MVP Elections – 2004 AL

Hey everyone! Dr. Doom here again, with my penultimate post on MVPs from the past.
By 2004, it had become rote; more often than not over the previous six seasons, the Yankees and the Red Sox were both in the playoffs. Unsurprisingly, yet again, the Yanks and BoSox finished with the top two records in the American League. Even thought the final margin was only 3 games, the Yankees led the division from June 1st on, which makes that race a lot less exciting. They won 100+ for the third straight season (exactly 101 for the second year in a row). Was there a little extra drama due to the way they’d beaten the Red Sox the year before? Sure. I mean, if you’re leading the ALCS by 3 in the eighth inning of Game Seven, it’s probably going to add a little fuel to the fire of next year if you lose, as the Red Sox did. But mostly, it was an uninteresting race.

Two years removed from winning the World Series, the Anaheim Angels (this was their last year under that name) had a bit of an exciting season. They edged the A’s in the AL West. After June 9th, the Angels never led until the penultimate series of the year. In fact, they entered a three-game series at Oakland to end the season tied. Anaheim took the first 10-0 to take a one-game lead. With their season on the line the next day, Oakland led 4-2 entering the top of 8. Fortunately for the Halos, they scored three that inning with some clutch hitting, including a go-ahead single by Garret Anderson to seal the division with a 5-4 win.

The Central was the least interesting of the AL’s three divisions. At least in the East, there was something of a race, even if it was a bad one. The Twins won their division by 9, as they were on their way to becoming a bit of a powerhouse team. 2004 marked their third straight division title, third straight 90+-win season, and fourth straight winning season, which sure made all that then-still-recent talk of contracting them seem a little silly. When most people now think of the high-quality Twins of the aughts, they think of defense and good bats in the lineup. But the 2004 Twins were powered by pitching, creating an intriguing setup for a postseason otherwise dominated by power hitters. Unsurprisingly (if you know a lot about baseball history), pitching, despite its perceived dominance in the postseason, usually loses, and so did the Twins.

As everyone remembers, the Red Sox eventually edged the Yanks in 7, coming back from a 3-0 deficit (they had been outscored 32-16 in the first three, before outscoring the Yankees 25-13 over the final four), and then sweeping the Cardinals in the World Series to break the curse, yadda yadda. But before all of that postseason nonsense, there were a few pretty compelling narratives for the Most Valuable Player award, and that is what we’re here to discuss.

We’ll begin with the winner himself (and someone featured in the last post about the 2000 NL), Vladimir Guerrero. Guerrero placed 3rd/9th/3rd in the league with his .337/.391/.598 line for the league’s 3rd-best OPS. He also led the league in R (124) and placed 4th in both HR (39) and RBI (126). It was a well-rounded season for a perennial candidate; but, for a player making his AL debut for a team that would win the division, and doing so as a major free agent signing in a top baseball market, it almost screamed MVP.

From Guerrero, we move on to an AL West counterpart, hit king Ichiro Suzuki. In an era of mashers, one man stands out as completely different – arguably just as effective, but singular (pun intended) in his talents, and thus, perhaps, harder to evaluate. Famously, Ichiro broke George Sisler‘s single-season hit record in 2004 when he managed 262 H. Ichiro’s margin over second-place Michael Young (46 hits) was the same as the difference between 2nd place and 22nd place. Of course, he also won the batting title, hitting .372, a number no player has matched in the twelve seasons since  (though, oddly, Ichiro is the fourth player of my lifetime to finish the season with a .372 average – Tony Gwynn in 1997, and Nomar Garciaparra and Todd Helton, both in 2000). Ichiro’s .414 OBP was second in the league, and he slugged a respectable .455 – though, let’s face it, a .455 SLG is pretty empty when you’re batting .372 – still, to paraphrase Bill James, “.372 is .372.”* He stole 36, which was second in the league, and scored 101 R. That run total may not seem like a lot for someone who was on base over 300 times, but Seattle’s offense was worst in the AL, scoring only 698 runs – so, in context, what Ichiro did was quite remarkable, proportionately equal to scoring 137 R for the Red Sox in 2004.

