It’s time for the 1960s on MLB Monday, as we creep closer to modernity in the sport of professional baseball in America. And this means … what? The eventual decline of New York Yankees’ dominance, for one, as the Bronx Bombers would go into a mini slumber by the end of the decade, giving other teams in the American League their respective shots at eternal glory—finally. But beyond that, the stars in the sport continued to shine in fun and memorable ways.
To kick of the turbulent decade, we start today … enjoy!
1960 AL MVP: Roger Maris (original, confirmed)
The junior circuit placed just two players in the MLB Top 10 for WAR: Yankees right fielder Roger Maris (7.5 WAR) and his center field teammate Mickey Mantle (6.4). New York won the pennant by 8 games over the Baltimore Orioles, and overall, five AL teams finished above .500 in the season before expansion came to the sport. This would seem to lead to us confirming the MVP vote for Maris.
For the record, Mantle had the better season at the plate (6.7 oWAR), but he was a negative defender (-0.3 dWAR), while Maris’ glove (1.4 dWAR) was a very underrated aspect of his overall game. At the plate, Maris did top the league in RBI (112) and slugging percentage (.581), while hitting a respectable .283 overall. Already with his third team in just fourth MLB season, Maris hit 39 home runs as well. How did Cleveland and Kansas City give up on this guy so soon?!
1960 NL MVP: Dick Groat (original), Hank Aaron (revised)
The eight NL players in the MLB Top 10 for WAR were as follows: San Francisco Giants CF Willie Mays (9.5), Milwaukee Braves RF Hank Aaron (8.0), Chicago Cubs shortstop Ernie Banks (7.9), Braves third baseman Eddie Mathews (7.3), St. Louis Cardinals 3B Ken Boyer (6.9), Cincinnati Reds first baseman Frank Robinson (6.2), Pittsburgh Pirates SS Dick Groat (6.1), and Reds CF Vada Pinson (5.6). That is a pretty good bunch of studs right there.
Groat won the vote at the time, because the Pirates topped the league with 95 victories—seven games ahead of Milwaukee and nine games ahead of the Cards. Meanwhile, L.A. (13 games back) and S.F. (16 games back) were also-ran teams in 1960 despite finishing over .500 on the season, too. That narrows our field down here, with Cincinnati finishing 20 games under .500 as well.
Despite Mays’ overall brilliance, it’s hard to consider him here as he topped the NL in just one category (hits: 190). Aaron becomes a top contender, while Banks once again falls by the wayside thanks to the Cubs’ 60-win season of irrelevance. Mathews also is a candidate, while Boyer hangs in the discussion with Groat, too. The Pirates SS made the grade by leading the NL in both batting average (.325) and dWAR (2.6), although the latter was unknown at the time despite his sterling defensive reputation.
Aaron led the NL in RBI (126), total bases (334), and sacrifice flies (12) while hitting .292 overall. Mathews didn’t lead the league in anything, and he was a negative defender (-0.3 dWAR) to boot. That drops him from consideration here, while Boyer didn’t top his peers in any offensive categories while posting 1.0 dWAR and hitting .304 overall with a .932 OPS. That kind of season is great but not necessarily MVP worthy with Aaron topping it in both WAR and team success.
So this comes down to Groat or Aaron. The former had no power (2 HRs) and no speed (zero steals), and his OPS was just .766—even though that rated out to 110 in OPS+ for the 1960 season. The latter was a positive defender (0.8 dWAR) while also playing some center and second base, and his OPS+ (156) blows Groat’s mark out of the water. But is the 7-game gap in the standings enough for Groat to overcome his near-2.0 WAR deficit?
We don’t think so. In fact, the Pirates probably win the pennant without Groat. We also like the fact that Aaron didn’t make an error in the 7 games he played out of position in 1960. His versatility and overall excellence in all facets of the game makes him a lot more valuable than a strong glove man who basically was a slap hitter (while posting a rather fluky career high in batting average). This is Aaron’s second MVP nod from us, by the way.
