The year of Murderers’ Row has arrived on MLB Mondays: 1927. Many experts have argued for decades that the New York Yankees from this season are the best team in the sport’s history. How will that affect our analyses and evaluations for the MVP and Cy Young awards?
Read on to find out!
1927 American League MVP: Lou Gehrig (original), Babe Ruth (revised)
The Bronx Bombers won the pennant by a whopping 19 games over a very talented Philadelphia Athletics team that would win three straight pennants of their own (1929-1931) soon. The Washington Senators finished six games behind the A’s, while the the Detroit Tigers were the only other AL team over .500 on the year.
That doesn’t make for a lot of legitimate contending teams here. It doesn’t matter, though, because New York first baseman Lou Gehrig and right fielder Babe Ruth finished far above all over AL position players in Wins Above Replacement value (WAR). Both accrued 11.3 WAR on offense, which was 3.7 WAR better than anyone else in the league.
The difference between Gehrig and Ruth—which is like splitting hairs, of course—came on defense, where one player added 1.2 dWAR and the other just 0.5 dWAR. That 0.7 dWAR difference determines our MVP: Ruth, once again.
Here are the two stat lines, for the record, however, with their AL-leading categories:
- Gehrig: 52 doubles, 173 RBI, 447 total bases
- Ruth: 158 runs, 60 home runs, 137 walks, .486 OBP, .772 SLG, 1.258 OPS
Gehrig hit .373 with 47 HRs, while Ruth batted .356 with 165 RBI. It’s hard to imagine having to face those two guys in the lineup, isn’t it?
1927 National League MVP: Paul Waner (original), Rogers Hornsby (revised)
Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder Paul Waner won our NL MVP for 1926, but his 6.9 WAR in 1927 is not going to be enough to warrant a second-straight award … or is it? That mark was 3.3 WAR behind New York Giants second baseman Rogers Hornsby and 2.4 WAR beneath St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Frankie Frisch. Yes, these two second sackers swapped teams from 1926, in a momentarily confusing exchange of superstars.
Which team won the pennant? The Pirates famously did with a 94-win season, finishing 1.5 games ahead of St. Louis and 2 games ahead of New York. That gives all three individual seasons value, and it also leaves us with Hornsby winning this award for the seventh time.
Like we did above, here is a quick glance at each player’s league-leading numbers:
- Hornsby: 133 runs, 86 walks, .448 OBP, 1.035 OPS
- Frisch: 48 steals
- Waner: 237 hits, 18 triples, 131 RBI, .380 average, 342 total bases
Hornsby hit .361, while Frisch batted .337 himself. The latter compiled a stunning 4.4 dWAR in 1927, which is incredible, and that closed the gap on Hornsby in terms of overall WAR, while also relegating Waner to third in this comparison.
For what it’s worth, the MVP vote went Waner, Frisch, Hornsby—just like their teams’ places in the standings. Voters weren’t too intellectually imaginative in 1927. In a race that tight, it’s just too hard to overlook Hornsby’s overall superiority.
1927 AL Cy Young: Wilcy Moore
Where does the Yankees’ dominance on offense and in the standings leave us for the Cy Young discussion? The top five pitchers in the league for WAR were Chicago’s Tommy Thomas (8.3), Chicago’s Ted Lyons (7.3), New York’s Wilcy Moore (6.6), New York’s Waite Hoyt (6.0), and Philadelphia’s Lefty Grove (5.7), our 1926 winner.
The White Sox finished 39.5 games out of first place, and even taking into consideration the Yankees’ historical stature, there is just no value there for Thomas and Lyons, respectively. Thomas posted a 19-16 record while leading the AL in innings pitched (307 2/3), while Lyons led the league in wins (22), complete games (30), and IP as well (307 2/3).
Both guys chewed up a lot of quality innings for a bad team, combining for a 41-30 mark on a team that posted just a 70-83 record. It is just really challenging to overlook the fact it’s a lot easier to pitch well with no pressure on you.
Moore led the AL in ERA (2.28), saves (13), and fewest hits allowed per 9 IP (7.8); those are great numbers, made better by the fact he didn’t have to pitch against his own team, for sure. For the record, Hoyt’s 22 wins tied Lyons for league best, but that was his only AL-topping stat.
Moore gets our nod over Grove, too, as he just led the league in strikeouts (174) only with a higher ERA (3.13) than either Moore or Hoyt (2.63). He was good, of course, but facing the New York lineup seven times damaged his ERA, obviously.
1927 NL Cy Young: Pete Alexander
Four guys in the other league stood above the rest in WAR: Brooklyn’s Dazzy Vance (7.7), Pittsburgh Ray Kremer (7.0), Brooklyn’s Jesse Petty (6.5), and St. Louis’ Pete Alexander (6.2) at age 40. Alexander, of course, won this award five times between 1914 and 1920.
With the Robins finishing 65-88, a crazy-bad 28.5 games out of first place, it’s easy to dismiss Vance and Petty in this conversation. Vance led the league in complete games (25), strikeouts (184), and fewest hits allowed per 9 IP (8.0)—but he did it in the proverbial vacuum. Petty’s 13-18 win-loss record reflects his team’s struggles as well.
So it comes down to Wiz and Old Pete: Obviously, the Pirates edged the Cards for the pennant, but what about the individual performances, emotions aside? Kremer’s 2.47 ERA was the best in the NL, but that was the only category where he led the league.
Alexander, however, topped the circuit in WHIP (1.116) and fewest walks allowed per 9 IP (1.3). His 2.52 ERA was barely behind Kremer’s mark. Alexander also tossed 42 more innings than Kremer did during the 1927 campaign, appearing in two more games than Kremer did, as well.
In the end, those extra innings are huge: When just 1.5 games separate your teams at the end, it’s clear Alexander’s 268 innings meant a lot more to the Cards than Kremer’s 226 innings meant to the Pirates. Old Pete also had four more complete games than Wiz did.
That makes it a record six Cy Young awards now for Grover Cleveland Alexander, the most in our series so far. Incredible!