Manager: Clark Griffith 16th Season (5th with Washington 423-343-15)
76 W 77 L 6 T 536 RS 543 RA 7th AL 14.5 GB (Boston 91-63-2)
3.37 RPG (AL = 3.68) 2.67 ERA (AL = 2.82)
.695 DER (6th AL)
Franchise (1901-1916) 1033-1351-51
The Nationals started the 1916 season with few changes from the club a year before. The only major move during the off season was the sale of Chick Gandil to the White Sox to make room for rookie Joe Judge at first base. Aside from that move, the lineup and the pitching staff looked basically the same as it has since 1912.
That may have seemed like a good thing. The Nats had four straight winning seasons with that lineup, the only four in the young history of the franchise. They had the best pitcher in baseball to play behind, and probably were thinking pennant at the beginning of the season.
Washington hung around in the race until the end of June, but found themselves in seventh place and below .500 by early August, which is where they finished.
The offense, which has always been the weakness of Griffith’s teams, was getting older. George McBride’s limited hitting skills were growing worse by the year while Clyde Milan seemed to be falling as well. Though Joe Judge would be a good player in Washington for many years, his first season was well below the level of play Griffith got out of Gandil in the previous season. The power situation was so bad, that an August addition, Elmer Smith, led the team in home runs with two, and the team finished dead last in AL slugging percentage (.306) and OPS+ (93). It all added up to another sub-par offensive season, and the pitching, while good, was not good enough to make up for it.
In August, Griffith made a trade that signaled he might be bringing in the new guard. While the players involved in the trade were not particularly notable, it made room for a young pitcher to change positions and start his career in right field.
It is commonly reported that the 1916 Nationals won 16 road game in a row, but that must have involved some creative accounting because a quick glance over the game logs at several sites indicate that the longest road winning streak was four games between June 15 and June 20. (Ed. note: the Nats won 16 straight road games in 1912).
Bold = Player new to Washington in 1916
C John Henry .249/.364/.308 0 HR 1.4 BFW 13 WS 25 FRAR 4.8 WARP3
Based on WARP3, this was Henry’s most productive season. He had career highs in most offensive categories, and played in 117 games- 22 more than his previous high. His defense did seem to slip a little, but at the age of 27 he was still among the best in the league.
1B Joe Judge .220/.333/.298 0 HR -0.1 BFW 8 WS 6 FRAR 2.2 WARP3
The 22-year old Judge did not have an ovely impressive debut season as the Nats every day first baseman. It is quite possible that Griffith and Washington fans were regretting the sale of Chick Gandil. Judge would turn it around quickly, however, and hold down first base in Washington for nearly two decades.
2B Ray Morgan .267/.398/.340 1 HR 0.4 BFW 15 WS 10 FRAR 5.5 WARP3
Back as a regular following the auto accident that cut off most of his 1915 season, Morgan had what is likely his best season at the age of 27. He finished fourth in AL OBP, and was the best hitter on his team.
SS George McBride .227/.271/.283 1 HR 0.3 BFW 13 WS 52 FRAR 5.4 WARP3
While McBride rebounded slightly from a terrible offensive season in 1915, 1916 would be his last season as a regular at short stop. While he never really became an offensive threat, he was able to tread water enough with the bat to keep his great defensive work in the regular lineup. McBride will stay on the roster until 1920, playing a few games here and there. His main job over the next few years will be as Clark Griffith’s right-hand man and heir apparent to the Washington manager.
Perhaps the highlight of McBride’s final season as a regular came in late June when McBride threw his bat at Boston’s Carl Mays after a pitch sailed perilously close to his head.
George McBride career:
.218/.281/.264 7 HR 1.5 BFW 127 WS 484 FRAR 45.9 WARP3
3B Eddie Foster .252/.332/.317 1 HR -1.8 BFW 17 WS 23 FRAR 4.6 WARP3
Once again Foster played a chunk of games at second base, and excelled there defensively, earning 17 out of his 23 FRAR at 2B in just 72 games. Although the 29-year old will be a regular for Washington or Boston through the early 1920’s, he hit his last career home run in 1916. He finished his career with six home runs.
