Fun times ahead for MLB Mondays, as we get to re-evaluate awards originally given in 1924 this time around, and that’s a more-engaging exercise, for sure. This will be consistent for almost every edition/year going forward, so we’ve moved into a new era in MLB history.
This is an interesting year, as both awarded MVPs in 1924 were pitchers, and we slide them to the Cy Young “division” in our analyses, as explained in the first week of the series. Read on, then, to see who we picked for the four annual awards!
1924 American League MVP: Walter Johnson (original), Babe Ruth (revised)
The Washington Senators won the pennant by two games over the New York Yankees, who had won three straight AL titles. The most outstanding offensive player in the league was easily Yankees right fielder Babe Ruth, who outpaced everyone in the AL by 5.2 WAR. That is not a typo. The effort secures his fifth MVP award in our series, in addition to the one Cy Young he earned as well.
Ruth (11.7) posted another insane season, leading his peers in runs (143), home runs (46), walks (142), batting average (.378), on-base percentage (.513), slugging percentage (.739), OPS (1.252), and total bases (391). This was the only batting title of Ruth’s career, by the way, and for the record, Washington left fielder Goose Goslin was next best in WAR (6.5).
Want to know what’s really effed up? Ruth didn’t receive a single MVP vote. Go figure.
1924 National League MVP: Dazzy Vance (original), Rogers Hornsby (revised)
The New York Giants won the pennant again, this time by 1.5 games over the Brooklyn Robins. Giants second baseman Frankie Frisch, our MVP winner from 1923, finished second in WAR (7.4) while tying for the league lead in runs (121). He also finished third in the real MVP vote at the time.
Here is the dilemma: St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Rogers Hornsby led the NL in WAR (12.2), runs (121, tied with Frisch), hits (227), doubles (43), walks (89), batting average (.424), OBP (.507), SLG (.696), OPS (1.203), and total bases (373)—while playing for a team that ended up 28.5 games behind New York in the standings.
Hornsby’s effort got him second place in the MVP vote, but that batting average is still the MLB record, obviously, and his historic season is enough to overpower Frisch’s sabermetric value to a pennant-contending/winning team, really. This is Hornsby’s fifth MVP award in our series, as well.
1924 AL Cy Young: Herb Pennock
Boston Red Sox ace Howard Ehmke led the league in pitching WAR (8.3), despite leading the league in losses (17). The Red Sox finished 25 games behind the Senators, and Ehmke also led the circuit in innings pitched (315). That’s where most of his value comes from on a bad team like Boston in 1924.
The real debate comes down to Yankees star Herb Pennock (8.1 WAR) and Senators legend Walter Johnson (6.8). Strangely, Pennock didn’t lead the AL in a single category, although he was by far the best pitcher New York had—accounting for his WAR prowess. Meanwhile, Johnson led his peers in wins (23), ERA (2.72), shutouts (6), strikeouts (158), WHIP (1.116), and fewest hits allowed per nine innings (7.6).
This is a dilemma, because Pennock and his 2.83 ERA brought true value to a weaker team that needed him more and almost won the pennant, while Johnson had the better season for a better team that won the pennant. At age 36, this was truly the last great year of the Big Train’s career—and there is some sentimental value there.
Pennock was voted fourth in the MVP race, so even at the time, his value was clear. Overall, Johnson had the better season (albeit not a historic one), and Pennock’s season was more valuable. That’s our decision, in the end.
1924 NL Cy Young: Dazzy Vance
This is a no-brainer decision. The Robins just missed out on the pennant, and Brooklyn star Dazzy Vance (10.5) led the NL in WAR by a whopping 5.1-win margin over Boston Braves workhorse Jesse Barnes (5.4), whose value mostly came from eating innings on the worst team in the league: Boston finished 53-100 and 40 games out.
Barnes led the NL in losses (20) and shutouts (4), and you know how they always say you have to be a pretty good pitcher to lose 20 games. But Vance topped the league in wins (28), ERA (2.16), complete games (30), Ks (262), WHIP (1.022), and fewest hits per nine (6.9). He was the much-better pitcher on a true-contending team.