We are inching closer to the era of division play on MLB Monday, as the 1966 season comes calling today. One of the worst trades in professional baseball occurred before this year, too, as Annie Savoy can attest. The immediate impact is reflected below in the awards analysis.
On with the show, as they say …
1966 AL MVP: Frank Robinson (original, confirmed)
It’s often said that the Baltimore Orioles won the AL pennant the minute they traded for right fielder Frank Robinson in the offseason, and he did not disappoint, winning the MVP vote and topping the league in WAR (7.7). The closest players to him were Chicago White Sox rookie center fielder Tommie Agee and Minnesota Twins RF Tony Oliva (both at 6.4). Oh, did we mention the Orioles topped the standings by 9 games over the Twins, too?
Robinson’s traditional stats included AL-high numbers in runs (122), home runs (49), RBI (122), batting average (.316), on-base percentage (.410), slugging percentage (.637), OPS (1.047), and total bases (367). Yes, that’s a Triple Crown season for those of you keeping track at home—although his defense (-2.0 dWAR) was brutal. That’s why his overall WAR is so low for such an offensive season.
At age 30, this was Robinson’s peak at the plate, as the only category he ever led the league in again was hit by pitch (13 in 1969). Remember, he won our NL ROTY nod in 1956, but we took his NL MVP away from him in 1961. This was his revenge on everyone, basically.
1966 NL MVP: Roberto Clemente (original), Willie Mays (revised)
Four players in the senior circuit topped Robinson’s AL-best WAR mark: San Francisco Giants CF Willie Mays (9.0), Chicago Cubs third baseman Ron Santo (8.9), Pittsburgh Pirates RF Roberto Clemente (8.2), and Atlanta Braves RF Hank Aaron (7.8). The Los Angeles Dodgers won another pennant, with the Giants trailing them by 1.5 games and the Pirates just another 1.5 games behind San Francisco.
With the Cubs finishing dead last, 36 games out of first, Santo’s season has little true value. The Braves finished 10 games behind the Dodgers, so that slots Aaron out of contention here for the award that Clemente won from the voters. But again, we have to look at Mays’ overall dominance of the league and give him our nod once more:
- Mays: .288, 37 HRs, 103 RBI, 70 walks, .924 OPS, 307 TB, 2.1 dWAR at age 35
- Clemente: .317, 29 HRs, 119 RBI, .896 OPS, 342 TB, 1.3 dWAR at age 31
The superior OPS and dWAR marks contribute to Mays’ overall edges on the Great One, and it sucks to have to do this to Clemente, who always deserves empathy from everyone. But the facts are what they are, and that’s why Mays wins his ninth MVP Award from us—including his sixth in a row. It’s just insane how good he was for so long.
1966 AL Cy Young: Earl Wilson
We only have two decent candidates for this award in 1966: veteran Earl Wilson, who split his time between Boston (15 games) and Detroit (23 games), and White Sox star Gary Peters, who won this award from us in 1963. Wilson topped the AL with 5.9 WAR, while Peters came in with 5.3 WAR.
With Detroit finishing 5 games ahead of Chicago, it’s clear to us that Wilson deserves this award although Peters topped the AL in ERA (1.98 in over 204 innings) and WHIP (0.982). Wilson’s numbers—18-11, 3.07 ERA, 13 complete games, 200 strikeouts, 1.091 WHIP, and 264 innings—don’t “wow” us, but he definitely played a key role in getting to the Tigers to within one game of second place while pitching 60 more innings than Peters, too.
1966 NL Cy Young: Sandy Koufax (original, confirmed)
While we took away his Cy Young last year, we will not do it again to Dodgers legend Sandy Koufax this time around. Three NL stars topped 9.0 WAR in 1966: Koufax (10.3), Giants ace Juan Marichal (9.1), and Philadelphia Phillies veteran Jim Bunning (9.0). Marichal won this award last year at the expense of Koufax, while Bunning won the AL Cy twice while with Detroit (1957, 1960).
For the record, Bunning topped the NL with 5 shutouts, while Marichal led the league in WHIP (0.859). Both of those are incredible achievements, but L.A. doesn’t win another pennant without Koufax and his league-best marks in wins (27), ERA (1.73), complete games (27), shutouts (5), innings pitched (323), and Ks (317)—for his third Triple Crown in four seasons.
Remember Koufax retired after this season, despite topping the NL in ERA for the last five seasons of his career, putting together one of the best consistent stretches of starting pitching ever seen in the sport. The Left Arm of God was just 30 years old, but Koufax knew his arm had had enough already. Just incredible.
1966 AL ROTY: Tommie Agee (original, confirmed)
With Agee being an MVP candidate (6.4 WAR), it is easy to confirm his vote win for this award. The next-best rookies were Kansas City Athletics pitcher Jim Nash (4.0) and Boston Red Sox first baseman George Scott (3.4). Any other year, Nash would have won this award, but Agee—with 22 HRs, 86 RBI, and 44 steals, not to mention 1.7 dWAR—ran away with this one. The White Sox also finished 8 games ahead of K.C. and 11 games better than Boston, so there’s that as well.
Nash went 12-1 with a 2.06 ERA in 17 starts. His one other appearance? He notched a save. But the A’s finished 23 games out of first place and under .500 for the year. That’s still a great rookie effort, however. Meanwhile, Scott hit 27 HRs with 90 RBI, but Boomer also led the AL in strikeouts (152) and double-play balls (25). Ouch on those outs!
1966 NL ROTY: Tommy Helms (original), Larry Jaster (revised)
Cincinnati Reds third baseman Tommy Helms (1.3 WAR) won the vote at the time, but he was mediocre over 138 games played (0.1 dWAR, .695 OPS) in every sense of the word as his team finished under .500 and 18 games behind the Dodgers. That is not our idea of the “best rookie” in the league at all.
Three other rooks topped 2.0 WAR for the season: Houston Astros shortstop Sonny Jackson (2.3), Cubs catcher Randy Hundley (2.1), and St. Louis Cardinals starter Larry Jaster (2.0). The issue here is that Houston ended up 4 games behind the Reds, while we know how much the Cubs stunk. What about St. Louis? With 83 wins, the Cards finished above .500 and in sixth place. Ho hum.
However, Jaster posted an 11-5 record with a 3.26 ERA over 151 2/3 IP while also tossing a league-high 5 shutouts (tied with Bunning and Koufax, by the way). His 1.114 WHIP was very respectable as well, so we are giving him this award without hesitation.