MVP Elections – 1997 NL

Dr. Doom here again, with yet another MVP post.

The National League in 1997 was an interesting bird. The second-best team was the Florida Marlins, who won the wild card.  The best team was the Braves – just as they had been in 1996, and 1995, (1994 was the strike year,) and 1993, and 1992, and 1991.  And they would be again in 1998, and in 1999.  The ’90s were their party, alright.  Too bad it didn’t work out for them in the World Series department.  Anyway, one of the oddest things about the 1997 NL is just how balanced it was; only 3 of the 14 teams were more than 5 games under .500.  And of course, this was the middle of Selig-ball.

Incidentally, 1997 was probably the first season that I followed really heavily from start to finish.  I had been following the AL from before the strike, at least a little.  But, in the Brewers final year in the AL, I thought it was about time to start checking out the competition.  And, of course, with 1997 being the advent of inter-league play, it was the perfect time to start learning.  It was also convenient, for the purposes of this post, that I remember bits and pieces of this year.  But, because we’re in the heart of Selig-ball, just remember that the numbers are going to be a LOT bigger all of a sudden, both for position players and pitchers.  May your eyes adjust well!

The winner of the 1997 MVP was Larry Walker.  Thank goodness – we haven’t had a Larry Walker discussion around here for a few YEARS now, believe it or not, but it’s time for another.  Walker, had already been an established star in Montreal, with a .981 OPS and league-leading 44 doubles in the strike-shortened 1994 season.  But, then he arrived in Colorado where Walker’s only impediment in the cool mountain air was his ability to stay healthy.  His health dogged him throughout his career, but in 1997 Walker remained healthy throughout the season to rank third in doubles (46) and RBI (130), and second in R (143), H (208) and batting average (the last with a .366 mark that would’ve led the NL in most years; only ten season marks since 1938 are higher, among them Walker’s .379 two years later, and four times, including 1997, by Tony Gwynn).  Fortunately for Walker, he ranked EVEN HIGHER in a few more big categories, leading the league in HR (49), OBP (.452), SLG (.720), and, obviously, OPS.  Oh, and just for fun, he added 33 SB (tied for 7th).  He garnered 22 of the 28 1st-place votes from the writers, so he had them convinced.  (For the record, Walker’s road OPS of 1.176 was marginally HIGHER than the Coors-aided 1.169 he had at home in 1997.)

The NL’s RBI leader was Andres Galarraga, Walker’s teammate from their Montreal days and now again in Denver. The “Big Cat” drove in 140 to go along with 41 HR (3rd in the NL) and 120 R (4th).  His SLG was also 4th as part of a .318/.389/.585 slash that gave him the 6th-best OPS in the NL.  Frankly, though, it’s hard to see what would recommend him over Walker per se, but your mileage may vary.

Houston also had two interesting candidates.  Both played all 162 games for the Central Division champs.  Jeff Bagwell‘s line of .286/.425/.592 placed him fourth in both OBP and SLG, and 5th in OPS.  Bagwell scored 109 (5th) and drove in 135 (2nd) while hitting 40 HR (tied for 4th).  He also added 40 doubles, just for good measure.  His teammate Craig Biggio had one of the most fascinating seasons of all time in 1997*.  To start with, he scored 146 runs, then the most in either league since 1950 (tied with Rickey Henderson in 1985) and eclipsed since only by Bagwell’s 152 tallies in 2000.  Biggio’s line was .309/.415/.501, good for the 9th best OPS in the NL, while playing stellar second base, stealing 47 bases (4th in the NL) and grounding into nary a double play (the last accomplished in a full length qualifying season just three other times since 1946, by Chase Utley last year, by Dick McAuliffe in 1968, and, inexplicably, by Rob Deer in 1990; Biggio, though, did it in a qualifying season-and-a-half, with a league-leading 744 PAs). For a capper, Biggio was also hit by 34 pitches, again leading the league.

