MVP Elections – 1998 AL

Hey everyone! Dr. Doom here, posting under Doug’s name. Here’s our next MVP post here at HHS.

Remember baseball in 1998? I sure do. There’s all that stuff about America falling in love with baseball again. I’m not sure how true it is, but if it’s a lie, it’s an awfully fun one in which a couple of sluggers are tasked with reinvigorating Americans’ love of their national pastime following the bad taste left by the player strike four years earlier. Playing the roles of dual protagonists, of course, were Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, making their run at Roger Maris‘s single-season home run record. But that’s an NL story. We’re here to talk about the American League. And in the American League in 1998, the big story was all about one team: the New York Yankees.

Of course, there was expansion in 1998. Each league added a team. And we’ve seen the Yankees take advantage of that situation before – I’m looking at you, 1961 – to have a great record. The 1998 Yankees were no different, CRUSHING opponents. The average score of a Yankee game, and I’m not making this up, was 6-4. They led the league in Runs Scored and (fewest) Runs Allowed. They even made a run at the single-season wins record, which had stood almost unchallenged since the Cubs set it in 1906. The Yankees wound up 114-48, a record so ludicrously good that it just “looks wrong” when you see it written out.

The Yankee heroes in 1998 were two men, including perhaps my personal, all-time favorite Yankee. Bernie Williams always seemed like a cool guy – played great CF, good hitter, plays the guitar. And in 1998, Williams had perhaps his signature season. He won his first (and only) batting title, hitting .339, while finishing out his slash line with a .422 OBP (2nd) and .575 SLG (10th), good for the second-best OPS in the AL. Williams hit 26 HR, drove in 97 and scored 101. In a normal year, if a centerfielder hits like that for a team that wins over 100 games, he gets to spend the rest of his career with the letters “MVP” attached to his name. But 1998 was the heart of Seligball, and so Williams finished 7th in the voting, and second on his own team.

The Yankee who won the affection of the voters even more so than Williams was their young shortstop, Derek Jeter. Jeter was now in his third full year in The Show, and two years removed from his Rookie of the Year win for the 1996 World Champs. Jeter batted .324/.384/.481, giving him the 5th-best average in the AL, and paced the junior circuit with 127 runs scored. He even managed 84 RBI, despite hitting in the second spot in the order almost exclusively (145 of his 149 games; he also had three leading off, and one from the last spot, the latter a 9th inning PH appearance in an early September loss to the White Sox). Jeter compiled 301 TB, which is pretty remarkable for a shortstop, and did so largely on the strength of being 3rd in the league with 203 hits, while mashing 19 HR. Oh yeah – and he stole 30 bases because, you know, why not? Like Williams, Jeter’s totals, in most if not ALL of the other years we’ve covered, when posted by a shortstop on a 100+ win team, would’ve won the MVP. But, unfortunately for Jeter, being a young shortstop with a big bat was hardly unique in 1998.

The Mariners’ Alex Rodriguez (who was robbed in the 1996 AL MVP vote, an election I chose not to highlight because I don’t think it was interesting enough, since Rodriguez so CLEARLY deserved to win) shared a similar profile to Jeter (with whom he would later share the left side of the Yankee infield). Rodriguez had regressed somewhat in 1997 after his monster rookie season (in which he finished behind Jeter in the RoY voting, but crushed him in MVP votes). In 1998, though, he was a beast with a .310/.360/.560 slash that was good for 123 runs scored, just shy of Jeter’s leading total. But while Jeter had decent pop for a SS, Rodriguez could flat-out mash: 42 HR (7th) and 124 RBI (5th) were numbers that boggled the minds of people in 1998, as those were simply NOT shortstop numbers. As good as Jeter’s 301 TB was, it paled in comparison to Rodriguez’s 384 total that ranked 3rd in the league. Add in 46 SB (4th) and you have an unstoppable shortstop on the rise. Alas, after three straight winning seasons (and making the playoffs two of those years), the Mariners’ return to mediocrity (with a 76-85 record) made Rodriguez seem a lot less attractive to the voters (or maybe the MVP voters just got a sneak peak at his centaur mural and got weirded out).

Even though two young shortstops with that much talent would seem to be enough in one league, there were those who felt that neither Jeter nor Rodriguez was the best SS around. Nomar Garciaparra (whose name has something to do with being “Ramon” backwards), with a runner-up finish in the MVP vote, actually finished ahead of the other two young shortstops. Garciaparra hit .323/.362/.584 (6th in average, 8th in SLG), and pounded 37 2B and 35 HR for the team with the AL’s second-best record. All of that was good for 111 R (9th), 122 RBI (9th) and 353 TB (6th). Keeping in mind that all three players had excellent defensive reputations (Jeter did have a positive rField score in ’98, a feat he duplicated only one other time in his career) and you begin to see why the debates of the “best young SS in the AL” were so much fun in the late-1990s.

Now we move to some of the players of the type we most associate with ’90s baseball: the gargantuan slugger. Garciaparra’s teammate and 1995 AL MVP Mo Vaughn (a controversial selection, but one I chose not to highlight) was, in some ways, the player who best personified the one-dimensional slugger of the late 1990s. He finished 5th in the league with 360 TB, while slashing .337/.402/.591 (2nd/6th/6th), good for the AL’s 5th best OPS. The Hit Dog, who was naturally left-handed but threw right because that’s how his mom taught him (if my memory of a Sports Illustrated for Kids issue from the mid-to-late-1990s is correct), scored 107 and batted in 115. That he did all of this in Fenway Park as a lumbering, nigh-on-defensively-incompetent first baseman is a factor for the voters to consider.

