The Franchise 1931

1931 Washington Nationals
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Manager: Walter Johnson 3rd Season (3rd with Washington 257-203-3)
92 W 62 L 2 T 843 RS 690 RA 3rd AL 16.0 GB (Philadelphia 107-45-1)
5.40 RPG (AL = 5.13) 3.76 ERA (AL = 4.38)
.699 DER (2nd AL)

Franchise (1901-1931) 2212-2427-75; 7-7 WS

On August 8, 1931, a pitcher named Bobby Burke joined him manager Walter Johnson on a very short list. From The Sporting News:

After serving almost exclusively in relief roles, Robert J. Burke, the tall, slim lefthander of the Senators, proved his ability to go the route, despite his seeming frailness, by pitching himself into the game’s hall of fame on August 8th with a no-hit, no-run game against the Boston Red Sox.

The win was Burke’s eighth of the season, and his last, but he became only the second pitcher in franchise history to pitch a no-hitter. Burke’s no-no won one of his career 38 major league wins, Johnson’s was one of 417.

For the second straight year, Johnson led his team to a 90+ win season; and for the second straight year, it wasn’t nearly enough to compete with the Philadelphia A’s. The Nats had a better than average offense for the second straight year, but, as always, lacked the power to be considered elite. The team hit only 49 home runs (compared with 155 for the Yankees and 118 for the A’s) and slugged .400 (to .457 and .435).

Roster/Stats
Bold = Player new to Washington in 1931

C Roy Spencer .275/.327/.327 1 HR -0.4 BFW 12 WS 21 FRAR 2.0 WARP3
Spencer played in more games (145) during the 1931 season than he did in any of his 12 major league seasons. He had mediocre stats prior to 1931, and proved that with a full season of play he would continue to be mediocre.

1B Joe Kuhel .269/.335/.410 8 HR -2.3 BFW 14 WS 15 FRAR 3.0 WARP3
Kuhel had big shoes to fill at first base. Though he wasn’t as good as Judge had been, he filled in admirably and started what would be a long career as a major league first baseman. Kuhel had a reputation throughout his career as one of the best fielding first-sackers in the league. The stats don’t really bear that out, and his reputation seems to have come mainly from his fielding percentage that was a result of a high putout total, a statistical feat that a first baseman generally doesn’t have much control of.

2B Buddy Myer .293/.360/.406 4 HR -0.6 BFW 20 WS 24 FRAR 4.7 WARP3
At age 27, Myer had one of his best years so far, though he would improve even more in the coming years.

SS Joe Cronin .306/.391/.480 12 HR 4.5 BFW 35 WS 58 FRAR 11.3 WARP3
Cronin finished seventh in AL MVP voting in 1931 (Lefty Grove won the award), though his stats indicate he should have finished higher (probably second). A lack of power is the reason he did not get more respect, particularly in an era where Babe Ruth (46 HR in 1931), Lou Gehrig (46), and Earl Averill (32) played. Cronin’s defense may have made him more valuable than any of them in 1931.

3B Ossie Bluege .272/.336/.382 8 HR -1.1 BFW 17 WS 32 FRAR 4.6 WARP3
Bluege turned 30 in 1931, and started a slight downward trend in his hitting.

LF Heinie Manush .307/.351/.438 6 HR -1.5 BFW 19 WS -2 FRAR 2.4 WARP3
For reference, here is Goose Goslin’s line with the Browns in 1931:
.328/.412/.555 24 HR 3.2 BFW 25 WS 9 FRAR 7.3 WARP3.

CF Sam West .333/.369/.481 3 HR 2.2 BFW 24 WS 35 FRAR 7.1 WARP3
1931 was probably Sam West’s best season. He finished ninth in AL MVP voting. He had career highs in batting average, hits (175), slugging, and OPS+ (121).

RF Sam Rice .310/.365/.400 0 HR -0.4 BFW 13 WS 13 FRAR 3.0 WARP3
RF Dave Harris .312/.434/.506 5 HR 1.2 BFW 12 WS 4 FRAR 3.1 WARP3
If Sam Rice played in 2007, he would likely be under suspicion for some kind of performance-enhancing drug. At age 41 he still played every day for Washington, maintained 100 OPS+, and was still an above-average fielder. When Rice did need a rest, Dave Harris filled in well. Harris also backed up the other outfield positions, and served as the team’s go to pinch-hitter.

SP Lloyd Brown 15-14 3.20 ERA 1.30 WHIP 3.0 PW 19 WS 5.4 WARP3
On August 31 Lou Gehrig hit a grand slam off of Brown. Over the course of his career, Brown gave up 15 home runs to Gehrig, the most by any pitcher. Despite Gehrig’s mastery of Brown in the long ball department, Lloyd managed to have another solid season, and was one of the better pitchers on a staff that was once again very good.

SP Alvin Crowder 18-11 3.88 ERA 1.40 WHIP 1.0 PW 16 WS 3.7 WARP3
General Crowder continued to be a solid pitcher in his first full season with Washington. Like most of the starting staff, he made a number of appearances in relief as well.

SP Firpo Marberry 16-4 3.45 ERA 1.25 WHIP 2.1 PW 20 WS 5.3 WARP3
Marberry’s W-L record was eye-popping, and earned him a mention on the MVP ballots. Of his 45 pitching appearances in 1931, 20 of them were in relief.

SP Sam Jones 9-10 4.32 ERA 1.57 WHIP 0.2 PW 8 WS 1.8 WARP3
Sad Sam’s last season in Washington was the worst of his four years with the Senators. At the end of the season, the 39-year-old will be traded, but has a few good major league seasons left. He’ll finally retire after the 1935 season, at the age of 42.

RP Bump Hadley 11-10 3.06 ERA 1.32 WHIP 2.3 PW 16 WS 5.1 WARP3
Hadley’s first season in which he primarily was used in relief was a very good one. It wasn’t enough, however, to stay with the team. He was traded along with Jones to the White Sox after the season ended.

RP Carl Fischer 13-9 4.38 ERA 1.50 WHIP -0.3 PW 10 WS 2.5 WARP3
Fischer started 23 games, but also made 23 appearances in relief. He will be dealt to the Browns in June of 1932.

1931 World Series
The St. Louis Cardinals upset the Philadelphia A’s in a seven-game series in Connie Mack’s last World Series as a manager.

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