*The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract article comparing Biggio’s 1997 to Ken Griffey Jr.’s 1997 is the single piece of writing that got me into sabermetrics as I perused the baseball books at the local Borders… which lets you know that this was not a recent event.  🙂

Colorado and Houston, though, weren’t the only teams with MVP candidates.  Mike Piazza, the MVP runner-up, posted a similar slash to Walker’s (.362/.431/.638), but he did it while playing catcher… at Dodger Stadium.  Of course, whereas Walker was considered a defensive stalwart, Piazza was often considered a liability.  Nonetheless, 104 R, 124 RBI, and 40 HR (7th, 4th, and 4th) are hardly shabby.

Much like his godfather before him, Barry Bonds was a perpetual MVP candidate.  His 1997 is just a textbook example of balance (as well as being a textbook example of awesome). With 123 R (3rd), 145 BB (1st), 101 RBI (15th), 40 HR (4th), 37 SB (6th), a .291/.446/.585 line (2nd in OBP, 4th in SLG), and 1.031 OPS (3rd), Bonds showed the range of his truly exceptional skills. Without the same home field advantage as Walker enjoyed, Bonds put up remarkably similar numbers.

Our final position player candidate is batting champ Tony Gwynn, just to make sure we get yet another team from the NL West in here.  You’ll remember his name having shown up in the last post, which was about his season from 11 years before!  Gwynn hit .372/.409/.547 in 1997, which were the 2nd/4th/2nd best slash numbers of his career and ranked 1st, 8th, and 8th in the NL, giving him the league’s 7th-best OPS.  That .547 SLG was achieved despite only 17 home runs, as Gwynn stroked a 2nd-ranked 49 doubles, quite the accomplishment for a 37 year-old who was considerably heavier and slower than the player who averaged 40 steals a year a decade before (from 1986 to 1989). Gwynn’s 119 RBI was not only his career best (by nearly 30!), it was also tied for 6th in the NL, and the 97 he scored were a nice addition, and good enough for 10th in the league.

I never let our discussion here be completely devoid of pitchers, and it seems somehow morally wrong to leave the top-finishing pitcher off the list, especially one playing for the best team in the league. Greg Maddux ranked second in the NL with a 2.20 ERA and led the league in W-L% with a 19-4 record (those wins ranking second to teammate Denny Neagle‘s 20).  Though not known as a strikeout pitcher, Maddux struck out 177 (9th) in his 232.2 innings (8th).  His strikeout-to-walk ratio was 8.85, leading the league by over 3, and his WHIP of 0.946 was second.

The man who had the best WHIP and best ERA in the NL was Montreal’s Pedro Martinez.  His 0.932 WHIP and 1.90 ERA led both leagues, as did his 13 complete games, all three marks ranking among the top four results of the 1990s decade. His 241.1 IP was 4th in the league and his 305 strikeouts ranked second (as you’ll remember from the 1986 NL post, 300+ strikeouts is kind of a big deal). Pedro’s 17-8 record doesn’t look so stellar, but when you consider that the Expos went 78-84, it suddenly doesn’t look so bad, especially considering that that .680 W-L% was 7th best in the NL in 1997.  This is also one of those weird years in which the highest-finishing pitcher in the MVP vote (Maddux) wasn’t the Cy Young winner, as Martinez took the crown as the NL’s best moundsman, despite finishing 3rd among pitchers in the MVP vote.

Finishing between those two in the MVP vote was Curt Schilling, pitching for a truly wretched (68-94, worst in the NL) Phillies team.  Schilling was second in strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.50) and posted a 2.97 ERA (9th).  Considering his team, his 17-11 record was remarkably good, and he was a real workhorse, finishing third in the NL with 254.1 innings, less than 2 IP back of leader John Smoltz. Schilling’s 319 strikeouts not only led the league, but was then the 10th highest total of the century.

And, let’s be honest, I wouldn’t be Dr. Doom if I didn’t bring up Kevin Brown in one of his signature seasons.  Brown was not mentioned at all in the awards voting, either for the Cy Young or the MVP, something of mystery considering his 6th ranked 237.1 IP (237.1), and fifth best 2.69 ERA.  That ERA didn’t draw more attention, probably because it marked a decline of 0.80 runs from his astonishing mark the year before.  Still, Brown was the best player on the second-best team in the NL, finishing tied for 5th in strikeouts with 205, and yielding home runs less frequently than anyone not named Greg Maddux.

