On a previous visit, the effort was made to convince fans who were youngsters in the 50’s & 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 in three of his first five seasons. We’ll use the top five WAR players from baseball-reference.com for each applicable year.
> 1969 – Bob Gibson 11.3, Rico Petrocelli 10.0, Reggie Jackson 9.2, Larry Dierker 8.4 and Sal Bando 8.3
“Gibby” was the best player in baseball the previous season and after MLB lowered the mound by 5 inches to improve offense, he was the best player again with 20 Wins and 28 complete games…Petrocelli hit 40 HR’s 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 HR’s and finished 5th in the MVP…Dierker won 20 games and pitched over 300 innings for a .500 team…Bando had 31 HR’s & 113 RBI’s. Willie McCovey had the 6th best WAR with 8.1 and won the NL MVP.
> 1970 – Bob Gibson 10.1, Carl Yastrzemski 9.5, Sam McDowell 7.9, Jim Fregosi 7.7 and Johnny Bench 7.4
Gibson went 23-7 for his 3rd consecutive WAR title…”Yaz” had 40 HR’s and a league-leading 1.044 OPS…McDowell won 20 games and led the AL in strikeouts for the 5th time in 6 seasons…Fregosi was a power-hitting shortstop in his prime, but a year later was traded for Nolan Ryan…Bench had 45 HR’s & 148 RBI’s earning him the NL MVP. Boog Powell won the AL MVP but his WAR was only 5.1.
> 1971 – Fergie Jenkins 12.0, Tom Seaver 10.9, Wilbur Wood 10.9, Mickey Lolich 8.7 and Vida Blue 8.6
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 & RBI’s.
> 1972 – Steve Carlton 12.5, Gaylord Perry 11.2, Wilbur Wood 10.3, Joe Morgan 9.3 and Johnny Bench / Dick Allen 8.6
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 & OBP…Bench won the NL MVP with 40 HR’s & 125 RBI’s…Allen won the AL MVP by leading the league in HR’s, RBI’s, OBP & OPS.
1973 – Tom Seaver 11.0, Bert Blyleven 9.9, Joe Morgan 9.2, Dwight Evans 9.0 and Bobby Grich / Pete Rose 8.3
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 SB’s and a Gold Glove…Evans & Grich never got their due, as they were both better than AL MVP winner Reggie Jackson, while Rose captured the NL MVP.
> 1974 – Mike Schmidt 9.7, Jon Matlack 8.7, Joe Morgan 8.6, Gaylord Perry 8.6 and Phil Niekro 8.0
One of those inexplicable seasons where neither Cy Young winner or MVP was in the top ten in WAR…Schmidt led the NL in HR’s & Slugging Percentage but finished 6th behind Steve Garvey for the MVP…Matlack had a losing record but pitched 7 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 & 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 2nd Cy Young season included 23 wins and 10 shutouts…before the era of 9th-inning closers, Gossage had 9 wins & 26 saves in 141+ innings…Seaver won his 3rd NL Cy Young with 22 wins…in his first season as a Yankee, Hunter has 23 wins and 30 complete games in 328 innings. Fred Lynn won the AL MVP & 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 8.0, Craig Nettles 8.0 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 HR’s and won the Gold Glove…Nettles had his best season which included leading the AL in HR’s 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 with 22 victories for the Padres.
1977 – Rod Carew 9.7, Rick Reuschel 9.6, Mike Schmidt 8.8, Tom Seaver 8.5 and Phil Niekro / George Foster 8.4
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 HR’s (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 HR’s & 149 RBI’s 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.
1978 – Phil Niekro 10.4, Ron Guidry 9.6, Mike Caldwell 8.1, Jim Rice 7.5 and Amos Otis 7.4
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 HR’s, RBI’s, Triples, Hits and OPS…Otis had 22 HR’s, 96 RBI’s & 32 SB’s. Dave Parker was 7th on the list at 7.0 and won the NL MVP.
1979 – Fred Lynn 8.8, George Brett 8.6, Dave Winfield 8.3, Phil Niekro 8.0 and Mike Schmidt 7.9
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 HR’s, 122 RBI’s 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 RBI’s & Total Bases while winning a Gold Glove…Niekro won 21 games and pitched 342 innings at age 40…Schmidt hit 45 HR’s, 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 AB’s. The AL MVP went to Don Baylor, who did lead the league in RBI’s but had a WAR of only 3.7 playing 40% of his games as a DH. Darrell Porter (7.6) and Buddy Bell (6.9) were both in the top ten but finished 9th & 10th in the MVP race. The Cy Young winners were Bruce Sutter & 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?
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