1942 Washington Nationals
Manager: Bucky Harris 19th Season (13th with Washington 987-997-19)
62 W 89 L 653 RS 817 RA 7th AL 39.5 GB (New York 103-51)
4.32 RPG (AL = 4.26) 4.58 ERA (AL = 3.66)
.676 DER (8th AL)
All Stars (2) Sid Hudson, Stan Spence
Franchise (1901-1942) 3020-3290-89; 8-11 WS
1942 was the last year for baseball to go on as usual during the war years. Though President Roosevelt wrote the famous letter that said baseball should go on, the player exodus to the military picked up during and after the 1942 season.
Hit as hard as any other team by the war, Washington had one of its worst seasons ever. For a team that played in a pitcher’s park and traditionally had a strong pitching staff, the 1942 group was about as bad as it could be; almost a full run above the league ERA. It went from bad to worse when on April 23rd, knuckleballer Dutch Leonard broke his ankle in a play at first base. Leonard pitched in just seven games all season, and was sorely missed by a team in the bottom of almost every AL pitching category.
The pitchers didn’t have much help either, as the defense that took the field behind them was historically bad, particularly the infield defense. Whether the defense looked bad because of the pitching or vice-versa is hard to say.
At the end of the season, manager Bucky Harris held a press conference in which he announced that he had “decided to resign for the best interests of myself and all concerned.” The split was described as amicable at the time, and Harris would ultimately be back to manage the team again in the mid-1950’s. It was announced shortly after that long time Nats third baseman Ossie Bluege would take over as manager for the 1943 season.
1942 notwithstanding, ultimately the war years will be kind to Washington. Clark Griffith made some good moves to sure up talent that, for various reasons, would not be drafted.
Bold = Player new to Washington in 1942
C Jake Early .204/.281/.280 3 HR -1.8 BFW 7 WS 21 FRAR 1.8 WARP3
Early’s value in 1942 came mostly from his defense. His OPS+ was above 100 in both 1941 and 1943, but he only reached 59 in 1942. The Sporting News called it a “horrible slump.” Still, Early was valuable behind the plate, not only for his game-calling and control of the bases, but also because he had a reputation for doing running commentary from behind the plate, distracting opposing hitters.
1B Mickey Vernon .271/.337/.388 9 HR -1.8 BFW 20 WS -4 FRAR 3.5 WARP3
Several times during the season, Vernon’s name was listed alongside Jake Early’s in the “horrible slump” category. Clearly, Vernon’s slumping was nowhere near as bad as Early’s, but it illustrates the expectation that surrounded the 24-year-old.
2B Ellis Clary .275/.394/.313 0 HR -0.7 BFW 9 WS 8 FRAR 2.7 WARP3
With second base up in the air after the trade of Jimmy Bloodworth, the Nats spent the better part of the first two month of the season looking for an answer. Clary debuted in early June and held the job down until he was traded to St. Louis in August of 1943.
SS John Sullivan .235/.285/.286 0 HR -2.3 BFW 5 WS 11 FRAR 0.8 WARP3
Sullivan was only 21, but likely got his shot at baseball due to the war. Sullivan was offered a scholarship to play football at the University of Wisconsin, but turned it down to play baseball. Sullivan’s numbers in his rookie season were not that far from what he would produce over his six year career.
3B Bobby Estalella .277/.400/.413 8 HR 1.9 BFW 20 WS 5 FRAR 5.6 WARP3
A year after letting Estalella go, Griffith traded George Archie the the St. Louis Browns to get him back. The native Cuban was the most experienced part of the Washington infield that did no favors for its pitchers in 1942.
LF George Case .320/.377/.407 5 HR 1.3 BFW 22 WS -9 FRAR 4.3 WARP3
This was the first season that Case was a threat with his bat as well as on the base paths. He had career highs in most offensive categories, and it wasn’t even very close. After never having broken 100 in OPS+, Case had 121 in 1942. Case continued to lead the league in stolen bases with 44. He was only caught stealing six times the entire season.
CF Stan Spence .323/.384/.432 4 HR 1.5 BFW 29 WS -15 FRAR 4.7 WARP3
Spence came from the Red Sox in a trade that sent Ken Chase and seldom used outfielder Johnny Welaj to Boston. Spence was probably the team’s MVP in 1942, despite his ugly FRAR number in center field. He is a guy who had a great reputation as a defender, though he probably earned that in subsequent years. Spence will put up similar numbers for the Nats through the 1940’s.
RF Bruce Campbell .278/.344/.389 5 HR -0.4 BFW 11 WS -3 FRAR 1.7 WARP3
By the time Campbell came to Washington, the 32-year-old had 12 major league seasons under his belt with four different American League teams. His longevity was surprising being that he battled spinal meningitis when his career was still relatively young in 1935. Campbell will retire after the 1942 season.
SP Sid Hudson 10-17 4.36 ERA 1.40 WHIP -1.7 PW 7 WS 1.7 WARP3
1942 may have been the worst pitching year in franchise history up to that point. Sid Hudson made the All Star team, but had his worst season of his young career. This was Hudson’s last season before military service. He will return to the team in 1946 at the age of 31.
SP Bobo Newsom 11-17 4.93 ERA 1.54 WHIP -3.5 PW 4 WS 1.7 WARP3
Griffith purchased Newsom in the spring of 1942 in hopes that the veteran would sure up the Washington rotation. That did not come to fruition, however, and Newsom was sold to Brooklyn before the season was over, ending his second stint with Washington. His third will begin in August of 1943, when he was acquired in a late-season trade, only to be dealt away in the offseason.
SP Early Wynn 10-16 5.12 ERA 1.68 WHIP -3.5 PW 3 WS 1.2 WARP3
Early Wynn showed up to a tryout camp at the age of 17 and signed a contract to play with the Nats that very day. Four years later, he was a regular in the starting rotation. Wynn took his lumps with the rest of the staff in his rookie season, but went on to have a Hall of Fame career.
SP Walt Masterson 5-9 3.34 ERA 1.35 WHIP -0.1 PW 5 WS 2.5 WARP3
Masterson is one of the few pitchers that improved on his performance from a year ago, but he only appeared in 25 games, starting in 15 of them.
RP Bill Zuber 9-9 3.84 ERA 1.56 WHIP -0.5 PW 5 WS 3.2 WARP3
The side arming reliever was traded to the Yankees in the offseason. Zuber will have some solid seasons in his New York, but his career will be over around the same time the war was.
RP Alex Carrasquel 7-7 3.43 ERA 1.41 WHIP 0.2 PW 7 WS 4.0 WARP3
The 29-year-old was the only Washington pitcher with a positive number in pitching wins for the 1942 season.
RP Bill Trotter 3-1 5.75 ERA 1.62 WHIP -0.8 PW 0 WS 0.1 WARP3
Trotter, a long-time reliever with the St. Louis Browns, came to Washington in a trade on June 1. The 34-year-old did not play in 1943, but was back in St. Louis for the 1944 season, this time with the Cardinals. He pitched in two games before hanging up the spikes for good.
RP Ray Scarborough 2-1 4.12 ERA 1.58 WHIP -0.1 PW 2 WS 1.1 WARP3
The 24-year-old rookie did not make a huge impact in 1942, but the key for Scarborough was his potential. He was considered a top pitching prospect and would show that it wasn’t just a label after the war.
1942 World Series
A group of young Cardinals put together by Branch Rickey ran away with the NL Pennant late in the season and defeated the mighty Yankees rather handily in the World Series, four games to one.