So, what do you think?  A position player on a middling team, a pitcher on a bad team or a pitcher on a good one?  Someone I missed?  The world of 1997 is a different one than today’s game, but no less intricate in determining the best player.  Good luck!

DIRECTIONS:  Please list 5-10 players on your MVP ballot (ballots with fewer than 5 candidates will be thrown out).  Ballots will be scored as per BBWAA scoring (14-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1).  Strategic voting is discouraged, though unenforceable, so please just don’t do it, as the goal here is to (somewhat) mimic the BBWAA process.  The post will be live for about a week; please discuss and vote whenever you’d like, but there will be no vote changes, so don’t vote until you’re sure you’re ready!

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70 Comments on "MVP Elections – 1997 NL"

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Gary Bateman
Guest

Stan the Man batted .376 in 1948, so 1949 should probably be your benchmark year for the comment on Walker’s average instead of 1938.

Doug
Guest

Thanks for catching it, Gary. I’ve corrected the reference.

Owen
Guest

Walker
Martinez
Piazza
Bonds
Gwynn
Biggio
Maddux
Brown
Bagwell
Schilling

David P
Guest

Wait, did we really just skip over 92-95 AL and go to 97 NL? Seems like this one is a no-brainer so I’m a bit befuddled to say the least.

Dr. Doom
Guest
Yeah, we skipped. In my initial lineup of years I thought about doing, there were about 40 seasons, including more than 10 from the ’80s alone. This one is here because A.) a lot of people really, REALLY don’t trust Coors Field Larry Walker, and B.) there were a ridiculous number of players having great years. We skipped ’92 because I didn’t just want to do every reliever season. Surely, we could’ve done the Thomas awards. But… meh. Didn’t interest me that much. And ’95 was an epically stupid MVP pick, but I’ve tried to (for the most part) avoid… Read more »
Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Deer only hit 86 ground balls in 511 PA in 1990.
He had 24 hits.
So, 62 fielded-grounders.

In comparison, Ripken (the all-time GDP leaders), in his season closest to 511 PA, 2001 (516), he GIDP 15 times on
177 ground balls (30 hits)… 147 fielded grounders.

Doug
Guest

And, only 8 (one was an ROE) of those 62 fielded grounders came with a runner on first and less than two outs.

So, yes, the inexplicable is explained.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Total Bases by a Catcher

355 … Bench
355 … Piazza (’97)
335 … Ivan
320 … Gabby
320 … Piazza (’98)
318 … Berra
317 … Campanella
315 … Bench
314 … Javy Lopez
311 … Torre

308 … Piazza (’96)
307 … Piazza (’93)
307 … Piazza (’99)
307 … Mauer
306 … Torre

Paul E
Guest

In the strike-shortened seasons of 1994-1995, Piazza averaged roughly 357 TB/162 G. In the 5 Piazza seasons above, he averaged ~148 G. If we extrapolate downward (148/162), in full seasons (damn that strike/lock-out/”labor dispute”) he would have probably accumulated somewhere between 320-330 total bases in those two seasons as well

Doug
Guest
Pedro in 1997 and Schilling the next year have the last two seasons of 30 starts and a majority of decisions coming in complete games. It was kind of weird how these seasons just suddenly disappeared, as there were at least three such pitchers every year from 1982 to 1987 (and double digits every year from 1968 to 1979), and then only three seasons total since (add Jack McDowell in 1991). Did one season of offensive fireworks in 1987 cause managers to swear off extending their starters which, since it worked so well in ’88 (R/G down more than half… Read more »
Mike L
Guest

Billy Martin retired from managing after 1988? Only half-kidding.

ThickieDon
Guest

1. Piazza
2. Walker
3. Biggio
4. Bonds
5. Pedro (best pitcher)
6. Lankford
7. Schilling
8. Mondesi
9. Alfonzo
10. Maddux

ThickieDon
Guest

By mistake I omitted Bagwell, should be at #6. Then drop Maddux off after pushing everyone else down.

This was a transcription error, not a change.