The man whom Vaughn controversially defeated in the 1995 AL MVP vote was Albert Belle, then of the Indians, but a member of the White Sox in ’98. Belle was a highly-sought-after free agent prior to the 1997 season, following three consecutive top-three MVP finishes. After a down year in 1997, he recovered nicely to become the player the ChiSox had hoped they’d signed. Belle nearly became a member of the very exclusive 400 TB club, totaling 399 to lead the AL. He also nearly repeated his unique 50-50 season of ’95 (that’s 2B and HR), with 48 2B and 49 HR, both totals ranking second in the league. Belle batted .328/.399/.655 (3rd/7th/1st) to post a league best OPS of 1.054 (the only AL player above 1.000), proving that the most skilled sluggers of the ’90s could hit for average, too. He also scored 113 R (7th) and pounded a career best 152 RBI (2nd).

When Belle left Cleveland to pursue playing with big-bopper Frank Thomas in Chicago, he left behind our next candidate, Manny Ramirez. Ramirez is best known for driving in runs, and he did that in 1998 with 145 (4th). His 35 doubles in the cool Cleveland air led the Indians to a division title, while his 45 HR (t-4th) and 108 runs didn’t hurt anything, either. Not yet the hitter for average he would later become, Manny made his second All-Star Game (and the first of what would become 11 consecutive) on the strength of his batting line of .294/.377/.599, that SLG mark ranking 4th in the league, and the OPS standing 9th.

Perhaps not quite as “big” as the last three hitters, but with even more power, was the reigning MVP, Ken Griffey, Jr. The Kid’s 1998 season (120 R, 180 H, 33 2B, 3 3B, 56 HR, 146 RBI, 387 TB) was eerily similar to his MVP totals of the year before (125 R, 185 H, 34 2B, 3 3B, 56 HR, 147 RBI, 393 TB). But while Griffey stayed the same, the league around him got better. His only black ink in 1998 was his 56 homers, and it took him more PAs to get to his 1998 numbers, which is never great for the percentages. Admittedly, it seems a little harsh to use the phrase “not great” about a player hitting .284/.365/.611 (3rd in SLG, 8th in OPS). But, while he wasn’t leading the league in a lot of categories, he was near the league lead in many of them, ranking 4th in R, 3rd in RBI, and 2nd in TB. Plus, he managed 20 SB.

A player similar to Griffey in physique and stats was the MVP himself, Juan Gonzalez. Gonzalez already had an MVP under his belt from 1996 (meaning I’ve profiled the last three MVPs in this post), and in ’98 he did what a lot of MVPs do – lead the league in RBI for a playoff team. His 157 RBI were the most in the AL since 1949 (as were Sammy Sosa’s 158 RBI in the NL). He also cracked 50 2B to lead the league, while his none-too-shabby 45 HR (4th), 193 H (6th) and 382 TB (4th) produced 110 runs and the AL’s 2nd-best OPS, part of a .318/.366/.630 line (10th in average, 2nd in SLG). In the warm air of Texas, the raw numbers looked awfully good to voters, who gave Gonzalez the distinction of a second MVP, something he can brag about in his brochure.

Rounding out the top ten was a player who doesn’t at all fit the mold of “young SS” or “big bopper”. Ivan Rodriguez was a defense-first catcher with some pop on a first-place team. The future HOFer and next season’s MVP was known at the time as something terrifying, with an arm unlike anything ever seen, legitimately calling into question the once unquestionable defensive supremacy of Johnny Bench. Rodriguez led the league for the third consecutive year (and would lead the next three, as well) by throwing out 56% of would-be base-stealers. His offensive game was starting to come to the fore with a .321 BA (9th) that was complemented by solid marks in OBP (.358) and SLG (.513) to produce 88 R and 91 RBI despite playing only 145 G – (admittedly, a lot for a catcher, but notably fewer than the other players to whom he was being compared). 21 HR and a fairly-shocking 40 two-baggers rounded out an impressive season.

Since I always take the opportunity to highlight a couple of pitchers, I’ll do that quickly here, even though no pitcher finished in the top ten in MVP votes. There are really only two candidates – a couple of fellows named Roger Clemens (who finished 11th) and Pedro Martinez. You can guess which is which by looking at their lines:

20-6, 2.65 ERA, 234.2 IP, 33 G, 33 GS, 78 RA, 271 K, 961 BF, 1.095 WHIP
19-7, 2.89 ERA, 233.2 IP, 33 G, 33 GS, 82 RA, 251 K, 951 BF, 1.091 WHIP

Spoiler: the top line is Cy Young winner Clemens, who won the pitching Triple Crown for the second straight season.

Scott Erickson led in innings (Clemens 3rd, Martinez 6th) and David Wells in WHIP (Martinez was second, Clemens third), but it was Clemens and Martinez who were 1-2 in basically all the important categories, so it was obviously between the two of them as to who was the league’s best pitcher. Though both were in the AL East, they didn’t face off at all, which is a shame because there was a series between the two teams in Toronto at the beginning of September that could easily have been billed as the head-to-head for the Cy Young (I don’t know if Toronto was AVOIDING pitching Clemens in Boston, but it sure seems odd to me that he didn’t match up with them until September 5th, and even then it wasn’t in Boston).

