Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Questionable Baseball MVPs; 1922-1929

In 1922 the American League created a new award to honor "the baseball player who is of the greatest all-around service to his club". Winners, voted on by a committee of eight baseball writers chaired by James Crusinberry, received a bronze medal and a cash prize. Voters were required to select one player from each team, but player-managers and prior award winners were ineligible. Therefore, Babe Ruth was not on the ballot in 1927, the year he smashed 60 home runs, because he had already won the award in 1923.  The National League award, did not have those restrictions.

So to recap
-There was no award in 1920 and 1921
-The National League didn't select an MVP in 1922 and 1923
-The American League didn't select an MVP in 1929

1928 AL Mickey Cochrane over Heinie Manush

Mickey Cochrane (3.7 bWAR) was a tremendous player and a deserving Hall-of-Famer, and it's great that Mutt Mantle named his son after him, but like Juan Gonzalez he received two MVP awards that belonged to other players.  He didn't lead the league in anything, and there's nothing special about his ten home runs, 57 RBI, 217 total bases, and a 122 OPS+.  His .293 batting average is especially ordinary given the inflated marks of the era, and he was the third most valuable player on his team (a la Justin Morneau after Joe Mauer and Johan Santana in 2006) behind Al Simmons (.351/.496/.558) and Lefty Grove (24-8, 2.58 ERA), but interestingly neither of them appeared on the ballot.  Jimmie Foxx (4.6 bWAR) did and finished elventh, but he missed almost a quarter of the season and put up below average counting numbers for a first baseman.  Looking back, it seems the voters gave "Black Mike" far too much credit for the Athletics' second place finish behind the Bronx Bombers.  Runner-up Heinie Manush (7.5 bWAR), the best eligible candidate that year, enjoyed the finest season of his Hall of Fame career.  He absolutely crushed Cochrane in every category across the board.  The .330 career hitter posted a whopping .378/.414/.575 line to go along with his league leading 241 hits and 47 doubles.  He also stole 16 bases, knocked in and scored more than 100 runs, and hit for much more power than Cochrane.  His Browns finished third, too, so it's not like he played for some second division doormat.

1925 Roger Peckinpaugh over Al Simmons

This one's bad.  Real bad.  Peckinpaugh (2.4 bWAR) was a light-hitting shortstop for the first place Washington Senators, and his 90 OPS+ indicates that he was a liability with the bat in his hands.  His other stats--24 extra base hits, 64 RBI, 67 runs, 160 total bases, .379 slugging percentage--back that up.  He didn't lead the league in anything, missed nearly a month of action and wasn't close to being the MVP of a team that featured Cooperstown bound players like Sam Rice (.350/.388/.442), Goose Goslin (.334/.394/.547), and 20 game winner Walter Johnson, none of whom appeared on the ballot.  Simmons (5.6 bWAR), also known as "Bucketfoot Al," towered over Peckinpaugh with his gaudy.387/.419/.599 line. Although none of his triple slash stats were good enough to rank first in the Junior Circuit, he made up for it by pacing the majors with 654 at-bats, 253 hits, and 392 total bases for the second place Philadelphia A's.  Unfortunately for Simmons, he would never win an MVP, partially because there was no award in 1929 and 1930, two of his best statistical seasons that coincided with his presence on a pair of World Series winning clubs.  He would have been a slam-dunk candidate who might have won back-to-back trophys, but we will never know.

1924 NL Dazzy Vance over Rogers Hornsby

Not a terrible choice, because Vance (8.8 bWAR) had a Justin Verlander kind of season in 1924; he won the major league pitching triple crown for a second place Brooklyn squad, and also ranked first in the bigs in complete games, ERA+, WHIP, K/9, K/BB ratio, and fewest H/9.  There's no question he had an MVP caliber season, but it just wasn't as good as Rogers Hornsby's record setting campaign.  The second baseman set the modern mark for batting average by hitting .424, and his contributions didn't end there.  He piled up thirteen bWAR and led the league in runs, hits, doubles, walks, OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+, and total bases.  His 25 home runs, 94 RBI and .696 slugging percentage were exceptional figures for a keystone player during that era; a modern day equivalent would be if Chase Utley or Dan Uggla suddenly started hitting like Barry Bonds.  That kind of elite production from a premium defensive position is unparalleled.  The only blemish on Rajah's candidacy (besides his shaky glovework) is that his St. Louis Cardinals went 65-89, but Hornsby clearly did his best to pull them out of the cellar.  If writers can make an exception for Andre Dawson and Alex Rodriguez, they should have done the same for an extraordinary season from the greatest righthanded hitter in baseball history.

2 comments:

  1. I like your insight. Peckinpaugh didn't deserve that one bit and Simmons career is forever missing that coveted MVP he so truly deserved.

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  2. Yes and, as a result, I feel that he's always been underrated/underappreciated. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that he fell 73 hits short of 3,000 for his career. With 2,773 after his age 36 season he seemed to be a lock to get there, but he was finished as an effective player after that and just didn't play enough over his final five seasons.

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