Friday, September 4, 2009

Who Deserved The 1997 NL MVP Award?

This issue came up over at The Daily Something's Happy Birthday To Mike Piazza. Bill apparently thinks that Piazza got robbed when the award went to Larry Walker of the Rockies. The only thing I can cay about that is "Don't Mess With Texas!":)

The reason is that Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros was also deserving of the award (although both he and Piazza were clearly better choices than Walker). The Rockies actually finished 3rd, 7 games behind the West champs (the Giants). The Dodgers were 2nd, 2 GB. The Astros won the Central, but only went 84-78. The Dodgers went 88-74. Sabermetrically, it looks like Biggio and Piazza both had clearly better years than Walker.

Here are the leaders in Win Shares that year

Gwynn 39
Piazza 39
Biggio 38
Bonds 36
Bagwell 32
Walker 32
Rolen 29

Now the leaders in batting plus fielding wins (it is the Pete Palmer linear weights measure, from Retrosheet)

8.2 Biggio HOU
7.7 Piazza LA
6.2 Bonds SF
6.1 Bagwell HOU

Walker had 4.4

I do recall that maybe some writers saw that his home/road splits that year were balanced, so they did not discount for Coors. His AVG-OBP-SLG at home were .384-.460-.709 and on the road they were .346-.443-.733.

Biggio's AVG-OBP-SLG that year (home and road) were .309-.415-.501 playing in the Astrodome. He stole 47 bases with 10 CS and played 2B. Walker was a RFer.

Sean Smith has them with the following wins above replacement (WAR)

Biggio 9.6
Piazza 9.3
Walker 9.0

Biggio still comes out on top, but not by as much. Others already mentioned had

Gwynn 5.2
Bonds 8.8
Bagwell 8.1
Rolen 4.5

I don't see where Sean lists the year by year leaders, so I will have to leave it at that. Another thing to look at would be the NL leaders in various stats that year at Baseball Reference. Walker does well in adjusted batting runs and adjusted batting wins. I think these are park adjusted. So fielding wins would have to vault either Biggio or Piazza past Walker.

1. Walker (COL) 6.6
2. Piazza (LAD) 6.5
3. Bagwell (HOU) 6.0
Bonds (SFG) 6.0
5. Gwynn (SDP) 4.8
6. Biggio (HOU) 4.3
7. Lankford (STL) 4.1
8. Mondesi (LAD) 3.2
9. Caminiti (SDP) 3.1
10. Snow (SFG) 3.0
Olerud (NYM) 3.0
Hundley (NYM) 3.0


Brad Templeman said...

Interesting. It is amazing that Biggio only received MVP votes in 5 out of 20 seasons and never higher than 4th. Some years have too few legitimate MVP candidates, it seems like 1997 had too many. Walker's numbers were really gaudy, but it looks like Biggio had a good case for winning.

Cyril Morong said...

Thanks for dropping by and commenting. Yes, alot of guys had very good seasons that year. I agree that his MVP votes seem low. He only had 1.02 MVP shares, ranked 227th at Baseball Reference. Yet Sean Smith has him ranked 74th all-time in wins above replacement.