1946 Washington Nationals
Manager: Ossie Bluege 4th Season (4th with Washington 311-304-3)
76 W 78 L 1 T 608 RS 706 RA 4th AL 28 GB (Boston 104-50-2)
3.92 RPG (AL = 4.06) 3.74 ERA (AL = 3.50)
.691 DER (7th AL)
All Stars (2) Stan Spence, Mickey Vernon
Franchise (1901-1946) 3331-3594-92; 8-11 WS
Though the war was over, all was not back to normal for major league baseball. Jorge Pasquel’s Mexican league benefited from the player surplus that followed World War II. 23 players jumped to the outlaw league, including Washington’s Alex Carrasquel.
Still, most major league teams were enjoying th return of their stars from the war, and Washington was no exception. Among the players that returned to the Nats were Mickey Vernon, Stan Spence, Jerry Priddy, Cecil Travis, and Buddy Lewis – all every-day players. The pitching staff remained remarkably similar to the knuckle ball heavy staff of 1945. Whether 1945 was a mirage created by lineups of replacement players, or the staff just got older, pitching was the weakness of the 1946 team that didn’t reach the .500 mark a year after contending for the AL Pennant.
Bold = Player new to Washington in 1946
C Al Evans .254/.332/.342 2 HR -0.9 BFW 7 WS 2 FRAR 1.6 WARP3
With Rick Ferrell gone for the season, Evans got a lot more playing time behind the plate. He was known as a steady defender, though the numbers don’t necessarily bear that out. Evans shared time behind the plate with Jake Early.
1B Mickey Vernon .353/.403/.508 8 HR 4.3 BFW 33 WS 6 FRAR 9.3 WARP3
Vernon’s last major league action came at the age of 25 in 1943. Now 28, Vernon came back to have his best career season. He led the league in batting (.353) and doubles (51) and was third in OBP (.403) and sixth in slugging (.508). On May 19th, he hit for the cycle in the second game of a double header against the White Sox.
2B Jerry Priddy .254/.332/.364 6 HR 0.7 BFW 17 WS 44 FRAR 8.1 WARP3
Unlike Vernon, Priddy did not have the same success immediately after the war that he had before he enlisted. Still, he was a solid player and great defender at second base. Priddy spent much of the season feuding with manager Ossie Bluege, an argument that will eventually get him traded.
SS/3B Cecil Travis .252/.323/.318 1 HR -2.5 BFW 10 WS 22 FRAR 3.9 WARP3
Cecil Travis was one of those players who was never the same after the war. His last major league season, in 1941, was his best, and it looked that he might be on a Hall of Fame path. Then came the war, more specifically the Battle of the Bulge. After spending the first few years of his service playing baseball in the states, Travis found himself in Europe for one of the most famous battles of the war. Like many other soldiers involved, he contracted a severe case of frostbite on his feet. Surgery was required to save his legs from amputation, but it is not hard to imagine the effects that might have had on his ability to play baseball. Travis still managed respectable numbers, but it was clear that he probably wouldn’t reach the level that he had before the war.
3B/SS Billy Hitchcock .212/.268/.251 0 HR -3.6 BFW 3 WS 14 FRAR 0.4 WARP3
Hitchcock played a season with Detroit in 1942 before heading off to military service where he received a bronze star for his service in the Pacific. After a few games with the Tigers upon his return in 1946, he was purchased by the Nats, who used him at both third base and short stop. He was purchased by the Browns before the 1947 season, and went on to more fame as a major league manager and later President of the Southern Association.
LF Joe Grace .302/.358/.399 2 HR -0.1 BFW 11 WS 5 FRAR 3.1 WARP3
Prior to his four years in the Navy, Grace played for the St. Louis Browns. In June of 1946, the Nats sent Jeff Heath to St. Louis in exchange for Grace and Al LaMacchia, a seldom used relief pitcher.
CF Stan Spence .292/.365/.497 16 HR 3.3 BFW 30 WS 14 FRAR 8.8 WARP3
16 home runs was a lot for a hitter who played his home games at Griffith stadium. Despite missing a year for military service, Spence came back and was among the best hitters in the league. Spence continued to be one of the most difficult players in the league to strikeout, only whiffing 31 times compared to 62 walks in 652 plate appearances.
