It is a national holiday, but we still plug ahead with MLB Monday and the 1957 professional baseball season in America. The favorite pastime knows no respite from holidays; in fact, we celebrate the sport on many national holidays! So, nothing stops us today from pressing on with the second season where a single Cy Young Award was voted upon for MLB pitchers. It definitely adds another layer of intrigue to our weekly analysis, doesn’t it?
Here we go again with some strikes, some balls, and some wild pitches …
1957 AL MVP: Mickey Mantle (original, confirmed)
The New York Yankees won the AL pennant, again, this time by 8 games over the Chicago White Sox, with the Boston Red Sox 16 games out of first place. Yankees center fielder Mickey Mantle (11.3 WAR) and Red Sox left fielder Ted Williams (9.7)—at age 38, no less—were the two best players in the league, followed by White Sox second baseman Nellie Fox (7.9). It’s hard to deny the Mick’s dominance here, or take away his MVP Award, so we won’t. But we do want to point out some stuff here.
Mantle only led the AL in runs (121) and walks (146), but he hit .365 with 34 home runs and 94 RBI to post a 1.177 OPS for the year. Williams won the batting title by hitting .388 to lead the league in on-base percentage (.526), slugging percentage (.731), and OPS (1.257). The Splendid Splinter also added 38 HRs, 87 RBI, 119 walks, and an AL-high 33 intentional walks. Just two incredible seasons from two legendary players that we wanted acknowledge, as Mantle wins his third straight MVP from us.
1957 NL MVP: Hank Aaron (original, confirmed)
Look at this top-6 list of the top WAR producers in the senior circuit: New York Giants center fielder Willie Mays (8.3 WAR), Milwaukee Braves right fielder Hank Aaron (8.0), Braves third baseman Eddie Mathews (7.4), Cincinnati Reds left fielder Frank Robinson (6.9), Chicago Cubs shortstop Ernie Banks (6.7), and St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Stan Musial (6.1). We would be remiss to not point out that Musial, at age 36, topped the NL in batting average (.351), OBP (.422), OPS (1.034), and IBBs (19). We are surprised he only won four MVPs from us in this space, in truth, but the NL talent in this era was amazing.
That being said, Milwaukee won the pennant by 8 games over St. Louis, with Cincinnati finished 15 games out, and New York having a losing season again. That hurts Mays’ chances to win this award, of course, especially in a season when he also led the league in caught stealing (19). The Cubs finished even worse than the Giants. So what about Aaron and Mathews? They formed a powerful duo, and the team did run away with the pennant. So which was actually more valuable?
Well, Mathews (.292 batting average) didn’t lead the NL in any categories, while Aaron topped the circuit in runs (118), HRs (44), RBI (132), and total bases (369)—while hitting .322 on the year. This makes it easy to confirm the Hammer’s first MVP Award.
1957 AL Cy Young: Jim Bunning
Boston’s Frank Sullivan (6.4 WAR) and Detroit Tigers ace Jim Bunning (6.3) were the only two real candidates for this award, since no other AL pitcher registered even 4.0 WAR for the season. The Red Sox finished 4 games ahead of the Tigers in the standings, which isn’t that much in the grand scheme of the universe. So how do these two stack up?
- Sullivan: 14-11, 2.73 ERA, 1.055 WHIP, 240 2/3 innings, 127 strikeouts
- Bunning: 20-8, 2.69 ERA, 1.070 WHIP, 269 1/3 innings, 182 strikeouts
Straight up, it looks like Bunning had the better season, so how did Sullivan score more WAR? He did throw two more shutouts than Bunning did, and he also topped the AL in fewest batters walked per nine innings (1.8) and WHIP, while the Detroit star only led the league in wins and IP.
For us, the difference in value comes down to the IP and the Ks, and clearly, Bunning was better in those areas. That clinches it.
1957 NL Cy Young: Warren Spahn (original, confirmed)
Three pitchers stood out in the senior circuit: Brooklyn Dodgers youngster Don Drysdale (6.0 WAR), his teammate Johnny Podres (5.8), and Braves legend Warren Spahn (4.8). Brooklyn finished 11 games behind the Braves in the standings, so this becomes an interesting analysis, for sure, even though Spahn won the vote from the press corps. He did top the NL in wins (21) and complete games (18), but that was it. At age 20, Drysdale didn’t lead the league in any category other than overall WAR. Podres? He was the best among his peers in ERA (2.66), shutouts (6), and WHIP (1.082).
Spahn’s 2.69 ERA in 271 IP, not to mention 4 shutouts of his own, are impressive. Drysdale only tossed 221 IP, although his 2.69 ERA matched Spahn’s mark. In truth, Podres threw only 196 IP, which hurts his value a little there. Actually, considering the amount of innings Spahn threw—and the relatively quality, as his WHIP was a solid 1.177—means his season really did have more value for his team winning the pennant, so we will confirm his award. At age 36, this is his third Cy Young from us. As we noted last year when Spahn also won this award in our estimation, he may have been just entering his prime at this ripe age.
1957 AL ROTY: Tony Kubek (original), Frank Malzone (revised)
There was a tendency for voters to overvalue Yankees rookies in the 1950s, and this is an example as New York infielder Tony Kubek (2.5 WAR) won the award despite posting just a .716 OPS with a merely above-average glove (0.9 dWAR). He also played just 127 games.
Meanwhile, Boston third baseman Frank Malzone (3.6 WAR) was the top first-year player, posting a higher OPS (.751) with a better glove (1.2 dWAR) in more games (153). The Red Sox rookie also hit 15 HRs and drove in 103 runs; he clearly had more value than Kubek (3 HRs, 39 RBI), who was just filling in admirably among an All-Star lineup around him.
1957 NL ROTY: Jack Sanford (original, confirmed)
Two Philadelphia Phillies topped the NL in rookie WAR, as the team finished .500 for the year in fifth place: pitcher Jack Sanford (4.4 WAR) and first baseman Ed Bouchee (4.3 WAR). Cubs pitcher Dick Drott was a distant third (2.7 WAR). So which Phillies rookie was more valuable? The vote went to Sanford, but here are the details:
- Sanford: 19-8, 3.08 ERA, 1.217 WHIP, 236 2/3 IP, 188 Ks
- Bouchee: .293 average, 17 HRs, 76 RBI, .864 OPS, 84 walks
The kicker for us is Bouchee’s glove was terrible (-1.0 dWAR) over 154 games, while Sanford made just two fielding errors in 33 starts. We are confident in confirming Sanford’s award, therefore.