Ted Williams and the MVP Award
"It appears that the oldtimers must have checked out other metrics besides triple crowns as Cobb, Gehrig and Williams did not win the MVP for those years."
--Comment by Reader
In Supernatural, I presented a list of pitchers and hitters who led both leagues in their respective Triple Crown categories. As detailed, there have been seven hurlers (covering 12 different seasons) and four players who have won MLB's Triple Crown.
With respect to the comment, it should be noted that the MVP award wasn't in place when Ty Cobb led the majors in AVG, HR, and RBI in 1909. However, the reader was correct in stating that Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams were not named MVPs in their Triple Crown seasons.
Williams, in fact, is one of only two players--along with Rogers Hornsby--to win the Triple Crown twice. The Splendid Splinter led the A.L. in AVG, HR, and RBI in 1942 and 1947. Amazingly, the man some believe was the greatest hitter of all time was NOT named the Most Valuable Player in either of those two years.
Let's take a look at how Williams compared to Gordon in 1942 and DiMaggio in 1947.
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS+ Williams 150 522 141 186 34 5 36 137 3 2 145 51 .356 .499 .648 217 Gordon 147 538 88 173 29 4 18 103 12 6 79 95 .322 .409 .491 155
Williams led the league in everything. He won the traditional Triple Crown (AVG, HR, RBI) and swept the rate stats (AVG, OBP, SLG). He even captured to so-called Quad Award by leading the league in OBP, SLG, times on base (TOB), and total bases (TB). The Thumper also led in walks, extra-base hits, runs, runs created, and adjusted OPS (or OPS+).
Gordon, on the other hand, led the A.L. in two categories only. Strikeouts and Grounded Into Double Plays (GIDP). I'm not kidding!
Need more evidence that Williams got shafted? The Boston left fielder earned 46 Win Shares and the Yankee second baseman was credited with 31. In addition, Ted picked up 15.3 Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP3) and Joe had 10.9. By both measures, Williams was worth about 4-5 more wins than Gordon that year.
In the book Win Shares, Bill James wrote, "Ted's still mad about that one."
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS+ Williams 156 528 125 181 40 9 32 114 0 1 162 47 .343 .499 .634 205 DiMaggio 141 534 97 168 31 10 20 97 3 0 64 32 .315 .391 .522 154
Once again, let the record show that Williams led in every important offensive category. AVG, OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+, R, HR, BB, R, RBI, TB, TOB, XBH, and RC. DiMaggio? He didn't lead the league in anything (other than MVP votes).
Williams had 44 Win Shares, DiMaggio had 30. The Kid had 13.5 WARP3, Joe D. 7.3. Therefore, Williams was worth about 5-6 more wins than DiMaggio that season.
James dubbed the balloting, "A famous controversy."
According to Baseball: The Biographical Encyclopedia, "Williams always blamed Boston writer Mel Webb for leaving him completely off the ballot, thereby costing him the award, but Webb didn't even have a vote that year--a writer in the Midwest had left Williams off the ballot instead. He collected only three first-place votes; had any of the 20 other writers who voted for Williams picked him even one place higher, he would have won the award."
Teddy Ballgame also led the A.L. in Win Shares in 1941, 1948, and 1951 without winning the MVP. Instead, he lost the award to DiMaggio, Lou Boudreau, and Yogi Berra, respectively. Yes, Williams had the most Win Shares in the league seven times, yet captured only two MVP trophies--neither of which took place in the years when he won the Triple Crown.
As it relates to the opening comment, I don't know what the "oldtimers" were considering when filling out their MVP ballots. It goes without saying that they certainly weren't impressed with Teddy's Triple Crowns. But I don't think one can say that they were checking out "other metrics" because, by almost any objective measure, Williams clearly was the Most Valuable Player in the A.L. in 1942 and 1947, and arguably in 1941, 1948, and 1951, too.