On a previous visit, the effort was made to convince fans who were youngsters in the 50's and 60's that advanced metrics are really more telling than just the stats on the back of a baseball card. A good friend of mine, who was born in the 40's and might be the world's most avid Willie Mays fan, isn't quite ready to convert. However, after realizing that WAR (Wins Above Replacement) showed the "Say Hey Kid" as one of the top five players in the game for 13 consecutive seasons, he said, "Willie for sure got screwed out of the MVP Award several times."
So, now it's time for the Baby Boomers who found their heroes in and around the 1970's to feel better or worse about their favorites. To set the table, "Wins Above Replacement" is an attempt by the SABRmetric community to summarize a player's total contribution to their team in one statistic. The value is expressed in a wins format, so we could determine that player "A" is worth 5 wins to the team over the course of a season. 8+ is usually MVP quality while 5+ is All-Star quality. Mike Trout has led all of baseball each of the last two seasons. We'll use the top five WAR players from baseball-reference.com for each applicable year.
"Gibby" was the best player in baseball the previous season and after MLB lowered the mound by five inches to improve offense, he was the best player again with 20 wins and 28 complete games. Petrocelli hit 40 HRs as a shortstop batting clean-up and finished 7th in the MVP balloting (Harmon Killebrew won)...Jackson had an OPS of 1.018 with 47 HRs and finished 5th in the MVP. Dierker won 20 games and pitched over 300 innings for a .500 team. Bando had 31 HRs and 113 RBIs. Willie McCovey had the 6th best WAR with 8.1 and won the NL MVP.
Gibson went 23-7 for his third consecutive WAR title. "Yaz" had 40 HRs and a league-leading 1.044 OPS. McDowell won 20 games and led the AL in strikeouts for the fifth time in six seasons. Fregosi was a power-hitting shortstop in his prime, but a year later was traded for Nolan Ryan. Bench had 45 HRs and 148 RBIs, earning him the NL MVP. Boog Powell won the AL MVP but his WAR was only 5.1.
Jenkins won 24 games for the Cubs in 325 innings and won the Cy Young. Seaver was the Cy Young runner-up in the NL with 20 wins and a 1.76 ERA. Wood's knuckleball produced 22 wins and a 1.91 ERA for the White Sox. Lolich had 25 wins and pitched 376 innings but it was only good for 2nd in the AL Cy Young voting. At age 21, Blue posted 24 wins with an ERA of 1.82 and won both the Cy Young and AL MVP. The best offensive player was Willie Stargell at 7.9 but Joe Torre won the NL MVP, as he led the league in BA and RBIs.
This was Carlton's legendary season with 27 wins and a 1.97 ERA for a Phillies team that won only 59 games. Perry won 24 games and joined Carlton as Cy Young winners for the year. Wood also won 24 games and pitched 376 innings to finish right behind Perry in the voting. Morgan led the NL in runs and OBP. Bench won the NL MVP with 40 HRs and 125 RBIs. Allen won the AL MVP by leading the league in HRs, RBIs, OBP and OPS.
Seaver won the NL Cy Young with 19 wins and a 2.08 ERA. Blyleven was the best pitcher in the AL and finished 7th in the Cy Young voting (Jim Palmer won with a WAR of 6.3). Morgan had another amazing season which included 67 SBs and a Gold Glove. Evans and Grich never got their due, as they were both better than AL MVP winner Reggie Jackson, while Rose captured the NL MVP.
One of those inexplicable seasons where neither Cy Young winner or MVP was in the top ten in WAR. Schmidt led the NL in HRs and Slugging Percentage but finished 6th behind Steve Garvey for the MVP. Matlack had a losing record but pitched seven shutouts for a Mets team that was 71-91. Morgan had another stellar season and led the NL in OBP. Perry won 21 games at age 35. Niekro led the NL with 20 wins and 300+ innings. The AL MVP was Jeff Burroughs while the Cy Young plaques went to Mike Marshall and Catfish Hunter.
