1933 Washington Nationals
Manager: Joe Cronin 1st Season (1st with Washington 99-53-1)
99 W 53 L 1 T 850 RS 665 RA 1st AL 7.0 GA (New York 91-59-2)
5.56 RPG (AL = 5.00) 3.82 ERA (AL = 4.28)
.708 DER (1st AL)
All Stars: 2 (Joe Cronin, General Crowder)
Franchise (1901-1933) 2396-2541-76; 8-11 WS
Though the franchise had a lot of success with Walter Johnson as manager, they still never really came close to a pennant. When the star pitcher of the past was fired following the 1932 season, Clark Griffith turned to his star short stop of the present, Joe Cronin, to manage the team in 1933 and beyond. The move was very reminiscent of another managerial change that Griffith had made about a decade earlier when he named Bucky Harris manager before the 1924 championship season.
There may have been more to the Cronin hiring, however. At some point during his time with Washington, Cronin married Clark Griffith’s niece. Different sources list events at different times, but suffice to say that it is entirely possibly that there were family considerations involved in Griffith’s decision to go with Cronin as manager.
Griffith and Cronin weren’t content standing pat with a 90-win team, and pulled off two huge trades on the same day. On December 14th, the Nats traded away four regular players, including CF Sam West and RP Firpo Marberry. In return, Griffith got, among others, SP Earl Whitehill, CF Fred Schulte, and a returning Goose Goslin, who predicted he would be back in Washington the day he heard that Walter Johnson was no longer manager.
Though the new players were big contributers from the beginning, early in the season it looked as though 1933 was going to be the same story in a different season. On June 7, Washington had a 27-21 record, a good mark, but only enough to be six game behind the Yankees. From June 8 to June 26, Washington won 15 of 17 games, which was even more remarkable considering that only two of those 17 games were at home. By the end of that stretch, Washington was atop the American League, a position that the team would hold until the end of the season. In 1933 the tables were turned, and it was the Yankees that won 91 games but found themselves seven games out of first place at the end of the year.
99 wins was the most the team would ever see in Washington, and the .651 winning percentage still stands as the best mark ever for the franchise. Unfortunately, the regular season success did not extend into the World Series. The Nats lost 6 of their last 10 regular season games, and the slump extended into the series with the New York Giants, where the Nats lost in five games.
Bold = Player new to Washington in 1933
C Luke Sewell .264/.335/.357 2 HR 0.0 BFW 16 WS 21 FRAR 3.2 WARP3
Sewell came in a catcher swap when Griffith sent Roy Spencer to Cleveland during the off season. Washington clearly got the better end of the trade, as Spencer went .203/.282/.242 in limited time with Cleveland. Sewell was 32-years-old and hadn’t caught more than 120 games since 1928, but appeared in 141 games for the Nats. His numbers weren’t overwhelming (84 OPS+), but he provided more offense from the catcher position than Washington had since Muddy Ruel was a regular in the previous decade. Sewell didn’t repeat his busy season with Washington, and was traded to the White Sox after playing only 50 games behind the plate in the 1934 season.
1B Joe Kuhel .322/.385/.467 11 HR 0.2 BFW 26 WS 19 FRAR 7.1 WARP3
1933 was Kuhel’s best season at the plate so far. He led the team in home runs (though his total indicates how unimportant the long ball was to the success of the team) and slugging percentage.
2B Buddy Myer .302/.374/.436 4 HR 1.8 BFW 23 WS 31 FRAR 6.7 WARP3
Myer had an interesting season in 1933, aside from the fact that it was probably his best so far. In a late April game against the Yankees, Myer stepped on Lou Gehrig’s foot during a play at first base. The Yankees waited a few days, and retaliated on April 25 when Ben Chapman slid into second spikes first at Myer. The game is delayed for 20 minutes plus as the two teams exchanged pleasantries. Both Myer and Chapman were suspended for five games. A few weeks later, Myer was carried off the field unconscious after being hit in the head by a Whit Wyatt pitch. Despite all of this, Myer still managed to appear in 131 games.
SS Joe Cronin .309/.398/.445 5 HR 3.9 BFW 34 WS 53 FRAR 11.0 WARP3
Aside from being the new manager, Cronin still remained the team’s best player. This was the fourth consecutive season that Cronin knocked in more than 100 RBI, and he represented the team at the inaugural All Star Game in Chicago (he went 1-for-3 with a run scored).
3B Ossie Bluege .261/.338/.325 6 HR -2.1 BFW 12 WS 22 FRAR 2.8 WARP3
Though there was a lot of team success in 1933, Bluege took a step backwards at the plate from his career norm. After bottoming out in an injury-shortened 1934 season, the 32-year-old would rebound. Bluege is one of only two Senators who was a regular in all three Washington World Series appearances (Goose Goslin was the other).
