The Franchise 1929

1929 Washington Nationals
Manager: Walter Johnson 1st Season (1st with Washington 71-81-1)
71 W 81 L 1 T 730 RS 776 RA 5th AL 34.0 GB (Philadelphia 104-46-1)
4.77 RPG (AL = 5.01) 4.34 ERA (AL = 4.24)
.687 DER (5th AL)

Franchise (1901-1929) 2026-2305-73; 7-7 WS

After he finished his playing career in 1927, Walter Johnson immediately became manager of Newark in the International League. Just a year later, he was named by Clark Griffith as Bucky Harris’ successor as the Washington Manager. Johnson had some shoes to fill as Harris was the most successful manager in team history.

The knock on Johnson as a manager was that he was too easy going. Still, it is hard to pin the blame on him for the lack of team success in his first season as manager. The 1929 team was a little short on talent, and very long on injury problems. The star player, Goose Goslin, still had a bum shoulder, while Ossie Bluege missed most of the season with a knee problem.

An outstanding season as a starter by previous bullpen ace Firpo Marberry was not enough to hide the rest of the pitching problems. Bump Hadley put together a particularly horrible season in 1929, while Garland Braxton and Sam Jones each had difficulties of their own. The offense did not score enough runs to keep the team in contention, so the Nats finished the season with their worst record since 1922.

Bold = Player new to Washington in 1929

C Bennie Tate .294/.335/.362 0 HR -0.5 BFW 7 WS 21 FRAR 2.5 WARP3
Tate had been with Washington since 1924, but this was the first season in which he started more games than Muddy Ruel, whose playing time continued to diminish. Tate had three plate appearances in the 1924 World Series, all resulted in walks. Tate will be traded to the White Sox in the middle of the 1930 season.

1B Joe Judge .315/.397/.442 6 HR 0.9 BFW 20 WS 3 FRAR 4.4 WARP3
Judge’s offensive numbers remained solid in the year in which he turned 35 years old. He even had a power resurgence of sorts; in 1929 he had more home runs and a higher slugging percentage than he had since 1926.

2B Buddy Myer .300/.373/.403 3 HR -0.4 BFW 18 WS 16 FRAR 4.6 WARP3
Myer was originally Roger Peckinpaugh’s replacement at short stop before he was traded to Boston in the early part of the 1927 season. Clark Griffith called it the “dumbest move” he had ever made, and proved that wasn’t just talk when he traded five players to Boston in order to get Myer back for the 1929 season. Griffith won’t make the mistake of trading Myer again, as Buddy will hang around Washington until 1941.

SS Joe Cronin .281/.388/.481 8 HR 2.6 BFW 19 WS 32 FRAR 6.2 WARP3
Cronin had spent 1926 and 1927 in the with Pittsburgh where he didn’t get much playing time because of the presence of Arky Vaughn. Griffith had a hole at the short stop position, and purchased Cronin to fill that position in 1928 when Cronin was 21 years old. 1929 was Cronin’s first season as a regular, and he quickly became one of the better hitters on the team. On September 2, Cronin became only the third player in franchise history to hit for the cycle in a game, the previous two being Otis Clymer in 1908 and Goose Goslin in 1924.

3B Jackie Hayes .276/.316/.351 2 HR -0.9 BFW 8 WS 24 FRAR 2.5 WARP3
With Ossie Bluege out much of the season with knee problems, young Jackie Hayes got his first chance as a regular. Bluege would be back to normal in 1933, making Hayes a utility player in Washington. He would get another chance as a regular in Chicago, this time at second base, where he would excel for most of the 1930’s.

LF Goose Goslin .288/.366/.461 18 HR -0.7 BFW 19 WS -2 FRAR 3.3 WARP3
Even though he was once again the only real power threat on the team, 1929 was a down year for Goslin by just about every other measurement. His arm was still not back to normal after he injured it in the spring of 1928, and he had a well documented feud with new manager Walter Johnson; an argument that reportedly started with a golf game a few years prior. All in all, the seeds for the trade that would send Goslin out of Washington during the 1930 season were planted.

CF Sam West .267/.326/.347 3 HR -1.4 BFW 11 WS 26 FRAR 3.0 WARP3
After sharing the center field job with Red Barnes in 1928, West took over the position on his own in 1929. Though his stats were disappointing in 1929, he would rebound and become a solid player for Griffith and the Nats.

RF Sam Rice .323/.382/.424 1 HR -0.1 BFW 20 WS 10 FRAR 4.7 WARP3
Once again Rice had a typical season for his career. What made it different was that he did at at the age of 39.

SP Firpo Marberry 19-12 3.06 ERA 1.21 WHIP 4.0 PW 26 WS 9.8 WARP3
From 1924-1928 he was among the premier relief pitchers in baseball, and is still considered one of the first relief aces in history. At the age of 30, however, Marberry got his first chance to start, and he may have been the best starting pitcher in the American League in 1929. He was second only to Lefty Grove in ERA, and led the league in WHIP. Marberry was fourth in AL strikeouts, and still managed to lead the league in saves with 11.

SP Garland Braxton 12-10 4.85 ERA 1.48 WHIP -1.4 PW 8 WS 1.9 WARP3
After leading the AL in ERA the year before, Braxton struggled a bit in 1929. By June of 1930, Griffith would trade Braxton to the White Sox in the same deal that sent Bennie Tate to Chicago.

SP Sam Jones 9-9 3.92 ERA 1.33 WHIP 0.5 PW 10 WS 3.0 WARP3
Jones started in 24 games in 1929, but pitched just 153.7 innings, an average of just over six innings per start. That wouldn’t be particularly out of place in today’s game, but it stood out a bit in 1929.

SP Bump Hadley 6-16 5.62 ERA 1.44 WHIP -2.9 PW 2 WS 0.5 WARP3
A lot of pitchers throughout baseball history can claim that their poor records are a result of a lack of run support. Bump Hadley in 1929 was not one of them. His numbers were every bit as bad as his win-loss record would indicate. It is actually quite remarkable that he led the team in games started with 27. Thankfully for Hadley and the Nats, he would improve. 1929 will stand as likely the worst season in his career.

RP Lloyd Brown 8-7 4.18 ERA 1.52 WHIP 0.5 PW 10 WS 3.3 WARP3
With Marberry in the starting rotation most of the season, Brown became Walter Johnson’s top option out of the bullpen. Brown would find himself in the starting rotation in 1930.

RP Bobby Burke 6-8 4.79 ERA 1.48 WHIP -1.1 PW 5 WS 0.9 WARP3
Burke had been with the team since 1927 but had been used sparingly prior to 1929.

1929 World Series
The Philadelphia A’s defeated the Chicago Cubs four games to one. The A’s victory marked the first World Series that Connie Mack had won since 1914.


3 Responses to The Franchise 1929

  1. Beau says:

    1.21 led the league in WHIP? Must have been a high offense year, which makes some of the solid hitter looks less solid.

  2. Scot says:

    The league averaged five runs per game, so it was an offensive environment.

    Washington had just four regular hitters with 100 OPS+ or better: Judge (115), Goslin (111), Cronin (107), and Rice (106). It was a great year for hitters, just not necessarily those in Washington.

    That seems to be the story of the franchise early on, even in their winning seasons. The offense seemed more suited to the deadball era, even when the deadball era had been over for a decade.

  3. Scot says:

    Come to think of it, the 2007 offense can seem like it is straight out of the deadball era too.

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