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Were the triple crown winners the best players?

Posted by Andy on April 28, 2011

Reader Steve T wrote in to ask:

"I see that many members often talk about the unimportance of the triple crown stats.  I was wondering if there was ever an instance of someone winning the triple crown and yet a reasonable argument could be made that he was not the best player in the league that given year"

Well let's take a look.
In 1967 Carl Yastrzemski won the triple crown in the AL. Yaz also led the AL in WAR by a huge margin. He registered a WAR of 12.2 while the next best player was Al Kaline with 7.3.

Here are other triple crown winners and their rank in WAR:

1966 AL, Frank Robinson, 1st in WAR (8.3) over Earl Wilson (6.8)

1956 AL, Mickey Mantle, 1st in WAR (12.9) over Early Wynn (8.5)

1947 AL Ted Williams, 1st in WAR (10.3) over Lou Boudreau (7.3)

1942 AL Ted Williams, 1st in WAR (11.0) over Joe Gordon (8.4)

1937 NL Joe Medwick, 1st in WAR (8.9) over Johnny Mize (6.9)

1934 AL Lou Gehrig, 1st in WAR (10.7) over Charlie Gehringer (9.5)

1933 AL Jimmie Foxx, 1st in WAR (9.0) over Lou Gehrig (7.9)

1933 NL Chuck Klein, 4th in WAR (6.9) behind Carl Hubbell (8.2) and second among all position players to Wally Berger (7.0)

1925 Rogers Hornsby, 1st in WAR (10.0) over Kiki Cuyler (6.9)

1922 Rogers Hornsby, 1st in WAR (10.7) over Wilbur Cooper (7.1)

1909 AL Ty Cobb, 1st in WAR (10.6) over Eddie Collins (9.8)

1901 AL Nap Lajoie, 2nd in WAR (9.4) behind Cy Young (11.2) but first among all position players

There were a couple more triple crown winners before 1901 but I'll stop there.

In all but a couple of cases, the winner put up the best WAR in his league and was probably the best player. Can we make good arguments against any of these guys? I guess I'd start with Chuck Klein.

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 28th, 2011 at 11:26 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

51 Responses to “Were the triple crown winners the best players?”

  1. Win Shares gives the 1933 MVP to Berger too.

  2. Win Shares? Haven't you heard that Win Shares are "out," and WAR is "in"?

    WAR WAR WAR. Blah blah blah.

  3. Klein is the easy target, because of the ridiculous park factor of the Baker Bowl. Plus, the MVP voters of his own time saw Hubbell as the superior player, and thus gave him the MVP. I would say those are pretty big strikes against him.

  4. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Quite interesting to see it laid out like that. Obviously WAR isn't perfect, but it's sort of nice to see the advanced stats corroborate the traditional stats, and vice versa. Of course the triple crown numbers don't tell us everything about a player, but if a guy is great in all of them, you can be pretty sure he's had a hell of a season.

    Since WAR includes defense, it would be interesting to see the Triple Crown winners just compared against batting runs, or all of the offensive components of WAR (but not oWAR, since that will include his position).

    Some folks have called BA/OBP/SLG the "saber" Triple Crown. Would also be interesting to see how players who won that version rank. (Obviously the traditional Crown includes a playing time component by virtue of its counting stats, whereas the saber Crown could miss a lot of time and still qualify for the batting title.)

  5. JT said "it's sort of nice to see the advanced stats corroborate the traditional stats, and vice versa".

    That was exactly my thought about it as well.

  6. If you look at the pitching Triple Crown, are still pretty interesting (and I'm only using pitching WAR, not overall WAR). Here it is, for what it's worth:

