On MLB Monday, we often have something snappy or poignant to say about our upcoming season, but this is kind of a dull year. Not so much in the awards and winners themselves, but in the fact the New York Yankees turned baseball into a snooze fest by winning their fourth straight World Series. Baseball is no fun when you know who is going to win it all.
That being said, you never know who is going to win these awards, right? Right! On to the analysis …
1952 AL MVP: Bobby Shantz (original), Larry Doby (revised)
Five teams finished over .500 in the pennant chase, but only two of them really had a legit chance to win it—the Yankees (95-59) and the Cleveland Indians (93-61). The other three clubs finished at least 12 games behind the Cleveland, and this should end up limiting our serious MVP candidates for 1952.
Curiously enough, our top 4 position players in the AL come from these two clubs: Cleveland center fielder Larry Doby (7.0 WAR), New York outfielder Mickey Mantle (6.4), Cleveland third baseman Al Rosen (6.0), and New York catcher Yogi Berra (5.8). For the record, Philadelphia Athletics pitcher Bobby Shantz won the MVP vote, as the A’s finished a surprising 79-75 for the year. More on that below.
Remember, Doby won our AL MVP nod in 1950, and we took the MVP away from Berra in 1951. However, with only two games separating the Yankees and the Indians—and all candidates clearly playing on excellent teams with each other—it’s simple and straightforward to award the MVP to Doby again.
Doby’s numbers weren’t amazing, but they were pretty good: He led the AL in runs scored (104), home runs (32), slugging percentage (.541), and OPS+ (163). His .924 OPS was not as good as his AL-best mark in 1950, but it was still good enough. With 0.5 dWAR, as well, Doby was a positive defender at a key position in the field.
Just so everyone knows, Mantle led the AL in OPS by slight percentage points (.924) over Doby, and both players also tied for the league lead in strikeouts (111). Rosen led all his peers in RBI (105), which was one more than Doby posted, and he also topped the circuit in total bases (297). But he was a negative defender (-0.3 dWAR) at the hot corner. Berra didn’t lead the AL in any offensive categories, but his 1.1 dWAR was excellent for a backstop. Any way you look at this, Doby was the MVP, though.
1952 NL MVP: Hank Sauer (original), Jackie Robinson (revised)
The Brooklyn Dodgers recovered from their 1951 collapse to win the NL pennant by 4.5 games over the New York Giants in 1952. No other team finished within 4 games of the Giants, and Chicago Cubs left fielder Hank Sauer somehow won the MVP Award vote playing for the .500 Cubs, who finished 19.5 games behind the Dodgers. We might be seeing pathetic racism from the media here at its worst, in truth.
Why? Because Brooklyn second baseman Jackie Robinson led all MLB players in WAR (8.4), yet somehow he finished seventh in the NL MVP vote despite being the best player on the best team in the league. Finishing with 1.4 dWAR, he was great with the glove, and he also topped the senior circuit in on-base percentage (.440) while posting 19 HRs, 75 RBI, 24 stolen bases, and a career-best 106 walks. Did we mention he also hit .308 at the plate? This is probably one of the worst votes ever in the history of the sport (no offense to Bauer).
Sauer finished with 5.6 WAR as he led the NL in HRs (37) and RBI (121) while hitting just .270 and being an average/even defender in a relatively low-importance position. He had no business winning the MVP Award, as even St. Louis Cardinals great Stan Musial (7.5 WAR) had a significantly better season for a better team than Sauer. This vote makes no sense whatsoever, so we have corrected its terrible wronging of Robinson.
This is the Brooklyn great’s fourth-straight MVP Award, which is a new record—although three pitchers (Walter Johnson, Pete Alexander, and Lefty Grove) each won at least four straight Cy Young Awards in our analyses. In fact, Grove won six straight between 1928-1933.
1952 AL Cy Young: Bobby Shantz
A’s ace Bobby Shantz topped MLB in pitching WAR (8.8), and the next-best AL pitcher was Chicago White Sox hurler Billy Pierce (7.3). The White Sox finished just two games above the A’s in the standings, so it’s prudent to award this Cy Young to Shantz.
His numbers? 24-7 with a 2.48 ERA and 1.048 WHIP. The wins and WHIP led the league, and Shantz also topped his peers with the best walk rate per 9 innings (2.0) in the league. He started a career-high 33 games for Philadelphia and would never be as great again in his lifetime. That’s him on the mound in this column’s photo, throwing to Robinson in the 1952 MLB All-Star Game, by the way.
1952 NL Cy Young: Robin Roberts
Philadelphia Phillies star Robin Roberts, who won our NL Cy in 1950, gets a return nod here for finishing with the best pitching WAR (8.4) in the NL by 1.8 wins over Boston Braves legend Warren Spahn (6.6). While the Phillies were just 9.5 games out of first place, the Braves finished 32 games behind the pennant winners from Brooklyn, emphasizing the value Roberts provided his team in 1952 every time he took the mound.
This was the first of four straight seasons that Roberts led the NL in wins (28), and his 2.59 ERA was pretty stellar, too. He also topped his peers in complete games (30), innings (330), and lowest walk rate (1.2). As a matter of fact, he finished second in the MVP vote behind Sauer.
1952 AL ROTY: Harry Byrd (original, confirmed)
This was a mediocre rookie crop for the AL, and the vote winner—A’s starter Harry Byrd—also gets our nod for having the highest WAR (3.2) for a rookie by a whole win over the next guy. He won 15 games for a fourth-place team, and his 3.31 ERA was quite respectable over 228 1/3 innings pitched. Byrd tossed three shutouts while also saving two games and giving up just 12 HRs all season.
1952 NL ROTY: Joe Black (original, confirmed)
Dodgers pitcher Joe Black posted the highest WAR (4.2) for a first-year player in the NL by 1.5 wins over everyone else. He only threw 142 1/3 innings, but he maximized them with 15 wins, 15 saves, and a 2.15 ERA. The 1.005 WHIP was outstanding, too, for a long reliever (as we might define his role today). He did start twice, but clearly, his arm was a main reason for the Brooklyn pennant, vulture numbers or not.