One new twist to our weekly MLB Monday column this time around is that both leagues got their own Cy Young awards starting with the 1967 season. So, that will be a new dynamic to our analyses below. Otherwise, everything remains in the same for an era that was heavy on quality hitting—despite the low ERAs from the pitchers!
But enough of that … onto to the fun part of what it is we do here.
1967 AL MVP: Carl Yastrzemski (original, confirmed)
The pennant race this year was legendary, as four teams finished within three games of each other atop the standings, and a fifth team finished with 7.5 games of the Boston Red Sox, who emerged from the fray with their first pennant since 1946. There was no doubt about the MVP in this season, either, despite the crazy finish.
Red Sox left fielder Carl Yastrzemski won both the MVP vote and the Triple Crown with a stunning 12.4-WAR season, which was miles ahead of the next AL player (Baltimore Orioles third baseman Brooks Robinson at 7.7 WAR, our pick for the 1964 AL MVP). That is a tremendous gap there, so it makes this analysis so easy.
His TC numbers were impressive (.326 average, 44 home runs, 121 RBI), but Yaz also led the AL in runs (112), hits (189), on-base percentage (.418), slugging percentage (.622), OPS (1.040), and total bases (360). Throw in 91 walks, 10 steals, and 1.7 dWAR, and this is one of the all-around great seasons in the history of the sport.
1967 NL MVP: Orlando Cepeda (original), Ron Santo (revised)
With the St. Louis Cardinals winning the NL crown by over 10 games in the standings, it could limit our MVP choices. But the best Cards player was just fourth in the league for WAR: first baseman Orlando Cepeda (6.8). He can’t be the most valuable when St. Louis won the pennant by more than that, can he? Voters at the time thought he was the MVP, strangely, although we did let him keep the NL ROTY in 1958.
The top dog in the league was also not San Francisco Giants rock star Willie Mays for once, either: It was Chicago Cubs third baseman Ron Santo (9.8 WAR). The Cubs actually finished third, with a winning record, while finishing 14 games out of first place. But Chicago would not have been over .500 for the year without Santo’s brilliance.
Our other two MVP contenders are Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder Roberto Clemente (8.9 WAR) and Atlanta Braves right fielder Hank Aaron (8.5). But the Pirates finished 81-81, six games behind the Cubs, while the Braves were under .500 for the season. This makes it very simple for us to choose Santo’s amazing season over Cepeda’s season:
- Santo: .300 average, 31 HRs, 98 RBI, league-high 96 walks, .906 OPS, and 2.7 dWAR
- Cepeda: .325 average, 25 HRs, league-high 111 RBI, .923 OPS, and -0.5 dWAR
It’s huge that Santo played stellar defense at a tough position, while Cepeda did poorly at an easier infield spot. Clearly, the voters just went for the big RBI number on the best team, and they didn’t consider much else.
1967 AL Cy Young: Jim Lonborg (original), Joe Horlen (revised)
Only three AL pitchers topped the 5.0 WAR mark, and that didn’t include vote winner Jim Lonborg (4.0) from Boston. The Minnesota Twins had two pitchers carry them to a second-place finish, just one game out of first place: Jim Merritt (6.5) and Dean Chance (5.9). Chicago White Sox veteran Joe Horlen (5.5) also figures in this fray, as the Pale Hose finished three games behind Boston.
Here’s the comparison, with AL-best marks in bold:
- Merritt: 13-7, 2.53 ERA, 4 shutouts, 227 2/3 innings, 161 strikeouts, 0.993 WHIP, 1.2 BB/9
- Chance: 20-14, 2.73 ERA, 18 complete games, 283 2/3 IP, 220 Ks, 1.100 WHIP
- Horlen: 19-7, 2.06 ERA, 6 shutouts, 258 IP, 103 Ks, 0.953 WHIP
Despite his lack of Ks, we’re inclined to go with Horlen, as the Twins needed both Chance and Merritt to finish ahead the White Sox. If we had to choose between the Twinkies starters, we’d go with Chance, who won this award from us in 1964.
But Chicago wouldn’t even have had a shot without Horlen’s league-best marks in ERA and WHIP over a considerable number of innings. We’re confident in this upset pick.
1967 NL Cy Young: Mike McCormick (original), Jim Bunning (revised)
Five pitchers in the senior circuit compiled at least 6.0 WAR marks, but none of them pitched for the top three teams in the league (St. Louis, San Francisco, or Chicago). That means we have an interesting debate ahead, for sure. Philadelphia Phillies veteran Jim Bunning (7.8 WAR) finished well ahead of Cincinnati Reds rookie Gary Nolan (6.5 WAR). Bunning won two AL Cy Youngs from us (1957, 1960), previously.
The Phillies finished fifth with 82 wins, while the Reds finished fourth with 87 victories. We’re inclined to see Nolan as more of a difference maker here, despite Bunning’s superior season. But what about Phillies southpaw Chris Short and his 6.2 WAR? Or Reds closer Ted Abernathy (6.2)? They both augmented the staff aces with great seasons of their own.
[We will delay judging New York Mets rookie Tom Seaver (6.0 WAR) until later, as his team stunk.]
The vote, by the way, went to Giants star Mike McCormick (4.4 WAR), which we cannot agree with at all, despite his NL-high 22 victories. So, with our top two candidates being ably backed by teammates, we’re going to go with Bunning here as the better pitcher on a winning team. At age 35, he topped the league in starts (40), shutouts (6), innings (302 1/3), and strikeouts (253), while posting a 17-15 record and a 2.29 ERA.
1967 AL ROTY: Rod Carew (original), Reggie Smith (revised)
The only two first-year guys to look at here are Boston center fielder Reggie Smith (3.4 WAR) and Minnesota second baseman Rod Carew (2.8 WAR). With his higher WAR for a first-place team, we will switch this award that Carew won from the voters, probably due to his .292 batting average.
But his dWAR (0.1) wasn’t impressive, while Smith’s mark (0.9) was more important to a pennant-winning team at a tougher position on the field. As both guys didn’t shine too bright at the plate (neither posted an OPS over .800, for example), Smith did produce a significantly better power-speed combination than Carew with a 15-15 season.
1967 NL ROTY: Tom Seaver (original), Gary Nolan (revised)
Nolan and Seaver would some day be teammates, and as rookies, they both were incredible. However, the Mets finished last with just 61 victories, meaning Seaver’s WAR came in a vacuum. Nolan’s WAR had more meaning to a team that at least finished over .500 for the year.
Here are the numbers for comparison’s sake:
- Nolan: 14-8, 2.58 ERA, 1.125 WHIP
- Seaver: 16-13, 2.76 ERA, 1,203 WHIP
Nolan was the better pitcher, as Seaver’s WAR is a little inflated due to the Mets’ suckitude.