1918 Washington Nationals
Manager: Clark Griffith 18th Season (7th with Washington 569-478-21)
72 W 56 L 2 T 461 RS 412 RA 3rd AL 4.0 GB (Boston 75-51)
3.55 RPG (AL = 3.64) 2.14 ERA (AL = 2.77)
.715 DER (2nd AL)
Franchise (1901-1918) 1179-1486-57
1918 Washington uniforms from baseballhalloffame.org
In the summer of 1918, the United States was fully entered into the Great War, and baseball largely took a back seat to the war effort. In June, a “work of fight” order was issued that ultimately meant that the 1918 baseball season would end on Labor Day.
Even the games that did go on were effected. Managers and players were drafted or enlisted and left their teams mid-season. For Washington, the biggest name away at the war was Sam Rice, who did manage to play a few mid-season games while on furlough.
Babe Ruth’s draft registration from http://www.archives.gov/southeast/exhibit/popups.php?p=4.1.10
click to enlarge
Those who managed to stay for the season, however, found themselves in the thick of a pennant race. The team got off to an awful start, and stood at 16-23 after play on May 31. From June 1 on, Washington stormed back into contention. The Nats had an AL best 56-33 record from June 1 to the end of the season. Unfortunately, the run was cut short by the early end to the season, and Washington, despite the possibility that they were the best team at the end of the season, finished third in the American League.
Bold = Player new to Washington in 1918
C Eddie Ainsmith .212/.283/.308 0 HR 0.3 BFW 8 WS 34 FRAR 4.2 WARP3
Ainsmith may have been one of the key players in baseball during the 1918 season, but it wasn’t due to his play on the field. On July 19, Ainsmith applied for deferment from the draft. The move prompted Secretary of War Newton Baker to to rule that baseball was not an essential occupation; therefore ballplayers were eligible for the draft. Though the season was extended to Labor Day by an exemption that Baker allowed, the ruling was the key factor in the shortened season. Ainsmith is listed among baseball’s veterans of the first World War. Ainsmith will be traded to Boston before the 1919 season.
1B Joe Judge .261/.332/.341 1 HR 0.0 BFW 13 WS 10 FRAR 3.6 WARP3
Judge’s production fell off from the previous season, but the 24-year had many good seasons ahead of him.
2B Ray Morgan .233/.311/.277 0 HR -1.6 BFW 6 WS 16 FRAR 2.1 WARP3
Morgan took even more of a dive offensively in 1918, and it would be his last season. He held down second base in Washington for the better part of the decade, and finished his career hitting .254/.348/.322 with 18.5 WARP3.
SS Doc Lavan .278/.302/.323 0 HR -2.0 BFW 13 WS 12 FRAR 2.1 WARP3
Lavan came to Washington in from the Browns in the Bert Gallia deal. The 27-year old wasn’t a particularly good hitter, and made a lot of errors at shortstop. He served in the Navy after the season, and was purchased by the Cardinals in May of 1919 without having played a game for the Nats in the first few months of the season.
3B Eddie Foster .283/.339/.320 0 HR 0.1 BFW 18 WS 33 FRAR 5.9 WARP3
Foster had a 21-game hitting streak that occurred mostly in the month of May. The 31-year old has one more season left in Washington.
LF Burt Shotton .261/.349/.321 0 HR -0.4 BFW 16 WS 12 FRAR 4.0 WARP3
Shotton was the other piece of the Gallia trade. The veteran had some good seasons in St. Louis, but was starting the down side of his career. Like Lavan, Shotton would play for the Cardinals in 1919. He would later become famous when he was manager for the Dodgers the day that Jackie Robinson made his major league debut.
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.
RF Frank Schulte .288/.406/.363 0 HR 1.4 BFW 13 WS 9 FRAR 4.0 WARP3
Schulte was a former NL MVP. He won the award in 1911 with the Chicago Cubs. By the time he was playing for Washington, he was 35 years old and was seemingly in the twilight of his career. Schulte played his final season admirably in Sam Rice’s absence, and may have been the best hitter on the team.
Schulte during his days with the Cubs
UT Howie Shanks .257/.312/.326 1 HR -1.3 BFW 12 WS 16 FRAR 3.3 WARP3
Shanks is of note because he was one of only two position players to have a home run for the 1918 Nats. The other two team home runs came from pitchers: Walter Johnson and Nick Altrock. Shanks split time between second base and outfield.
SP Walter Johnson 23-13 1.27 ERA 0.95 WHIP 7.6 PW 38 WS 14.2 WARP3
In terms of WARP, 1918 was Walter Johnson’s fourth best season behind 1913, 1912, and 1914. During the season, Walter Johnson pitched 17+ innings twice. The first came against the White Sox, when he and Lefty Williams each pitched a shutout through 17 innings. Johnson had a scoreless 18th, while the Nats were able to push a run across in the bottom of the frame. The 18-inning shutout still stands as an ML record, though it was tied by Carl Hubbell in 1933.
SP Harry Harper 11-10 2.18 ERA 1.17 WHIP 0.8 PW 16 WS 4.1 WARP3
This was Harper’s best season in the majors. At one point during the season, he won seven games in a row.
SP Jim Shaw 16-12 2.42 ERA 1.21 WHIP 0.3 PW 15 WS 3.5 WARP3
Grunting Jim Shaw is another Nats pitcher who had a career-best season in 1918. He would actually top it the following year, before his career is cut short by a hip injury in 1921.
SP Doc Ayers 10-12 2.83 ERA 1.27 WHIP -0.2 PW 10 WS 2.0 WARP3
In addition to starting 24 games, Ayers made the most relief appearances for the Nats in 1918. He will be traded to Detroit in July 1919. In his seven seasons with Washington, Ayers appeared in 227 games; 111 of those were starts. His career will get a small boost when he is among the players allowed to use the spitball after it is outlawed in 1920, but he will be out of the major leagues by 1921.
1918 World Series
Though both team rosters were thinned by the war, the World Series played on in September of 1918. The Red Sox, behind the pitching of Babe Ruth and Carl Mays, were able to defeat the Chicago Cubs four games to two. Ruth and Mays won two games each in the series.