The All-Washington Team: Center Field

The team so far:

C Muddy Ruel

1B Joe Judge

2B Buddy Myer

SS Joe Cronin

3B Buddy Lewis

LF Goose Goslin

And, in center field:

CF Clyde Milan (1907-1922)

1908:
CF Clyde Milan .239/.304/.315 1 HR 0.4 BFW 15 WS
The easy-going Milan became a regular in center for the first time in 1908. The 21-year-old would patrol the field better than just about anybody in the game for 15 years to come.

1909:
CF Clyde Milan .200/.268/.257 1 HR -1.7 BFW 3 WS
Things weren’t looking so good for Milan in 1909. The Nats stuck with him, however, and would be rewarded in a few years. Despite the poor offensive contribution, Milan was already cementing his status as a very good fielder in center.

1910:
CF Clyde Milan .279/.379/.333 0 HR 2.6 BFW 23 WS
Milan equaled or surpassed career highs in nearly every offensive category in his third season as a full time player. He finished fifth in the AL in OBP due partially to his ability to draw walks. He was second in the AL in that category with 72 bases on balls.

1911:
CF Clyde Milan .315/.395/.394 3 HR 1.8 BFW 27 WS 16 FRAR 6.3 WARP3
This is the season that Milan established himself as one of the top center fielders in baseball. He played in every game and had his best offensive season to date. Milan also broke out as a baserunner, finishing second in AL stolen bases with 58. He continued to show outstanding range in center, and totaled 33 assists by the end of the season. Milan also gained some respect around the league, finishing 9th in MVP voting. The best news for the Nats: at 24 years of age he had a long career ahead of him.

1912:
CF Clyde Milan .306/.377/.379 1 HR 1.0 BFW 33 WS 18 FRAR 5.7 WARP3
Though his number slipped a bit from the previous year, Milan finished fourth in AL MVP voting (one spot behind teammate and friend Walter Johnson), no doubt a function of his team’s success. Milan ran away with the AL stolen base crown, swiping 88 bases. Though Eddie Collins stole six bases on two occasions, he still finished a distant second with 63. On June 14th, Milan stole five bases, including home.

1913:
CF Clyde Milan .301/.367/.378 3 HR -1.2 BFW 28 WS 5 FRAR 4.7 WARP3
For the second straight season Milan led the AL in stolen bases. He swiped 75 in 1913, beating out teammate Danny Moeller by 13. Now a veteran of 6 seasons, Milan played 154 games in center field for the third straight season. From 1910-1913, Milan compiled 23.1 WARP3, the best stretch of his career.

1914:

CF Clyde Milan .295/.346/.396 1 HR -0.5 BFW 19 WS 2 FRAR 3.2 WARP3
Milan, considered by Clark Griffith to be the best center fielder in franchise history, continued to drop according to FRAR:

1911 16
1912 18
1913 5
1914 2

Some of the drop off may be due to the collision with Moeller, but his FRAR will hover in the single digits for the rest of his career.

milan1911.jpg
A 1911 Clyde Milan tobacco card

After leading the league for two straight years in stolen bases, Milan only swiped 38 in a shortened 1914, 5th in the league. Still, the 27 year old was the top offensive producer for Washington, and had several good seasons ahead of him.

1915:
CF Clyde Milan .288/.353/.346 2 HR -1.0 BFW 22 WS 4 FRAR 3.6 WARP3
Once again Milan was among the AL leaders in stolen bases with 40, good for fifth in the league; though he was caught stealing 19 times. Virtually all of his value from 1913 to the end of his career came from his hitting, as he was slightly better than a replacement level fielder.

1916:
CF Clyde Milan .273/.343/.313 1 HR 0.3 BFW 18 WS 10 FRAR 3.4 WARP3
This is the first year that Milan’s OPS+ fell below 100 since 1909. He will be back above league average again next season.

1917:
CF Clyde Milan .294/.364/.333 0 HR -0.6 BFW 22 WS -5 FRAR 3.4 WARP3
Milan’s offense returned after a slightly disappointing 1916. He led the AL in singles with 151. At the age of 30, he still has a few good seasons left in him, though his fielding seems to have taken a sharp dive.

1918:
CF Clyde Milan .290/.344/.346 0 HR -0.9 BFW 18 WS 5 FRAR 3.2 WARP3
This is pretty much what was expected from Milan at this point in his career. He was still an above average hitter at the age of 31.

1919:
CF Clyde Milan .287/.371/.361 0 HR -0.2 BFW 9 WS 0 FRAR 2.2 WARP3
The 32-year-old played in only 88 games, the lowest total of his career if you take away his first and last seasons. Buzz Murphy filled in at center field when Milan was out, but was very unimpressive at the plate and wasn’t really an improvement in the field.

1920:
LF Clyde Milan .322/.364/.403 3 HR 0.0 BFW 14 WS 11 FRAR 3.9 WARP3
At the age of 33, Milan was well into his career downswing by 1920. He moved from center to left field, where he had some success, and was able to play 122 games total.

1921:
RF Clyde Milan .288/.351/.397 1 HR -0.9 BFW 10 WS 2 FRAR 1.3 WARP3
This was his last season as a regular, though he would continue to play as manager in 1922. The easy-going outfielder had a long, slow decline and it would be easy to forget what he had meant to the Nationals in his prime. He was considered one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball in the early part of the 1910’s, and it was hard to find a better hitter in the league not named Cobb during that same time span. Milan’s playing career lasted 16 seasons, and he compiled a .285/.353/.353 line with 55.5 WARP3.

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4 Responses to The All-Washington Team: Center Field

  1. Beau says:

    One thing to remember is that his value as a speedster should be tempered by the fact we don’t know how many times he was caught stealing during most of his seasons. And the years we do have records for he was not particularly adept at stealing; he just did it frequently.

    Anecdotally, this seems to be a common thread amonst players at the time. I’ve seen a lot of lines like (35 stolen bases, 24 caught stealing), which is simply dreadful and wouldn’t be tolerated today. Perhaps the run-scoring environments prior to the explosion in the 20′s necessitated more risk-taking small-ball strategies such as these. Aware of any studies on this?

  2. Scot says:

    You make a good point. You would think that with less emphasis on defense in the dead ball era, stealing bases would have been a little easier, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.

  3. brettkiser says:

    Nice to see Milan getting a little respect. I like your all-time Senators team. Some others Senators worthy of note are Cecil Travis, Mickey Vernon and Eddie Yost. I have profiled them on my blog BRETTKISER.WORDPRESS.COM.

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