So… one of the big boppers in the heart of the steroid era? One of the young SSs taking the world by storm? One of those (nearly identical) pitchers? Did I possibly miss someone? Let the debate and voting begin!

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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95 Comments on "MVP Elections – 1998 AL"

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no statistician but
Guest

Why are the links to FanGraphs instead of Baseball Reference? I’m just getting used to the new B-Ref, but FanGraphs is still harder to use, and i don’t think it presents the data nearly as well.

ThickieDon
Guest

1. Alex Rodriguez: good bat, great glove, solid baserunning + positional bonus; best SS in baseball
2. Albert Belle: 2nd best offensive OF in MLB; makes up for weak glove
3. Roger Clemens: career high K/9IP of 10.4; final two months – 1.66 ERA, 3 CGs, 12.8 K/9IP
4. Nomar Garciaparra: 2nd best SS in baseball
5. Ken Griffey, Jr.: hard to argue with 56 HR and 146 RBI

6. Derek Jeter
7. Rafael Palmeiro
8. Pedro Martinez
9. Robin Ventura
10. Juan Gonzalez

Dr. Doom
Guest

I should remember to get a closing date on this round right away. Let’s give it until a week from Friday – plenty of time to research. So Friday night, 3/17 before midnight. Looking forward to seeing your ballots! I’m sure we’re more or less at the point now where basically EVERYONE here remembers the seasons in question, so hopefully that makes for lively discussion.

Paul E
Guest
1) Griffey 2) Juan Gonzalez 3) Belle 4) Alex Rodriguez 5) Nomar 6) Manny Ramirez 7) Palmeiro 8) Clemens 9) Ivan Rodriguez 10) Bernie Williams If the “steroids era” proved anything, it sure proved it’s easier to hit with runners on base…..just look at all them there RBI! I figured, with the Yankees winning 114 games, it was a team effort and I couldn’t decide if Jeter, Brosius, “Paulie”, or Bernie Guitar should go somewhere on this ballot. I went with the guy with the second highest OPS in the league. Basically, my vote is a steroid sandwich with the… Read more »
no statistician but
Guest
Looking at the Albert Bell 1998 season I was struck by the fact that he hammered 49 homers for the Chicago White Sox. To young guys like Dr. Doom, that might not seem comment-worthy, but to anyone with an interest in baseball history—and who has lived long enough to see the game go through changes over the decades—it underscores something else that went on in the era we’re now considering. Some background: Do the names Joe Kuhel and Zeke Bonura, Gus Zernial and Eddie Robinson, ring any bells? Kuhel and Bonura both slugged 27 homers in a single season for… Read more »
ThickieDon
Guest

FWIW AT&T has suppressed left-handed HRs and offense in general more than Candlestick.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

You’re thinking Candlestick before 1960.

This website illustrates it beautifully:

http://www.andrewclem.com/Baseball/CandlestickPark.html#Diag
http://www.andrewclem.com/Baseball/ATTPark.html

AT&T only favors leftys hitting directly down the line, and hittin’ them high.

no statistician but
Guest

Any response to the gist of the comment, not the throwaway line?

ThickieDon
Guest

That’s why I threw in “FWIW” – I wasn’t criticizing or commenting, just supplying additional info that you may or may not find use for

I think generally yes, smaller stadiums – including much smaller foul play areas – had a huge impact on the way the game was played and managed, and led to an increase in scoring

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Curious to know how much the wind has been a factor.
The old stadium’s CF orientation was NorthEast. The new stadium is E.SouthEast.

Allen, Kittle, and Fisk all played in the most bandboxy Comiskey, between 1969 and 1985:
Allen hit 27 of those 37 at home.

http://www.andrewclem.com/Baseball/ComiskeyPark.html#diag

That stadium was slightly closer than the current park, but with 10 foot fences instead of 8.

Paul E
Guest
” Also in 1969, an inner fence was installed for a second time, reducing the distance to the foul poles by 20 feet; it was removed after the 1970 season. ” Voom, I can’t tell if the diagrams are adjusted back for the “bandboxy” seasons of 1970-1972 when Melton and Allen tied and broke Zernial’s CWS team record. There was a story told about Harry Caray doing a Sox game from CF and Allen hit a ball right at him and the broadcast staff but, I guess as legends go, it wasn’t some gargantuan drive of 450 feet or anything… Read more »
oneblankspace
Guest

They kept track of how many homeruns at Comiskey park reached the centerfield bleachers and not just the bullpen. By the mid-1980’s, there were 4 or 5 through 75 years of play.

Paul E
Guest
From SABR article re 1972 CWS season: “On August 23, in the seventh inning of a tight game, Allen unloaded on a 2-0 offering from the Yankees’ Lindy McDaniel and sent it soaring into the center field bleachers directly under the Comiskey Park scoreboard. Caray, who was broadcasting the game from that area as was his custom for Wednesday afternoon games, came close to catching the ball in his famous fishing net, which he kept for just such an occasion. Fans who were in Comiskey that day remember the shirt-sleeved crowd being sent into a state of shock and awe.… Read more »
Paul E
Guest

saw this on another thread….
Jimmie Foxx 5/18/34 v. Ted Lyons
Hank Greenberg 5/27/38 v. Frank Gabler
Alex Johnson 9/19/70 v. Billy Wynne
Dick Allen 8/23/72 v. Lindy McDaniRichie Zisk 5/22/77 v. Dave Rozema
Tony Armas 4/28/84 v. Tom Seaver
George Bell 8/23/85 v. Dave Wehrmeister

oneblankspace
Guest

Dave Wehrmeister… someone in the Sox front office said they wanted a big name pitcher, and they couldn’t find many names bigger than 11 letters

