Welcome to another edition of MLB Mondays: For the second consecutive October, there was a Subway Series between the New York Giants and the New York Yankees, proving early in the century that the rest of the country probably fell asleep listening on the radio. Just kidding.
On with the show!
1937 American League MVP: Charlie Gehringer (original), Joe DiMaggio (revised)
The top 4 players in the league played for either the Yankees or the Detroit Tigers: N.Y. first baseman Lou Gehrig (8.3 WAR); Yankees center fielder Joe DiMaggio (8.3); Detroit second baseman Charlie Gehringer (7.7); and Tigers first baseman Hank Greenberg (7.5). All four guys are in the Hall of Fame, of course.
Coincidentally, these two teams finished 1-2 in the standings, with New York finishing 13 games ahead of Detroit. Since neither Tigers player was better on paper than the Yankees players, this comes down to Gehrig and DiMaggio.
Joltin’ Joe led the AL in runs (151), home runs (46), slugging percentage (.673), and total bases (418) while hitting .346 overall. The Iron Horse topped his peers in walks (127), on-base percentage (.473), and OPS (1.116) while posting a .351 average at the plate.
Hard to separate the two, so what about dWAR? This is what makes the difference: DiMaggio was a positive defender (0.4 dWAR), while Gehrig was starting to slip (-1.2 dWAR)—he would be out of baseball in two seasons, due to the debilitating disease which now bears his name.
Sentiment aside, this award needs to go to DiMaggio, obviously, ending Gehrig’s three-year lock on the award (in our estimation).
1937 National League MVP: Joe Medwick (original, confirmed)
We have a similar situation in the NL, where the top 4 players were either on the St. Louis Cardinals or the Giants: Cards left fielder Joe Medwick (8.5 WAR); Giants right fielder Mel Ott (6.8); St. Louis first baseman Johnny Mize (6.6); and N.Y. shortstop Dick Bartell (6.5). The Cardinals finished 15 games behind the Giants, however.
The issue here is Medwick’s truly historic season: He won the Triple Crown, and then some. Ducky topped the NL in games (156), at-bats (633), runs (111), hits (237), doubles (56), HRs (31), RBI (154), batting average (.374), SLG (.641), OPS (1.056), and TB (406). That’s a dominant ownership of a lot of major hitting categories.
His team did post a winning record, and in fact, the Cards star hit .398 in 22 games against the Giants. So it wasn’t Medwick’s fault that St. Louis couldn’t inch any closer to the top of the standings. We confirm his MVP Award.
1937 AL Cy Young: Lefty Gomez
We have two “Leftys” up for the award this year, as the two best pitchers in the league by far: 1934 Cy Young winner Lefty Gomez (9.2 WAR) of the Yankees and nine-time winner Lefty Grove (9.8) of the Boston Red Sox, a team that finished 21 games behind New York in the standings.
That’s a big gap, but Gomez was clearly almost as good as Grove in terms of value—and much better in traditional categories: In fact, the Yankees hurler won his own Triple Crown this season, leading the AL in wins (21), ERA (2.33), and strikeouts (194), in addition to shutouts (6) and fewest hits allowed per 9 innings pitched (7.5).
Grove’s WAR was built upon lesser stats for a lesser team over 262 workhorse IP, so this is not really a debate at all despite the Red Sox star’s higher WAR.
1937 NL Cy Young: Cliff Melton
It was a down year for pitchers in the senior circuit, as the top hurler posted just 5.5 WAR (Boston Braves rookie Jim Turner). Giants rookie Cliff Melton was the next-best guy at 4.9 WAR. St. Louis fading star Dizzy Dean was third at 4.5 WAR.
None of these guys stands out. The Braves finished fifth, a full 16 games behind the Giants. We know where the Cards finished, so this really basically hands the award to Melton by default.
His season stats are good, though, just for the record: 20 wins, 2.61 ERA, 7 saves, and 142 Ks. His saves total topped the NL, as well. He actually finished 11th in the MVP voting at the time, too, so we are okay with this unexciting choice … sometimes, that’s just the way it is.