*The original James quotation was in reference to Arky Vaughan’s .385 average in 1935, something along the lines of “when your batting average is a good on-base percentage, that’s something”. It’s somewhere in the New Historical, I’m thinking in the Arky Vaughan player comment, but I’m not going to look it up.

We’ll now leave the AL West for the AL East and, in so doing, we’ll follow a player who traveled that same path – 2002 MVP Miguel Tejada. Tejada had won his MVP as a member of the A’s and spent one more (slightly disappointing) year as a member of that ballclub. In 2004, he left via free agency from cost-conscious Oakland to the riches of the AL East and the Baltimore Orioles. Hitting behind teammate Melvin Mora (who was having a pretty good year himself), Tejada led the AL with 150 RBI, part of a .311/.360/.534 line that gave him the 3rd-most TB in the AL (349). He scored 107 and belted 34 HR (8th) – all from the shortstop position. The Orioles were a bit disappointing (78-84), but Tejada was not.

While we’re in the AL East, let us examine the best candidate of the division champs, the New York Yankees. New acquisition Alex Rodriguez had a stellar year for a normal player, but a disappointing one by the high standards he’d set in Texas, so he was ignored by voters. Instead, MVP runner-up Gary Sheffield was the man the voters pegged as the Yanks’ best candidate. Third in R (117) and fifth in RBI (121), Sheffield batted .290/.393/.534, the 8th-best OBP and 7th-best OPS in the AL. He also ranked sixth in the league with 36 HR.

But if any team was flush with MVP candidates, it wasn’t the Yankees, but rather their rivals, the future World Champion Boston Red Sox. Finishing third in MVP voting was Manny Ramirez. Ramirez topped the league in HR (43) and was fourth in 2B (44), scoring 108 and knocking in 130 (10th and 3rd, respectively). He was the AL’s only player with a 1.000 OPS (as we began the return to more historically-normal batting numbers), his batting line reading .308/.397/.613 (the latter two ranking fifth and first in the league).

Right behind Manny in the voting was his teammate David Ortiz. The “can a DH be MVP?” arguments had begun to heat up the previous year as Ortiz finished fifth – the first of five consecutive top-5 MVP finishes (and five consecutive discussions about whether a DH can be the MVP). But 2004 saw yet another uptick in production, and recognition. Ortiz and Ramirez had awfully similar production in 2004. Ortiz’s .301/.380/.603 (2nd in SLG) led to the league’s 4th-best OPS. He was 2nd in HR (41), 2nd in RBI (139), and scored 94, to boot.

To round things out, we move to the pitchers. We’ll begin with the AL’s win leader, and yet another Bostonian, Curt Schilling. Newly acquired from the Diamondbacks, Schilling actually has a lot of the trappings of an MVP pitcher – a new team which improved following the acquisition, led the league in wins, etc. Maybe Schilling’s MVP chances were hurt by not playing for a first-place team; regardless, his season was more than worthy of consideration. Topping the AL in both W and W-L%, Schilling went 21-6 with a 3.26 ERA (2nd). His 226.2 innings was 3rd, and he, as usual, led the league in K:BB ratio, striking out 5.8 times as many as he walked. His overall strikeout number of 203 was third in the league.

And though we’ve already looked at one pitcher, it’s worth looking at another. As impressive as Schilling’s year was, it’s possible that Johan Santana‘s was even better. Santana was fourth in K:BB ratio, at 4.91 – but he was first or second in everything else. 2nd in innings (228), W and W-L% (20-6, .769) looks pretty good. Tops in ERA (2.61) and K (265) looks even better.

So, do we agree with the BBWAA’s choice of Vlad Guerrero? Do we think it was a different big bopper? Do we prefer one of the pitchers? It’s up to us to decide, so please make your voice heard, both in the discussion and the voting!

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!