Richard Chester
Guest

That list can be found on baseball-almanac.com.

no statistician but
Guest
Voomo: The prevailing summer winds in Chicago that near Lake Michigan (less than 2 miles) generally are from the southwest when they aren’t coming off the lake from the east or northeast. Wrigley is closer to the lake, about a mile, and center field there also faces northeast, so the “wind is blowin’ out, wind is blowin’ in” Stevie Goodman line really counts for something. As for wind effects at old Comiskey they would have been positive in day games for the most part, variable at night, I would guess, so the park itself almost has to have had a… Read more »
Doug
Guest

The old Comiskey field was pretty much a rectangle with the outfield fence at right angles (or close to it) to the foul lines and extending in a straight line from the foul poles to centerfield. No gentle curves, so the power alleys got deep really fast. And there was an open air gap between the upper and lower decks, so lots of swirling winds as well.

Doug
Guest

The White Sox career home run record through 1990 (last season at old Comiskey) belongs to Carlton Fisk with only 192. That’s the lowest of the 16 original franchises over that period.
733 – Braves (Hank Aaron)
659 – Yankees (Babe Ruth)
646 – Giants (Willie Mays)
559 – Senators/Twins (Harmon Killebrew)
548 – Phillies (Mike Schmidt)
521 – Red Sox (Ted Williams)
512 – Cubs (Ernie Banks)
475 – Pirates (Willie Stargell)
475 – Cardinals (Stan Musial)
399 – Tigers (Al Kaline)
389 – Reds (Johnny Bench)
389 – Dodgers (Duke Snider)
333 – Browns/Orioles (Eddie Murray)
302 – Athletics (Jimmie Foxx)
226 – Indians (Earl Averill)
192 – White Sox (Carlton Fisk)

Paul E
Guest

And, Roy Sievers with only 180 HR’s solely for the original Washington Senators before the move to the Twin Cities; Jim Lemon with 144 was second – Griffith Stadium and Comiskey consistently cavernous

no statistician but
Guest

The majority of Sievers’ Washington blasts came from 1957-59 and Lemon’s from 1957-60. The Griffith left field fence was draw in dramatically after the 1956 season. Killebrew benefitted in his first two seasons as well.

Paul E
Guest

…not so “consistently cavernous” after all

Paul E
Guest

Through 1956 Washington Senators, HR’s
127 Goslin
121 Vernon
84 Yost

Mike L
Guest

I miss the dimensions of old (really old) Yankee stadium, when it was 457 to deep left/center, and 463 to center–excitement when the ball got past the outfielders and rolled towards the wall. The same with a lot of the other old baseball parks with interesting dimensions. There was a confluence of thinking about building new stadiums and a general decrease in hitting–as well as attendance, which led to more hitter-friendly fields with smaller capacities. I think you might be on to something.

Richard Chester
Guest

Before the original bleachers of the first Yankee Stadium were reconstructed in 1937 the distance to the left-centerfield fence was 500 feet

Mike L
Guest

I’m not (quite) that old.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Last time there was a qualifying season where a player had more Caught Stealing than Strikeouts:

1951 … Nellie Fox (12/11)
1948 … Dale Mitchell (18/17)
(Then you have to go back to the ’20s, with Sewell and friends.)

It’s been done once since 1951 with at least 100 PA:

1978 … Larry Milbourne (247 / 7 / 6)

oneblankspace
Guest
1. ABelle 2. Clemens 3. JGonzalez 4. Jeter 5. BWilliams 6. KGriffey Jr 7. ARodriguez 8. PMartinez 9. DWells 10. MVaughn based on leading (or top 4) batting or pitching categories, and did they make the postseason. Belle led with 163 GP (the longest consecutive games streak at the end of the season), .655 Slugging. Clemens led in Wins (tied), ERA, strikeouts. Gonzalez led in doubles and RBI, and was top 4 in homers and slugging. Jeter led in Runs and played for the division champs; his teammate Williams led in BA. Junior led in homers and was up there… Read more »
Owen
Guest

1. Belle
2. Rodriguez
3. Clemens
4. Martinez
5. Garciaparra
6. Gonzalez
7. Griffey
8. WIlliams
9. Ramirez
10. Jeter

oneblankspace
Guest

Pedro or Edgar Martinez?

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

And… Ivan or Alex?

Josh Davis
Guest

And….Bernie or Matt Williams? Mostly kidding.

Paul E
Guest

…or Juan Gonzalez or Speedy Gonzalez

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest
I can’t see throwing any kind of vote to Bernie for a 128 game season. Too many great players in ’98, including the guy standing to the left of him in the Yankees outfield (O’Neill) playing 152 and actually being good at defense and baserunning. Juan Gone got the BBWAA vote because he was a beast for the last quarter season, and the Arlington Authoritys won the division. From Aug 16th onward (41 games): .393 / .439 / .736 / 1.175 Of course, Ivan Rodriguez was no slouch during that stretch, playing all-world D at Catcher and not withering in… Read more »
John
Guest

I had the exact same SI for Kids issue “Best 13 players in the game, or something” – as I recall, you have Mo backwards. Natural righty, mom taught him to hit lefty (b/c, why not?)