> 1975 - Joe Morgan 11.0, Jim Palmer 8.5, Goose Gossage 8.3, Tom Seaver 8.2 and Catfish Hunter 8.1
Morgan won the NL MVP by playing a different game than anyone else with a .466 OBP, .974 OPS and a Gold Glove. Palmer's second Cy Young season included 23 wins and 10 shutouts. Before the era of ninth inning closers, Gossage had nine wins and 26 saves in 141+ innings. Seaver won his third NL Cy Young with 22 wins. In his first season as a Yankee, Hunter had 23 wins and 30 complete games in 328 innings. Fred Lynn won the AL MVP and ROY with a WAR of 7.3, which was just outside the top ten.
> 1976 - Joe Morgan 9.6, Mark Fidrych 9.6, Mike Schmidt 7.6, Craig Nettles 7.9 and Vida Blue 7.7
Morgan was clearly the best position player in the game and won another MVP. Fidrych won the AL ROY and finished 2nd to Palmer in the Cy Young vote with 19 wins, 24 complete games and a league-leading 2.34 ERA. Schmidt hit 38 HRs and won the Gold Glove. Nettles had his best season, which included leading the AL in HRs but he finished 16th in the MVP vote, which was captured by his teammate Thurman Munson. Blue won 18 games for the A's. The NL Cy Young went to Randy Jones, who won 22 games for the Padres.
Carew hit .388 with a 1.019 OPS to win the AL MVP. Reuschel won 20 games for the Cubs but Carlton got the Cy Young. Schmidt hit 38 HRs (again) and won the Gold Glove (again). Seaver was 7-3 with the Mets and then 14-3 with the Reds after being traded. Niekro went 16-20 in 330+ innings for a Braves team that won only 61 games. Foster's 52 HRs and 149 RBIs got him the NL MVP. Frank Tanana and Nolan Ryan were both in the top ten but the AL Cy Young went to Sparky Lyle.
Niekro's "Rodney Dangerfield" act continued at age 39 with 19 wins, a 2.88 ERA and 22 complete games for a team that was 24 games under .500. He finished 6th in the Cy Young voting to Gaylord Perry. Guidry won the AL Cy Young with a record of 25-3. Caldwell finished 2nd to Guidry in the voting with 22 wins and 23 complete games. Rice ran away with the AL MVP as he led the league in HRs, RBIs, Triples, Hits and OPS. "Eck" was a starter at this point in his career and had 20 wins for the Red Sox. Otis had 22 HRs, 96 RBIs and 32 SBs. Dave Parker was next on the list at 7.0 and won the NL MVP.
Lynn's season was even better than '75, as he led the AL with a .333 BA and a 1.059 OPS while adding 39 HRs, 122 RBIs and a Gold Glove in CF - it got him 4th place in the MVP voting. Brett finished just ahead of him with a .329 BA and 20 triples. Winfield led the NL in RBIs and Total Bases while winning a Gold Glove. Niekro won 21 games and pitched 342 innings at age 40. Schmidt hit 45 HRs, walked 120 times and won the Gold Glove but finished 13th on the MVP ballot. Keith Hernandez had a WAR of 7.6 and split the MVP award with Willie Stargell, who had a WAR of only 2.5 in less than 500 at-bats. The AL MVP went to Don Baylor, who did lead the league in RBIs but had a WAR of only 3.7 playing 40% of his games as a DH. Darrell Porter (7.6) and Buddy Bell (6.8) were both in the top ten but finished 9th and 10th in the MVP race. The Cy Young winners were Bruce Sutter and Mike Flanagan but WAR says Dennis Eckersley (7.3) and Jerry Koosman (7.2) had better years. There were a lot of drugs in our society during this time and it seems that some of them were being consumed by baseball writers while they filled out their ballots.
So, Boomers, did your favorites show up positively in the WAR analysis? Or, are you now more sure than ever that your guy never got his due?