We have some editorial info to share today on MLB Monday, as we point out that the World Series MVP Award was first voted upon in 1955. Previously, we suggested we’d add this to our weekly awards lineup, but we’ve decided to do a postseason awards analysis series for the NBA and the NFL—so we will do the same for MLB. Also, starting next week with the 1956 season, Cy Young awards were finally voted upon, too, so that will be an added dynamic next week with original winners, etc.
In the meantime, enjoy this week’s analysis of the year when the Brooklyn Dodgers finally won the title …
1955 AL MVP: Yogi Berra (original), Mickey Mantle (revised)
We really don’t know what the voters were thinking when they gave New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra another MVP Award. Berra finished fourth on his own team (4.5) among position players in WAR. We understand the intangibles of leadership, but when centerfielder Mickey Mantle almost doubled up Berra in WAR to lead all MLB players (9.5), it’s pretty inexcusable. Leadership isn’t worth 5 WAR, folks.
Detroit Tigers right fielder Al Kaline (8.3) and Boston Red Sox left fielder Ted Williams (6.9) were the next-best players in the league, so with the Yankees winning the pennant by 3 games over Cleveland, 5 games over Chicago, 12 games over Boston, and 17 games over Detroit, this is an easy call for revision.
The Mick’s stats during his age-23 season: AL-best marks in triples (11), home runs (37), walks (113), on-base percentage (.431), slugging percentage (.611), and OPS (1.042)—not to mention 99 RBI and a .306 average to go along with 1.1 dWAR in center. And yet somehow, the voters put him fifth on their ballots for MVP, and that’s just shameful.
We’d also like to note that Berra has lost all three of his voted MVPs in our estimation; that’s no knock against Yogi, who was a great player, but he was clearly a media darling, and it paid off, sadly, at the expense of some legendary players like Williams and Mantle.
1955 NL MVP: Roy Campanella (original), Duke Snider (revised)
We have a similar situation on the NL side, where Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella won the MVP vote, despite finishing a distant second on his own team in position-player WAR. Center fielder Duke Snider, to who we gave Campanella’s 1953 MVP Award, one again topped Brooklyn with 8.6 WAR while Campy posted just 5.2 WAR. The Dodgers won the pennant by 13.5 games, so it’s easy to give Snider another deserved MVP nod even though New York Giants centerfielder Willie Mays (9.1 WAR) had a better season.
The Giants finished 17.5 games out, so Snider’s season was certainly good enough in comparison to warrant the honors here. For the record, the Duke led the NL in runs (126) and RBI (136) while hitting .309 with 42 HRs. His 1.046 OPS was stellar, of course, and Snider also netted 0.4 dWAR patrolling center. That’s a great season for a team that ran away with the pennant.
We have note this year’s oddness of stripping two Hall of Fame catchers of all three of their respective MVP awards: The reality is both Berra and Campanella were vastly overrated at the time. We hope these analyses really help start righting some very old wrongs.
1955 AL Cy Young: Billy Pierce
This award comes down to our last two winners: Chicago’s Billy Pierce (7.0 WAR) from 1953 and Cleveland’s Early Wynn (6.1) from 1954. The latter’s team had a two-game edge in the standings, so we have to drill down to their individual stats to do a proper analysis here:
- Pierce: 15-10, 1.97 ERA, 157 strikeouts, 1.099 WHIP, 205 2/3 innings
- Wynn: 17-11, 2.82 ERA, 122 strikeouts, 1.248 WHIP, 230 innings
We see Wynn got some extra innings in, but the quality of Pierce’s efforts cannot be overlooked. The ERA, WHIP, and Ks edges are significant, and that makes this easy for us to give the award to Pierce. In era of sluggers, that ERA mark is quite impressive as reflected by his ERA+ mark (200).
1955 NL Cy Young: Robin Roberts
This analysis is a little more difficult, as the top NL pitchers were Pittsburgh’s Bob Friend (6.0 WAR), Chicago’s Bob Rush (5.5), Cincinnati’s Joe Nuxhall (4.3), Philadelphia’s Robin Roberts (4.3), and New York’s Johnny Antonelli (4.1). The Pirates finished dead last, 38.5 games behind Brooklyn. The Cubs posted a 72-81 record to come in 26 out of first place. The Reds were 75-79 overall, while the Phillies broke even at 77-77 on the year.
We know the Giants were a distant third, but we can’t really dig any deeper for a winner here. Roberts had the best traditional season of the bunch, topping the circuit in wins (23), complete games (26), and innings pitched (305). Nuxhall did lead the NL in shutouts (5), while Friend was the best in ERA (2.83). Antonelli actually had a losing record, which hurt his team in the pennant chase.
In the end, Roberts got his team to .500 almost on his own, with all those innings. His 3.28 ERA wasn’t great, but it meant he gave his team a chance to win every time he took the mound, and his victory total says something for a team that finished even on the year. It’s not a great season, but it’s the best there was in 1955. This is Roberts’ fourth NL Cy Young Award in our estimation, as well.
1955 AL ROTY: Herb Score (original, confirmed)
Cleveland finished second in the AL, thanks to the contributions (5.3 WAR) of rookie pitcher Herb Score, who outdid all other rookies in the league by more than 3 WAR. His raw stats: a 16-10 record, 2.85 ERA, and 245 Ks in 227 1/3 IP. This is one of the easiest awards we’ve ever confirmed, of course. For the record, Boston shortstop Billy Klaus was the next best rookie (2.2 WAR). He posted a .729 OPS and 0.1 dWAR for the Red Sox.
1955 NL ROTY: Bill Virdon (original), Don Bessent (revised)
The St. Louis Cardinals won just 68 games to finish 7th in the NL, but their rookie CF Bill Virdon (1.4 WAR) took home the ROTY Award from the voters. We choose to give the award instead to Dodgers pitcher Don Bessent even though he tossed just 63 1/3 innings. He did make the most of them, however: 8-1, 2.70 ERA, 1.137 WHIP. That’s outstanding long relief from a rookie on a pennant-winning team, and it added up to 1.7 WAR, the best in the league. It also has much more value for a first-place team than Virdon’s mark did.