1. Piazza
2. Walker
3. Biggio
4. Bonds
5. Pedro (best pitcher)
6. Bagwell
7. Lankford
8. Schilling
9. Mondesi
10. Alfonzo

Paul E
Guest

Mike Piazza, Career @ Colorado:
73 276 252 49 94 17 0 20 71 .373/.424/.679

Mike Piazza, 5.62 R/G Environment (1997 Colorado Rockies):
.402/.474/.712 w/201 Runs Created ( 1997 LA Dodgers numbers “translated”; per b-ref)

Paul E
Guest

OF, Most Career WAR, < / = 99 OPS+

1 Devon White 47.0 98
2 Willie Wilson 46.0 94
3 Paul Blair 37.8 96
4 Darin Erstad 32.3 93
5 Brett Gardner 30.3 99
6 Lance Johnson 30.1 95
7 Marquis Grissom 29.4 92
8 Coco Crisp 29.1 96
9 Jim Piersall 28.6 93

Doom mentioned Kevin Brown was the second best player on the Marlins, which kind of got me searching. Brown was, actually, first in WAR as Sheffield had an off year. I completely forgot that Devon White was on those 1997 World Champions in a part-time roll….

David P
Guest

Walker vs Piazza:

-Both had 70 Rbat
-Piazza had a 2 run advantage on defense (Rfield + Rpos)
-Walker had a 14 run advantage in baserunning (Rbaser + Rdp)
-Both had an OPS .007 higher on the road than at home
-Walker hit better in the 1st half, Piazza better in the 2nd half
-Walker was generally better in the clutch situations

Other than Walker’s big advantage in baserunning, seems like a tossup.

Dr. Doom
Guest

Let’s make Friday March 3 at midnight (your local time) the deadline for this round of voting. Hope to see the vote pouring in!

ThickieDon
Guest

Did you see my mistake post above?

Please do not count the ballot without Bagwell!

I was posting from my phone and made an error transcribing my list!

Dr. Doom
Guest

Yeah, I saw. The rule prohibiting vote changes is mostly because I don’t want to lose track and miss someone’s. I’m using the one that included Bagwell.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Kinda hard top pass over a 409 Total Base season, but I have to give the nod to Piazza.
All in all though, I’d say the BBWAA did a decent job with this one.

1. Piazza
2. Walker
3. Ray Lankford (CF with a .996 OPS)
4. Biggio
5. Pedro
6. Kevin Brown (Ace on a pennant-winner)
7. Bonds
8. Bagwell
9. Scott Rolen (ROY)
10. Maddux

no statistician but
Guest
Let’s talk a little about the NL West in 1997. The Dodgers and Giants, nothing new there, battled nearly down to the wire for the pennant, but the winning Giants were a very peculiar team, insofar as, while finishing 90-72, they allowed nine more runs than they scored, giving them a Pythagorean W-L of 80-82. The team played exactly .500 ball against non-division teams, and its pitching staff finished with a collective WAR of 2.4. In contrast, six different position players rated 2.5 or more offensive WAR. The big gun was Barry Bonds, but he had a lot of help… Read more »
Paul E
Guest
“Gwynn’s big year doesn’t cut it according to WAR. He leads Caminiti, also a bad fielder, 4.3 to 4.0.” NSB, Check out Chris Gomez of the Padres and his -33 Rfield and -2.5 dWAR. This is what I don’t ‘get’ or trust about the fielding metrics. Gomez has a league average fielding percentage and gets to approximately the same number of balls every 9 innings in the field as the league average SS. So how is he -2.5 dWAR when replacement level is 50 wins and league average has to be 81 wins? It certainly seems to me he’s, at… Read more »
Dr. Doom
Guest
Without looking into this specific case more deeply, here are some thoughts on possible reasons: 1. Ground-ball tendencies of the staff. Maybe he got so many balls because the pitching staff allowed a tremendous number of ground balls, giving the illusion that the infield was better than it was. 2. Handedness of staff. When Bill James was developing Win Shares, I remember him writing that failure to adjust for the handedness of the pitchers led to very messed up valuations of infielders. 3. Putouts on infield popups. James also noted that prior defensive analysis that relied on traditional stats overinflated… Read more »
Paul E
Guest

Doom,
Thanks for the explanation. So, basically, the left side of the infield (Caminiti, Gomez) didn’t get to balls that typical players of their positions would have? That seems to me to be more of a judgment call when compared to the less cryptic/ephemeral nature of batting stats. FWIW, I do remember Caminiti possessing one of the greatest infield arms I have ever seen….

