1950, Gee Whiz...
Philadelphia, Phillies, or
'The Whiz Kids", as they had known to be called, won the National League
pennant for the first time since 1915. Prior to that, they had never finished
in first place.
Essentially, 33 years before the first pennant, 35 years to the second, and then 30 years to the third National League championship, and eventually their first World Championship, in 1980.
Recent history has them being a little more successful in their pennant hopes, winning the Series in 2008, only to lose it again in the following season.
But that 1950 season is worth looking at, for a few reasons.
First of all, the Post Season awards were intriguing.
The National League MVP was Jim Konstanty of the Whiz Kids. He set a league record by appearing in more games that season, 74. He also had another national League record of 22 saves to his credit. (saves were not an official statistic as of yet), besting the 7 he had in the previous year.
Now, in looking back lo these 65 years later, it is easy to see the greater picture, and also hard to see what MVP voters had seen or heard. But in looking at the black and white numbers, and the theoretic numbers as well, Konstanty was not the most deserving player that year. Nor was he the most deserving Phillie. In fact, in looking at the results I have garnered, he was not even the best pitcher on that Phillies staff.
True, he had the lowest ERA on the club (but not enough innings to qualify for the league leaders) and had the third most wins on the staff. But Robin Roberts' numbers were batter than that.
Konstanty 16-7 2.66 22 saves 152.0 IP
Roberts 20-11 3.02 21 CG 5 SHO 304.1 IP
The formula that I use factors in saves, but not as heavily as it does wins, and it factors in wins plus saves as a quotient based on games pitched in. Konstany pitched in 74 games, while Roberts worked in 40 games. Had Konstanty been able to accomplish his same numbers in, say, 63 games, then his ranking would have bested Roberts.
In looking at the top 10 pitching performances for that year, Konstanty would be tenth, that is, including two other non-qualifiers. That list is:
Jim Hearn NYG/STL 1.8209 (non qualifier)
Larry Jansen NYG 1.6628
Early Wynn CLE 1.6421
Robin Roberts PHI 1.6347
Whitey Ford NYY 1.6185 (non qualifier)
Warren Spahn BOSN 1.6002
Curt Simmons PHI 1.5921
Preacher Roe BKL 1.5834
Ewell Blackwell CIN 1.5820
Jim Konstanty PHI 1.5324 (non qualifier)
The league pitching averages for both leagues were low, with the NL's 1.3170 besting the
AL's 1.1739. Why is
this? Good question, and a great one for all the ages. Was it bad pitching, or
good hitting. More bad pitching than good hitting? Why is the AL pitching mark so low? Was it because they
had to face Berra, DiMaggio and Ted Williams? Or was it, as the above table
shows, the lack of quality pitching in the AL that year?
But the NL mark is much better, and those pitchers had to face Kiner, Musial, Hodges and Jackie Robinson. Of that table above, 3 of the pitchers are Hall of Famers, and two were 300 game winners. But two of the Hall of Famers are from the NL.
Personally, I think it was just a bad year for American League pitchers, combined with the talent laden American League lineups.
So, when we look at the performances against their respective leagues, the top performers in each league were:
- Larry Jansen NYG Mel Parnell BOS
- Robin Roberts PHI Early Wynn CLE
- Warren Spahn BOS Vic Raschi NYY
- Curt Simmons PHI Eddie Lopat NYY
- Preacher Roe BKL Joe Dobson BOS
Non-qualifiers are Whitey Ford in the AL, who would have placed 3rd, but only threw in 112 innings; and Jim Hearn who would have placed 1st in the NL, but pitched in just 134 innings combined
Then, when we look at performance against their team's average, a number that helps players on bad teams, the breakdown is as follows:
- Ewell Blackwell CIN Ned Garver STL
- Warren Spahn BOS Lou Brissie PHI
- Preacher Roe BKL Bob Hooper PHI
- Cliff Chambers PIT Stubby Overmire STL
- Murry Dickson PIT Bill Wight CHI
Hearn would have been 2nd, and Ford 3rd, if they'd qualified, in theory at least.
