three months, he reached that number in each of the final three months to close things out.
Vladimir Guerrero: 44 Home Runs in 2000
From 1998 to 2002, Vladimir Guerrero enjoyed five straight seasons of at least 30 home runs and 100 RBI, which helped him climb the franchise’s all-time home leaderboards quickly. We’ll talk about a couple of his other powerful campaigns in a moment, so let’s focus on the most powerful of the bunch. In 2000, he set his career-high for homers and nearly did the same in the RBI department for himself (he drove in 123) while slashing a very healthy .345/.410/.664. That netted him his second of eight Silver Slugger awards.
Guerrero posted a 1.000-plus OPS in both the first and second half with similar power numbers (23 homers before the All-Star break, 21 homers after), but his season would’ve looked a lot different if he didn’t finish with a flourish in September. Between July and August, Guerrero combined to hit just nine home runs with 30 RBI. But in September, he slashed .366/.418/.768 with 13 dingers and 26 RBI.
Bryce Harper: 42 Home Runs in 2015
Bryce Harper‘s 2015 was the breakout performance everyone was clamoring for, and man, we certainly got it. Through Harper’s first three big-league seasons — which spanned 1,489 plate appearances — he slugged 55 homers. He nearly doubled that total in just one year while winning the NL MVP award and sharing the league lead in home runs.
The 22-year-old outfielder also led the league in runs scored (118), on-base percentage (.460), slugging percentage (.649), and OPS (1.109). Harper’s MVP season got off to a solid start in April, as it included a .986 OPS with five homers and 15 RBI, but things really started to pop off in May. Over the span of 109 plate appearances, he slashed .361/.495/.884 with 13 home runs and 28 RBI.
That was Harper’s best month of the season, but he also finished incredibly strong to the tune of a 1.216 OPS with 11 homers and 26 RBI in September.
Vladimir Guerrero: 42 Home Runs in 1999
The year before his incredible 2000 season, Guerrero had another career year in his age-24 campaign. It included 131 RBI, which ended up being a single-season career-high mark for the Hall of Famer. He was putting together a solid performance heading into the All-Star break (.914 OPS, 18 homers, 65 RBI), but it was what he did in the second half that made this all possible. He slashed .341/.389/.659 with 24 dingers and 66 RBI in 42 fewer plate appearances.
Similar to what he did the following year, it was a strong finish that was key for Guerrero. It wasn’t just about September, though — in this instance, he added August to the party. Over that two-month span (which included 253 plate appearances), Guerrero hit .366/.419/.711 with 21 home runs, 59 RBI, and 46 runs scored. That all sussed out to a .468 wOBA and 177 wRC+.
Vladimir Guerrero: 39 Home Runs in 2002
This wasn’t Vlad’s final year in Montreal, but it was his last full one because his 2003 campaign was limited to 112 games. He didn’t waste his opportunity to make some lasting impressions, though. He captured another Silver Slugger and collected his first top-five finish in MVP voting (he finished fourth) while posting a 1.010 OPS with 39 homers, 111 RBI, and a league-leading 206 hits.
Guerrero didn’t have that one huge month as he did in 1999 and 2000, but he showed his ability to put the bat on the ball quite a bit. He posted a .340-plus batting average in three different months, with two of those occurrences being above .370. And although the outfielder was effective in Montreal losses (.862 OPS with 17 home runs and 40 RBI), he was the key to the club’s victories. When the Expos won, Guerrero slashed .388/.470/.674 with 22 homers and 71 RBI.
During the five-year span between 1998 and 2002 I mentioned above, Guerrero averaged 39 home runs and 116 RBI for the Expos.
Nationals Home Run Leaders: The Rest
Here’s what the remainder of Washington’s top-23 most powerful seasons in franchise history looks like:
- Vladimir Guerrero, 1998: 38 home runs
- Adam Dunn, 2010: 38
- Adam Dunn, 2009: 38
- Ryan Zimmerman, 2017: 36
- Henry Rodriguez, 1996: 36
- Anthony Rendon, 2019: 34
- Juan Soto, 2019: 34
- Vladimir Guerrero, 2001: 34
- Bryce Harper, 2018: 34
- Ryan Zimmerman, 2009: 33
- Adam LaRoche, 2012: 33
- Andre Dawson, 1983: 32
- Brad Wilkerson, 2004: 32
- Tony Batista, 2004: 32
- Gary Carter, 1977: 31
- Michael Morse, 2011: 31
- Rusty Staub, 1970: 30
- Larry Parrish, 1979: 30
These are all the seasons of 30-plus homers in Nationals history. See who just missed the cut by heading over the FanGraphs for the full list.