David Lick
Guest
That’s the theory. I mean, that’s why they say you really SHOULDN’T use just one year of defensive stats, as they’re too prone to random variation. Basically, until modern tracking systems, just by looking at old standard stats, you have to estimate how many balls you THINK went to a certain spot, then figure out how many plays were ACTUALLY made. You compare that to how many plays an average player would’ve made – given a number of opportunities you’re not actually 100% sure of. It’s a LOT of guesswork. The problem is, for games before a certain year (I… Read more »
no statistician but
Guest

Paul E:

For what it’s worth, I don’t trust fielding metrics either, as has been made clear in many comments in the past. I’m just not into emoticons, so sometimes I forget to explain when I’m being ironic, sarcastic, or jocose. In this case I figured the warning that ” Gwynn doesn’t cut it according to WAR” was a big enough signal.

Anyway, between us we got a discussion going.

Paul E
Guest

Piazza
Wlaker
Bagwell
Bonds

Paul E
Guest

Let’s try this all over again:
Piazza
Walker
Bagwell
Bonds
Biggio
Gwynn
Lankford
Pedro
Maddux
Kevin Brown

FWIW, if you translated these guys to Coors Field for 1997, their Runs Created totals look like:
201 Piazza
187 Walker
177 Bagwell
172 Bonds
155 Biggio

I was unable to find this “translatable run environment” in the new baseball-reference format. If this was some sort of proprietary function that was not renewed by Sean Forman, I imagine we’ll have Walker and Helton in Cooperstown shortly

Dr. Doom
Guest
Well, it’s been kind of a ghost town around here the last couple days, but I want to remind you that the election closes on FRIDAY this week, so make sure you get your votes in before the weekend hits! I’ll take this opportunity to post my ballot, too. First, I want to talk about Ray Lankford. Lankford is one of my favorite players – maybe my favorite-ever non-Pujols Cardinal. I adore the guy. But he’s not getting on my ballot. The boppers and the pitchers were just TOO good. Yes, he had a .996 OPS, which even in 1997… Read more »
Richard Chester
Guest

1) Piazza
2) Walker
3) Bagwell
4) Martinez
5) Maddux

Brendan Bingham
Guest

Vote:
1) Larry Walker
2) Mike Piazza
3) Craig Biggio
4) Pedro Martinez
5) Greg Maddux
6) Barry Bonds
7) Jeff Bagwell
8) Edgardo Alfonzo
9) Kevin Brown
10) Curt Schilling

Josh Davis
Guest
Dr. Doom mentioned most of my thoughts already….I too see the top 4 as being in an almost dead heat, and I too dinged Lankford for missing 30 games. As close as it is at the top, I’m most comfortable giving the nod to Walker, though I have no qualms with anyone voting for Piazza, Bonds or even Bagwell. My vote: 1. Larry Walker – an incredible all-around season…too bad he wasn’t healthy enough to put up more of these. 2. Mike Piazza 3. Barry Bonds – I think you could make a fair case for Bonds winning MVP just… Read more »
Paul E
Guest

For all players, ages 35-37, Galarraga is 3rd in HR’s (132) and 2nd in RBI (411)….(1901-2016)

Gary Bateman
Guest

1. Piazza
2. Walker
3. Martinez
4. Biggio
5. Bagwell
6. Gwynn
7. Bonds
8. Maddux
9. C. Jones
10. Gallaraga

no statistician but
Guest
Ned Garver. Passed away Feb. 26th at the age of 91. Not a HOFer unless there’s a Hall for guys who performed well on losing teams. Only once did he play a full season on a team with a winning record—79-75—and he gave a subnormal performance that year. The highest any of those teams finished in the AL was 5th—twice. Otherwise, sixth and seventh, occasionally eighth, including 1951, the landmark year he won 20 games for a Browns team that went 52-102. That year and the years before and after one of the big stories in baseball was how long… Read more »
Paul E
Guest