Josh Davis
Guest
Such a weird year. I don’t think Gonzalez was an awful choice, but it is unfathomable to me that A-Rod didn’t get more MVP support in a 40-40 season (only 9th according to the writers). Belle’s lack of support is less surprising since he was never well liked, but he seems shockingly low in the voting as well (8th) given the season that he had. Apologies to Jose Offerman and Damion Easley (who both had career years but were stuck on poor teams), Paul O’Neill (part of the Yankee juggernaut), and Rafael Palmeiro. 1. Albert Belle: Finished top 2 in… Read more »
John
Guest
I’ve given this one some thought, and I came up with: 1. AROD 2. Clemens 3. Martinez 4. Griffey 5. Belle 6. Williams 7. Pudge Rodriguez 8. Jeter 9. Garciaparra 10. Vaughn I left off Ramirez and Juan-Gone; other honorables off the top of my head – Palmeiro, Mussina, Brosius, Wells, O’Neill, Delgado, Salmon. My justification – ARod excelled in all facets of the game. He has a little bit of a lower OBP than we’re used to seeing – mainly due to hitting in front of Griffey and Martinez. For some, the protection aspect may diminish his value somewhat,… Read more »
Dr. Doom
Guest
I have many, many, many thoughts on the 1998 AL MVP race. I’m on vacation this week, so I’m sorry for my near-absentee status in discussion. I’ll try to pitch in when I can, and I’ll be sure to be more active next week. Anyway, I would like to address a few things mentioned so far. 1. Offense – Obviously steroids had a lot to do with offensive production in the 1990s. I’m not even sure they were the biggest factor, though. There were essentially none left of what would’ve traditionally been “pitchers’ parks” by the 1990s. It became a… Read more »
Brent
Guest
Two thoughts about the 1998 AL season that I have pondered the last month or so because of discussions I have seen here and there. One is the comparison between the 2015-2016 Warriors and the 1998 Yankees for what they did after their historic season. I have heard from a couple different sources that the Warriors signing Durant after winning 73 games was something we had never seen before in sports. Well, basketball is different that baseball, and certainly signing a great player in basketball will be a greater impact than in baseball, but I would argue that the 114… Read more »
no statistician but
Guest
Fifty home runs. As has been noted by one or more of the older contributors here, the fifty mark was until recently a not quite insuperable barrier, the matching or breaking of which was both rare enough and remarkable enough to burn itself into the consciousness of serious fans. Ruth 4 time, Foxx, Kiner, Mantle, and Mays twice each, Greenberg, Mize, Maris, Foster, and Fielder (the first) once apiece. Being an old-timer myself I know these by heart (or head, whatever). Seventeen times between 1920 and 1994 in fourteen landmark seasons, Greenberg and Foxx, Kiner and Mize, Mantle and Maris,… Read more »
Lawrence Azrin
Guest
This is a really difficult process in actually putting the candidates in order; I know that Juan Gonzalez is _not_ the MVP, but actually choosing a #1 is really hard. I’m tempted to put one of the three young shortstops, but all three have drawbacks compared to each other: A-Rod, Nomah a relative lack of OBA; Jeter a lack of power. Interesting fact: those three young SS were three of the top four in B-R WAR; the other was Albert Belle, clearly the best hitter, but not by a big enough margin for me. In such a case, I might… Read more »
Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Catchers with 15 Rbat and 15 Rfield in the same season:

Gary Carter 1979
Ivan Rodriguez 1998
Ivan Rodriguez 1999
Yadier Molina 2012

(Ivan’s 1999 is the only season of 20/20)

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

I have a concept that there should be a positional consideration to the MVP.
Specifically, that if Player X was significantly better than the next best guy at his position, well, that makes him very valuable.
To that end, I present Ivan Rodriguez:

WAR, Catchers, American League, 1998:

6.4 … Ivan
2.9 … Posada
1.9 … Hatteberg
1.5 … Chris Hoiles
1.4 … Steinbach
1.2 … Lenny Webster
1.0 … Darrin Fletcher
0.8 … Joe Girardi
0.8 … AJ Hinch
0.7 … Paul Bako

e pluribus munu
Guest

Voomo, Would you apply this idea equally to the high-skill and lower-skill positions? Catchers and middle infielders are tough to replace, but I think the corner OF slots and 1B are less subject to this sort of argument, with CF and 3B intermediate. That is, if a first-string catcher goes down, good-hitting players from other positions can’t be slotted in to replace him, but that’s not true of the lower-skill positions, meaning that the practical pool of MVP-eligible first basemen, for example, could be viewed as the pool of all lower-skill fielding regulars.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Exactly. That’s why I voted Piazza over Walker last round. And why I pushed so hard for Wes Ferrell in the COG. The MVP is a somewhat esoteric concept, and we acknowledge that there intangibles to consider beyond the stats, but I’m seeing Value Over Replacement Player to be the key stat.

e pluribus munu
Guest
I think there’s something to this, Voomo. Of course, position adjustments are already made in WAR, but you’re adding in something more like position-specific replacement value for a given year among an MLB-starter replacement pool, so we’re talking about replacement value in a separate sense. In Piazza’s case, however, his poor defense may muddle the issue a bit — as though he were sort of on loan from the lower-skilled positions, where batting prowess is taken as an essential. Of course, he’s already penalized for his defense in WAR, but this really does capture something of the “circus act” aspect… Read more »
Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

“Circus Act” might be a bit of hyperbole. Sure, when his knees started to go in his 30s things got bad, but that’s true for most Catchers, and Piazza was durable for a lot of years. But in his prime, was his D really that bad? We know his SB percentage was lousy, but what about all the other aspects of the position? Bad enough for ‘circus act’? Dunno about that.

e pluribus munu
Guest

Yes, hyperbole. I liked Piazza.

