1958 Washington Senators
Manager: Cookie Lavagetto 2nd Season (2nd with Washington 112-176-2)
61 W 93 L 2 T 553 RS 747 RA 8th AL 31.0 GB (New York 92-62-1)
3.54 RPG (AL = 4.17) 4.53 ERA (AL = 3.77)
.980 DER (4th AL)
All Stars (1) Rocky Bridges
Franchise (1901-1958) 4078-4692-104; 8-11 WS
For the fourth year in a row the Washington Senators had more the 90 losses. If it hadn’t been for the dismal Kansas City A’s season in 1956, Washington would also be celebrating its fourth consecutive last place finish. The poor play wasn’t lost on the fans of DC either. The team once again finished last in AL attendance with totals that hadn’t been as low since the Great Depression.
Once again, Calvin Griffith tried to feel out the other owners to gauge their approval of a potential move to Minnesota. After being rejected at the All Star meetings, Griffith went on record once again vowing that the Senators would remain in Washington. Griffith’s announcement did not stop the Twin Cities overtures, nor did it stop Griffith from negotiating. Though the two sides continued to be in contact, Griffith continued to publicly push for a new stadium in the DC area. When he announced towards the end of the season that he would not seek permission from the AL owners to move, the Minneapolis officials fired back with a terse statement that basically read “We’re through with Griffith” (paraphrased by Shirley Povich).
Bold = Player new to Washington in 1958
C Clint Courtney .251/.332/.344 8 HR -0.5 BFW 13 WS 16 FRAR 2.9 WARP3
The bespectacled Clint Courtney caught the vast majority of Washington’s innings after spending a couple of seasons as a platoon player. He’ll share time again in 1959 before an off season trade will land him in Baltimore for the 1960 season.
1B Norm Zauchin .228/.310/.416 15 HR -0.4 BFW 8 WS 11 FRAR 2.6 WARP3
Zauchin showed a lt of power in his rookie season in Boston, including a 10-RBI game against the Nats, but the Red Sox soured on the first baseman after a couple of lackluster seasons. He came to Washington with Albie Peterson in exchange for Pete Runnels, who he replaced at first base. Zauchin had his best season since the rookie year of 1955, but will be out of baseball before the 1959 season ends.
2B Ken Aspromonte .225/.296/.328 5 HR -1.1 BFW 4 WS 7 FRAR 0.8 WARP3
After leading the PCL in batting in 1957, Aspromonte came to Washington in a May trade with Boston. This will be his only season as a regular for the Senators, though he will go on to have success with other teams.
SS Rocky Bridges .263/.315/.355 5 HR 1.3 BFW 11 WS 36 FRAR 4.6 WARP3
Bridges’ second season with Washington was the best offensive season of his career, but it was still well short of impressive. He’ll land in Detroit for the 1959 season, and will bounce around a few more times before calling it a career after a season with the expansion Los Angeles Angels in 1961.
3B Eddie Yost .224/.361/.343 8 HR -1.1 BFW 11 WS 0 FRAR 1.9 WARP3
Though a strong fan favorite in Washington, the “Walking Man” had been the subject of many trade rumors over the past several years. The rumors finally came to fruition when Yost was traded to Detroit in December of 1958. The 31-year-old had spent 14 seasons with the Nats, playing as a regular for 12 years. He left Washington with 1,274 career walks, by far the most in franchise history at the time (currently second on the list to Harmon Killebrew’s 1,505). Yost left holding the top six single-season walk total in franchise history, and maintains six out of the top ten (Killebrew has the other four), including the franchise record for walks in 1956 with 151). He currently sits fourth in franchise history for times on base with 2,871, behind only Rice (3,623), Killebrew (3,576), and Judge (3,285); all of whom had 1500+ more plate appearances than did Yost. His career line with Washington: .253/.389/.368 108 OPS+ 101 HR 53.6 WARP3.
Yost’s career wasn’t over with his time in Washington, however, and it can be argued that 1959 was the best season of his career. He enjoyed the smaller park at Detroit, and put up career power numbers in both 1959 and 1960. He was drafted by the Angels in the 1961 expansion draft, and finished his playing career as a part-time player in 1961 and 1962. In 1962, he was briefly a player-coach for the Angels, and continued as a coach after he retired as an active player following that season. Yost was back in Washington as a third base coach in 1963, and actually spent some time as the new Senator’s interim manager. Yost remained in baseball as a coach until 1984.
LF Roy Sievers .295/.357/.544 39 HR 2.5 BFW 26 WS 1 FRAR 6.3 WARP3
For the first time since 1954, Sievers did not establish a new franchise mark for home runs in a season. Still, 1958 was a very good year for Sievers, who by now was considered one of the better players in the league. He missed a lot of time early with a pulled muscle in his leg, but was fully recovered by June.
On April 24, Sievers and rookie Albie Pearson made history by being par of the first trans-pacific television interview. With cameras rolling in both Tokyo and Washington DC, the duo answered questions from a couple of Japanese sports personalities for 30 minutes by phone. The tape from Washington was then shipped to Tokyo and edited together to present the session to Japanese viewers in its entirety.
Sievers added an on the field milestone on June 2. His 128th home run in a Washington uniform established a new lifetime home run mark for the franchise, passing Goose Goslin.
