Happy anniversary, MLB Monday! It will take another year-plus for us to reach the present day in this space, but we’re still proud of what we’ve done in the last year in revisiting the major awards in professional baseball. After all, hindsight is always 20/20, and historians thrive on analyzing the past through the present-day lens. We have no intention of stopping!
On to our second year of revisionist baseball fun …
1962 AL MVP: Mickey Mantle (original, confirmed)
It was a down year for offense in the junior circuit, after the prior year was all about home runs and such. The top player in the league was Baltimore Orioles third baseman Brooks Robinson (6.1 WAR), followed closely by New York Yankees center fielder Mickey Mantle (6.0), and Detroit Tigers left fielder Rocky Colavito (5.7). With the Bronx Bombers winning the pennant by 5 games, it’s easy to give the Mick another MVP Award here (his sixth from us), confirming his vote win at the time.
For the record, the Tigers finished 10.5 games back, and the Orioles were under .500 for the year. Mantle’s numbers—.321 average, 30 HRs, 89 RBI, 122 walks, .486 on-base percentage, .605 slugging percentage, and a 1.091 OPS—were typically great. The walks, OBP, SLG, and OPS numbers also were league bests.
1962 NL MVP: Maury Wills (original), Willie Mays (revised)
The best three players in the senior circuit were San Francisco Giants center fielder Willie Mays (10.1 WAR), Cincinnati Reds outfielder Frank Robinson (8.7), and Milwaukee Braves OF Hank Aaron (8.5). Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Maury Wills (6.0) won the MVP vote at the time, probably because he stole 104 bases. That was a fine season, but his OPS (.720) was painful for a team that finished in second place by one game.
Meanwhile, the Giants won their first pennant since 1954 by a single win, and Mays clearly was more deserving of the MVP based on his tremendous WAR edge over Wills. Cincinnati finished 3.5 games behind San Francisco, for the record, and the Braves were 15.5 games out of first place, albeit still over .500 for the year.
Mays’ numbers in earning his fifth MVP nod from us: an NL-best 49 HRs and 382 total bases, in addition to 141 RBI, 18 steals, and a .999 OPS. Historically to this point, Mays had only won a single MVP vote, making him one of the most under-appreciated players of his time, for sure.
1962 AL Cy Young: Hank Aguirre
Even with a down year for offenses, it was a down year for pitching in the AL, too. The only three pitchers truly we can consider here are Detroit veteran Hank Aguirre (7.4 WAR), Boston Red Sox rookie closer Dick Radatz (5.5), and Minnesota Twins workhorse Jim Kaat (5.4).
Aguirre topped the AL in ERA (2.21), WHIP (1.051), and fewest hits allowed per 9 IP (6.8) while posting a 16-8 record for the fourth-place Tigers. The Red Sox finished under .500 and 19 games out of first place, while the Twins finished in second place, just 5 games behind New York. Kaat’s numbers: 18-14 and a 3.14 ERA in 269 IP, along with a league-high 5 shutouts.
Aguirre tossed just 216 innings, even though they were of much higher quality than Kaat’s innings. We know the Twins finished higher, but Kaat’s season is bland at best. And the 2-WAR gap is pretty wide, considering Aguirre’s league-leading ERA and WHIP. We are going to give Aguirre the nod, as his pitching WAR was the highest in MLB overall.
1962 NL Cy Young: Don Drysdale (original), Bob Purkey (revised)
Dodgers star Don Drysdale won the MLB Cy Young vote with just 5.4 WAR, which was the seventh-best mark in the National League. He did lead the circuit in wins (25), innings pitched (314 1/3), and strikeouts (232), so was anyone more valuable than Drysdale in this unique situation, considering his 2.83 ERA?
Reds pitcher Bob Purkey (7.3 WAR) posted a 23-5 record with a 2.81 ERA for the third-place team, and his WAR edge on Drysdale is basically the same as the difference in the respective teams’ finish in the standings. So it really comes down to these two guys. Purkey tossed 288 1/3 innings, so he wasn’t too far behind Drysdale there. Most things being close to equal, we need to defer to the guy with the higher value, and that’s Purkey in this case.
1962 AL ROTY: Tom Tresh (original, confirmed)
Radatz topped all rookies with 5.2 WAR, but his team was less than mediocre (finishing 19 games out of first place). He clearly was the best first-year guy, but it happened in the proverbial value vacuum.
Next best was Yankees utility man Tom Tresh (4.3), who split time in the field between shortstop and left field while posting 0.3 dWAR overall. For a pennant-winning team, that was a key contribution, for sure, as Tresh hit .286 with 20 HRs and 93 RBI, while posting a .800 OPS. He won the vote at the time, and we will confirm it.
1962 NL ROTY: Ken Hubbs (original), Donn Clendenon (revised)
We have no idea why voters would have given this award to Chicago Cubs second baseman Ken Hubbs (0.0 WAR, .646 OPS), when he wasn’t even a good player—and his team finished 42.5 games out of first place. That makes no sense whatsoever. His glove was only rated out at 0.2 dWAR, so there was nothing special about him at all.
We give this award instead to Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Donn Clendenon (1.6 WAR), even though he only played in 80 games. Those appearances were all he needed to top the NL rookie class, anyway, as the Pirates fought to a fourth-place finish, just 8 games out of first place. He hit .302 with 7 HRs, 28 RBI, and 16 SBs, while posting an .853 OPS as well.