1960 AL Cy Young: Jim Bunning
The only worthy candidates here are Detroit Tigers ace Jim Bunning (6.6 WAR) and Kansas City Athletics innings eater Ray Herbert (5.8). It just was not a year for pitchers in the AL at all, as the next-best guy—Boston Red Sox pitcher Bill Monbouquette (4.9)—also pitched for a losing squad like Bunning and Herbert did, too. How random is that?
Bunning, therefore, wins this by default, as his Tigers finished highest in the standings, too. He posted an 11-14 record with a 2.79 ERA in 252 innings and an AL-best high 201 strikeouts. This is the first time we’ve given the Cy Young to a pitcher with a losing record, but Bunning was a very good pitcher on a bad team (71-83). He topped the circuit in K/BB ratio, too, so he carried a load for the Tigers, and this is his second AL Cy nod from us as well (1957).
1960 NL Cy Young: Vern Law (original), Ernie Broglio (revised)
Pirates pitcher Vern Law somehow won the MLB Cy vote, despite not even being the best pitcher on his own team. That honor went to Bob Friend (5.6 WAR), actually, as Law compiled just 4.8 WAR. So we will not be confirming this award. But there were a lot of great pitchers in the NL during the 1960 season: St. Louis ace Ernie Broglio (7.1 WAR), Dodgers star Don Drysdale (7.0), Cards closer Lindy McDaniel (5.9), St. Louis rock Larry Jackson (5.3), and Giants workhorse Mike McCormick (5.1)—not to mention Friend as well. That’s a crowded field!
We assume Law won the award for winning 20 games on a pennant-winning team, and he only topped the NL in one category (complete games: 18). His 3.08 ERA was good but not great. Meanwhile, the Cards’ trio dominated the league, clearly, but how to single one of them out for the honor of leading a third-place team to a 9GB finish? Drysdale led the circuit in strikeouts (246) and WHIP (1.063) while posting 15 wins and a 2.84 ERA for the Dodgers. Yet we know L.A. finished 13 games out of first place. The Giants were even farther behind.
Broglio led the NL in wins (21) and allowed the fewest hits per 9 innings pitched (6.8). His 2.74 ERA was even better than Drysdale’s mark, too. McDaniel was a reliever who notched 27 saves to lead the league in that category, and the Cards led the NL in one-run victories (32); he was a huge part of that. Friend was grinder who only topped his peers in K/BB ratio. Jackson allowed the most hits in the senior circuit.
We’re going to go with the notion that Broglio’s season tops Drysdale’s season in value, doubly so with the standings considered. So it comes down to the Cardinals ace or the Cardinals closer: We’ve never seriously considered a relief pitcher for this award yet, but McDaniel tossed 116 1/3 innings and also won 12 games for St. Louis. He struck out 105 batters, and when you combined his saves and wins, it’s clear he had a huge impact on the Cardinals’ season.
Broglio has more sabermetric value, but McDaniel perhaps brought more traditional value. We have to stick with the sabermetrics here, although we would be fine with someone disagreeing with us here and choosing McDaniel.
1960 AL ROTY: Ron Hansen (original, confirmed)
The Orioles’ second-place finished was fueled by the top three rookies in the league: SS Ron Hansen (3.9 WAR), 1B Jim Gentile (3.1), and pitcher Chuck Estrada (2.8). Hansen won the vote, and we will stick with that assessment for value reasons. He hit 22 HRs with 86 RBI while posting 1.4 dWAR at a key position.
1960 NL ROTY: Frank Howard (original), Tommy Davis (revised)
Three NL first-year players topped 2.0 WAR for the year: Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Art Mahaffey (2.8), Dodgers CF Tommy Davis (2.3), and L.A. right fielder Frank Howard (2.0). Philly finished in last place, so we can toss Mahaffey right away, and he only pitched 93 1/3 innings, anyway. Meanwhile, Davis and Howard produced solid numbers while playing for a semi-contending team.
Howard won the vote, but he was a negative defender (-0.1 dWAR), albeit barely. Davis was a positive defender (0.9 dWAR), and he played a more important position in Los Angeles, as well. Howard hit 23 HRs to get the attention, but Davis had the better, more-balanced game. He hit 11 HRs himself, for the record.