Every week there is a new history lesson on MLB Monday, and this week there are two notable items: This was the first year that the Rookie of the Year designation was given to one first-year player in each league, and it is also the first of five seasons in a row that the New York Yankees won the World Series … a record which probably will never be equaled.
Now, onto the good stuff for 1949!
1949 AL MVP: Ted Williams (original, confirmed)
The Yankees won the pennant by one game over the Boston Red Sox, and Boston left fielder Ted Williams (9.1) led all position players in the league by 2.1 WAR. That pretty much cinches the award for him—his fifth in our analysis. Only Babe Ruth (8) and Rogers Hornsby (8) have won more in our minds.
Williams came within one hit of winning a third Triple Crown, hitting .343 with AL-best marks in runs (150), doubles (39), home runs (43), RBI (159), walks (162), on-base percentage (.490), slugging percentage (.650), OPS (1.141), and total bases (368).
1949 NL MVP: Jackie Robinson (original, confirmed)
The Brooklyn Dodgers won the pennant by one game over the St. Louis Cardinals, and Dodgers second baseman Jackie Robinson (9.3) lead the NL in WAR, edging out Cardinals outfielder Stan Musial (9.1). This is as close as it gets for an MVP Award.
Musial topped the league in hits (207), doubles (41), triples (13), OBP (.438), and TB (382), while Robinson outdid his peers in stolen bases (37), batting average (.342), and sacrifice hits (17). However, Stan the Man had a rough glove year (-0.4 dWAR), while Robinson had the second-best defensive season of his career (1.8 dWAR). That makes a huge difference here, too, as we confirm Robinson’s MVP vote win.
By the way, Robinson added 38 doubles, 12 triples, 16 HRs, 124 RBI, and 86 walks, while Musial totaled 36 HRs, 123 RBI, a .338 average, and 107 walks. But sometimes, the glove really matters.
1949 AL Cy Young: Mel Parnell
Boston pitcher Mel Parnell led the AL in pitching WAR (8.0), beating out Detroit Tigers hurler Virgil Trucks (6.9) for the honor. The Tigers finished 9 games behind the Red Sox in the AL standings as well. This makes it easy to give the award to the Boston innings eater.
Yes, he led the AL with 295 1/3 innings pitched, while also topping the circuit in wins (25), ERA (2.77), complete games (27), and fewest HRs allowed per nine IP (0.2). Parnell was not a strikeout king, but when you throw the most innings with the lowest ERA, you’re doing something right.
1949 NL Cy Young: Howie Pollet
Perhaps the most unknown of any two-time Cy Young Award winner in our analyses, Cards pitcher Howie Pollet topped the NL in pitching WAR (6.5). Two things make it easy to give this award to him: No other NL team finished with 15 games of second-place St. Louis, and the Dodgers’ best pitcher—Preacher Roe—posted 5.8 WAR.
Pollet’s numbers: 20-9, 2.77 ERA, and a league-leading five shutouts while tossing 230 2/3 innings. This season wasn’t as good as his Cy Young season in 1946, but it was darn close, all things considered.
1949 AL ROTY: Roy Sievers (original), Mike García (revised)
St. Louis Browns outfielder Roy Sievers won the vote at the time, probably because he hit .306 with 91 RBI. But the Browns finished in seventh place—a whopping 44 games out of first place. Sievers did all his work in a vacuum of irrelevance.
The real ROTY was Cleveland pitcher Mike García, as his club finished in third place, two games ahead of the Tigers. He only pitched 175 2/3 innings—41 appearances, 20 starts—but they were very good innings as the Big Bear led the AL in ERA (2.36) and K:BB ratio (1.57). He posted 8 complete games, 5 shutouts, and 2 saves.
Oh, did we mention the WAR factor? Sievers was third among rookies with 2.2 WAR, while García was the best first-year guy with 4.9 WAR! Yankees infielder Jerry Coleman was second in WAR (2.5), if anyone is asking.
1949 NL ROTY: Don Newcombe (original, confirmed)
The Dodgers had their own stud rookie on the mound in Don Newcombe, who was—by far—the best NL first-year player. He led the NL in shutouts (5), while also posting a 17-8 record with a 3.17 ERA in 244 1/3 IP. Newk also topped the NL in K/9 IP with a 5.5 rate.
His 5.7 WAR was right behind Rowe in the NL hierarchy noted above. We’re still not sure why this vote wasn’t unanimous, other than the fact that Newcombe was African American—and sportswriters at the time could still be racist pricks.