    2007 NL Jake Peavy (6.2) over Brandon Webb (6.1)
    2006 AL Johan Santana (7.0) over Roy Halladay (5.4)
    2002 NL Randy Johnson (8.8) over Curt Schilling (6.8)
    1999 AL Pedro Martinez (8.4) over Brad Radke (5.8)
    1998 AL Roger Clemens (7.5) over Kenny Rogers (6.9)
    1997 AL Roger Clemens (10.3) over Randy Johnson (7.7)
    1985 NL Dwight Gooden (11.7) over John Tudor (7.5)
    1972 NL Steve Carlton (12.2) over Bob Gibson (7.6)
    1966 NL Sandy Koufax (10.8) over Juan Marichal (9.0)
    1965 NL Sandy Koufax BEHIND (8.2) Juan Marichal (9.2) and Jim Bunning (8.3)
    1963 NL Sandy Koufax (10.8) over Dick Ellsworth (10.3)
    1945 AL Hal Newhouser (8.9) over Nels Potter (5.7)
    1940 AL Bob Feller (9.4) over Bobo Newsom (7.3)
    1939 NL Bucky Walters (7.7) over Claude Passeau (5.3)
    1937 AL Lefty Gomez (8.9) over Lefty Grove (8.0)
    1934 AL Lefty Gomez (8.1) over Mel Harder (6.8)
    1931 AL Lefty Grove (9.4) over Lefty Gomez (6.0)
    1930 AL Lefty Grove (9.1) over Wes Ferrell (6.9)
    1924 AL Walter Johnson (6.2) BEHIND Herb Pennock (7.0) and Howard Ehmke (6.8)
    1924 NL Dazzy Vance (9.1) over Eppa Rixey (4.5)
    1920 NL Pete Alexander (10.0) over Burleigh Grimes (5.6)
    1918 AL Walter Johnson (8.7) over Stan Coveleski (7.5)
    1918 NL Hippo Vaughn (6.8) over Lefty Tyler (6.0)
    1916 NL Pete Alexander (9.8) over Jeff Pfeffer (6.4)
    1915 NL Pete Alexander (9.8) over Fred Toney (6.6)
    1913 AL Walter Johnson (12.4) over Reb Russell (7.3)
    1908 NL Christy Mathewson (10.1) over George McQuillan (8.2)
    1905 AL Rube Waddell (8.1) over Cy Young (6.4)
    1905 NL Christy Mathweson (9.1) over Ed Reulbach (7.8)
    1901 AL Cy Young (11.2) over Joe McGinnity (5.9)

  7. Commenting on #4 - I would love to see a list of saber triple crown winners. Without looking at numbers, I would say the following would have the most saber triple crowns:
    Williams
    Ruth
    Hornsby
    Bonds
    Pujols
    Cobb
    Lajoie

  8. Chuck Klein's 1933 home/road splits;

    Home: .467/.516/.789
    Away: .280/.338/.436

    If we extrapolate his home/road stats to 154 games that year (home on the left, away on the right)

    Hits: 284 / 173
    Runs: 133 / 75
    2B: 60/ 31
    HR: 43 / 15
    RBI: 173 / 75

    One player appears to have had one of the greatest seasons in baseball history. The other is a mediocre outfielder. Let Chuck Klein serve as proof that park factors matter a lot!

  9. @7: Pujols only has one batting title, which was in 2003 which was of course when Barry Bonds was in the middle of his absurd run.

  10. @4,@5
    JT said "it's sort of nice to see the advanced stats corroborate the traditional stats, and vice versa".
    -----------
    I think what's happening on the traditional side is that you're getting a cross-section of imperfect stats. Batting average and HR's by themselves are going to have to have their quirks. We could all reel off a bunch of overrated batting champs and home run kings. But those two numbers measure skills which are "orthogonal" (for lack of a better word) to each other in offensive skill-space. They measure completely different things. So when a player leads the league at both of those things it probably means they are indeed the best player in the league. (RBI I assume just goes along for the ride)

  11. If "advanced" stats corroborate traditional ones, are they necessary? What are they adding to the picture if you already knew the answer?

  12. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Not sure if there's any quick way to look them up, but here are some folks who have won the saber Triple Crown. This is probably not complete.

    Rogers Hornsby - 7 ('20-'25, '28)
    Ted Williams - 5 ('41, '42, '47, '48, '57)
    Honus Wagner - 4 ('04, '07, '08, '09)
    Dan Brouthers - 3 ('82, '83, '91)
    Ty Cobb - 3 ('09, '14, '17)
    Nap Lajoie - 2 ('01, '04)
    Stan Musial - 2 ('43, '48)
    Barry Bonds - 2 ('02, '04)
    Tris Speaker - 1 ('16)
    Babe Ruth - 1 ('24)
    Chuck Klein - 1 ('33)
    Lou Gehrig - 1 ('34)
    Arky Vaughan - 1 ('35)
    Jimmie Foxx - 1 ('38)
    Frank Robinson - 1 ('66)
    Carl Yastrzemski - 1 ('67)
    George Brett - 1 ('80)
    Larry Walker - 1 ('99)
    Todd Helton - 1 ('00)
    Joe Mauer - 1 ('09)

  13. Ruth only had one batting title too.

  14. As farn as Park Factors being meanful: Agreed.
    I guee that's why they sometimes refered to the origianl Yankee Stadium as "The House Built for Ruth" (!) with it's ludicrous rightfield dimensions.