RF Buddy Lewis .292/.359/.421 7 HR 1.6 BFW 24 WS 15 FRAR 7.4 WARP3
Lewis spent 1942-1944 in the Air Force, where he was credited with flying over 305 missions. After looking unstoppable as a hitter in the last half of 1945, Lewis came back to earth a bit in 1946, but at the age of 29 still looked to have a nice career ahead of him.
UT Sherry Robertson .200/.292/.330 6 HR-1.3 BFW 5 WS 7 FRAR 1.5 WARP3
The Montreal native was one of Clark Griffith’s nephews, and he probably got more chances to play than he should have given his numbers throughout his minor and major league career. He missed 1944 and 1945 after being drafted.
SP Mickey Haefner 14-11 2.85 ERA 1.32 WHIP 1.9 PW 17 WS 6.6 WARP3
Though his team was not in the World Series, Mickey Haefner may have been one of the key players. On October 1 the Red Sox took on a team of AL All Stars in an exhibition to prepare them for the World Series. Haefner hit Red Sox star Ted Williams with a pitch on the right elbow. It may or may not be related, but Williams hit only .200/.333/.200 in the Series. The left-handed knuckler had his best season in 1946, but wouldn’t have another winning season in his career.
SP Dutch Leonard 10-10 3.56 ERA 1.35 WHIP -0.7 PW 7 WS 2.1 WARP3
Though Leonard wasn’t awful in 1946, his declining numbers were enough for Griffith to sell the 37-year-old to the Phillies after the season. Unfortunately for the Nats, Leonard still had some very good years ahead of him. In nine seasons with Washington, Leonard had a record of 118-101, with a 3.27 ERA (116 ERA+) and 46.9 WARP3, making him the most accomplished Washington pitcher since Walter Johnson retired. Leonard will pitch out of the bullpen well into his 40’s and won’t retire until after the 1953 season.
SP Bobo Newsom 11-8 2.78 ERA 1.25 WHIP 1.0 PW 13 WS 4.7 WARP3
On June 4, 1946 Washington signed the 38-year-old Newsom as a free agent. He’ll be purchased by the Yankees in July of 1947. This is Newsom’s fourth stint with Washington for those keeping score at home.
SP Ray Scarborough 7-11 4.05 ERA 1.61 WHIP -1.4 PW 4 WS 1.2 WARP3
Scarborough spent the previous two years in the military, and came back as a 28-year-old prospect who was a little behind schedule developing. After a few years of struggling, however, Scarborough will develop into a solid pitcher.
SP Roger Wolff 5-8 2.58 ERA 1.19 WHIP 0.6 PW 7 WS 2.5 WARP3
Though Wolff’s record doesn’t indicate it, Wolff really didn’t perform all that poorly a year after his 20-win season. His ERA+ only fell 16 points, but the major difference was innings pitched. Where Wolff 250 innings in 1945, he only saw 122 for various reasons in 1946.
SP Early Wynn 8-5 3.11 ERA 1.36 WHIP 1.1 PW 9 WS 3.4 WARP3
Among the highlights of Wynn’s season was a grand slam he hit off of Detroit. Wynn still kind of flew under the radar in Washington, and wouldn’t reach his full potential until he was with Cleveland.
SP/RP Sid Hudson 8-11 3.60 ERA 1.38 WHIP -0.5 PW 7 WS 2.3 WARP3
Hudson worked some out of the bullpen upon his return from military service, but would return to his regular rotation spot in 1947.
RP Marino Pieretti 2-2 5.95 ERA 1.78 WHIP -1.0 PW 0 WS -0.6 WARP3
RP Walt Masterson 5-6 6.01 ERA 1.89 WHIP -3.0 PW 0 WS -1.2 WARP3
RP Bill Kennedy 1-2 6.00 ERA 1.77 WHIP -1.0 PW 0 WS -0.4 WARP3
The 1946 Washington bullpen may have the distinction of being among the worst in baseball history. If not for the fact that starting pitchers often made relief appearances (and that Hudson was used more in relief than as a starter), this may have been the case. The three full-time relievers combined for a -2.2 WARP3, meaning that replacement level pitchers would have been worth two more wins than this crew. While Pieretti and Kennedy don’t have much of a future pitching, Walt Masterson has a long career to look forward to.
1946 World Series
The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Boston Red Sox in seven games in the series in which Johnny Pesky’s famous hesitation on the cut-off throw allowed Enos Slaughter to score the series-clinching run.