American League, 1948-1953, Pitcher WAR
1 Mel Parnell 28.5
2 Ned Garver 26.2
3 Bob Lemon 23.7
4 Ellis Kinder 22.8
5 Billy Pierce 21.5
6 Virgil Trucks 20.6
7 Mike Garcia 19.5
8 Bobby Shantz 17.4
9 Eddie Lopat 17.3
10 Allie Reynolds 16.3

Yes, but in those days, a couple of WS checks sure would have come in handy. Definitely a front of the rotation guy for any first division team, God only knows what his W-L record might have been pitching for the ’49-’53 NYY

no statistician but
Guest

Similar pitchers the Yankees co-opted from the Orioles and As in the mid-Fifties to early Sixties: Bob Turley, Don Larsen, Art Ditmar, Ralph Terry, Bud Daley. Yeah, they all, except maybe Daley, made some kind of splash in NYC, but none except Turley really lasted long, and when they had a bad year—again excepting Turley—they were on the shuttle out of town.

Doug
Guest
Those 1951 Browns were 34-91 (.272) in the games Garver didn’t start. – the Browns first three wins were all by Garver, who recorded consecutive Brown wins three other times during the season – the Browns longest win streak was 3 games; it happened only once, part of a 7-2 hot streak at the end of the season. – outside of that hot streak, they had consecutive wins just 7 times, including a 38 game slide (10-28) without consecutive W’s – but they did sweep the Yankees in a double-header at the Stadium on Sep 11 to drop New York… Read more »
David P
Guest
Garver finished second to Berra in the 1951 MVP balloting. Imagine something like that happening today….a pitcher on a last place team nearly winning the MVP!!! Anyway, according to Garver’s SABR bio, the AP called him the night before the announcement and told him that he won. The next morning they called him again to tell him he didn’t win (shades of the Oscars debacle???). According to Garver, the three New York voters left him completely off their ballots (wonder how he would know that?). Still, he finished 27 points behind Berra so unless they all had put him 2nd,… Read more »
Dr. Doom
Guest
Considering that Steve Carlton DID win an MVP for a last-place team, I could imagine it happening. If you win 20-some for a team that wins less than 60 games, I would think that a pitcher would compete for the award, and if the field was weak enough, I could see a win. The circumstances need to be juuuuuuuust right, but I can imagine it. While this year’s Oscars debacle is an easy comparison, it actually feels a lot more to me like “Dewey Defeats Truman,” which had happened only 3 years earlier. Thankfully, in our insta-news culture, most such… Read more »
Paul E
Guest

Doom,
I believe Carlton EARNED an NL MVP award in 1972 but Johnny Bench WON the award

Dr. Doom
Guest

Touche. You know, that would’ve been an AWFULLY good race for this series… diggity dang. 🙁

Dr. Doom
Guest

Besides Bench and Carlton, Billie Williams had a 1.000 OPS, Joe Morgan led all position players in WAR with 9.3 in his coming-out party, and Cesar Cedeno posted Morgan-esque numbers, though in fewer games and IN THE ASTRODOME. Poop. Kinda mad I didn’t do this one. Don’t get me wrong – the 70s were the least interesting decade for competitive MVP races, and ’74 was the most interesting of the bunch, so we did that one. But I should’ve considered this one more closely.

