1912 Washington Nationals
Manager: Clark Griffith 12th Season (1st with Washington 91-61-2)
91 W 61 L 2 T 699 RS 581 RA 2nd AL 14.0 GB (Boston 105-47-2)
4.54 RPG (AL = 4.44) 2.69 ERA (AL = 3.34)
.678 DER (3rd AL)
Franchise (1901-1912) 701-1069-38
In the previous decade, a Chicago sportswriter famously coined the phrase “Washington: first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.” The fact is, through 1911, the statement rang true. The 1912 version of the Nationals did more to change that than any previous team.
It started with first-year manager Clark Griffith. Griffith came to Washington with 12 years of managerial experience. He spent the bulk of his years managing the New York Highlanders, with stints in Chicago (AL) and Cincinnati. Wherever he went, seemingly, Griffith had some success.
Washington’s uniforms remained unchanged until 1917.
Griffith immediately began to make changes to his new team in Washington, ushering in a youth movement, particularly when it came to the lineup. Only two of the everyday players from 1911 kept jobs in 1912: Clyde Milan and George McBride. Everybody else in the lineup was replaced by first and second-year players.
The average age for a position player in Washington dropped a full two years since 1911, and the 1912 Nats were the youngest in the league.
Under the “Little Fox’s” guidance success came quickly for the young players. Though they had only an 18-21 record in the first two months of the season, the team would win 17 games in a row between May 30 and June 18, a franchise record to that point. They jumped from sixth place in the AL on May 30 to second on June 18, only 1.5 games out of first place.
The 1912 Nats would never again get that close to first place, mainly due to the Boston Red Sox machine running away with the pennant. Griff’s team was, however, able to maintain a hold on second for the majority of the rest of the season.
Bold = Player new to Washington in 1912
C John Henry .194/.309/.225 0 HR 0.8 BFW 7 WS 29 FRAR 2.7 WARP3
22 year old John “Bull” Henry shared catching duties with Eddie Ainsmith and Rip Williams. Henry’s value came solely from his defense.
1B Chick Gandil .305/.350/.431 2 HR 0.9 BFW 18 WS 11 FRAR 3.7 WARP3
On May 12, Griffith sent three players to Montreal of the International League in exchange for the 25 year old first baseman. Gandil ran away from home at the age of 17, and supplemented his income from baseball by participating in heavyweight prize fights. Shortly after Gandil became a regular player, the Nats rattled off the 17-game winning streak, a fact that was not lost on Clark Griffith. At some point during his four years with Washington, Gandil was introduced to Sport Sullivan, one of the key bookies involved in the 1919 World Series scandal.
Gandil will become famous elsewhere
2B Ray Morgan .238/.318/.337 1 HR -1.3 BFW 7 WS 2 FRAR 0.4 WARP3
As a rookie in 1911, Morgan played in 25 games for the Nats, all at third base. He moved over to second in 1912. He played only 76 games, and shared second base duties with Frank LaPorte, John Knight, and veteran Germany Schaefer.
SS George McBride .226/.288/.284 1 HR 1.2 BFW 13 WS 52 FRAR 4.5 WARP3
More of the same from McBride: great defense combined with little to no production at the plate. For the second straight year, he recieved an MVP vote.
3B Eddie Foster .285/.345/.379 2 HR 1.9 BFW 26 WS 29 FRAR 5.4 WARP3
“Kid” Foster stood only five and a half feet tall. He played 30 games with the Yankees in 1910 before landing in Washington for the 1912 season. Foster started off hot, having one of the best offensive seasons of his career in his first full season. He would hold down third base for the Nationals for most of the decade ahead.
LF Howie Shanks .231/.305/.308 1 HR -2.1 BFW 9 WS 8 FRAR 0.7 WARP3
The 21 year old Shanks made his major league debut in 1912. He played the vast majority of his time in left field, which is of note because he became somewhat of a utility player later in his career, bouncing around from position to position for Washington.
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.
RF Danny Moeller .276/.346/.399 6 HR 0.3 BFW 22 WS 23 FRAR 4.9 WARP3
Moeller resurfaced after a stint with the Pirates ’07 and ’08 to provide the kind of home run power the Nats haven’t had in six years. His six homers in 1912 was the most since Charlie Hickman hit 9 in 1906. Moeller also had 26 doubles and 10 triples in his first year as a regular.
P Walter Johnson 33-12 1.39 ERA 0.91 WHIP 10.6 PW 47 WS 16.3 WARP3
The list of accomplishments for Johnson in 1912 is a long one. He led the AL in ERA, WHIP, K (303), K/9 (7.39), and ERA+ (240). After allowing 8 home runs in 1911, he cut the number back down to only two in 1912. Johnson’s bat emerged in 1912 as well, with a .264/.298/.403 line and two home runs (the same number he allowed). The scariest part is that this wasn’t even his best season on the mound.
P Bob Groom 24-13 2.62 ERA 1.21 WHIP 1.8 PW 23 WS 4.0 WARP3
Groom finally provided the Nats with an effective second starter behind Johnson. This was his best season on the mound. Groom’s 1912 ERA was more than a full run lower than his 1911 effort.
P Tom Hughes 13-10 2.94 ERA 1.42 WHIP 0.7 PW 12 WS 1.4 WARP3
Not only did Washington have a good number two starter, but they were solid three deep thanks to the efforts of Hughes. Hughes will spend the 1913 season being a regular out of the bullpen, one of the first pitchers ever to do so (an innovation often credited to Griffith).
P Carl Cashion 10-6 3.17 ERA 1.49 WHIP 0.5 PW 12 WS 1.6 WARP3
Cashion played four seasons with Washington. This was his only appearance as a regular; he pitched in only 17 games in 1911, 1913, and 1914 combined.
1912 World Series
Both leagues’ pennant races were decided early, and the World Series was a showdown between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Giants. Under manager (and former Nat) Jake Stahl, the Red Sox took the series 4-3-1.