  15. "If "advanced" stats corroborate traditional ones, are they necessary? What are they adding to the picture if you already knew the answer?"

    The results of this post say that if you are the best in your league in hitting for average and hitting for power, then nobody has lost enough ground in the other areas of the game to not rank as the best player in the league, except for Klein whose stats were a product of his ballpark (and WAR adjusts for).

    If you only want to look at traditional - triple crown - stats, then you can take the position that these things don't matter:

    Walks
    Defense
    Position
    Ballparks
    Baserunning

  16. JT - Two others I found so far - Sherry Magee in 1910 and George Stone in 1906. Also, if you want to go to the Federal League - Benny Kauff in 1915.

  17. Johnny Twisto Says:

    If "advanced" stats corroborate traditional ones, are they necessary? What are they adding to the picture if you already knew the answer?

    My comment was sort of directed at both sides of the traditional/saber schism. Some traditionally-minded fans don't trust any of the advanced stats, and some saber-minded fans think the traditional stats are meaningless. I think that Triple Crown list can sort of show the traditionalist that, ok, maybe this WAR does have some use, since it agrees that all of these seasons were great. And perhaps remind the stathead that the traditional numbers can tell us a good chunk of the story (even if a lot is still left out).

    But your question is a good one. I think Bill James said that a new stat which always surprises you is probably wrong, and one that never surprises you is unnecessary. You are right, if the stats merely corroborated each other, they wouldn't both be necessary. I suppose a "surprise" to the traditionalist might be in Klein's numbers. But I'll focus instead on his 1930 season. Some might see .386/40/170 and assume it must be one of the best few seasons of all time. But his WAR was 6.3 -- a great season, but only 8th best in the league and not on the same level as some of the WARs listed above. What is WAR adding to the picture? League offensive levels, park factor, defense. Other stats add other pieces of information. Some of this information will surprise us, but at their core they have to pass the smell-test. If some new pitching stat shows that Adam Eaton was truly the best pitcher of the decade, it's probably safe to disregard it.

  18. @12, 16

    Complete list since 1901, no Federal League:

    Nap Lajoie, 1901 PHA AL: .426/.463/.643
    Nap Lajoie, 1904 CLE AL: .376/.413/.546
    George Stone, 1906 SLB AL: .358/.417/.501
    Honus Wagner, 1907 PIT NL: .339/.408/.513
    Honus Wagner, 1908 PIT NL: .350/.415/.542
    Honus Wagner, 1909 PIT NL: .354/.420/.489
    Ty Cobb, 1909 DET AL: .377/.431/.517
    Sherry Magee, 1910 PHI NL: .331/.445/.507
    Ty Cobb, 1914 DET AL: .368/.466/.513
    Tris Speaker, 1916 CLE AL: .386/.470/.502
    Ty Cobb, 1917 DET AL: .383/.444/.570
    Rogers Hornsby, 1920 STL NL: .370/.431/.559
    Rogers Hornsby, 1921 STL NL: .397/.458/.639
    Rogers Hornsby, 1922 STL NL: .401/.459/.722
    Rogers Hornsby, 1923 STL NL: .384/.459/.627
    Rogers Hornsby, 1924 STL NL: .424/.507/.696
    Babe Ruth, 1924 NYY AL: .378/.513/.739
    Rogers Hornsby, 1925 STL NL: .403/.489/.756
    Rogers Hornsby, 1928 BSN NL: .387/.498/.632
    Chuck Klein, 1933 PHI NL: .368/.422/.602
    Lou Gehrig, 1934 NYY AL: .363/.465/.706
    Arky Vaughan, 1935 PIT NL: .385/.491/.607
    Jimmie Foxx, 1938 BOS AL: .349/.462/.704
    Ted Williams, 1941 BOS AL: .406/.553/.735
    Ted Williams, 1942 BOS AL: .356/.499/.648
    Stan Musial, 1943 STL NL: .357/.425/.562
    Ted Williams, 1947 BOS AL: .343/.499/.634
    Stan Musial, 1948 STL NL: .376/.450/.702
    Ted Williams, 1948 BOS AL: .369/.497/.615
    Ted Williams, 1957 BOS AL: .388/.526/.731
    Frank Robinson, 1966 BAL AL: .316/.410/.637
    Carl Yastrzemski, 1967 BOS AL: .326/.418/.622
    Fred Lynn, 1979 BOS AL: .333/.423/.637
    George Brett, 1980 KCR AL: .390/.454/.664
    Larry Walker, 1999 COL NL: .379/.458/.710
    Todd Helton, 2000 COL NL: .372/.463/.698
    Barry Bonds, 2002 SFG NL: .370/.582/.799
    Barry Bonds, 2004 SFG NL: .362/.609/.812
    Joe Mauer, 2009 MIN AL: .365/.444/.587

