We started in 1911 with the MLB Monday series, and here we are now taking on the 1944 season of professional baseball’s highest level. We have put in many consecutive weeks of analysis here, and we still have so far to go still to catch up to modern-day sport.
Hope you’re enjoying the ride … On with the show!
1944 American League MVP: Hal Newhouser (original), Snuffy Stirnweiss (revised)
The St. Louis Browns won the pennant by one game over the Detroit Tigers, with the New York Yankees finishing six games back of the Browns. No other team in the league finished over .500 this season. That’s pretty incredible, in truth, and it limits our options.
With a pitcher winning the vote at the time, we have to look at the best position players: The only player from a contending team that finished in the Top 10 for WAR in the majors was Yankees second baseman Snuffy Stirnweiss (8.6). In fact, he was the top WAR producer in the AL, outpacing Cleveland Indians shortstop Lou Boudreau (8.1).
We know Boudreau’s club didn’t even finish above .500 on the year, so it’s easy to give this award to Stirnweiss. His glove was stellar (2.5 dWAR), and he also led the league in runs (125), hits (205), triples (16), and stolen bases (55) while hitting .319 at the plate, to boot. In a weird season, he was the MVP, and Stirnweiss did finish fourth in the vote at the time as well.
1944 National League MVP: Marty Marion (original), Stan Musial (revised)
The St. Louis Cardinals won the pennant by 14.5 games over the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the Cincinnati Reds finished 1.5 games behind the Pirates. No other NL team finished above .500 on the season, so we have the same issue here—and a very odd MVP vote at the time.
No offense against Cards shortstop Marty Marion, but he was the third-best position player on his team (4.6 WAR) and had no business winning this award with a .686 OPS. Yes, he led the majors in dWAR (3.6), but MVPs need balance when it is there to be found—and it can be found in 1944.
St. Louis right fielder Stan Musial, our MVP winner last season, led all NL position players in WAR by 2.6 wins, posting 8.9 WAR overall as a positive defender, too (0.9 dWAR). At the plate, Stan the Man led the league in hits (197), doubles (51), on-base percentage (.440), slugging percentage (.549), and OPS (.990) while hitting .347 overall to boot.
Musial was the best player in the NL, and he was the best player on the best team, too. That makes it very simple to revise this award accordingly.
1944 AL Cy Young: Dizzy Trout
So get this: Detroit pitcher Hal Newhouser (7.8) won the MVP vote, even though he was outpaced in WAR by his fellow hurler Dizzy Trout (9.3). How could voters have been so wrong during this season? We blame World War II confusion and resulting haze.
Newhouser did lead the AL in wins (29) and strikeouts (187), but Trout topped the league in ERA (2.12), complete games (33), shutouts (7), and innings pitched (352 1/3). The fact he tossed 40 more innings than Newhouser did, with a superior ERA, really made the difference in terms of WAR—and that means more value to a team that finished second, barely.
1944 NL Cy Young: Mort Cooper
This award field is a mess, due to the limited field of contending teams noted above. Pittsburgh starter Rip Sewell topped the NL in WAR (6.0) without leading the league in a single meaningful category. Pittsburgh’s Fritz Ostermueller was next at 5.5 WAR, also without topping the NL in any meaningful category of note.
The top pitcher from the pennant-dominant Cardinals was Mort Cooper (5.3), our pick here in both 1942 and 1943. Considering St. Louis won the pennant by a country mile, it makes Cooper’s innings much more valuable than either of the Pirates pitchers. And he post the most shutouts in the senior circuit (7), while also winning 22 games with a 2.46 ERA.
This is Cooper’s third straight NL Cy Young Award, something only Christy Mathewson and Pete Alexander have achieved in our analyses.