1913 Washington Nationals
Manager: Clark Griffith 13th Season (2nd with Washington 181-125-3)
90 W 64 L 1 T 596 RS 562 RA 2nd AL 6.5 GB (Philadelphia 96-57)
3.85 RPG (AL = 3.93) 2.73 ERA (AL = 2.93)
.706 DER (2nd AL)
Franchise (1901-1913) 791-1133-39
Manager Clark Griffith
For the second straight season, the previously hapless Nats won at least 90 games and finished second in the American League. They did it with essentially the same lineup as the previous year, and an almost identical pitching staff.
Although the young lineup had another year of seasoning, it actually performed a little below its 1912 form. The 1913 version scored 3.85 runs per game, compared with 4.54 a year ago.
One man may have made up for the difference. It is strange to say that an individual performance overshadowed the team success of Washington in 1913 (particularly after 11 years of futility), but that is exactly the case. Walter Johnson may have had the best season any baseball player has ever had in 1913.
The numbers are astonishing, even in the context of the dead ball era. A 36-7 record, 1.14 ERA (259 ERA+), 0.99 walks per nine innings, 6.32 strikeouts per nine innings, 0.78 WHIP, and 11 shutouts, including a record five 1-0 victories; all good enough to lead the American League. Additionally, Johnson batted .261/.293/.433 with two home runs, not great, but certainly among the best hitting pitchers of his day.
It all added up to an MVP season, the first league MVP in franchise history. Johnson beat the likes of Home Run Baker, Tris Speaker, Eddie Collins, and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson for the award.
Johnson also made his first major league appearance at a position other than pitcher in 1913. It came on the final day of the season against Boston. Clark Griffith inserted Johnson in center field in the eighth inning, while also using backup catcher Eddie Ainsmith as a pitcher. The 43-year old manager even pitched an inning himself that game.
The Big Train may have had the best ML pitching season ever in 1913
Aside from his stint in center field in that game, Johnson also faced two batters. Most accounts suggest that he “lobbed” pitches at them, and allowed both men to reach on hits. Both runners eventually scored, and the runs were charged to Johnson. Some 50 years later this will be of note. Bob Gibson registered a 1.12 ERA in 1968 to surpass Johnson’s all time mark of 1.14 set in 1913. If Johnson had not allowed the two runs in the final game, he would have finished with a 1.09 ERA in 1913.
Bold = Player new to Washington in 1913
C John Henry .223/.309/.293 1 HR 0.6 BFW 9 WS 36 FRAR 4.0 WARP3
Once again John Henry had an outstanding defensive year accompanied by a sub-standard offensive season, though not all that poor in relation to other catchers. Here is how he stood in comparison to his AL catching peers, sorted by fielding runs above replacement (FRAR):
John Henry WAS 75 OPS+ 36 FRAR 4.0 WARP3
Bill Carrigan BOS 90 OPS+ 31 FRAR 4.1 WARP3
Steve O’Neill CLE 104 OPS+ 30 FRAR 4.0 WARP3
Ray Schalk CHW 80 OPS+ 29 FRAR 3.4 WARP3
Ed Sweeney NYY 96 OPS+ 27 FRAR 4.3 WARP3
Jack Lapp PHI 85 OPS+ 22 FRAR 2.9 WARP3
Sam Agnew STL 67 OPS+ 18 FRAR 1.6 WARP3
Oscar Stanage DET 72 OPS+ 13 FRAR 1.2 WARP3
Despite a lack of offense, Henry was among the league’s better catchers.
1B Chick Gandil .318/.363/.398 1 HR 1.8 BFW 23 WS 19 FRAR 5.6 WARP3
At age 26, Gandil was in his prime. 1913 would be his best offensive season. If Walter Johnson were removed from the equation, it is likely that Gandil was Washington’s MVP. He finished sixth in AL MVP voting.
2B Ray Morgan .272/.369/.345 0 HR 0.2 BFW 21 WS 8 FRAR 3.6 WARP3
The second base job belonged to Morgan full time in 1913, and his comfort level may have shown at the plate. This is easily his best offensive season so far.