  19. Brian Wells Says:

    The Baker Bowl probably helped Chuck Klein in the field as well.He still holds the record for most assists by an outfielder in a season(36).Very similar to Larry Walker-right fielder with inflated stats due to home park,but excellent all around ability.

  20. Thanks for the list, Dr Doom. I was searching through the years, but I got bogged down in looking at close calls for winning the “SABR triple crown (STC).” Some notes from that effort:

    Probably the closest call was Ted Williams in 1949. He led the league in OBP and SLG, and lost the BA championship to George Kell by .00015 (about .14 hits).

    Musial had some close calls – 4 times he led the league in two of the categories and was 2nd in the other. The closest was in 1946, where he finished 2nd to Eddie Stanky in OBP by .0014. It calculates out to about exactly 1 time on base for Musial over about 700 PA’s.

    In 1961, when the world was gaga over Mantle and Maris? Norm Cash lead the AL in BA and OBP and was 2nd to Mantle in SLG, albeit by a pretty big margin (.687 to .662).

    Not only did Yaz win the STC (and the traditional TC as well) in 1967, he had a great run:
    In 1965 he led the league in two categories and finished 2nd to Oliva in BA (.321 to .312).
    In 1967 he won all 3.
    In 1968, he won 2 and finished 4th in SLG behind Frank Howard (.552 to .495).
    In 1970, he again won 2 of the three and finished .00037 behind Alex Johnson in BA

    Although Pujols has yet to win a STC, he has, of course, come close more than once.

  21. Richard Chester Says:

    @8, @14, @19

    To appreciate the ball park factor consider Mel Ott's lifetime stats at Baker Bowl and at Shibe Park.

    Baker Bowl:
    G-119
    R-139
    H-191
    HR-40
    BA-.415

    Shibe Park:

    G-71
    R-34
    H-59
    HR-0
    BA-.220

    Ott was 29 when he started playing at Shibe Park so age is not much of a factor.

  22. Richard Chester Says:

    @21

    I should have also included 161 RBI at Baker vs. 32 at Shibe and .774 SP at Baker vs. .272 at Shibe.

  23. Also an oddity that from 1936-1998, the STC was accomplished only twice in NL (both times by Musial). The AL had it happen 10 times by 6 different players in the same span. Then there were 4 STC's by 3 different players in 6 years from 1999-2004. Of course, Coors Field and the black bag Barry Bonds trainer carried with him might factor into those....

  24. Brian Wells Says:

    By today`s rules Jimmie Foxx would have won the Triple Crown in 1932.He missed out on the batting crown by 3 points to Dale Alexander(.367 to .364)but Alexander only had 454 plate appearances.Foxx led in homers and rbi`s.He would have ended up being the only player in history to win consecutive Triple Crowns.He had some more hard luck that year.He lost two homers to rainout games which would have given him co-ownership with Ruth of 60 homer season record.Ruth didn`t lose any homers to rainout games in `27.Foxx wound up with 58 for the year.

  25. Someone mentioned Norm Cash's excellent stats in 1961. I believe he later admitted to brandishing a corked bat that year.

  26. Not sure if someone mentioned it, but Ted Williams did not win the MVP either year he won the triple-crown. Joe Gordon beat him out in '42, though I can't quite figure out why from a comparison of their stats. I have to assume Gordon's team faired better. DiMaggio beat him out in '47, again without a single stat superior.

    I know we can go crazy playing "what if" games, but Teddy Ballgame will always be the greatest "what if" for me. The guy simply put up absurd statistics whenever he was on the ball field and gave up much of his time to the war, most of it in his prime.

  27. How are we defining Sabre Triple Crown winners? A while back on a post we discussed WAR, WPA, and OPS+. Is that what people are using here?