Paul E
Guest

…..and, 1973 NL would have had Morgan, Rose, Stargell, Evans, Bonds in a tight top 5

e pluribus munu
Guest
nsb, You mention Garver’s good bat in passing, but it was, in fact, central to his great year. Here’s Bill Veeck, who owned the team: “The only attraction the Browns had when we came was Ned Garver, who by mid-season had won 11 games, exactly half the team total. Just as we had pushed Feller to the strikeout record in Cleveland for its peripheral publicity value, we decided to push Garver as hard as possible to help him become the first pitcher to win 20 games with a last-place team [this shows us that immortal Noodles wasn’t]. It was easy… Read more »
Richard Chester
Guest

Other AL pitchers winning 20 games for a last place team:
Howard Ehmke 1923 Red Sox
Scott Perry 1918 A’s

e pluribus munu
Guest
Thanks, Richard. I wasn’t aware of either case. Ehmke’s famous, of course, for his Series swansong some years later, but I’d never even heard of Scott Perry. Perry’s 1918 season is remarkable. He went 20-19 for a last place team, but more amazing, his 39 decisions came in a wartime-shortened 130-game season — 332 IP squeezed into an abbreviated rookie year. Mack pitched Perry on very short rest repeatedly all season, but although the season ended on September 2, and Perry was hot (he went 8-2 in August with a 0.93 ERA, while the A’s went 14-19), Mack finally gave… Read more »
Richard Chester
Guest

epm: I made a search only for the AL from 1901-1951. There may be others.

e pluribus munu
Guest
What’s most interesting to me, Richard, is not so much the full roster of last-place 20-game winners, as the fact that in 1951 Veeck and the Browns were able to assert without contradiction that Garver was the first such player, and that Veeck could still assert that in his 1962 book. You’ll remember how elusive these sorts of facts were before the Macmillan encyclopedia in 1969. If I recall, you were given the Turkin-Thompson encyclopedia when it first came out in 1951, and perhaps this type of info was recoverable there (I owned a copy of the revised edition for… Read more »
Richard Chester
Guest

Yes, it’s amazing that folks like you and I can easily extract stats that were almost well-nigh impossible to extract, even for sportswriters and statisticians back in the day. That Turkin-Thompson encyclopedia pales in comparison to the availability to today’s references, but back in 1951 it was simply amazing. By the way one of the authors, Hy Turkin, and I both graduated from the same college, The Cooper Union School of Engineering, different years of course. Why he moved from engineering to sportswriting I don’t know.

e pluribus munu
Guest

Richard, Turkin’s engineering degree was a perfect match for Thompson, who played bassoon in John Philips Sousa’s band. (You don’t happen to play bassoon, do you?)

Richard Chester
Guest

Musically I never got beyond whistling.

no statistician but
Guest
Probably no one remembers this, but along about 1954, give or take a year, there was a miniature version of the first Turkin-Thompson book. I’m thinking, though I’m not sure, that it was available through some promotion by Gillette, and my father bought a special package of shaving products to get it. At any rate, although the stats in it were basic, like who led each league in batting and home runs, I pored over it and absorbed a lot of numbers and names that no one around me ever heard of, like Gavvy Cravath and Jack Chesbro, the predecessor… Read more »
e pluribus munu
Guest
nsb, My memory, which I call “Google,” has a vivid picture your “Vest-Pocket Encyclopedia of Baseball,” by Turkin and Thompson, “especially condensed for Gillette,” published in 1956 – there’s a close up of Enos Slaughter’s entry. My father missed that one, but in my hand I have the “World Series Encyclopedia,” compiled by Don Schiffer, “exclusively prepared for the Gillette Safety Razor Company” in 1961, including every page of “the $5.00 edition.” Line scores for every game, and the WS career, charted game-by-game, of “all 1136 Series players,” through Bill Mazeroski’s shot. I don’t remember whether my father got it… Read more »
no statistician but
Guest

epm:

There must have been an earlier version than 1956, because my memory, which is very clear on this, Google or no, has me looking at the book it the living room of the house we moved from in 1955. By 1956 the book, if we still had it, would have been worn to tatters.

e pluribus munu
Guest

I’ll take your memory over Google any day, nsb.

no statistician but
Guest
Why is Larry Walker a better choice than Mike Piazza? Both had outstanding seasons, very similar seasons. Both rated 8.9 oWAR. However, whereas Piazza had a better second half and a slightly higher OPS+ (185 to Walker’s 178), those are the only advantages I see going to him. Using OPS as a general measure, Walker comes out on top, both at home and away. Further, while Piazza was excellent in three categories I use as a gauge for productive performance, RISP, Men On, and 2 out RISP, his OPS measuring 1.095, 1.110, and 0.959 respectively, Walker was better overall with… Read more »
David P
Guest