Leave a Reply

34 Comments on "MVP Elections – 2004 AL"

Notify of
avatar
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Dr. Doom
Guest

Let’s go with Sunday April 23 at 11:59 your local time to close the voting.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest
I was hoping we would do this one next. It bothered me at the time that Vlad and Sheff were the almost-unanimous consensus picks. The argument for Vlad is that he carried them down the stretch. On Aug 17th they began a nine-game winning streak. From that point forward, Vlad did this over 42 games: .371 / .433 / .704 / 1.137 14 HR and 37 RBI And they needed it, because they only gained one game in the standings during that nine games. Oakland was busy winning 16 out of 18. Oakland had no obvious MVP candidate. Just durable… Read more »
David P
Guest

The Angels had 17 players (9 position and 8 pitchers) between 1.0-3.5 WAR. Hard to tell where that ranks historically since BR doesn’t allow you to search for both batting and pitching WAR at the same time.

The 9 position players is tied with other teams for the 15 highest of all time. I’m not a PI subscriber so I’m not sure where the 8 pitchers with 1.0-3.5 WAR ranks but the top 20 goes down to 9 pitchers.

So I’m guessing the Angels are near the top in terms of teams with players between 1.0-3.5 WAR.

Richard Chester
Guest

The 2004 Angels are tied for 21st place with 50 other teams.

David P
Guest

Thanks Richard! What is the most?

Richard Chester
Guest

Here are the top 5. First are the 2015 Twins with 11 pitchers. Tied for second to fifth places with 10 pitchers are the 2012 and 2014 A’s, the 2012 Orioles and the 2006 Mets.

Tied for 6th thru 20th with 9 are 15 other teams, 14 from 1986 and later and 1 from 1955. Scrolling down the list shows mostly teams from the more recent years. There are 193 teams with 7 or more pitchers meeting the criteria and only 11 teams prior to 1955 appear.

David P
Guest

That 2015 Twins team is pretty remarkable. They went 83-79 despite not having a single player with more than 3.2 WAR. Overall, they had 19 players accumulate between 1.0 and 3.2 WAR.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Sheffield vs Matsui:

.290 / .393 / .534 / .927 / 141
.298 / .390 / .522 / .912 / 137

37 / -0 / -1 / -10
36 / 1 / +1 / -6

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

2004 Yankees

Total Bases:

308 … Alex Rod
306 … Sheff
305 … Matsui
303 … Jeter

WAR

7.6 … Alex
5.0 … Matsui
4.2 … Jeter
4.2 … Mariano
4.2 … Sheffield
4.0 … Tom Gordon
3.5 … Posada

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

If new-player-on-a-team-making-an-impact gets MVP votes, how about Alex Rodriguez?
In 2003, the Yanx had Robin Ventura and Aaron Boone at 3B.
They were good for 3.1 WAR (and one good swing at a knuckleball in October)

Here is Alex ’04 vs all Yankee 2003 third basemen:

.286 / .375 / .512 / .888 / 308
.242 / .316 / .386 / .701 / 228

The hot corner produced New York’s fewest total bases in ’03.
In 2004 it produced the most.

David P
Guest

For some reason, I always think of Vlad winning the MVP the same year the Angels won the WS. But the WS came two years before. So sure Vlad was the “new-player-on-a-team-making-an-impact” but it’s not like he joined a bad team. They just had an off year in 2003.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Vote:

1. Ichiro
2. Alex Rod
3. Vlad
4. Johan Santana
5. Eric Chavez
6. Carl Crawford
7. Melvin Mora
8. Hideki Matsui
9. Miguel Tejada
10. Ivan Rod
__________________

Guset
Guest

Yes, Vlad deserved that 2004 MVP richly, and deserved more in 4 other years. Looking over what he accomplished, his impact, year after year, he shuld have at least 3 MVP’s. Not even talking about PEDs there.

Guset
Guest

1. Vlad
2. Ichiro
3. Matsui
4. Santana
5. Crawford

Josh Davis
Guest
Just for the record from a Detroit fan who remembers this season well: What Ivan Rodriguez meant to the Tigers is hard to quantify. They had been bad (and I mean brutally bad) for the last decade. But when Rodriguez came the whole tenor of the team changed….they actually played like they could win. And for the first time since Sparky, Trammell and Whitaker, it felt like games mattered. The Tigers only won 72 games, but to us that felt like almost like making the playoffs again. What I remember most was the way Pudge changed games with his defense.… Read more »
Dr. Doom
Guest

I think that’s very fair, and a good thing to remind the voters of. It’s weird – by that point, Pudge 2.0 had been around SO long that it’s hard to think, in retrospect, that he still could’ve been a transformative player. But he didn’t become a below-average hitter (per OPS+) until 2005, and every Tigers fan I’ve ever talked to has talked about his stint in Detroit in the same way that you do, Josh. So that’s definitely something worth considering this round.

