Sunday, April 3, 2011

Was Roger Maris More Deserving Of The MVP Award In 1960 or 1961?

I am not sure he should have gotten it in either year, but if he had to get it, 1960 was actually the better choice. This is inspired by Baseball and the Value of Sabermetrics: An Author's Perspective. It was an interview at Bleacher Report of author Alan Hirsch who wrote the new book The Beauty of Short Hops (Hat tip: Baseball Think Factory).

Here is the exchnge that inspired this post:

"Q: What about the fact that Maris, by some measures, was actually as good or better in 1960 than in 1961?

In 1960 Mantle mostly hit in front of Maris, not behind him. And Maris only had four intentional walks in 1960 hitting mostly in front of the rather mediocre Bill Skowron. Should we question the impact of Skowron on Maris’ performance in 1960, the season in which he was probably more deserving of the MVP award?

AH: First, I’d take issue with the suggestion that Maris was as good in 1960 as in 1961."

Now here is my analysis:

Maris 1960 vs. Maris 1961 is a very close call. But it looks like if he was deserving of the MVP, 1960 was the better choice.

1960-161 (2nd to Mantle's 164)
1961-167 (Mantle lead with 206, Cash had 201)

Offensive winning percentage
1960-.751 (2nd to Mantle's.764)
1961-.739 (5th, Mantle lead with .868, Cash had .864)


He was 1st in 1960 and only 5th in 1961. So that makes 1960 more deserving. Here are the WAR leaders for each year in the AL

1. Maris (NYY) 7.5
2. Mantle (NYY) 6.7
3. Bunning (DET) 6.0
4. Herbert (KCA) 5.9
5. Aparicio (CHW) 5.4
6. Skowron (NYY) 4.5
7. Lary (DET) 4.3
Ramos (WSH) 4.3
Fox (CHW) 4.3
10. Robinson (BAL) 4.2
Sievers (CHW) 4.2

1. Mantle (NYY) 11.9
2. Cash (DET) 10.0
3. Kaline (DET) 8.3
4. Colavito (DET) 7.9
5. Gentile (BAL) 7.2
Maris (NYY) 7.2
7. Howard (NYY) 5.9
8. Killebrew (MIN) 5.5
9. Kralick (MIN) 5.2
10. Pascual (MIN) 4.7
Romano (CLE) 4.7
Pizarro (CHW) 4.7

Win Shares

In 1960, Mantle beat Maris in WS 36-31 (they were 1-2). In 1961, Mantle beat him 48-36. Mantle was 1st, Maris 3rd. Cash had 42. So that tells me he was not deserving in either year, and even less so in 1960.

Here are the leaders in runs created above average in each year. In 1960, Maris was at least close to the leader. But in 1960 he was way back.

1960 AL
1 Mickey Mantle 59
2 Ted Williams 53
3 Roger Maris 51
4 Roy Sievers 37
5 Norm Cash 33
T6 Jim Gentile 31
T6 Harmon Killebrew 31
T6 Bill Skowron 31
9 Tito Francona 26
T10 Jim Lemon 25
T10 Minnie Minoso 25

1961 AL
1 Norm Cash 113
2 Mickey Mantle 111
3 Jim Gentile 74
4 Rocky Colavito 63
5 Roger Maris 60
6 Harmon Killebrew 56
7 Al Kaline 48
8 Elston Howard 42
9 Roy Sievers 35
T10 John Romano 29
T10 Norm Siebern 29

Here are the 1960 AL leaders in BFW, batting plus fielding wins by Pete Palmer
3.9 Aparicio CHI
3.7 Maris NY
3.6 Mantle NY
3.5 Runnels BOS

Now 1961

7.6 Cash DET
7.5 Mantle NY
5.5 Gentile BAL
4.6 Colavito DET

Maris had 3.1


mb21 said...

These authors sure have been making the rounds, haven't they? I don't remember a baseball book, particularly a stats one, being promoted like these guys have promoted Short Hops. Maybe I just didn't pay attention though.

Vinnie said...

"Maris only had four intentional walks in 1960 hitting mostly in front of the rather mediocre Bill Skowron."

That "mediocre" Bill Skowron who only batted .309 with 26 homeruns and an ops plus of 142, and who made the all star team and batted 5th in all of 68 games? That Bill Skowron?

Cyril Morong said...


Yes, it is getting alot of attention. You might be right but I don't keep track of how much buzz every book gets.


That was the question the interviewer asked and it sure is not fair to Skowron, who was already established as a good major league hitter by 1960

Vinnie said...

I was aware that it was the interviewer and not your question. It seems that he needs to go back and do a little more research and checking of both the facts and a bit of history of the game and players. Skowron in fact was a damn good ball player in those years and would have had some even better numbers were it not for playing in the Stadium.
One of the blessings we have from retrosheet is we can look at lineups and batting orders for each game and player. I'd go so far as to suggest that even the 68 games the Moose hit fifth incuded a number in which Maris was out with that rib cage injury.
If you get the chance and don't mind, could you pass my comments back to the author for his future reference?

Cyril Morong said...

I think you will have to contact the author. I don't know him.

Vinnie said...

For your own information. I checked over the batting orders for 1960 and Skowron batted behind Maris in only 31 contests. Hardly enough to even make a statistical difference.

Cyril Morong said...

Thanks. That definitely is not significant.