Welcome to the newest edition of MLB Monday, where the 1929 season gets our focus this time out. Strangely, there was an MVP Award issued for the National League—but not the American League. So we are on our own there this week (just as we have been with the Cy Young Awards so far), as a new mini-dynasty takes over in the junior circuit.
Here we go …
1929 American League MVP: Al Simmons
The Philadelphia Athletics (104-46) won the AL pennant by a whopping 18 games over the two-time defending World Series champions from New York (88-66), and only Cleveland (81-71) and St. Louis (79-73) also finished above .500 for the year—thus making the determination of a contending team rather … loose.
Five players from the A’s and the Yankees finished between 7.6 and 8.0 WAR in 1929, creating quite the fun exercise: New York right fielder Babe Ruth (8.0), A’s left fielder Al Simmons (7.9), Philadelphia first baseman Jimmie Foxx (7.9), Yankees second baseman Tony Lazzeri (7.7), and N.Y. first baseman Lou Gehrig (7.6).
No other position player in the league finished with more than 5.8 WAR. Two reasons to eliminate the three Bronx Bombers here are the fact the team really did not contend, actually posting a just an 8-14 mark against the A’s, and there are three of them here in the Top 5, meaning each of them had more help than the two Philadelphia stars did.
So, is it Simmons or Foxx? A quick glance at their stats:
- Simmons: Topped league in RBI (157), total bases (373); hit .365 with 1.040 OPS
- Foxx: Topped AL in on-base percentage (.463); hit .354 with 1.088 OPS
This is interesting, since neither player posted overtly showy numbers that stand out from each other. Foxx did lead his peers in strikeouts, but he only whiffed 70 times—that’s no big deal. But get this: Simmons posted 1.6 dWAR, while Foxx registered just 0.5 dWAR. That is quite the interesting disparity.
With a lack of distinguishing features between two guys who contributed equally to the team’s success, we will go with Simmons here for the defensive prowess at an arguably more important position in the field. But it’s really a coin flip, isn’t it? Either way, this is the second MVP for Simmons after he nabbed our 1925 award analysis, too.
1929 National League MVP: Rogers Hornsby (original, confirmed)
The Chicago Cubs (98-54) won the pennant by 10.5 games over the Pittsburgh Pirates, while the New York Giants finished three games behind the Pirates. The St. Louis Cardinals were the only other NL team to finish with a winning record (78-74).
Cubs second baseman Rogers Hornsby—yes, he lasted just one season with the Boston Braves—outpaced everyone in the NL by 3.2 WAR, posting a 10.4 mark while Philadelphia Phillies left fielder Lefty O’Doul and N.Y. right fielder Mel Ott each compiled 7.2 WAR.
O’Doul had a great season—hitting .398 to win the batting title and also leading the NL in hits (254) and OBP (.465)—but obviously Hornsby is going to walk away with his eighth MVP Award in our analysis.
That ties Ruth for our current record, and at age 33, this was the last full season Hornsby played … so this is likely his final trophy. For the record, the Rajah hit .380 and led the senior circuit in runs (156), slugging percentage (.679), OPS (1.139), and total bases (409).
1929 AL Cy Young: Lefty Grove
The best pitchers from our four “contending” teams noted above were Cleveland’s Willis Hudlin (7.5 WAR), Philadelphia’s Lefty Grove (7.3), Philadelphia’s Rube Walberg (6.3), and St. Louis’ Sam Gray (6.2).
It’s pretty easy to isolate Grove, again, as the best pitcher in the league. Hudlin’s WAR edge is not enough to overcome the A’s and their 24-game lead in the standings over Cleveland, while Grove was better than Walberg by a firm margin.
The A’s ace posted 20-6 mark, while leading the AL in ERA (2.81) and strikeouts (170), while Walberg did not lead the league in any positive category, although he did cough up the most home runs (22) in the circuit. This is Grove’s third Cy Young overall, after he won it in 1926 and 1928 as well.
1929 NL Cy Young: Burleigh Grimes
Two of the top three NL pitchers played for the Brooklyn Robins, who finished 28.5 games out of first place with a 70-83 overall record: Watty Clark (6.1 WAR) and Dazzy Vance (5.2). The other guy? Pittsburgh’s Burleigh Grimes (5.3), a former Brooklyn teammate with Vance from 1922 to 1926.
Grimes somehow led the league in ERA+ (154) but not ERA (3.13), and otherwise, his season was rather pedestrian. He finished 17-7 with two saves over 232 2/3 innings, and Grimes finished fourth in the official MVP vote for 1929. That was the most votes of any pitcher, so we are fine with this selection in a year where there were not a lot of great NL pitching performances.
Remember, Grimes won the Cy Young in 1921, too, and the seven years between awards sets a new record, formerly held by Pete Alexander, who won Cy Youngs six years apart (1920 and 1927). That’s an impressive feat.