1962 National League Most Valuable Player
There was a time in baseball when the world fell in love with the stolen base. In the 1980s and 1990s, the likes of Rickey Henderson and Vince Coleman were chasing the single-season record with fervor, putting up stolen base numbers at a rate that hadn’t been seen in a decade in an attempt to pass the great Lou Brock.
None of that would have mattered if Maury Wills hadn’t set the modern-day record in 1962, breaking Ty Cobbs‘ mark that had stood since 1915. Wills used that to streak toward the record book, and an MVP award.
After making his first All-Star appearance in 1961 and finishing 9th in the MVP vote in the process, Wills quickly rose to the top of the heap in 1962 by hitting .299/.347/.373 with 130 runs scored and the new record of 104 stolen bases. The voters rewarded Wills with a 75% share of the MVP votes, including eight first-place votes, just edging out the second-place finisher by 3% and one first-place vote.
While the stolen base title was indeed impressive, the value of Wills’ contributions to the game was a 5.3 fWAR (11th in the NL), anchored heavily by his baserunning (BsR of 15.6) and defense at shortstop. However, his lack of power at the plate (just 29 of his 208 hits went for extra bases) left him with just a wRC+ of 103, barely above average.
Meanwhile, the second-place finisher put up a season of .304/.384/.615 with 49 home runs, 141 RBI, and 130 runs scored of his own. Coupled with his own stellar defense in center field, this player was worth 10.5 fWAR and a wRC+ of 163. So while the 104 stolen bases were impressive, this player was the true winner of the 1962 National League MVP award.
Dodgers fans should be familiar with this player. He was a nemesis known as Willie Mays.