Sunday, January 15, 2012

Questionable Baseball MVPs; 1940-1949

1947 NL Bob Elliott over everyone else

Elliot (6.2 bWAR), also known as Mr. Team, had a nice season for the third place Boston Braves, but he didn't lead the league in anything and wasn't even the most valuable player on his own team; Warren Spahn, who finished fifteenth, compiled a league best 8.3 bWAR (remember that Justin Verlander had 8.5 last year) and paced the National League in ERA, shutouts, innings pitched, ERA+ and WHIP.  Johnny Mize (third place and 7.3 bWAR) and Ralph Kiner (7.9 bWAR) both put up monster numbers and were much more deserving than Elliott.  The Big Cat piled up the most runs, longballs, and ribbies in the Show for the fourth place New York Giants.  Kiner (think Alex Rodriguez when he was playing for the Rangers) missed out on the top five because the Pirates were so bad, even though he topped the league in homers, slugging, OPS, OPS+, and total bases.  Their numbers are almost identical, so Mize gets the nod because he played for a better team in a much bigger market.

1947 AL Joe DiMaggio over Ted Williams

The great Yankee centerfielder beat out Teddy Ballgame in a photo finish, edging "The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived" by just one point in the voting because one writer left Williams off his ballot altogether.  The Yankee Clipper (5.6 bWAR) actually had what was for him a subpar year; he didn't lead the league in anything, his 20 home runs were a career low, he failed to eclipse 100 runs/RBI and his .315/.391/.522 line fell significantly short of his career averages, yet he still managed to walk away with his third MVP award. The Splendid Splinter (10.3 bWAR) dominated his rival in every category and won his second Triple Crown, but the Yankees ran away with the pennant while his Red Sox slipped to third place after their starting rotation imploded.  It didn't help that Williams frequently clashed with the press and got on their bad side, whereas DiMaggio kept his mouth shut off the field and avoided controversy.  Another plus for Dimaggio was that he had the polished reputation as a consummate teammate and professional, whereas many perceived Williams to be selfish and too concerned with his own statistics.

1945 NL Phil Cavarretta over Tommy Holmes

Cavarretta (6.6 bWAR) led the majors with his .355 average and .449 OBP and helped get the Cubs to their most recent World Series appearance, but he was hardly a one man show as four of his teammates also finished in the top eleven.  In addition, his six home runs, .500 slugging percentage and .145 ISO are nothing special for a first baseman/outfielder.  Holmes (8.6 bWAR) toiled for the sixth place Boston Braves, but he got fat off the diluted talent pool due to the war and put up the best numbers of his otherwise unspectacular career.  His statistics indicate that he was obviously the best hitter in baseball that year; Holmes ranked first in the majors in hits, doubles, home runs, slugging, OPS, OPS+, and total bases.  He nearly beat out Cavarretta for the batting title, too, but his .352 mark fell just short.

1944 NL Marty Marion over everyone else

One of the worst choices in history because nothing about Marion's season was MVP worthy. Not his four bWAR, miniscule power numbers, nor his .267/.324/.362 line. Not surprisingly, he defeated runner-up Bill Nicholson (league leading 116 runs, 33 taters, 122 RBI and 317 total bases) of the Chicago Cubs by just a single point.  This award belonged to teammate Stan Musial (9.1 bWAR and a fourth place finish), who led the league in hits, doubles, OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+. Stan the Man had just won the trophy the year before, so voters were probably a little reluctant to give him another one.

1944 AL Hal Newhouser over Dizzy Trout

A close race between the pair of Detroit aces came down to the wire, and Newhouser (7.4 bWAR) won out because of his better record (29-9 compared to Trout's 27-14) and better strikeout totals.  Upon closer examination, it becomes quite clear that Trout (9.7 bWAR) was actually more valuable.  Not only was he a capable hitter (his five home runs bring Carlos Zambrano to mind) but he also held a slight edge in ERA and WHIP while tossing 40 more innings.  You can't go wrong with either one here, but Trout is a better choice than Newhouser.

1942 AL Joe Gordon over Ted Williams

The slugging second baseman had a marvelous year with 8.4 bWAR for the pennant winning Yankees, but Williams racked up eleven bWAR in Beantown.  Gordon had the advantage of playing a premium defensive position up the middle, but Teddy Ballgame won the Triple Crown in an encore of his .400 season, helped the Sox win 93 games and outperformed Flash in every way imaginable, but the voters snubbed him anyways and he would have to settle for another second place finish.  You could even make the case that Gordon wasn't the most valuable player in the Bronx, as Joe DiMaggio and Charlie Keller were just as vital to New York's success. 

1941 AL Joe DiMaggio over Ted Williams

America's last summer before the nation entered World War II was dominated by a pair of special baseball achievements.  DiMag's 56 game hitting streak captivated the nation, and Williams (11.3 bWAR) batted .406 after famously going six-for-eight in a doubleheader on the season's final day.  Interestingly enough, while DiMaggio (9.4 bWAR) crafted his 56-gamer Williams actually outperformed him over the same two month stretch.  And while the hitting streak was an incredible achievement, in and of itself it isn't exceptionally valuable.  I just don't see how the voters could have denied Williams and his scorching .406/.553/.735 line the award.  To make a more modern comparison, Joltin' Joe(9.4 bWAR) put up Albert Pujols numbers, but The Kid topped him with Barry Bonds circa 2004 statistics.  The Yankee Clipper had a slight edge in RBI because he was surrounded by better hitters such as Joe Gordon, Charlie Keller, Tommy Henrich, and Phil Rizzuto, who all received MVP consideration, but Williams outperformed him in everything else.  Many argued that DiMaggio was the superior all-around player, and while there is no denying that Williams did more than enough with the lumber to compensate for his deficiencies with the leather.  Joltin' Joe was worthy, but Williams was even better.

1940 NL Frank McCormick over Johnny Mize

McCormick's Reds won 100 games this year, but he had plenty of help in Cincy as four of his teammates also finished in the top ten.  McCormick (six bWAR) led the Senior Circuit with 191 hits and 44 doubles, but his 19 dingers and .482 slugging percentaged are unimpressive for a first baseman.  According to bWAR the reigning MVP Bucky Walters (6.8 bWAR) was more valuable to the Redlegs for delivering another Cy Young caliber season that resulted in league leading figures in wins, ERA, complete games, innings, ERA+, WHIP, and fewest H/9.  But that is neither here nor there, because the Cardinals' Johnny Mize (seven bWAR) wielded the NL's most potent bat; he led the Senior Circuit in home runs, RBI, slugging, OPS, OPS+, and total bases.  The Big Cat outperformed "Buck" across the board and was clearly the more dominant player.  He should have walked away with the trophy but got jobbed because St. Louis finished in third place with 84 victories.



    Here's an article that is right up your alley. I mean, seriously? Joe Gordon?

  2. Definitely one of the more indefensible MVP selections in history. I think his selection to the Hall of Fame is questionable as well.