Then, combining these two numbers across the board, the results are:
- Blackwell CIN Garver STL
- Spahn BOS Parnell BOS
- Jansen NYG Wynn CLE
- Roe BKL Raschi NYY
- Roberts PHI Lopat NYY
But, let's not stop there, shall we. We'll look at these player's performances against their league's power rankings, and see what that may tell us. The power ranking is an average of the offensive numbers and the pitching numbers, and are a good way to measure a well balanced team.
In 1950, the teams with the best Power Rankings were
- Red Sox
No surprises there as the 4 American League teams represented each won at least 92 games that year, while the Phillies were the only National League team to crack the 90 win mark, getting 91. But comparing the pitchers against their team's 'Power Number" gives us this ranking:
1. Ewell Blackwell
2. Preacher Roe
3. Warren Spahn
4. Don Newcombe
5. Larry Jansen
The highest ranking
AL pitcher was Ned
Garver of the St. Louis Browns, who came in at seventeenth place. Konstanty was
Now, in the American league, with a very top-heavy standings, 4 ninety game winners, the Most Valuable Player for the season was Phil Rizzuto of the Yankees. In reality, he may not have been the best player in the league. He may not have been in the top three Italian-American players on the Yankees that year (Berra, DiMaggio and Raschi are tough competitors in this respect). So we'll disect those numbers in a minute.
The hardest part about comparing players of this ear and earlier, is the lack of hard, concrete numbers dealing with a player's fielding prowess. Sure, a fielder may led the league in fielding percentage, but is that a true gauge of their range? On outfielder with a powerful, accurate throwing arm will not garner as many outfield assists as a perceived weaker armed outfielder.
A middle infielder who's quicker on their feet than another may get 200 more fielding chances in a season than a slower player, and may make 3 errors in those 200 chances, and lose the fielding percentage race by hundreds of a percent, through no fault of his own.
That is true across all eras, but more so in the pre-video days, when films are not as plentiful and not every game was recorded or filmed for future review like it is today. So we need to rely on anecdotal evidence.
Scooter Rizzuto, the pride of
was regarded as one of the top fielding shortstops of his day. Offensively, not
spectacular, but he does hold the distinction of being the only MVP in either
league to lead the league in sacrifice bunts. So there's that. Richmond
Hill High School
So, before we delve into numbers, a brief qualifier to note...Ted Williams broke his arm in the All-Star Game, and missed the second half of the season. In fact, the break was so severe that he considered retiring after the season, with the fear that he wouldn't be able to hit, so while his numbers were superb, he didn't qualify for any of the statistical categories that he excelled in normally.
What effect did that have on the Red Sox pennant aspirations? Well, the Red Sox finished with the highest league lead in batting average, runs scored, runs created, slugging and on base percentages, doubles and runs per game. So it's hard to imagine Teddy Ballgame's impact not improving on those numbers, and that the Sox may have been able to squeak past the Yankees for the AL Crown.
Also, Red Sox utility player Billy Goodman won the American League batting crown, appearing in 110 games, and garnering 424 official at-bats. During this era, the qualifications for the batting championship required a player to have a minimum of 2.6 official at-bats per each game that his team was scheduled for, or roughly 400 at-bats. (Modern day, the qualifications are 3.1 plate appearances per scheduled game, roughly 502 plate appearances) At the time, there was some contention about his winning the crown, but as you can see, he did legitimately qualify, given the parameters of the time.
So, let's look at the overall numbers, the total number before any filters or anything, adding Ted Williams as a reference:
- Ted Williams BOS 2.7957 Stan Musial STL 2.3079
- Yogi Berra NYY 2.5514 Ralph Kiner PIT 2.2184
- Walt Dropo BOS 2.5123 Duke Snider BKL 2.1558
- Vern Stephens BOS 2.4760 Del Ennis PHI 2.1467
- Joe DiMaggio NYY 2.4468 Bob Elliott BOS 2.1459
- Larry Doby CLE 2.3055 Roy Campanella BKL 2.1250
- Billy Goodman BOS 2.2995 Sid Gordon BOS 2.1105
- Vic Wertz DET 2.2528 Jackie Robinson BKL 2.0859
- Dom DiMaggio BOS 2.249 Ted Kluszewski CIN 2.0720
- Hoot Evers DET 2.408 Earl Torgeson BOS 2.0715
- George Kell DET 2.180
And then looking at numbers against their team average, the numbers reflect the strength of the
hitters against the lesser numbers of the NL teams. Whether this is a result of
stronger NL pitching or not, but I won't dwell on that right now.
