1917 Washington Nationals
Manager: Clark Griffith 17th Season (6th with Washington 497-422-19)
74 W 79 L 4 T 544 RS 566 RA 5th AL 25.5 GB (Chicago 100-54-2)
3.46 RPG (AL = 3.65) 2.75 ERA (AL = 2.66)
.702 DER (5th AL)
Franchise (1901-1917) 1107-1430-55
It had almost become expected for the Nationals to win with Clark Griffith as manager, but 1917 saw the team lose 79 games; the most since Griffith took over in 1912.
The major lineup change, of course, came at the short stop position. After years of holding down the starting job, George McBride became a backup. Howie Shanks, a utility player of sorts, took over the bulk of the playing time.
Washington had its first uniform change since Griffith took over in 1912
A former Federal League player, Mike Menosky, took over in left field and had a decent offensive season. In addition, Sam Rice and Joe Judge continued to develop into offensive threats, probably emerging as the best two hitters on the team in 1917. Clyde Milan gave about the production that Griffith had come to expect from the veteran center fielder. The end result was a small improvement over the offensive output of 1916; but still below league average in terms of run production.
The real source of the struggles in 1917, however, came from an unlikely place for Washington fans. While Walter Johnson had another great year, the rest of the pitching staff struggled. For the first time since 1911, the team ERA fell below league average. Three of the five regular starting pitchers had ERA’s hovering around the 3.00 mark in a 2.66 average league. It is interesting that what is essentially the same group of regulars will be the best pitching staff in baseball in a year’s time.
Bold = Player new to Washington in 1917
C Eddie Ainsmith .191/.280/.263 0 HR 0.4 BFW 9 WS 44 FRAR 4.8 WARP3
After seven seasons as a back-up catcher, Ainsmith finally got a chance to be the every-day catcher in 1917. Seems to have been the typical no-hit good defensive catcher.
1B Joe Judge .285/.369/.415 2 HR 1.7 BFW 19 WS 8 FRAR 4.9 WARP3
Judge improved on his rookie season to become one of the better hitters in the lineup in 1917. At 23, he was already starting to develop a reputation as a sure-handed first baseman.
2B Ray Morgan .266/.346/.308 -0.5 BFW 12 WS 12 FRAR 2.9 WARP3
Though Ray Morgan fell of a bit offensively, he still gave the Nats about average offensive output for a second-baseman. Morgan’s most famous career moment occured on July 23, when he drew a lead off walk from Babe Ruth in a game against Boston. Ruth disagreed with the strike zone, and earned an early exit by punching umpire Brick Owens in the face. Morgan is caught stealing later in the inning, and Ernie Shore, in relief of Ruth, retires 26 straight Nats in a 4-0 game.
SS Howie Shanks .202/.269/.260 0 HR -0.9 BFW 8 WS 29 FRAR 2.8 WARP3
With George McBride now backing up at shortstop, Howie Shanks had a season that looked a little like McBride’s typical season when he was in his prime, though a little less solid on defense.
3B Eddie Foster .235/.293/.292 0 HR -2.0 BFW 13 WS 24 FRAR 3.1 WARP3
Foster’s offensive output was way down from the previous three years, but that made him fit in well with his partner on the left side of the infield. Fortunately, Foster will rebound in 1918.
LF Mike Menosky .258/.359/.366 1 HR 1.8 BFW 14 WS 13 FRAR 4.2 WARP3
Menoksy began his career with the Federal League’s Pittsburgh Rebels. He was purchased by the Nats prior to the 1916 season, though he played in only 11 games that year. He proveded some much-needed offense to a team that had little in 1917. Menoksy, like a lot of players, will spend 1918 serving in the military before returning to the team after the war is over.
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.
RF Sam Rice .302/.360/.309 0 HR 1.5 BFW 24 WS 16 FRAR 6.4 WARP3
This is the year that Rice established himself as one of the better hitters in the league. He will take most of 1918 off to serve in the Army, though he will play in a few games while on furlough.
SP Walter Johnson 23-16 2.21 ERA 0.97 WHIP 3.1 PW 29 WS 10.4 WARP3
Though his ERA was a little on the high side for his standards, the defense behind Johnson probably had something to do with that. The rest of his numbers, including WHIP, look pretty comparable with the rest of his career. The “problem” will be corrected next season.
1917 is the year that Ty Cobb hit his only career home run off of Johnson; an inside-the-park home run that helped the Tigers win a late-September game 4-3. Also of note, Johnson finally earned a win against Babe Ruth in October, when the Nats shut out the Red Sox 6-0.
SP Harry Harper 11-12 3.01 ERA 1.40 WHIP -1.8 PW 6 WS 0.6 WARP3
This was a down season in Harper’s up and down career.
SP Jim Shaw 15-14 3.21 ERA 1.24 WHIP -2.0 PW 11 WS 2.2 WARP3
After being used primarily out of the bullpen in 1916, Shaw returned to the starting rotation in 1917. He once again led the league in walks with 123.
SP George Dumont 5-14 2.55 ERA 1.21 WHIP -0.6 PW 10 WS 2.3 WARP3
This is the classic case of a pitcher performing much better than his record indicates. Dumont’s ERA+ was 103, not great, but above average for the league. According to Baseball Prospectus, Dumont should have won at least five more games based on his numbers. Though he spent four seasons with the Nats from 1915-1918, this is the only year that Dumont will pitch regularly. For some reason, the Minneapolis native earned the nickname “Pea Soup”; most likely indicating that his intellect was not particularly well respected by his peers.
SP Bert Gallia 9-13 2.99 ERA 1.37 WHIP -0.8 PW 9 WS 2.3 WARP3
The Nationals will get Burt Shotten and Doc Lavan from the Browns in exchange for Gallia after the season. Both players will fill holes for the Nats in 1918 before moving on.
RP Doc Ayers 11-10 2.17 ERA 1.21 WHIP 1.0 PW 15 WS 5.1 WARP3
Ayers bounced back from a difficult 1916 season to become the second most valuable pitcher on the team behind Johnson. He appeared in 40 games in 1917, and showed his durability by starting 15 of them, and by finishing 12 complete games in a season where he was used primarily out of the bullpen.
1917 World Series
The Chicago White Sox, with many of the same players who will become famous for throwing the 1919 World Series, defeat the New York Giant four games to two. Former Nat Chick Gandil knocked in five runs in the series.