Paul E
Guest

E P M, Voom,
I don’t know how you would confirm it, but I imagine there weren’t too many seasons where teams with great catching performances didn’t, at a minimum, finish above .500
Berra, Campanella, Piazza, Bench, Pudge(s), Cochrane, Dickey, Carter, Posey, …… not too many losing seasons amongst those guys

e pluribus munu
Guest
I’m sure you’re right in general, Paul, but as an exercise I looked to see whether any such season would be easy to find. It was: Tony Pena 1984. Pena had 5.9 WAR in 147 games as a 112 OPS+ hitter and a Gold Glove catcher. The Pirates were 75-87. That was a strange team, though, with a Pythagorean prediction of 87-75, a huge disparity (31-59 in one- and two-run games; 17-8 in games decided by 5+ runs — Chuck Tanner never really had a successful season managing again). In the 1984 MVP vote, Pena appeared on not one single… Read more »
Paul E
Guest

Maybe, “The Kid”, wasn’t all that well-liked by the press? Maybe it was that annoying hustle down to 1b on a BB? I dunno….

David P
Guest

Ray Fosse had 5.2 WAR for the 1970 Indians. They went 55-65 in his 120 starts, and 21-21 when he was out of the lineup (76-86). So despite being one of the best catchers in the league, the Indians did better when he was out of the lineup.

Ted Simmons had 4 seasons above 5+ WAR and the Cardinals were below .500 in two of those.

Richard Chester
Guest

Using my method Manny Ramirez has the highest percentage of runners driven home. Here’s my list:

1) Manny Ramirez
2) Belle
3) Griffey
4) Derek Jeter
5) Juan Gonzalez
6) Ivan Rodriguez
7) Clemens
8) Pedro Martinez
9) Garciaparra
10) A-Rod

Josh Davis
Guest

Maybe I’ve missed this in prior posts, but what is your method and how did you come up with such a number? Are you using all runners that were on base, or simply runners in scoring position?

Richard Chester
Guest

I used all base runners but I did not count those PA in which a batter received a walk except if the base were loaded. Ramirez came to bat with 479 base runners but I subtracted a total of 64 to account for those walks. That left him with 415 base runners and he drove home 100 of them for a percentage of 24.1%.

Richard Chester
Guest

I also considered HBP as well as walks

Josh Davis
Guest

Nice! Out of curiosity, does the rest of your ballot follow using that statistical analysis? Does Belle have the second highest percentage of runners driven home?

Richard Chester
Guest

Here’s the list of guys with 20.0+ percentage:
Ramirez………24.1%
Belle……………23.0%
Delgado………,.22.4%
Griffey…………..21.6%
Gonzalez……….21.3%
Garciaparra……20.0%

My ballot partially follows that list. I gave Jeter and Ivan Rodriguez positional credit

Richard Chester
Guest

I left out Paul O’Neill with 21.4%.

Richard Chester
Guest

Sorry guys I slipped up, Gonzalez’s % was 23.3, I misread my own handwriting. He came to bat with 519 base runners but after subtracting out runners lost due to BB and HBP he had what I call 480 net base runners. He drove in 112 of them. Manny Ramirez on the other hand had 479 total base runners but had only 415 net base runners. He drove in 100 of them. They each had 45 HR so Gonzalez’s RBI lead over Ramirez was due to more net base runners.

Richard Chester
Guest

Just to clarify that list is not complete, I checked certain players by doing a manual search of their Bases Occupied chart on their splits page. I later did a spreadsheet analysis covering all ML players with 400+ PA. Tino Martinez is tied for second in the AL with Gonzales. Some of the values changed slightly. If anyone wants to see a list of the top players give a shout out.

Richard Chester
Guest

No one gave a shout out but after all the work I went through I am posting the top 20 players, in 1998, with the highest percentage of base runners driven in using my methodology.
0.258 ….. Mark McGwire
0.243 ….. Manny Ramirez
0.236 ….. Tino Martinez
0.236 ….. Juan Gonzalez
0.236 ….. Vinny Castilla
0.233 ….. Craig Biggio
0.230 ….. Albert Belle
0.229 ….. Gary Sheffield
0.228 ….. Carlos Delgado
0.227 ….. Wally Joyner
0.217 ….. Paul O’Neill
0.216 ….. Darin Erstad
0.216 ….. Ken Griffey
0.216 ….. Todd Zeile
0.216 ….. Sammy Sosa
0.216 ….. Derek Bell
0.215 ….. Rico Brogna
0.215 ….. Jeff Kent
0.213 ….. Dante Bichette
0.213 ….. Brian Giles

e pluribus munu
Guest

The shout out wasn’t on this string, Richard, but your thinking is what started me on my line of reasoning about WPA in the string below, and I appreciate the time you’ve put into your idea and calculations.

Paul E
Guest

Richard,
Just curious, is #3 on your list really Tino (in lieu of Edgar)? If so, kind of odd that Edgar Martinez didn’t make this list (and Rico Brogna did).
But, yes, a sweet metric devised by you. Kudoes

Richard Chester
Guest

Edgar Martinez came in at 20.5%. The overall average for qualified players is about 17.6%.