CF Albie Pearson .275/.354/.358 3 HR -1.0 BFW 15 WS 8 FRAR 3.2 WARP3
Rookie Albie Pearson came to Washington as part of the Pete Runnels trade. At 5’5″ 140 lbs, Pearson was easily the smallest player in the majors. That didn’t stop him from having an impressive rookie season and taking home the AL Rookie of the Year award at season’s end. A rough start in 1959 meant a trade to Baltimore for Pearson. He continued to struggle until he was taken by the Angels in the expansion draft of 1961. Around that time, Pearson learned to use his size to draw walks, and was able to raise his OBP by almost 100 points. He remained with the Angels until he retired after the 1966 season due to recurring back spasms.
RF Jim Lemon .246/.314/.467 26 HR -0.1 BFW 15 WS 16 FRAR 4.6 WARP3
After the 1956 season, Lemon made some adjustments in his swing in an effort to curb his then major league record strikeout total. He was able to cut back on the K’s, but not without sacrificing power. After hitting only 17 home runs in 1957, manager Cookie Lavegetto suggested that Lemon go back to his old, free swinging ways. He did just that and turned in a 26 home run and 120 strikeout season. Filed under the mixed message department, in August Calvin Griffith criticized Lemon publicly, saying that Lemon has not been the answer in right field “despite the long ball he has been giving us. He has been giving us too many strikeouts as well.”
UT Herb Plews .258/.291/.337 2 HR -1.8 BFW 6 WS 2 FRAR 0.0 WARP3
In Plews’ last full major league season he served as a back up to both second and third base. He was traded to Boston in June of 1959 and was out of the major leagues after appearing in 13 games for the Red Sox.
SP Pedro Ramos 14-18 4.23 ERA 1.37 WHIP -1.4 PW 13 WS 5.6 WARP3
While leading the league in losses, Ramos also had a role in the AL batting title. On the final day of the season a pair of Red Sox were in position to win the title. Ted Williams led teammate Pete Runnels by three points. Ramos shut down the former Nat, but gave up two hits to Williams who won the title by six points.
SP Camilo Pascual 8-12 3.15 ERA 1.27 WHIP 1.4 PW 13 WS 6.3 WARP3
Though not reflected in his record, Pascual seemed to turn a corner in 1958. He improved his ERA by almost a full run over his 1957 numbers, and was fifth in AL strikeouts after having a down season in that category. Pascual talent was on display for all in a loss that came on June 5 against Kansas City. Pascual held the A’s scoreless for 12 innings that afternoon, finally losing the game 2-0 when Woodie Held connected with a two-run homer in the top of the 13th. Pascual went the distance, however, and struck out 10 A’s against only one walk. It was one of four double-digit strikeout performances for Pascual during the 1958 season, something that would become even more common later in his career.
SP Russ Kemmerer 6-15 4.61 ERA 1.37 WHIP -1.8 PW 6 WS 3.0 WARP3
SP Hal Griggs 3-11 5.52 ERA 1.55 WHIP -2.6 PW 0 WS 0.4 WARP3
The bottom of the Washington rotation in 1958 illustrates what happens when a pitcher allows a lot of runs for a team that doesn’t score many. Both will get another shot in 1959, but neither will be around when the team moves west.
SP/RP Vito Valentinetti 4-6 5.08 ERA 1.62 WHIP -0.8 PW 3 WS 1.9 WARP3
Valentinetti came via trade in late June and gave Washington some flexibility as both a starter and a reliever. His best game came as a starter late in the season. Valentinetti held to powerful Red Sox to just two runs on three hits in eight innings pitched on September 20. Despite his best effort with the bat, Valentinetti had two of the four Nat hits, Washington lost the game 2-0.
SP/RP Chuck Stobbs 2-6 6.04 ERA 1.82 WHIP -2.0 PW 0 WS -0.6 WARP3
After a very poor start with Washington, the lefty was claimed off of waivers by the Cardinals early in July. Though he pitched fairly well in limited action in St. Louis, Stobbs was released at the end of the season and will be back on the Washington roster for opening day 1959.
RP Dick Hyde 10-3 1.75 ERA 1.14 WHIP 3.4 PW 19 WS 7.1 WARP3
For one season Dick Hyde was the best reliever in the game. His 1.75 ERA was the lowest for a Nat since Walter Johnson’s 1.49 in 1919. His 10 wins combined with 18 saves meant that Hyde was in part responsible for almost half of the team’s victory total. Unfortunately for the submariner, back problems that surfaced in part as early as 1957 will contribute to a very swift decline.
RP Tex Clevenger 9-9 4.35 ERA 1.36 WHIP -1.0 PW 7 WS 3.7 WARP3
Clevenger led the AL in games pitched with 55.
RP John Romonosky 2-4 6.51 ERA 1.45 WHIP -1.3 PW 1 WS 0.2 WARP3
Romonosky served as a long reliever for Washington, but control problems will make for a very short career.
1958 World Series
The Yankees got some revenge on Milwaukee for beating them in the 1957 World Series by turning the tables and winning the 1958 Fall Classic in seven games. Hank Bauer had four home runs for New York, including one in each of the first three games.