Welcome back to MLB Monday which now includes Rookie of the Year picks for both the American and National leagues as of last week’s analysis. For the record, our next new “addition” to the column will come in the 1955 edition when we begin analyzing World Series MVP Award winners.
Until then, enjoy our regular mundane features as follows …
1948 AL MVP: Lou Boudreau (original, confirmed)
There was a very close pennant race, which ended up with three teams separated by just 2.5 games: Cleveland (97-58), Boston (96-59), and New York (94-60). The next-best team (Philadelphia) finished 10 games behind the Yankees. Only Detroit also finished above .500 in the AL during the 1948 regular season.
The three best position players in the league were Cleveland shortstop Lou Boudreau (10.3 WAR), Boston left fielder Ted Williams (8.3), and Yankees center fielder Joe DiMaggio (6.9). That makes it easy to confirm Boudreau’s vote win for the MVP. Boudreau did not lead the AL in any offensive categories, although he did hit .355 while driving in 106 runs and drawing 98 walks; he struck out just nine times during the year. His glove work (3.0 dWAR) was the best in the major leagues, too, providing huge value at a key position.
1948 NL MVP: Stan Musial (original, confirmed)
The Boston Braves won the pennant by 6.5 games over St. Louis, 7.5 games over Brooklyn, and 8.5 games over Pittsburgh. The New York Giants, 13.5 games back, were the only other team to finish above .500 on the season. Cardinals outfielder Stan Musial (11.3 WAR) led all players in the NL by 4.7 WAR, so our analysis is brief here as we confirm his MVP vote victory.
At age 27, he hit a career-high .376 to win the batting title, while also topping his peers in the following categories: runs (135), hits (230), doubles (46), triples (18), RBI (131), on-base percentage (.450), slugging percentage (.702), OPS (1.152), and total bases (429). He also hit a mere 39 home runs, another career high. This may have been Musial’s best season ever, and that’s saying a lot.
1948 AL Cy Young: Bob Lemon
Here is the dilemma … Detroit’s Hal Newhouser (6.5 WAR) was the only AL pitcher from a winning team to post a WAR mark over 5.0 this season. The next-best pitcher on an actual “contending” team was Cleveland’s Bob Lemon (4.7 WAR). This means we have to do a direct comparison here:
- Newhouser: 21 wins, 3.01 ERA, 19 complete game, 272 1/3 innings, 143 strikeouts, 1.278 WHIP
- Lemon: 20 wins, 2.82 ERA, 20 CGs, 10 shutouts, 293 2/3 IP, 147 Ks, 1.226 WHIP
It’s clear the Cleveland ace had the better season, and although it wasn’t truly dominant, neither was Newhouser’s season. The Detroit ace was the best thing the Tigers had going for them in a barely above-average season, while Lemon carried a weak staff to the pennant. That’s a statement of value right there.
For the record, Newhouser topped the league in wins, while Lemon topped the AL in complete games, shutouts, inning pitched, and WHIP. That also cements this decision for us.
1948 NL Cy Young: Johnny Sain
This award comes down to two studs: St. Louis’ Harry Breechen (8.7) and Boston’s Johnny Sain (8.5). Remember, the Braves won the pennant by 6.5 games over the Cardinals. The former led the NL in ERA (2.24), shutouts (7), strikeouts (149), and WHIP (1.037), while the latter topped his peers in wins (24), complete games (28), and innings pitched (314 2/3).
Breechen’s season was better on paper in the traditional sense, but Sain’s had more value when we consider the IP edge (Breechen tossed just 233 1/3 innings) and the standings. Maybe with 80 fewer innings from Sain, the Braves don’t win the pennant. The WAR edge for Breechen is not significant enough to overcome that Boston edge in the pennant race.
1948 AL ROTY: Gene Bearden
Cleveland benefitted from rookie Gene Bearden on the mound (20-7, 2.43 ERA) and at the plate (2 HRs, 14 RBI), as he topped all MLB rookies with 5.1 WAR. The next-best AL first-year player was Athletics pitcher Lou Brassie (2.1 WAR). This was an easy award to give to Bearden.
1948 NL ROTY: Alvin Dark (original, confirmed)
The Braves got a big boost from shortstop Alvin Dark (4.4 WAR). He hit .322 at the plate, and his glove (0.9 dWAR) was a positive in the field for the NL champs. While Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Richie Ashburn (4.7 WAR) may have been the better player (.333 average, NL-best 32 stolen bases), his team finished 25.5 games out of first place, diminishing his actual value.