Actually, as I noted above, it’s baserunning that puts Walker ahead of Piazza in WAR. Still, I agree with your general conclusion and am surprised at how many first place votes Piazza has.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest
I put Piazza above Walker because he was a Catcher. When considering ‘most valuable’, okay, could that guy be replaced by someone else in the league and give the team similar results? Just to pick one metric… Total Bases at Catcher: 355 … Piazza 229 … Hundley 221 … Javy 211 … Kendall 201 … Lieberthal Total Bases at RF: 409 … Walker 333 … Mondesi 324 … Gwynn 308 … Sosa 237 … Butch Huskey Yes, 409 TB is an historic number. It can be argued, though, that Piazza had the greatest offensive season by a Catcher ever. Highest… Read more »
Paul E
Guest

1997 @ Coors Field…. Left-Handed Batters:
.337/.404/.544

Scary Tuna
Guest

1. Walker
2. Piazza
3. Biggio
4. Gwynn
5. Bonds
6. Bagwell
7. Maddux
8. Martinez
9. Schilling
10. Galarraga

oneblankspace
Guest
Voting for 1. LWalker 2. CBiggio 3. MPiazza 4. JBagwell 5. GMaddux 6. MAlou 7. PMartinez 8. KBrown 9. BaBonds 10. JShaw Walker — led in OBP, SLG, HR, 3rd in RBI. Biggio — led division winner in bWAR, BFW, H. Piazza — top 3 in H, BA, SLG, BFW, 4th in RBI. Bagwell — 2nd in HR, RBI, BB, IBB, 4th OBP, 3rd SLG, division winner. Maddux — divison winner, 2nd in W, ERA, PW. Alou — led a playoff team in HR, RBI, SLG, 3B. Martinez — league-leading ERA under 2, 8.8 WAR, led league in PW, 2nd… Read more »
oneblankspace
Guest

(it changed to 10:20 as I clicked Post Comment)

Dr. Doom
Guest
I’m just curious, but… how do you get Alou above Bonds? Both were outfielders for playoff teams (Bonds for a division winner, Alou for the eventual champs – so that feels like a wash to me). They had (essentially) the same batting average – .291 for Bonds and .292 for Alou; two extra hits for Alou, but in six extra ABs. They did have the same number of triples. And while Alou out-doubled Bonds by 3, Bonds outhomered Alou by 17! Yes, Alou had 14 more RBI than Bonds, but Bonds scored 35 more runs! Even if RBI are more… Read more »
oneblankspace
Guest

As Gary Larson said in one of the final Far Side panels…

It was late and I was tired.

Dr. Doom
Guest
Results time!!! Here are your leaders. Vote points first, first place votes in parentheses. The one tie in points was broken by giving credit to the player who appeared on more ballots. Here you go: 1. Larry Walker, 143 (7) 2. Mike Piazza, 130 (5) 3. Craig Biggio, 72 4. Jeff Bagwell, 69 5. Barry Bonds, 67 6. Pedro Martinez, 59 7. Greg Maddux, 37 8. Tony Gwynn, 29 9. Kevin Brown, 17 10. Ray Lankford, 16 11. Curt Schilling, 11 12. Raul Mondesi, 11 13. Edgardo Alfonso, 7 14. Moises Alou, 5 15. Chipper Jones, 4 16. Andres Galarraga,… Read more »
Hartvig
Guest
I’ve been having issues with my computer which has made doing proper research difficult. I was going to vote anyways but an invitation to go out for happy hour wound up lasting longer than I had planned and eventually it just slipped my mind. I would have voted for Carter but Walker would have been my #2 so that wouldn’t have changed the order at the top any. Biggio & Bagwell were my 3 & 4 so they wouldn’t have been effected & I have Martinez ahead of Bonds but again it wouldn’t have made any difference. The rest of… Read more »
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[…] formerly a perennial MVP-candidate with the Dodgers (you’ll recall his strong finish from our last NL post), continued that trajectory, though with a 3rd place MVP finish in the Big Apple.  Piazza had […]

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