I also did this analysis for a player’s career with a minimum of 6200 PA. The searchable era is for players with complete careers after 1972 plus a handful of players outside of that range. Manny Ramirez was first with 21.5% followed by the (second) Frank Thomas at 21.4% and Miggy Cabrera at 21.3%.

no statistician but
Guest
Vote follows: We all have our individual methods in trying to evaluate the likely candidates for these votes. My own isn’t exact, but it is based on the “Most Valuable” idea—that is, I try to identify which player was the one who meant the most to his team who also put up an outstanding season for a team that wasn’t so poor that his efforts had very little effect. A 9.8 WAR season on a team that finished 68-94 may have kept the team from being even worse, but it isn’t what I have in mind. I pay close attention… Read more »
e pluribus munu
Guest
I’m very interested in the ways that Richard Chester and nsb, among others, have been devising MVP rankings based on specific perspectives of how value should be calculated. In the last post that Dr. Doom initiated, I tried to come up with rankings that were based on close reviews of the roles that outstanding candidates had played on a game-by-game basis, focusing on their performances in close games, when the value of strong play has an outsize role in actual win/loss results. But it was just too time consuming. This time, I’ve been fiddling with two sets of summary figures… Read more »
David P
Guest

EPM – I’m hardly an expert but I think most people would agree that the better measure would be WPA/LI, which accounts for the fact that not everyone has the same opportunities to gain WPA. You can read more here:

http://www.fangraphs.com/library/misc/wpa-li/

Using that measure, Belle (6.2) is the clear leader followed by Griffey (5.5).

e pluribus munu
Guest
That’s a great point, David, and one I actually wrestled with, perhaps to the wrong conclusion. But it seemed to me that the angle I wanted to take was precisely about making the best of opportunities, rather than about compiling the best record of hitting acts, regardless of leverage. (Of course, WPA only measures opportunities in game contexts, rather than season contexts, so Bobby Thomson’s home run is just a three-run walk-off, not a three-run walk-off that wins a pennant, but it’s still something other than an garden variety homer with two guys on base.) I think that what Richard… Read more »
David P
Guest
Thanks EPM. Again, I’m no expert but I think part of the problem is that WPA is a bit like RBI in that not everyone has equal opportunities to accumulate it. Also, players don’t control the circumstances in which they come to bat. Using your example of a 2 run walk off. The batter wasn’t responsible for it being a one run game when he came to the plate. Had the pitchers pitched worse, it could have been a 2-10 game at that moment. Or if they had pitched better, maybe the team would have already won the game 2-0… Read more »
e pluribus munu
Guest
Yeah, I guess what I’m really looking for would be a percentage figure concerning performance in high-leverage situations, a stat different from either WPA or WPA/LI, and one step closer to what Richard is trying to do. That’s what I was aiming for last time round in calculating total batting lines in 1 & 2 run games vs. other games, but there’s just too much labor involved, and you’d still need to look at specific at bats. . . . After all, every regular does come to the plate in many high-leverage game situations each year. In considering MVP quals… Read more »
Richard Chester
Guest

Here’s one thing I don’t like about WPA.
Scenario 1: Home team beats the visitors 1-0. The lone run scores on a first inning HR and the batter’s WPA is about 0.10.
Scenario 2: Home team beats the visitors 1-0. The lone run scores on a ninth inning HR and the batter’s WPA is about 0.35.

What difference does it make when the HR is hit, the batter drove in the only run of the game? Of course the ninth inning HR is more dramatic but the overall result is the same.

e pluribus munu
Guest
This is certainly true, Richard. But in the first inning, neither batter nor pitcher is as focused on the success of that particular at bat as is the case in the ninth inning. It is true in every string of events leading to a conclusion that each step along the way is an integral to the outcome as any other. We don’t usually think of them as of the same importance, however, because we live in psychological worlds of meaning that are constantly reconfiguring the significance of those steps. In the first-inning HR example you gave, that run could be… Read more »
Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

The team that scores the first run of the game wins 68.9% of the time.

e pluribus munu
Guest
Voomo, So that would mean that a first-inning HR in a 0-0 game increases the win probability by about 38% (from 50% to 68.9%), while the increase in the case of a walk-off is close to but not quite 100% (given that the home team always has an edge when the game is tied). (There is a separate question to ask: how do we calculate the degree to which the first-to-score probability is a product of scoring first per se vs. the degree to which it is a consequence of the fact that stronger teams are more likely to score… Read more »
Richard Chester
Guest

One way is to go on-line and search for a WPA calculator. Another way is to use the PI. Go to the Team Batting Event Finder and search for lead-off HR. Then go to the box score play-by-play account for that game and check out the WPA change for that HR. Then search for walk-off HR, look for games that ended when the score was tied and search the box score play-by-play again.

e pluribus munu
Guest

Thanks, Richard.

