1926 Washington Nationals
Manager: Bucky Harris 3rd Season (3rd with Washington 269-186-5; 7-7 WS)
81 W 69 L 2 T 802 RS 761 RA 4th AL 8.0 GB (New York 91-63-1)
5.28 RPG (AL = 4.73) 4.34 ERA (AL = 4.02)
.969 DER (5th AL)
Franchise (1901-1926) 1795-2076-68; 7-7 WS
The “veteran” pitching staff from the 1925 AL Championship season became the “old” pitching staff for Clark Griffith and the Washington Nationals in 1926. The team went from tops in AL ERA in 1925 to fifth in 1926. Walter Johnson, Stan Coveleski, and Dutch Ruether each fell off from the level they pitched at the previous year, and the team results showed it. After two consecutive pennants, Washington dropped to fourth place in the American League.
The drop came despite the fact that the lineup produced 5.28 runs per game, second in the AL only to the powerful Yankees. Goose Goslin had his best season to date, while veterans like Judge, Ruel, Bluege, and Rice produced at or above career levels.
The story of 1926, however, revolved around the reality that Walter Johnson’s great career was clearly beginning to wind down.
Bold = Player new to Washington in 1926
C Muddy Ruel .299/.401/.389 1 HR 1.6 BFW 18 WS 31 FRAR 6.2 WARP3
At the age of 30 Ruel again provided solid offense from the catcher’s position and very good defense. He will have a couple more years as a regular catcher ahead of him.
1B Joe Judge .291/.367/.442 7 HR 0.8 BFW 16 WS 21 FRAR 5.7 WARP3
Judge’s numbers in 1926 were actually slightly down from the previous few years, but he got some MVP consideration, largely based on his glove work at first base.
2B Bucky Harris .283/.363/.395 1 HR -0.6 BFW 17 WS 22 FRAR 5.4 WARP3
Like Ruel and Judge, Bucky Harris’ numbers were pretty much what was expected. The 29-year-old’s playing career is starting to wind down now, but he will be a big name manager for years to come.
SS Buddy Myer .304/.370/.380 1 HR -0.7 BFW 14 WS 20 FRAR 4.3 WARP3
“I think in Myers we have a better player than Peck, and a better shortstop than any who ever came up to the American League” – Clark Griffith, New York Times 1/19/1926. An unusual comment for an owner to make under any circumstances, but particularly interesting considering he was benching the reigning MVP in favor of a rookie. Coming into the 1926 season, 22-year-old Buddy Myer had nine career regular season plate appearances and eight career World Series plate appearances, and now he was being handed the starting job over Roger Peckinpaugh. Griffith insisted that the move had nothing to do with the poor fielding performance Peckinpaugh displayed in the 1925 World Series, but the speculation of the day was that was precisely the reason.
Myer had a decent 1926 season, and was dealt to Boston in exchange for another shortstop, Topper Rigney, early in 1927; a trade that Griffith would later call the “dumbest deal he ever made”.
3B Ossie Bluege .271/.368/.361 3 HR -1.0 BFW 15 WS 16 FRAR 4.0 WARP3
The 25-year-old was consisten, and will remain so for another decade.
LF Goose Goslin .354/.425/.542 17 HR 4.6 BFW 33 WS 18 FRAR 9.6 WARP3
If 1925 was a breakout year for Goose, 1926 was the year that he established himself as the star of the Washington Nationals. In an interesting note, all 17 of his home runs came on the road, the most ever for a player who didn’t hit any at home.
CF Earl McNeely .303/.373/.403 0 HR 0.1 BFW 15 WS 7 FRAR 3.6 WARP3
Primarily batting in the lead off spot, McNeely stole 18 bases in 1926, good for fourth in the American League. In 1927 he will be replaced in center field by a 39-year-old free agent legend, then traded to the Browns. McNeely will finish his career in St. Louis.
RF Sam Rice .337/.380/.445 3 HR 1.0 BFW 23 WS 11 FRAR 5.6 WARP3
At the age of 36, Rice continued to be one of the premier singles hitters in baseball. He finished fourth in AL MVP voting, and led the league in at-bats (641), hits (216), and singles (167).
1B/OF Joe Harris .307/.405/.486 5 HR 0.8 BFW 12 WS 6 FRAR 3.5 WARP3
For the second straight season Harris was a valuable bat off the Washington bench. Griffith would let him go on waivers after the season, and he became the regular first baseman for the 1927 NL champion Pirates.
SP Walter Johnson 15-16 3.63 ERA 1.27 WHIP 0.7 PW 15 WS 5.5 WARP3
In his final opening day start, Johnson pitched what he remembered as his greatest game. No member of the Philadelphia Athletics went further than first base in a 15-inning, six hit shutout for Johnson. Though 1926 would become a bit of a tough season for the legend, he did manage to pile on more career milestones. On April 27 he won his 400th career game.
Unfortunately for the big train, 1926 became the start of the decline that would eventually end his career. In mid-summer he lost seven consecutive starts, and ended the season with a losing record.
SP Stan Coveleski 14-11 3.12 ERA 1.44 WHIP 1.6 PW 16 WS 4.9 WARP3
Coveleski had a solid season, but it wasn’t quite the success he had in his first year with Washington. Though he hung around the league for two more seasons, this was Coveleski’s final season as a regular. He will appear in just five games for the Nats in 1927, and another 12 with the Yankees in 1928.
SP Dutch Ruether 12-6 4.84 ERA 1.65 WHIP -1.1 PW 7 WS 1.6 WARP3
Griffith traded Ruether to the Yankees in August for two players-to-be-named. In October, New York sent Garland Braxton and Nick Cullop to Washington to complete the trade. Cullop didn’t play much, but Braxton had some solid years on the mound in Washington.
RP Firpo Marberry 12-7 3.00 ERA 1.35 WHIP 2.0 PW 16 WS 5.5 WARP3
Another good season for Marberry, who was just about as reliable as any reliever in the league. In 1926 he appeared in 64 games (59 relief appearances, besting his own record set a year earlier) and earned 22 saves. The saves mark would not be surpassed until 1949.
1926 World Series
The Cardinals, behind a great pitching performance by veteran Grover Cleveland Alexander, defeated the mighty Yankees in seven games. Babe Ruth had four home runs in the series.