  28. Brian Wells Says:

    Babe Ruth did not benefit from Yankee Stadium as evidenced from the fact that he hit more homers on the road than at home.The power alley in right field flared out to 429ft. and center field fence was 490ft.away!For every "cheap" homer Ruth pulled down the right field line,he would loose 3 to the huge expanses of Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds(before Yankee Stadium was built in 1923).

  29. John Autin Says:

    @10, DavidRF -- Interesting point, but I would stop a bit short of your statement that BA and HRs "measure completely different things. So when a player leads the league at both of those things it probably means they are indeed the best player in the league."

    As long as there are extreme hitter's parks, there is a strong potential for a BA-and-HR titleist who is not the best player, nor even necessarily that close to the best. Just last year, Carlos Gonzalez was in contention for the Triple Crown; he ended up #1 in batting, #2 in RBI (by 1) and #4. But CarGo wasn't close to being the best player in the NL; he barely made the top 10 in offensive WAR (in a 3-way tie for 8th), and didn't crack the top 10 in position player WAR.

    By the way, CarGo's home/road splits last year (home on the left):
    BA -- .380 / .289
    HR -- 26 / 8
    RBI -- 76 / 41

  30. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    @4/7/12/17/20/23 - the "Sabremetric triple crown" - is it _strictly_ defined as BA/ OBP/ SA? Johnny Twisto in #4 noted that these are all rate stats and contains no counting stat, which would reward more playing time.

    What if we dropped the least useful of these three (BA), and instead substituted either Offensive WAR or Adjusted Batting runs for BA - then you would reward both rate AND quantity:
    OBA/ SLG/ Offensive WAR
    or
    OBA/ SLG/ Adjusted Batting Wins

    This would measure getting on base, hitting for power, and how much better than the league a batter is. The only part of offense it would not measure is baserunning. Unless you're on the Henderson/Raines level for base stealing, that's not going to make that much difference.

  31. [...] Were the triple crown winners the best players?: At B-R, Andy K. looked at whether triple-crown winners were actually the league’s best players by WAR. [...]

  32. Thomas Court Says:

    I think that the STC should substitute the appropriate sabermetric stat for the more traditional one.

    OBP instead of AVG
    SLG instead of HR
    perhaps Runs Created instead of RBI

    Sabermetrician: "I think there are more efficient ways to evaluate a true triple crown champion. The first category should be batting average... Wait a minute, I just stepped on my own premise."

  33. @29
    I did say "probably". :-) Give Carlos Gonzalez 8 more HR's (24% increase) and he likely climbs the WAR leaderboard quite a bit. He might not end up being the best player but it'll be a lot closer. And that's with a BPF of 115 which is not that historically common. That's pretty much just Coors Field and the Baker Bowl.

    I was mainly just addressing the points by @4 and @5 which seem to imply what @11 commented:

    'If "advanced" stats corroborate traditional ones, are they necessary?'

    Triple Crown winners are an extreme example. You're talking about players who finish first in three separate categories (two of them completely unrelated). If you lead the league in enough flawed statistics at the same time, you'll likely be close to leading the league in the more rigorous metrics as well.

    So, I certainly don't come away from this post saying "to heck with OBP and SLG, I'm going to return to looking at RBI's and AVG again."

  34. Richard Chester Says:

    @26

    There is sometimes a bias towards players who were on a pennant winner. The MVP is not necessarily a player who did the most award.
    For the 1947 award there were voters who were angry at Williams and did not give him his full due. There was one writer who left him off the ballot completely.

  35. #26: "I know we can go crazy playing "what if" games, but Teddy Ballgame will always be the greatest "what if" for me. The guy simply put up absurd statistics whenever he was on the ball field and gave up much of his time to the war, most of it in his prime."

    Ahead of Willie Mays? If not for the time he missed, it's entirely plausible that Mays would have been racing against Aaron to break the HR record by the end of the '73 season. (Whether Mays might have come back in 1974 is another question entirely.)

  36. @31
    "Were the triple crown winners the best players?: At B-R, Andy K. looked at whether triple-crown winners were actually the league’s best players by WAR."

    What a big f****n' shock! Any blog posts where Andy doesn't use WAR? WAR should be renamed What Andy References, because it's about the only stat he bases his blogs on. It's getting old. I mean geez, do you really have to second guess the best slugger that hit for the best average as being the best player in a given season?

