This is our last World War II year of MLB Monday analysis, and then we will cruise into a very fascinating age of awards investigation, as the Rookie of the Year awards will be added to our column(s) soon.
But in the meantime, enjoy this edition …
1945 American League MVP: Hal Newhouser (original), Snuffy Stirnweiss (revised)
Would you believe the New York Yankees finished fourth in the AL? The Detroit Tigers won the pennant by 1.5 games over the Washington Senators, and the St. Louis Browns finished 6 games out of first place. The Yankees were one half game behind St. Louis, and only the Cleveland Indians also finished above .500 on the year, 11 games behind the Tigers.
Once again, we have to find a position player here as a pitcher won the vote (again). The three best position players were Yankees second baseman Snuffy Stirnweiss (8.8 WAR), Boston Red Sox shortstop Eddie Lake (7.1), Detroit right fielder Roy Cullenbine (5.5), and St. Louis shortstop Vern Stephens (5.5).
Stirnweiss was our revised AL MVP pick for 1944, and with that big of a WAR lead over any position player from another contending team in the AL, it’s easy to give him the award again this year for leading the league in runs (107), hits (195), triples (22), stolen bases (33), batting average (.309), slugging percentage (.476), OPS (.876), and total bases (301).
1945 National League MVP: Phil Cavarretta (original), Stan Hack (revised)
The Chicago Cubs won the NL pennant by 3 games over the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Brooklyn Dodgers finished in third place, 11 games out of first. The Pittsburgh Pirates (16 GB) and the New York Giants (19 GB) were the only other teams to finish with winning records.
The best player in the league was Boston Braves outfielder Tommy Holmes, but his team finished 30 games behind the Cubs despite his 8.3 WAR. Chicago third baseman Stan Hack was next, posting 6.5 WAR, and Cubs first baseman Phil Cavarretta was third (5.9 WAR).
Cavarretta won the vote, despite being a negative defender (-0.5 dWAR), while Hack was a positive defender (1.0 dWAR) at a tougher position. The Cubs corner man also hit .323 and posted an .826 OPS overall (with 99 walks and 12 SBs), proving value in all phases of the game.
Holmes’ had the WAR, but it happened in a vacuum and wasn’t historic overall (no Triple Crown, no records, etc.). Thus, Hack wins this award in the middle of a world war/event for professional baseball.
1945 AL Cy Young: Hal Newhouser
Unlike last year, Detroit ace Hal Newhouser (11.3) definitely deserves this award, posting 4.1 WAR more than the next-best pitcher in the junior circuit (Browns pitcher Nels Potter). Newhouser did win the Triple Crown as well, making this a historic season on many levels.
His league-leading numbers: 25 wins, 1.81 ERA, 29 complete games, 8 shutouts, 313 1/3 innings pitched, and 212 strikeouts. For the record, Newhouser was rejected multiple times for military service due to a leaky heart valve. That’s why he was playing in 1945.
1945 NL Cy Young: Red Barrett
The best NL pitcher, by far, was Pittsburgh’s Preacher Roe (7.3 WAR), and Cardinals hurler Red Barrett was the second best (5.3). Cubs star Claude Passeau (5.0) was the top pitcher on the pennant-winning team. Here are there respective league-leading numbers.
- Roe: 148 Ks (14-13 record, 2.87 ERA, 235 IP)
- Barrett: 23 wins, 24 CGs, 284 2.3 IP (3.00 ERA)
- Passeau: 5 shutouts, 0.2 HRs allowed per 9 IP (17-9, 2.46 ERA, 227 IP)
A reminder here that the Pirates finished 16 games behind the Cubs, and a lot of Roe’s value came from the innings pitched for slightly above-average team. The Cards finished just three games out, making Barrett’s value a bit more than Roe’s value.
The fourth-best pitcher was Chicago’s Hank Wyse (4.9 WAR), meaning Passeau certainly wasn’t alone atop the Cubs pitching staff, although Ken Burkhart (4.6) and Harry Breechen (4.6) also augmented the Cards rotation.
This leaves us with a true dilemma: Which pitcher really carried the most value? We know Roe was the best one, while Barrett topped a stellar staff. And Passeau really wasn’t that much more valuable than Wyse.
In the end, we go with Barrett, because he was the leader of the Cards pitching corps that almost helped the team win the pennant.