Richard Chester
Guest
I took another look at the Batting Event Finder. You don’t have to go to the box score to find the WPA, it’s right there on the PI Results Page. The WPA of .35 I quoted in my earlier comment is for a tie score in the bottom of the 9th (or extra inning) with nobody out and nobody on. The WPA actually varies wildly with the base-out situation. At the start of the bottom of the 9th in a tie game the home team has a 65% chance of winning, but that is the overall ML average in past… Read more »
Voomo Zanzibar
Guest
epm, that 69 percent refers not to Probability, but to reality. I point it out because it relates to the discussion of MVP. Two guys, comparable stats. Player A mashed in April, Player B put up a 2 WAR September. Mr. September is going to get the MVP votes, and I see a flaw in that reasoning. All 162 games count equally. There is no such thing as a ‘pennant race.’ It is a pennant marathon, and it begins in April. Same flawed logic where a manager won’t stretch his ‘closer’ for two innings in a tie game early in… Read more »
e pluribus munu
Guest
Voomo, As always you have state your points extremely cogently. You may well be right, but I want to try out some arguments on the other side, which I believe may have the stronger case. On your first point, the 69% refers to past reality. In terms of the future, it is a probability, based on the evidence of that past reality. Moreover, I can guarantee that when the 120-game losing 1962 Mets did not score first and lost the game, they generally didn’t lose the game because they didn’t score first. A significant share of the 19% above break-even… Read more »
e pluribus munu
Guest
Replying to my own post to add one more detail of logic. In the case of a two-run HR in inning one of a 5-4 victory, you know in retrospect that the HR in the 1st provided the margin between victory and defeat. What you know to almost no degree is what the game would have looked like if the HR had been an out instead. The entire course of the game post-event becomes indeterminate – you cannot say, “The game would have been lost 4-3 if not for that 1st inning HR.” The final score could have been 8-0,… Read more »
Scary Tuna
Guest

1. Garciaparra
2. Belle
3. Jeter
4. Griffey
5. I. Rodriguez
6. Martinez
7. A. Rodriguez
8. Williams
9. Clemens
10. Vaughn

oneblankspace
Guest

Pedro or Edgar?

Dr. Doom
Guest

If people put “Martinez,” I’ve been listing Pedro; if they put “Rodriguez,” I’ve counted it for A-Rod. I will continue that pattern unless someone corrects me. We have a few ambiguous ballots, so that’s what I’ve decided to do.

Scary Tuna
Guest

My apologies. You are correct in your assumption, Dr. Doom: I meant Pedro.

Dr. Doom
Guest
Well, folks, on this St. Patrick’s Day, the final day of voting, I’m going to unveil my ballot. Yowza, is this a tough one. I remember being caught up in discussions with friends about who the NL MVP should’ve been in 1998, because McGwire was hitting more homers, but Sosa was driving in more runs for a playoff team. McGwire was grace, Sosa was fun. Those were great discussions (though I actually would’ve voted for Barry Bonds at the time – a rather unpopular opinion). Yet, perhaps it was because I was new to the NL Central (as the Brewers… Read more »
Brendan Bingham
Guest
Vote to be listed later in this post… Shortly after Dr. Doom introduced the AL 1998 MVP discussion, I settled in on my top eight candidates. Over the course of the past several days, I have rearranged the order of that list numerous times, often in response to the analysis and argumentation in this thread. But through it all my top eight have stayed my top eight. What to do with places 9 and 10 on the list? I considered leaving those positions blank. I also considered listing two additional position players. However, as an alternative to leaving two spots… Read more »
Dr. Doom
Guest
Here are your results from this round of voting! Rankings are based on points, with the first tiebreaker being first-place votes, then total ballots appeared on, then highest ballot placement. Points listed first, with first-place votes in parentheses. 1. Albert Belle, 116 (4) 2. Alex Rodriguez, 103 (3) 3. Ken Griffey, Jr., 70 (1) 4. Roger Clemens, 64 (1) 5. Nomar Garciaparra, 61, (1) 6. Ivan Rodriguez, 54 (1) 7. Derek Jeter, 54 8. Pedro Martinez, 43 9. Juan Gonzalez, 40 10. Manny Ramirez, 31 (1) 11. Bernie Williams, 19 12. Paul O’Neill, 11 13. Mo Vaughn, 8 14. Rafael… Read more »
oneblankspace
Guest

For Comparison, this is what the 28 writers from BBWAA said…
1. Juan Gonzalez, 357 (21)
2. Garciaparra, 232 (5)
3. Jeter, 180 (2)
4t. Griffey, 135
4t. Mo Vaughn, 135
6. Manny Ramirez, 127
7. Bernie Williams, 103
8. Belle, 98
9. Alex Rodriguez, 92
10. Ivan Rodriguez, 50
11. Clemens, 49
12. O’Neill, 36
13. Tom Gordon, 27
14t. Erstad, Salmon, 7
16t. David Wells, Wetteland, 3
18t. Eric Davis, Travis Fryman, Palmiero, 2
21t. Carlos Delgado, Helling, Michael Jackson, Pedro Martinez, Thome, 1

Paul E
Guest
and, if we meld the two votes, with a 70% reverse weight bias toward our expert opinions, I get (correctly or incorrectly): 372 Belle 350 A-Rod 308 Juan Gone 302 Nomar 277 Griffey Jr 254 Jeter 201 Pudge 151 Clemens 111 Bernie Williams 109 Manny Ramirez 96 Mo Vaughn The numbers are a little higher with 40 total voters (BBWAA and we experts) instead of 28 (BBWAA). But, applying a factor of .70 (28/40) would probably get theses numbers to look more like a BBWAA ballot without their Juan Gonzalez majority/consensus. And, would probably be a better reflection of why… Read more »
Paul E
Guest

Has anyone heard from Hartvig? Usually he’s a big part of these discussions but I didn’t find his name among the 86 comments

Dr. Doom
Guest

I was wondering the same. It’s been over two weeks since he last commented.

Scary Tuna
Guest

He mentioned having computer issues in his most recent comment.

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