LF Howie Shanks .253/.317/.321 1 HR 0.0 BFW 13 WS 19 FRAR 3.6 WARP3
Shanks’ greatest strength continued to be his versatility in the field. In 1916 he played every position but 2B, C, and P at least once. 1916 was also his best season at the plate so far in his career.
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.
RF Danny Moeller .246/.335/.300 1 HR -0.1 BFW 6 WS 4 FRAR 1.5 WARP3
Moeller was traded mid-season along with Joe Boehling to Cleveland in exchange for Elmer Smith for outfielder Elmer Smith and infielder Joe Leonard. None of the men involved in the trade had much of an impact for their new team (save Smith’s team lead in the home run standings), but the move made room in right field for:
RF Sam Rice .299/.352/.386 1 HR 0.4 BFW 8 WS 3 FRAR 1.8 WARP3
Rice also pitched 21.3 innings in 1916, but his pitching career ended there (9 G, 1-1, 2.52 ERA, 1.27 WHIP career). Edgar “Sam” Rice started his ML career at the age of 25 due to a stint in the merchant marines and the US Navy. He saw combat aboard the USS New Hampshire off the coast of Mexico in April 1914. Rice was noticed playing semi-pro ball while on leave that August, and purchased from the Navy by the owner of the Portsmouth Truckers. He was purchased by the Nationals in July of 1915.
SP Walter Johnson 25-20 1.90 ERA 1.01 WHIP 5.2 PW 36 WS 13.4 WARP3
Though his ERA was up slightly from his incredible run in the early part of the decade (his ERA+ was “only” 147), Johnson had yet another dominant year. At the age of 28, Johnson did not allow a single home run in and AL league-leading 369.7 innings pitched. He added 36 complete games and three shutouts to his career totals, and led the AL in strikeout to walk ratio for the fifth straight season.
As an interesting aside, Walter Johnson faced Babe Ruth head-to-head at least five times over the course of the 1916 season.
4/16 Fenway Park; Bos 5, Was 1; ended after seven innings due to rain
6/1 Fenway Park; Bos 1, Was 0; Ruth’s second straight shut out
8/15 Fenway Park; Bos 1, Was 0; 13 innings, Johnson allowed only five hits
9/9 AL Park; Bos 2, Was 1; Ruth 4-hitter
9/12 AL Park; Was 4, Bos 3; 10 innings, Johnson’s only win vs. Ruth in 1916
Final Tally: Babe Ruth 4, Walter Johnson 1
SP Harry Harper 14-10 2.45 ERA 1.24 WHIP 1.0 PW 19 WS 6.0 WARP3
The lefty pitched a handful of games in three previous seasons, but 1916 was the 21-year old’s breakout year. Harper will hang around in the starting rotation for a while, have a few solid seasons, but won’t be consistent enough to stay around too long.
SP Bert Gallia 17-12 2.36 ERA 1.33 WHIP 0.1 PW 18 WS 5.1 WARP3
The second straight good season for Gallia, will be traded away after a not-so-good 1917 season.
SP Joe Boehling 9-11 3.09 ERA 1.35 WHIP -0.5 PW 7 WS 2.0 WARP3
As mentioned above, Boehling went to Cleveland in the Danny Moeller deal. The move effectively signaled the end of Boehling’s career, though he would pitch in Cleveland as late as 1920.
RP Doc Ayers 5-9 3.78 ERA 1.43 WHIP -2.0 PW 2 WS -0.8 WARP3
As is true of relievers even today, a small sample size provided a wide variance from season to season for Ayers (though Ayers hovered around 150-200 innings as a reliever, while 80 innings in relief is a lot today). Ayers went from a 134 ERA+ in 1915 to 74 ERA+ in 1916. The totality of his career indicates that he was probably a slightly above average pitcher, but 1916 was easily his worst.
1916 World Series
The Red Sox won their second straight World Series, and the fourth in the history of the franchise when they defeated the Brooklyn Robins four games to one. Once again the Red Sox did it with pitching. Babe Ruth (23-12, 1.75 ERA during the season) pitched 14 innings in game two to earn the 2-1 win.