The Washington Nationals have succeeded as one of baseball’s best teams in 2017. One of the things that has made them such a complete ballclub has been their ability to get contributions from all facets of their roster, especially since they upgraded their bullpen before the trade deadline. Getting great performances from a stellar starting rotation, deep lineup and a now-solid bullpen helped the ‘Nats capture their fourth National League East title in the last six years. With the Postseason on the horizon, their roster is packed with players who have playoff experience. Bryce Harper, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg and Ryan Zimmerman have been there for the ‘Nats breakout period, while veterans like Howie Kendrick and Jayson Werth have played multiple times in the Postseason for other clubs.
A Washington trip to the 2017 Postseason should be particularly special for two veteran players. First baseman and designated hitter Adam Lind and reliever Matt Albers have been two of the Nationals most under-the-radar players this year, with Lind hitting .304 in a part-time role and Albers emerging as perhaps their best bullpen piece. Both players are 34, both made their MLB debuts in 2006, and both will be making their first playoff appearances.
Lind and Albers both own the distinction of being the active position player and active pitcher with the most MLB experience to never play in the playoffs. Lind’s 1337 games without a playoff appearance have made him the only active player with over 1000 career games to never play meaningful baseball in October. Albers’ 511 games without tasting the postseason are 48 more than current St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Zach Duke has, who will take Albers’ spot on the playoff-less leaderboard.
Some players like Harper and Anthony Rendon got lucky, coming up from the minors as the Nationals became a playoff contender. Lind and Albers have always had the misfortune of playing on solid, yet unspectacular ballclubs. Lind was a mainstay of the perpetually average Toronto Blue Jays from 2006 to 2014. Never an All-Star, he hit 23 or more home runs four times, and won a Silver Slugger in 2009. During that period, the Jays won between 81 and 87 games six times, never toppling the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays, who all won at least one American League East title over that span. After one season apiece with the Milwaukee Brewers and Seattle Mariners, Lind’s first campaign in D.C. has been a success. He’s belted 12 homers, owns a .358 OBP, and is hitting .362 over his last 20 games.
Albers has also been enjoying a memorable year. Going 7-2 out of the bullpen, he finally picked up the first save of his long career on May 5. Up until that point, not only did he have the most games among active pitchers without making a playoff appearance, he had the most career relief appearances without registering a save since it became an official statistic in 1969. His 2.2 WAR in 2017 is the highest among Nationals’ relievers, and is the highest mark of his career. A journeyman right-hander, Albers has never stuck around for more than three years with any one team. Playing for the Houston Astros in 2006 and 2007, he moved to the lowly Baltimore Orioles for three seasons, then spent parts of two years with the Red Sox, who famously missed the playoffs in 2011, then struggled under Bobby Valentine’s leadership in 2012. Bouncing around four more times until 2016, he wasn’t even on Washington’s Opening Day roster this season. Now, he’s their most valuable reliever, and he and Lind will finally get to end their playoff droughts.
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