1919 Washington Nationals
Manager: Clark Griffith 19th Season (8th with Washington 625-562-23)
56 W 84 L 2 T 533 RS 570 RA 7th AL 32 GB (Chicago 88-52)
3.75 RPG (AL = 4.09) 3.01 ERA (AL = 3.22)
.686 DER (7th AL)
Franchise (1901-1919) 1235-1570-59
1919 was the worst season of Clark Griffith’s career in Washington. In fact, the .400 winning percentage is the worst by any Griffith managed team.
Once again, the biggest problem was a lack of offense. Washington scored 3.75 runs per game. If it weren’t for lowly Philadelphia (3.26), the Nats would have been last in AL run scoring. The pitching was again the strength of the team. A 3.01 team ERA was good enough to be third best in the AL. The defense was breaking down, however. Only Philadelphia kept the Nats out of the AL cellar in fielding percentage (.960) and DER (.686). The poor defensive numbers turned a team with the third best league ERA into only the third highest runs allowed in the league.
Washington was 14-36 in one run games over the course of the season. The offense was shut out 16 times, and was held to one run 21 times.
Walter Johnson was once again the most important player on the team. He had another great season, though he would return to earth from an incredible run of excellence in 1920. Sam Rice, Joe Judge, and Mike Menosky all had good years at the plate, but that was not enough to make up for the struggling batters that made up the team’s infield apart from first base.
During the dead ball era, little offense was expected from the middle infielders. Washington got even less than that. Their starting second baseman, Hal Janvrin, finished the season with 34 OPS+, by far the worst among league regulars. Howie Shanks and Eddie Foster at short stop and third base had 66 and 76 OPS+ respectively. The combined OPS+ at 2B, SS, and 3B was the worst in the league.
Needless to say, it was a good move by Griffith to bring in three new players for those positions in 1920, even though it was the biggest lineup turnover in his time with the team.
Bold = Player new to Washington in 1919
C Val Picinich .274/.330/.401 3 HR 1.7 BFW 7 WS 24 FRAR 4.1 WARP3
Picinich’s offensive numbers may not look that impressive on the surface, but his 1919 season may have been the best offensive season for a catcher in the 19-year history of the franchise (although he played in only 80 games. Picinich started his career in with Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s, where he caught a no-hitter thrown by Joe Bush in his rookie season of 1916. He made his way to Washington where, for most of his five seasons, he was a backup catcher. Picinich shared the catching duties in 1919 with…
C Patsy Gharrity .271/.325/.366 2 HR 0.0 BFW 9 WS 15 FRAR 3.1 WARP3
Gharrity logged a lot more playing time than Picinich; but that was due to his versatility. Aside from the 60 games he played behind the plate, he also appeared in the outfield 33 times, and at first base seven times. Gharrity quickly became Walter Johnson’s favorite catcher, meaning that he would start with Picinich as a backup for the first few years of the 1920’s.
1B Joe Judge .288/.386/.409 2 HR 1.4 BFW 17 WS 2 FRAR 5.3 WARP3
His number came up from a disappointing 1918 campaign, particularly his OBP which rose 54 points. Judge’s OBP will stay in the high .300’s until his career winds down in the early 1930’s. Though he has a great defensive reputation, Judge’s FRAR remains low.
2B Hal Janvrin .178/.253/.221 1 HR -4.3 BFW 0 WS -1 FRAR -1.3 WARP3
Washington acquired Janvrin in the offseason from Boston in exchange for Eddie Ainsmith and pitcher George Dumont. He didn’t last long in Washington. After putting up horrible numbers in 61 games, he was traded to Buffalo of the International League in exchange for a 22-year old second baseman named Bucky Harris. The position was filled by Howie Shanks, Joe Leonard, and Roy Grover for the balance of the season.
SS Howie Shanks .248/.289/.299 1 HR -3.6 BFW 7 WS 16 FRAR 1.6 WARP3
While his hitting still wasn’t lighting the world on fire, Shanks’ value came from his defense; both quality and versatility.
3B Eddie Foster .264/.314/.310 0 HR -0.7 BFW 11 WS 33 FRAR 4.5 WARP3
In his final season in Washington, Foster had his worst at the plate. At the same time, his 33 FRAR was a career high. All in all, Foster held down third base for Clark Griffith from 1912-1919. During that time, he hit .266/.328/.330 (94 OPS+) and compiled 35.4 WARP3. Foster will be traded to the Red Sox in January 1920.
LF Mike Menosky .287/.379/.401 6 HR 0.7 BFW 11 WS 3 FRAR 3.4 WARP3
Upon returning from the war, Menosky had another very good season at the plate. He led the Nats in home runs with six. After the season, Menoksy will head to Boston with Eddie Foster.
CF Clyde Milan .287/.371/.361 0 HR -0.2 BFW 9 WS 0 FRAR 2.2 WARP3
The 32-year-old played in only 88 games, the lowest total of his career if you take away his first and last seasons. Buzz Murphy filled in at center field when Milan was out, but was very unimpressive at the plate and wasn’t really an improvement in the field.
RF Sam Rice .321/.376/.411 3 HR 1.4 BFW 18 WS 15 FRAR 6.6 WARP3
Rice has the distinction of being the only Nats hitter in 1919 that could be accurately described as having a good season. One year removed from serving in World War I, Rice returned to form as if he hadn’t missed any time at all.
SP Walter Johnson 20-14 1.49 ERA 0.99 WHIP 6.7 PW 27 WS 14.1 WARP3
On opening day, Johnson pitched a 13-inning shutout, and the Nats defeated Philadelphia 1-0. It was one of five 1-0 victories for Johnson in 1919, tying his own major league record. Johnson led the AL in ERA (1.49), WHIP (0.99), H/9 (7.28), K (147), Shutouts (7), K/W (2.88), and ERA+ (214). The 1919 season marks the end of Johnson’s dominance. He will have several more very good seasons, but will not approach the dominance he displayed from 1910-1919. Over those 10 seasons, from the age of 22 to 32, Johnson compiled an amazing 138.7 WARP3. It is probably the most dominant stretch for any player in ML history.
SP Jim Shaw 17-17 2.43 ERA 1.22 WHIP 1.6 PW 18 WS 7.9 WARP3
Since Shaw started with Washington in 1913, he had some flashes of brilliance. In 1919, that all came together and Shaw had his best career season at the age of 25. Shaw was actually used more than Johnson, and more than any other pitcher in the AL for that matter. He led the AL in games (45) and innings pitched (306.7).
SP Harry Harper 6-21 3.72 ERA 1.52 WHIP -1.9 PW 4 WS 1.1 WARP3
The pitching depth in Washington took a nose dive after the number two spot. Harper led the league in one category: losses. He was the final Washington piece of the trade that sent three players to Boston in the offseason.
SP Eric Erickson 6-11 3.95 ERA 1.46 WHIP -1.2 PW 3 WS 1.3 WARP3
Erickson came to Washington from Detroit in exchange for Doc Ayers in July. Erickson was born in Sweden and started his major league career in 1914 with the New York Giants. He spent the next four years between Detroit and the minor leagues before landing in Washington where he will finish his career.
1919 World Series
One of the more famous series’ in history, though it was not due to the play on the field. The Cincinnati Reds upset the Chicago White Sox 5 games to 3 in a best of 9 series. It was about a year later when a grand jury convened to investigate the rumors of foul play that came out of this series, which ultimately led to the banishment for life of eight members of the White Sox. Among the eight was former Nat Chick Gandil.