Paul E
Guest

AL 2004 Runs Created, Neutralized 4.42 R/G
133 Guerrero
123 Suzuki
117 Mora
117 Ramirez
115 Tejada
114 Ortiz
110 Sheffield
110 Matsui
109 Cabrera
107 Hafner
105 A-Rod
105 Lowell

no statistician but
Guest
Here’s just a brief comment on Ichiro Suzuki in 2004, or really Suzuki in 2004 and Tony Gwynn in 1987. Suzuki’s career highs of 262 hits and .414 OBP resulted in just 101 runs scored, the lowest number scored by Suzuki in his first eight years, after which his career went on its slow decline. Gwynn, somewhat in contrast, scored a career high of 119 runs with his 218 hits and OBP of .447. Suzuki finished first in the Al in hits, BA, and WAR as did Gwynn in the NL. Suzuki led in hits by 46 and in BA… Read more »
ThickieDon
Guest

1. Ichiro
2. A-Rod
3. Melvin Mora
4. Vlad Guerrero
5. Miguel Tejada
6. Johan Santana
7. David Ortiz
8. Travis Hafner
9. Aaron Rowand
10. Manny Ramirez

Paul E
Guest
Guerrero’s first year in the new league and he wins an MVP. I imagine this list is a complete list of players ‘new’ to their league winning MVP honors: 2004 Guerrero 2001 Suzuki 1988 Gibson 1975 Lynn 1972 Allen 1966 F. Robinson Technically, Lynn wasn’t ‘new’ to the league but he was still classified as a rookie in 1975 and Suzuki had already played 8 or so seasons in Japan. The strongest case against any of these guys would probably be Strawberry over Gibson in 1988: “I’m gonna knock in 75 runs next year and work on my leadership”. Robinson… Read more »
Dr. Doom
Guest
Paul, you say the Robinson “really struggled” with the Dodgers. However, he did post a 127 OPS+ and led the team with 19 HR. Mostly, he only played 103 G. I’m not sure what the issue was (injury or otherwise), but he was quite good that year. Of course, that was one of the worst periods for run scoring in ML history, in one of the unfriendliest environments to run-scoring. Basically, he LOOKED worse than he WAS. Also, he returned to the AL the following three seasons, and his LOWEST OPS+ in that span was a 141… so maybe he… Read more »
Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Playing in L.A. wasn’t the issue.
His Road numbers were bad.

Splits:

.302 / .387 / .530 / .917
.212 / .328 / .373 / .701

Paul E
Guest
Robinson slashed .302/.390/.550 (156 OPS+) prior to the trade to the Dodgers and a 145 OPS+ when traded back to the AL. The article(s) I’m thinking of appeared either in SPORT magazine or Sports Illustrated (I don’t believe it was Baseball Digest). Robinson basically stated that the brand of ball in the AL was less aggressive, less exciting, and the players more one-dimensional. Smaller ballparks might have accounted for more 3-1 curve balls, but pitchers did’t challenge hitters and the base running was less aggressive. Pitchers even threw inside less. Generally speaking, Robinson was pretty adamant that the AL was… Read more »
no statistician but
Guest

As a rough measure, relative league strength historically shows up in the All-Star game results, at least since 1933. The AL dominated those game through 1949 (12-4), the NL from 1950 to 1985 (32-7-1), and the AL from 1986 to the present (23-7-1). At the heart of the NL 35-year dominance was Frank Robinson’s career.

