This is the 20th edition of MLB Monday as we reach the 1930 season for professional baseball in the United States of America. We’ve been at this for almost five months now, and we show no signs of slowing down! Neither league voted for an MVP this year for whatever reason, so we’re on our own—like we always are for the Cy Young, anyway.
1930 American League MVP: Joe Cronin
The Philadelphia Athletics again won the pennant, but this time they were only 8 games ahead of … the Washington Senators. Even farther back, at 16 games behind, were the New York Yankees. The Cleveland Indians finished 5 games behind the Yankees, and no other AL team played above-.500 ball for the year.
This presents us with a dilemma as the two top WAR producers were Yankees right fielder Babe Ruth (10.3) and his teammate, first baseman Lou Gehrig (9.6). We have a hard time arguing that a third-place team that finished 16 games out was a “contender”—giving this dynamic duo little value in our analysis, despite their awesome numbers.
Our three best MVP candidates, therefore, are Washington shortstop Joe Cronin (8.5), Philadelphia left fielder Al Simmons (7.8), and A’s first baseman Jimmie Foxx (7.0). In reality, the A’s probably would have won the pennant still if either Simmons or Foxx hadn’t been as productive, again reducing their value.
No one else in the AL even finished above 6.5 WAR for the year, and this makes it easy for us to award the MVP to Cronin, who led the majors in dWAR (2.7) while also posting the following numbers at the plate: .346 average, 203 hits, 41 doubles, 126 RBI, 72 walks, 17 steals, .934 OPS, and 301 total bases. That’s a well-rounded season worthy of an MVP.
1930 National League MVP: Bill Terry
The St. Louis Cardinals eked out a pennant by just 2 games over the Chicago Cubs; just five games over the New York Giants; just 6 games over the Brooklyn Robins; and a solid 12 games over the Pittsburgh Pirates. With four teams finishing within shouting distance of each other, it was a very competitive season.
However, only three position players posted 6.5 WAR or above: Giants first baseman Bill Terry (7.8), Brooklyn right fielder Babe Herman (6.9), and N.Y. third baseman Freddie Lindstrom (6.5). Normally, we’d be inclined to dismiss the teammates as feeding off each other, but we have a unique situation here.
Terry won the NL batting title with a .401 average, which is historic. He also hammered out 254 hits, which remains to this day the National League record. Terry was also a positive defender (0.6 dWAR), so there are no issues there.
He didn’t lead the league in any other categories, but Terry compiled 77 extra-base hits, 392 total bases, and 129 RBI while striking out just 33 times. The historic nature of his season overall, his positive presence on defense, and the fact he topped the circuit in WAR is enough for us to give this award with confidence.
1930 AL Cy Young: Lefty Grove
This is a closed-and-shut case, since A’s ace Lefty Grove (10.3) led the AL in pitching WAR by almost two full wins over Cleveland starter Wes Farrell (8.4). But the statistical anomalies of this season for the Hall of Famer are quite incredible.
Grove led the AL in wins (28), ERA (2.54), appearances (50), saves (9), strikeouts (209), and WHIP (1.144). Yes, you read that correctly: He led the league in wins and saves. We know the world was different then, but how is that even possible?! If ever a pitcher deserved some MVP consideration, this might have been it.
This is the fourth Cy Young for Grove in our analyses, including the third in a row. For his career, he topped the AL in ERA nine times: This was the second year of a four-year run at the top of the league in that category—and the first of his two pitching Triple Crowns.
1930 NL Cy Young: Dazzy Vance
This is another straightforward award decision. Robins stud Dazzy Vance (7.3) finished more than 2 WAR better than the next-best NL pitcher, Philadelphia Phillies workhorse Phil Collins (5.2). That makes it easy to give Vance his third Cy Young Award.
His numbers: At age 39 (!), he topped the NL in ERA (2.61), shutouts (4), and WHIP (1.144) while posting 17 victories in 31 starts for a team that finished just 6 games out of first place. Even though he pitched until age 44, this was Vance’s last truly dominant season.