1. Eddie Robinson (WAS & CHI) Ralph Kiner PIT
2. Mickey Vernon (WAS & CLE) Stan Musial STL
3. Larry Doby CLE Andy Pafko CHI
4. Yogi Berra NYY Hank Sauer CHI
5. Irv Noren WAS Ted Kluszewski CIN
6. Gus Zernial CHI Del Ennis PHI
7. Sam Chapman PHI Bob Elliott BOS
8. Bob Dillinger PHI Sid Gordon BOS
9. Ferris Fain PHI Enos Salughter STL
10. Ted Williams BOS Tommy Glaviano STL
11. Joe DiMaggio NYY
Now, a new thing to look at, I am going to list the top producers in runs created. Runs created is the biggest part of my formula, since a team wins games by scoring runs, and obviously the more runs a player creates, or is responsible for, the better their teams chances for getting wins, which is the point of playing the game to begin with.
So for each league, the top run creators were:
1. Vern Stephens BOS 239 Del Ennis PHI 187
Carl Furillo BKL 187
2. Yogi Berra NYY 212 Stan Musial STL 186
3. Walt Dropo BOS 211 Duke Snider BKL 185
4. George Kell DET 207 Earl Torgeson BOS 184
5. Joe DiMaggio NYY 204 Ralph Kiner PIT 183
6. Bobby Doerr BOS 196 Gil Hodges BKL 179
7. Vic Wertz DET 195 Bob Elliott BOS 177
8. Dom DiMaggio BOS 194 Enos Slaughter STL 173
9. Larry Doby CLE 187 Jackie Robinson BKL 166
10. Phil Rizzuto NYY 184 Willie Jones PHI 163
The interesting thing is how these numbers are reflected in the standings in 1950. The Phillies with just one offensive player on these lists, and two top pitchers atop those standings. And the Yankees very well represented on the offensive lists and the pitching lists as well.
The final standings for the leagues were:
Yankees 98 56 -
Tigers 95 59 3
Red Sox 94 60 4
Indians 92 62 6
Senators 67 87 31
White Sox 60 94 38
Philadephia 52 102 46
NL W L GB
Phillies 91 63 -
Cubs 64 89 26.5
Pirates 57 96 33.5
So...the Pirates...Ralph Kiner, who ranks high in all these categories follows the old baseball adage, "We could've finished last without you." However, that shouldn't take away from the fact that he had a great season.
Look at these numbers:
HR RBI AVG SLG OBP OPS RC/G Player 1 47 118 .272 .590 .408 .998 1.22
Player 2 28 109 .346 .596 .437 1.034 1.27
Player 3 36 92 .304 .591 .398 .990 1.03
Player 4 28 124 .322 .533 .383 .915 1.40
Player 5 34 144 .322 .583 .378 .961 1.55
All of the above players had fantastic seasons, and would have been among the league leaders in any season. Looking at these raw numbers, not adding any of the filters, these easily represent the top players in both leagues.
Without looking at the players or their teams, and just judging by these offensive numbers, if I were to pick one of these as my most valuable, or the top offensive player, number 5 would have my vote. The RC/G is runs created per game and this player, of these 5, has the best runs created, once again, the crux of what makes wins. That player, in this sample, is Walt Dropo, who was the AL Rookie of the Year that year.
That being said, I think that he MVP voters in 1950 missed the boat on their awards. The top 5 vote-getters were:
Phil Rizzuto Jim Konstanty
Billy Goodman Stan Musial
Yogi Berra Eddie Stanky
George Kell Del Ennis
Bob Lemon Ralph Kiner
My pick for each league would be:
Yogi Berra Stan Musial
Mel Parnell Jim Hearn
That's who I would have voted for in each league.