SS George McBride .214/.286/.285 1 HR -0.3 BFW 14 WS 51 FRAR 4.9 WARP3
The Nationals honored their 32-year-old captain by celebrating “George McBride day” on September 29th. McBride finished tied for 14th in AL MVP voting.
3B Eddie Foster .247/.309/.306 1 HR -0.7 BFW 11 WS 18 FRAR 2.2 WARP3
Eddie Foster contracted typhoid fever in April and was out most of the month of May. Perhaps due to the illness, he was not able to regain his form of the previous year. Based on his future performance, it is likely that the typhoid was the biggest factor in his poor season.
LF Howie Shanks .254/.287/.315 1 HR -1.9 BFW 10 WS 22 FRAR 2.4 WARP3
Shanks improved slightly from his rookie season, but remained more of a defensive player. This is about what the Nats count on from Shanks for the rest of the decade.
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.
RF Danny Moeller .236/.322/.321 5 HR -1.6 BFW 17 WS 24 FRAR 4.4 WARP3
Once again Moeller was the top home run hitter for the Nats, this time with five.
P Walter Johnson 36-7 1.14 ERA 0.78 WHIP 10.9 PW 54 WS 18.1 WARP3
Walter Johnson’s best season in some historical context:
Single Season PW (1901-present)
1. Walter Johnson 1913 10.9
2. Walter Johnson 1912 10.6
3. Christy Mathewson 1905 8.5
4. Pedro Martinez 2000 8.4
Single Season Win Shares among Pitchers (1901-present)
1. Walter Johnson 1913 54
2. Jack Chesbro 1904 53
3. Ed Walsh 1908 47
3. Walter Johnson 1912 47
Single Season Total Win Shares (1901-present)
1. Honus Wagner 1908 59
2 .Babe Ruth 1923 55
3 .Walter Johnson 1913 54
3. Barry Bonds 2001 54
Single Season WHIP (1901-present)
1. Pedro Martinez 2000 0.74
2. Walter Johnson 1913 0.78
3. Addie Joss 1908 0.81
4. Greg Maddux 1995 0.81
Single Season WARP3 (All Time)
1. Walter Johnson 1913 18.1
2. Babe Ruth 1923 18.0
3. Amos Rusie 1894 17.6
4. Cal Ripken 1991 17.0
At the very least, Walter Johnson’s 1913 season is in the conversation for greatest pitching season ever, and perhaps greatest baseball season ever.
P Bob Groom 16-16 3.22 ERA 1.28 WHIP -0.5 PW 15 WS 2.3 WARP3
Five seasons removed from his 7-26 season, and a year after posting a 24-13 record, Bob Groom had a solid but unspectacular season in 1913. Groom would jump to the Federal League following the 1913 season. He played two years with the St. Louis Terriers before returning to the American League in 1916 with the St. Louis Browns. In five years with Washington, Groom went 72-89 with 96 adjusted ERA+ and 8.9 WARP3.
P Joe Boehling 17-7 2.14 ERA 1.19 WHIP 2.2 PW 23 WS 4.6 WARP3
Though he pitched in three games the season before, 1913 was the left-handers rookie season. His debut was a smashing success. Boehling’s adjusted ERA+ was 138, and he finished sixth in AL ERA. Though Boehling will hang around for a couple of years, he will never repeat his rookie performance.
P Joe Engel 8-9 3.06 ERA 1.27 WHIP -0.8 PW 9 WS 0.3 WARP3
Engel’s pitching career wouldn’t last long, but he gained baseball notoriety in a different way. After his playing career, Engel purchased the Chattanooga Lookouts of the Southern Association (one of Washington’s farm clubs). He became one of the more famous promoters of his time, including hiring a 17-year old girl to strike out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in an exhibition game.
P Tom Hughes 4-12 4.30 ERA 1.47 WHIP -2.4 PW 2 WS -1.5 WARP3
Hughes final season in the major leagues was of not because of the nature of his appearances. The 34-year old appeared in 36 games, only twelve of those were starts. He finished 18 games, and earned six saves. Hughes may be one of the earliest closers, and certainly was a rarity in his day.
1913 World Series
Despite the fact that Christy Mathewson pitched 19 innings and allowed only two earned runs for the New York Giants, Philadelphia was too much for New York. The A’s won their second series in the last three years when they took the 1913 World Series four games to one.