  37. Jesse-

    I fully admit to being somewhat negligent about Mays' career. I'm sure if I peruse his career stats page I may decide otherwise. Williams' numbers just jump off the page as otherwordly.

  38. dukeofflatbush Says:

    I always thought using a BILLJAMESISH approach to the the triple crown was a good idea. A kind of point share.
    Not saying that it dictated who was the best player... just who excelled at those three stats.
    This way we had a look at who came nearest to the triple crown each year.
    So if .358 led the league in AVG, and said batter hit .350, that would mean he would own a .977+ share of the batting crown.
    And the player who came closest to three #s as a mean - of his triple crown numbers, as compared to the league leaders, would be the #CROWN winner for that year.
    So in 1980, George Brett's .390 AVG would score him a 1.
    His 118 RBIs, (Cecil Cooper 122) would give him a .976 share of the lead.
    His 24 HRs (Reggie's 41) would give him .585 of the lead.
    Lending him an overall 2.56 and the best "triple crown #" of that year.
    I know it is not perfect or even entirely relevant to how well a player's season was, but, as i said before, it only shows you who was closeset to leading the league in those categories that a make up a triple crown.

  39. @18, The Fred Lynn 1979 season is a completely overlooked season for some reason.

    As far as T. Williams goes in 1947, two sports writers gave Eddie Joost two first place votes for some bizarre reason. George McQuinn received 3 first place votes and Joe Page received 7 first place votes??? Williams only received 3 first place votes for his Triple Crown Season.

    In 1942, Someone gave Vern Stephens a first place vote? And Johnny Pesky received 2 first place votes. That's very strange, if you're going to vote for a Red Sox why wouldn't you vote for the guy that won the Triple Crown? Phil Marchildon finished in 9th place with a 17-14 record with a 4.23 ERA, 1.45 Whip, 90 era+ and a 1.4 WAR on the LAST PLACE Athletics, Seriously WTF? No doubt one of the worst seasons by a player who finished in the top ten in MVP voting.

    Gehrig finished 5th in the MVP vote when he won the Triple Crown in 1934??? Mickey Cochrane won it hitting .320 with 2 HR and 76 RBI?? That's probably one of the lowest HR totals for a non-pitcher to win the MVP. If you didn't want to vote for Gehrig and you wanted to vote for a Tiger why wouldn't you vote for Gehringer? That makes no sense.

    Maybe Cochrane got bonus points because he was also the manager of the team? In any case that shouldn't have counted because it's the Most Important Player award, managing shouldn't have anything to do with it.

  40. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I've noticed that odd Cochrane MVP before. I'll plagiarize an old email I had written to someone about it, trying to figure out why he won:

    His 1934 MVP is an interesting one. He came over to Detroit from Philly (part of Connie Mack's second team-stripping), and the Tigers won the pennant, winning about 25 more games than in '33, their first time above 5th place in almost a decade. Cochrane was also the manager. But his #s weren't overwhelming. He got on base but had no power that year (2 HR). He had a lot of seasons which superficially look more impressive. He wasn't clearly the best C in the league that season (Dickey). Detroit had far and away the best offense in the league, scoring 250 more runs than the year before. Cochrane was a big upgrade over the C he replaced, but just as important were it being Greenberg's 1st full season and adding Goose Goslin in the OF.

  41. @40 Twisto,

    Also, they used to really over-value catching back then especially as far as MVP votes are concerned. Berra and Campenella each won three apiece often over team-mates who deserved it more. Harnett and Lombardi each won one award. Howard won the award, Bench won two and Munson won one. If you go back catchers tended to do very well in the voting and often finished in the top 10.

    Something changed in the late 70's-90's and suddenly catchers weren't doing as well in MVP voting. For some reason catchers were starting to be underrated/unappreciated in the 80's. I don't really know why. Only I-rod & Mauer won the award since Munson won in '76. What's ironic is that Mauer should have won the award at least one more time, might have even deserved to win both in '06 or '08.

    What's amazing is that Jorge Posada didn't even get 1 MVP vote in 2000. Actually what's pretty shocking is he only received MVP votes twice, 2003 & 2007.

    Even a guy like Brian McCann who's been a full time player since 2006 yet he's only gotten MVP votes one time in and it was a 21st place finish in 2010.

    Jason Kendell has a 38.1 career WAR and a career line of .288/.366/.378 and has never received even One MVP vote. He's 4th all time among catchers with 2195 hits.