Scary Tuna
Guest

1. Ichiro Suzuki
2. Vladimir Guerrero
3. Johan Santana
4. Miguel Tejada
5. Melvin Mora
6. Manny Ramirez
7. David Ortiz
8. Ivan Rodriguez
9. Alex Rodriguez
10. Curt Schilling

Paul E
Guest

Vladimir Guerrero
Tejada
Suzuki
Johan Santana
Mora
Sheffield
Matsui
Schilling
A-Rod
Ivan Rodriguez

I don’t believe there’s enough evidence to “overturn” this award. IIRC, Guerrero had injured his back the prior season and the Angels certainly were rewarded for going out on a limb ($65 M / 5 years)

Dr. Doom
Guest
I’m going to post some thoughts here, and then a vote below. 1. I see that Voomo voted for Eric Chavez, but not Carlos Guillen. Guillen played the more demanding position (SS vs. 3B), he played more games (136 to 125), and had a better OPS (.921 to .889). Now, admittedly, Chavez had a better OBP (.397 to .379) and played in the tougher ballpark – but I don’t see that as enough to get him that high without Guillen being AT LEAST close. 2. Johan was, by a country mile, the best pitcher in the league. I wish I… Read more »
Doug
Guest

My vote.

1. Vlad
2. A-Rod
3. Schilling
4. Santana
5. Ichiro
6. Tejada
7. Manny
8. Ortiz
9. Matsui
10. Mora

This year has to be the poster child for making a good start in a new city, with Vlad, A-Rod, Schilling, Tejada and Sheffield all in their debut seasons with a new club and all delivering the goods.

Josh Davis
Guest

Not to mention I-Rod and Guillen having great years in their first Detroit seasons.

no statistician but
Guest
For the AL 2004 re-vote, I only see one candidate who qualifies by my loose bunch of criteria: Vladimir Guerrero. Guerrero dominated the offense on a team that won its division by a single game, a team that went from 52-47 in late July to 92-70 at the finish. Guerrero’s bat in the critical September drive provided 11 HRs, 25 Runs, 25 RBIs, a .363/.424/.726 line. The Angels were 3 games out on September 24. They won seven of the next eight to clinch, all against the As and the Rangers, the teams they had to beat. In those eight… Read more »
Dr. Doom
Guest
With only a few days left to vote (remember, deadline is Sunday night!), here are my choices for the 2004 AL MVP: 1.  Vladimir Guerrero – There are reasons to question this award, surely there are.  But the fact of the matter is, by virtually ANY offensive measure I could devise that considered both effectiveness AND playing time, Guerrero comes out as the best hitter in the AL.  The margins there aren’t HUGE, but when you throw in the fact that he was also still that cannon-armed defensive wiz, I’m going to have to keep him as the MVP. 2. … Read more »
Richard Chester
Guest

For better or worse here’s my vote.
1) Manny Ramirez
2) David Ortiz
3) Miguel Tejada
4) Viadimir Guerrero
5) Gary Sheffield
6) Johan Santana
7) Ichiro Suzuki
8) Carlos Guillen
9) Travis Hafner
10) Melvin Mora

Josh Davis
Guest
As others have mentioned, there are others who have a case, but Guerrero seems like a good choice, one that I feel comfortable supporting. For me, the difference this year is that he was the main offensive force on a 1st place team. Tejada, Mora, Rodriguez, Ichiro, Guillen, Teixeira etc. have the numbers but their teams didn’t achieve. A-Rod, Sheffield, Ramirez and Ortiz anchored playoff teams but had the benefit of one another. That seems like a good argument for Guerrero being the most valuable. 1. Vladimir Guerrero 2. Miguel Tejada 3. Melvin Mora 4. Alex Rodriguez 5. Manny Ramirez… Read more »
Dr. Doom
Guest
Here are the results, everyone! Vote points listed, with first place votes in parentheses: 1. Vladimir Guerrero, 115 (6) 2. Ichiro Suzuki, 84 (3) 3. Miguel Tejada, 61 4. Johan Santana, 55 5. Alex Rodriguez, 49 6. Melvin Mora, 40 7. Manny Ramirez, 36 (1) 8. David Ortiz, 30 9. Hideki Matsui, 22 10. Gary Sheffield, 21 11. Curt Schilling, 15 12. Ivan Rodriguez, 11 13. Carl Crawford, 11 14. Eric Chavez and Jorge Posada, 6 16. Carlos Guillen and Travis Hafner, 5 18. Aaron Rowand, 2 19. Mark Teixeira, 1 I’d say Doug probably had the closest ballot to… Read more »
wpDiscuz