Thursday, December 20, 2012

1974: The Year The MVP Voting Went To Heck

This is a family blog, so I have to say heck.

After checking data at Baseball Reference, 1974 looks like the first year that none of the top 3 vote getters in either league were among the top 10 in WAR. I did not find this happening in any year before, even if in only one league (if I missed one, let me know). At least one of the top 3 vote getters was in the top 10 of position players or pitchers in all previous years.

Here are the top 3 in each league from that year:

Mike Marshall (not in the top 10 for pitchers)


Now this is not a systematic analysis. Maybe other years were worse in terms of how well WAR was correlated with the points each guy got.

There were 3 times I found where the winner was not in the top 10 in WAR, but at least one of the other top 3 guys was

Frisch 1931
Cochrane 1934
Powell 1970 (Oliva was 2nd in voting and was in the top 10 in WAR but Killebrew (3rd) was not)

There were some cases of a winner tying for 10th (Boyer, Campanella). Konstanty was 7th among pitchers in 1950, but not in the overall top 10 (which combined pitchers and position players).

Now Frisch and Cochane were also managers. Maybe that influenced the voters.

In 1974, Reggie Jackson, Gene Tenace and Bert Campaneris all had more WAR than teammates Rudi & Bando.

In the NL, Garvey led his team in RBIs and batted over .300.  His teammate, Jimmy Wynn, beat him in WAR, 7.6 to 4.3. But Garvey beat him in AVG (.312-.271) and RBIs (111-108).

Brock set the then SB record with 118. Maury Wills won the award in 1962 when he set a record with 104, so I guess the voters thought Brock had to get some consideration. But Garvey's Dodgers won their division while Brock's Cardinals did not.

Mike Marshall set a record for games pitched with 106 and won the Cy Young award while pitching for the Dodgers.

Jeff Burroughs led the AL in RBIs with 118 (while also batting .301). But his Rangers did not win their division. Only one other player, Bando, had 100+ RBIs in the AL (he had 103).

Here is something I found about that year's MVP vote from the following site,%201974.pdf
"Lou Brock, who finished second to Steve Garvey in the National League MVP voting, says he wouldn't accept the MVP next year if he stole a thousand bases. Brock, who had his best year ever, expected to get the award and even set-up a press conference. Brock beat Maury Wills' 12-year old record of 104 steals."
I found a NY Times article through my school's library that confirms the 1000 base quote and this is how I recall it. Brock also said the voters used "bad judgement" and his manager, Schoendienst, agreed.

Click here to see the MVP voting for both leagues in 1974

Click here to see the WAR leaders among position players in the NL in 1974

Click here to see the WAR leaders among position pitchers in the NL in 1974

Click here to see the WAR leaders among position players in the AL in 1974

Click here to see the WAR leaders among position pitchers in the AL in 1974


David said...

I think one of my favorite "garbage stats" is a little thing I've done with batting averages, learned from Bill James. James mentions that, in the course of a player's career, Hits usually equals Secondary Bases (which is Extra Bases {TB-H} + Walks + Stolen Bases, and I like to throw in HBP). It ALSO equals (roughly speaking) RBI + R. So, I like to add them all together, divide by three, and then divide by AB. This gives some idea as to whether a player's offensive value was actually greater than or less than his batting average. In other words:


Again, this is a garbage stat, because it treats every base the same and it doesn't factor in caught stealings and it gives too much weight to team-dependent stats like R and RBI... yadda yadda yadda. We all know this. But it's fun anyway, I think. And it's easy. Plus, it's fun to see how much a player's batting average "overrates" or "underrates" him in a given year.

Anyway, I've said all that to say this. The "Composite Average" for Lou Brock in 1974 is .302. In other words, even WITH that mess of stolen bases, he wasn't any better than his batting average showed (actually, a teeny bit worse).

Reggie Smith's "Composite Average" was .339 - much higher than Brock, and significantly higher than Smith's batting average (which was .309). And that's only on his own team!

Mike Schmidt, .391
Joe Morgan, .396
Johnny Bench, .344

And all three of those guys played tougher defensive positions than Garvey, and played them better! Of course, they didn't play for pennant winners (or even division winners). Of course, Willie Stargell, who DID play for a division winner, posted a .398 Composite Average that year. So while I understand that Garvey had the narrative going for him that year, these other players were clearly superior.

Cyril Morong said...

Great comment. I agree that the guys you mention and others were much better than Garvey or Brock. And I like the idea of seeing how a player's batting average
"overrates"or "underrates" him. Did you do it for Garvey?

David said...

Here are the players discussed, and a few others, as they ranked in 1974 (and I did it in a spreadsheet this time, which should correct some of the errors I made last time):

Joe Morgan, .396
Mike Schmidt, .391
Jim Wynn, .376
Willie Stargell, .362
Johnny Bench, .344
Reggie Smith, .340
Lou Brock, .302
Steve Garvey, .283
Al Oliver, .282

Reggie Jackson, .368
Jeff Burroughs, .348
Sal Bando, .329
Bert Campaneris, .316
Rod Carew, .290
Joe Rudi, .281
Bobby Grich, .248

When checking to see who was better or worse than their batting average, you have to adjust for the league and whether it was, as a whole, better or worse than it's batting average. The NL was 5.6% worse than its BA, the AL was 6.8% worse than its BA. Adjusting for that context, Schmidt and Wynn were both 47% "better" than their batting average. Bando was 45% better, and Morgan was 43% better. Carew was the biggest loser (unsurprisingly), being 15% worse than his batting average. Grich (8%), Garvey (7%), and Brock (4%) were also overrated by their batting averages. Joe Rudi was the player whose value was closest to being captured by his average - he was less than 3% better than his batting average. Grich is the really big surprise, I think, because for his career, he was a .266 hitter with a .294 composite average - in other words, he was almost always better than his batting average - but not in 1974.

Cyril Morong said...

Great, work. Thanks! So Garvey was actually overrated but Burroughs underrated, although still well behind Jackson, who was probably a better all-around player and was on a 1st place team. And Wynn was way ahead of Garvey.

Anonymous said...

I did a double take when I saw the top three '74 NL vote getters as outlined in your post:

Mike Marshall

I realize Brock is Lou and Mike Marshall was a pitcher, but when Steve Garvey left the Dodgers after the 1982 season, he was replaced at first base by two players: one named Brock (Greg) and another named Mike Marshall (1B/OF, not a pitcher).

Anyway--interesting coincidence.

Cyril Morong said...

Thanks for reading. I don't think I noticed that