  42. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    @39/ John Q Says: "@18, The Fred Lynn 1979 season is a completely overlooked season for some reason..."

    John G, looking back at the 1979 AL MVP voting, it's hard to understand how Don Baylor finished ahead of Fred Lynn and George Brett, let alone how he won so decicively. Brett and Lynn were simply much better all-around players, and their conventional stats weren't that much worse than Baylor's. I guess being on a division-winner _and_ leading the league in RBI was a combination impossible to resist?

    As for Ted Williams not winning the MVP in 1942 and 1947, I think some voters simply didn't like him, and then made up reasons to justify their votes (he's a selfish player; he doesn't hit when it counts; he'd rather take a walk than swing at a pitch outside the strike zone to drive in a run, etc...).

  43. @42 Lawrence A,

    What's strange to me is that Baylor played DH for about 40% of the season and was a horrible defensive outfield the rest of the time. I remember there being a pretty big bias against DHs winning the MVP award during the 80's, 90's & 00's. I guess they just looked at the RBI's. Maybe it was the surprise after years of mediocrity that the Angels finally won something. It's also odd when you consider that Lynn and Brett were huge stars in 1979. I've often wondered how differently Lynn would have been perceived if he had won the '79 MVP.

    I always found that '79 Angels team to be very interesting. What I find interesting is the part the Ryan-Fregosi trade had on that team. What's often left out of the Ryan trade is that the Mets gave the Angels THREE other players other than Ryan: Frank Estrada, Leroy Stanton, and Don Rose.

    Frank Estrada was traded for Tom Dukes and Dukes played for a year with the '72 Angels.

    Leroy Stanton played for the Angels from '72-76. He had a good year in '75 but was mostly mediocre during his Angels stint. He was picked up by the Mariners in the expansion draft in '77.

    Don Rose played for the Angels in '72 and then was Traded to the Giants for Ed Figueroa.

    Figueroa played for the Angels in '74 and had an great year for the Angels in '75 before being traded along with Mickey Rivers for Bobby Bonds.

    Bobby Bonds played decently for the Angels in '76 and had an very good year for the Angels in '77 before being traded along with Richard Dotson & Thad Bosley for Brian Downing, Dave Frost and Chris Knapp.

    Downing had an excellent year for the Angels hitting .326/.418/.462 while catching and Frost and Ryan were very good for the Angels on the pitching side.

    So basically the Angels Best offensive player, (Downing) and their two best pitchers (Frost, Ryan) came both directly and indirectly from the Ryan trade. And to top it off, Fregosi came back and was the manager of this team.

  44. I still contend the STC should be WPA, WAR, and OPS+.

  45. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Fine by me, but now its incumbent upon you to put together the list of STC winners.

  46. Argh, someone actually posted up when it came up a while back. I think it was in Andy's post last year about the potential Triple Crown guys. I'll see if I can find it. Damn you, Mr. Twisto!

  47. Duh, it was the first link in the "Related Posts" section. Courtesy of poster Eric:

    1951: Ted Williams (165/6.5/6.4)
    1953: Al Rosen (179/9.7/6.5)
    1956: Mickey Mantle (210/12.9/8.4)
    1958: Willie Mays (165/10.4/7.8)
    1961: Mickey Mantle (206/11.9/8.9)
    1962: Mickey Mantle (196/7.1/8.0)
    1964: Willie Mays (172/10.2/6.2)
    1967: Carl Yastrzemski (193/12.2/8.5)
    1969: Willie McCovey (209/8.9/10.1)
    1972: Dick Allen (199/9.3/7.3)
    1975: Joe Morgan (169/12.0/7.5)
    1976: Joe Morgan (186/10.0/7.0)
    1977: Rod Carew (178/10.9/6.6)
    1978: Dave Parker (166/7.1/6.4)
    1979: Dave Winfield (166/8.4/7.2)
    1980: Mike Schmidt (171/9.1/5.9)
    1980: George Brett (203/9.6/6.2)
    1981: Mike Schmidt (199/7.6/5.9)
    1986: Mike Schmidt (152/6.6/5.2)
    1990: Barry Bonds (170/9.7/5.7)
    1990: Rickey Henderson (188/10.0/5.5)
    1991: Barry Bonds (160/8.3/8.1)
    1992: Barry Bonds (205/10.0/6.1)
    1993: Barry Bonds (204/10.6/7.4)
    1994: Jeff Bagwell (213/8.9/5.9)
    2001: Barry Bonds (259/12.5/11.5)
    2001: Jason Giambi (198/10.3/8.5)
    2002: Barry Bonds (268/12.2/10.5)
    2004: Barry Bonds (263/12.4/12.9)
    2006: Albert Pujols (178/8.3/9.5)
    2007: Alex Rodriguez (176/9.9/7.5)

    I can't vouch for the accuracy, because I didn't do the research myself, but I have no reason to doubt it.