LF Heinie Manush .336/.372/.459 5 HR 0.5 BFW 27 WS 7 FRAR 5.1 WARP3
During the late summer of the year, Manush rattled off a 33-game hitting streak. Though he was still a liability in the field, he remained one of the team’s best offensive performers. For the second straight season, Manush finished third in the AL MVP voting (behind MVP Jimmie Foxx and teammate/manager Joe Cronin).
CF Fred Schulte .295/.366/.402 5 HR 0.6 BFW 21 WS 28 FRAR 5.6 WARP3
Schulte came as part of the Goose Goslin trade, and was essentially swapped for Sam West. Though Goslin was the big name, it turned out that the 32-year-old Schulte may have been the biggest acquisition. He was a very good defender, and hit just about the league average for a center fielder. Schulte was the only member of the team to hit consistently in the World Series, going .333/.364/.524 with a home run and four RBI in his only career World Series appearance.
RF Goose Goslin .297/.348/.452 10 HR 0.4 BFW 20 WS 18 FRAR 5.0 WARP3
It is interesting to speculate what Goslin’s career numbers may have looked like had he spent less time hitting at Griffith Stadium. Goslin had 127 home runs in 12 seasons with Washington, or about a home run every 44 plate appearances. During his time in St. Louis, he had a home run in about every 25 plate appearances. Goslin’s performance in 1933 was a bit disappointing to Griffith, and it was clear that Goose did not like the managing style of Joe Cronin, so his second stint with the Senators lasted only one season. Goslin was traded to Detroit following the World Series.
SP Alvin Crowder 24-15 3.97 ERA 1.31 WHIP 1.2 PW 21 WS 5.7 WARP3
1933 is Crowder’s last best season. After a horrible start in 1934 (4-10, 6.79 ERA), Washington let him go. He was eventually selected off of waivers by the Detroit Tigers, and had a good season in 1935, but retired after the 1936 season. Crowder was only with Washington for three full seasons (and parts of two others) between 1930 and 1934, but he won 87 games over that time period (98 total wins if you count his stint with the team from 1926-1927).
SP Earl Whitehill 22-8 3.33 ERA 1.37 WHIP 2.7 PW 23 WS 5.8 WARP3
Whitehill was acquired from the Detroit in exchange for Firpo Marberry and Carl Fischer. Prior to the trade, Whitehill had spent all of his 10 major league seasons with the Tigers. He had some very good seasons over the years, but 22 wins was his career high – he never won more than 17 in any other season. He was the winning pitcher in the only team victory in the 1933 Series, a 4-0 shut out of the Giants.
SP Lefty Stewart 15-6 3.82 ERA 1.24 WHIP 0.6 PW 14 WS 3.0 WARP3
Stewart was also a part of the Goose Goslin trade. He was a 20-game winner with the fifth place Browns in 1930, and had a solid season for Washington in 1933. A poor showing in 1934 meant that Stewart’s stay with Washington wouldn’t last long.
SP Monte Weaver 10-5 3.25 ERA 1.31 WHIP 1.2 PW 12 WS 3.2 WARP3
The professor missed more than a month of the season with a sore arm, but when he played he was probably the best pitcher Washington had. There were rumors that the Yankees offered Red Ruffing in a trade for Weaver, but Griffith wouldn’t go for it. This was probably the peak of Weaver’s career, and there was trouble ahead.
RP Jack Russell 12-6 2.69 ERA 1.21 WHIP 3.1 PW 15 WS 4.9 WARP3
Russell was a mediocre to bad major league starter when he arrived in Washington prior to the 1933 season. Over seven seasons with Boston and Cleveland, Russel compiled a 41-91 record (though his ERA over that time wasn’t too far below league average). For some reason, Russell responded to his new role in Washington, and had by far the best season of his career. It is probable, however, that his season will be remembered more for giving up the game-winning home run in the final game of the 1933 Series, but he did have a sparkling 0.87 ERA in 10 1/3 World Series innings.
RP Tommy Thomas 7-7 4.80 ERA 1.47 WHIP -1.1 PW 5 WS 0.1 WARP3
After Russell, the Washington bullpen wasn’t much to speak of. Thomas started 14 games, but just didn’t have the endurance to be a full time starter anymore, so he made most of his appearances out of the pen.
RP Bobby Burke 4-3 3.23 ERA 1.48 WHIP 0.6 PW 5 WS 1.5 WARP3
Burke improved on his numbers from 1932 and was a decent option for Cronin late in games.