For the 1943-1945 seasons in Major League Baseball, a lot of the best players were serving in the military. This means the next few editions of MLB Monday are quite interesting in finding the most valued players in each season.
We may have some unique choices to make in the next three weeks!
1943 American League MVP: Spud Chandler (original), Luke Appling (revised)
The New York Yankees won the pennant by 13.5 games, even during a war year, although five AL teams overall finished above .500 for the season. This means we could have a mess on our hands in finding an MVP winner since the vote went to a pitcher in 1943.
The five best position players in the league were Cleveland shortstop Lou Boudreau (8.1 WAR); Chicago shortstop Luke Appling (7.3); New York left fielder Charlie Keller (6.6); New York second baseman Joe Gordon (6.4); and Detroit first baseman Rudy York (6.0).
Cleveland finished in third place, two games behind Washington. Chicago finished a half game behind Cleveland. Detroit finished 20 games behind the Yankees, in fifth place. But with two N.Y. players on this list—plus the actual winner on the mound (see below)—it’s clear the Yankees could have won the pennant without any one of these three individuals.
We can discard York for finishing fifth individually and also in a team sense, so this award comes down to Boudreau and Appling, really. The Cleveland star did not lead the AL in any offensive categories, while the White Sox veteran won the batting title (.328) and posted the top on-base percentage, too (.419).
Defensively, Boudreau topped the AL in dWAR (3.3), finishing a half win share higher than the next-best position player (Gordon). At age 36, Appling still was a great glove man, too, however, posting 1.6 dWAR himself.
Generally, we find Boudreau’s .776 OPS at the plate to be quite unimpressive, although Appling’s number (.825) is not exactly stellar, either. But winning the batting title shows some elite effort, and the overall balance between Appling’s offense and defense is enough for us to award him this honor.
1943 National League MVP: Stan Musial (original, confirmed)
This is an open-and-shut case as the St. Louis Cardinals won the NL pennant by 18 games over the Cincinnati Reds, and Cards outfielder Stan Musial—at the tender age of 22—topped all position players in the senior circuit by 3.0 WAR. His 9.5 WAR mark also was the best in the majors, overall, as well.
His league-best numbers included 220 hits, 48 doubles, 20 triples. 357 batting average, .425 OBP, .562 slugging percentage, .988 OPS, and 347 total bases. Musial also struck out just 18 times during the year. Let that sink in for a moment, as testimony to his skill set at such a young age.
1943 AL Cy Young: Spud Chandler
Yankees ace Spud Chandler won the AL MVP vote at the time, and he posted the highest pitching WAR in the AL as well (6.4). That makes this award easy to give, of course. At age 35, Chandler had a career year.
He led the AL in wins (20), ERA (1.64 ERA), complete games (20), shutouts (5), and WHIP (0.992). His 253 innings pitched was the second-highest total of his career as was his total of 30 games started.
1943 NL Cy Young: Mort Cooper
St. Louis ace Mort Cooper topped the NL in WAR (5.7) as his team rolled to the pennant. This gives Cooper his second straight Cy Young as he won it for 1942 as well. In this season, he posted a 21-8 record with a 2.30 ERA and a 1.129 WHIP. Cooper also added three saves to his impressive statistical slate.