    Quite an impressive list there. The slashes are OPS+/WAR/WPA, since it is not necessarily apparent which is WAR and which is WPA. I don't know the circumstances of many of these individual seasons, but there isn't a name on there I don't know. And it isn't limited to big boppers (like the TC normally is), as you have Henderson and Morgan on there.

  48. @47
    Admittedly a small sample size but Bautista's early numbers are 261/13.8 (projected)/9.0 (projected).

    And that doesn't include his big night tonight in NY.

  49. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Ruth led in WAR and OPS+ 11 times. I'll assume he led in WPA as well in more than a couple of those seasons.

  50. John Autin Says:

    Dunno if this thread is dead yet, but some thoughts on a couple of "puzzling" MVP selections discussed above:

    Baylor, 1979

    (1) Never underestimate the overvaluing of big RBI numbers. Look at the RBI titleists from 1969-79 who had over 130 RBI:
    -- 1969, Killebrew -- won the MVP; 5th in oWAR, 8th in WAR/pos. players.
    -- 1970, Bench -- won the MVP; 2nd (tie) in WAR/pos. players (trailing teammate Perez), distant 5th in overall WAR (which Bob Gibson led by a country mile).
    -- 1971, Torre -- won the MVP; 3rd in WAR/pos. players (Stargell had twice as many HRs as Torre), distant 5th in overall WAR (Fergie Jenkins dominated).
    -- 1977, Foster -- won the MVP; not a bad choice, but Schmidt was better.
    -- 1978, Rice -- won the MVP; 2nd in WAR/pos. players (Amos Otis!), 4th in overall WAR (Guidry!).
    -- 1979 Baylor -- won the MVP; 6th in oWAR, out of top 10 in WAR/pos. players.

    (2) Some writers just go gaga for strong personalities -- gung-ho, no-nonsense "leader" types like Baylor. This was evident in the MVP vote for Kirk Gibson (though I also think that was not a bad selection).

    Mickey Cochrane, 1934
    Never underestimate the impact of the "post hoc, ergo propter hoc" fallacy. In 1933, the Tigers went 75-79 with a team that included most of the standouts of '34: Gehringer (full season), Greenberg (2/3 of season), Rowe (1/2 season). In 1934, they won 101 games and the pennant. What changed? They added Cochrane. Ergo, Cochrane won the pennant! (This, too, was a factor in Kirk Gibson's MVP.)

    P.S. As Johnny Twisto noted, the Tigers also added Goose Goslin in '34. However, (a) Goslin's '34 season was merely solid, not impressive for an OF of that era (he was not on any WAR leaderboard), and (b) Goslin always seemed to get slighted by the MVP voters, for some reason. For example, in 1925, Goslin was 2nd in overall WAR, his Senators won the pennant, and he led the team in every offensive category -- yet teammate Roger Peckinpaugh won perhaps the most puzzling MVP award ever, while Goslin got nary a vote. In 1924, the Senators won the pennant, with Goslin easily the team's best hitter, also leading the league in RBI; yet he went unmentioned in this MVP vote, too. Ruth, the best player that year as usual, was ineligible by rule, having won the award before, and it went to Walter Johnson, who was not a bad option. But it's odd that Senators catcher Muddy Ruel, an offensive zero that year, placed 11th, while Goslin was utterly shut out.

  51. Neil L. Says:

    @50
    Not dead yet, John Autin, I'm still checking here.

    I think MVP voters have become less dazzled by RBI in recent years than they used to. I think that the message is starting to get out that it is a lineup-dependent statistic that can have vast inequities between players.

    That being said how did Josh Hamilton win AL MVP last year? Was it his BA or was it a reward for previous seasons.

    As you allude to, there is still a "political" component to MVP balloting. Thank goodness Gary Carter never won an MVP. (Sorry, JA, know you are a Mets fan