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Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Baseball Analysts: Deane: Who Was Really the 1979 NL MVP?

As this week’s Designated Hitter…Bill Deane takes a look back at the 1979 NL MVP voting.

The biggest farce may have been in the 1979 NL MVP race, where one voter split his fourth-place vote between pitching brothers Phil and Joe Niekro (evidently under the impression that they were identical twins), but was still permitted six more selections. Under the 14-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 system used for the MVP Award, a fourth-place vote is worth seven points - and, in this case, those seven were split between the Niekro brothers, giving them just 3 1/2 points apiece. In other words, that writer’s fifth-, sixth-, and seventh-place nominees each received more points than his fourth-place co-selections!

Assuming the acceptability of the split vote, the ballot in question should have been adjusted so that the Niekros were tied for fourth/fifth, receiving 6 1/2 points each, with the remaining selections moved down a notch (thus losing one point) each. One thing that did not occur to me until recently was that this mess-up conceivably could have created the tie for first place between Stargell and Hernandez: if either player was listed lower than fourth on that writer’s ballot, he should have received one point less, swinging the election to the other player.

Repoz Posted: May 04, 2006 at 01:10 PM | 33 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: general

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   1. RP Posted: May 04, 2006 at 01:22 PM (#2003584)
That was...unsatisfying.
   2. DiggerP Posted: May 04, 2006 at 01:26 PM (#2003585)
I sort of assumed there'd be an answer to the question posed by the title.

Stargell won it and didn't even play 130 games. Is that the non-pitcher, non-strike year record?

And Mike Schmidt got hosed that year, finishing in 13th.
   3. DiggerP Posted: May 04, 2006 at 01:27 PM (#2003586)
And before anyone tells me, George Brett won the MVP in 1980 playing in 117 games.
   4. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: May 04, 2006 at 01:38 PM (#2003595)
Under the 14-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 system used for the MVP Award, a fourth-place vote is worth seven points - and, in this case, those seven were split between the Niekro brothers, giving them just 3 1/2 points apiece. In other words, that writer’s fifth-, sixth-, and seventh-place nominees each received more points than his fourth-place co-selections!

That's RDF.

Another voting anomaly may have influenced the winner. In 1955, one writer had Roy Campanella twice, first and IIRC, 4th. Duke Snider was not on that ballot. One could assume that Snider was supposed to be one of those two. Campy got the first place points, and no one got the 4th (or everyone from 5th on down moved up one and no one got the 10th place points.). Had the ballot been thrown out, or had Snider gotten the 1st or 4th place points, he would have won.
   5. BDC Posted: May 04, 2006 at 02:08 PM (#2003611)
I remember the announcement of the 1979 award, and being suspicious of it. It was almost as if the voters had actually elected Hernandez and then their teacher or parents or somebody had decided that Stargell deserved to win, too.

Well, I'm sure that didn't happen, but Stargell hadn't really figured among the league leaders in much of anything, and it was one of the most sentimental votes ever.

To my mind, Dave Winfield was clearly the best player in the league at that point, but he was toiling in obscurity for the Padres.

Though I was a Phillies fan and Schmidt was my favorite player, I didn't really think he got hosed. He had never come particularly close to winning an MVP award, he hit only .253 that year, and the Phillies were mediocre. I guess I just suffered from Phillie-fan assumptions of meritlessness.
   6. pkb33 Posted: May 04, 2006 at 02:20 PM (#2003631)
How about, you know, trying to figure out the answer before writing an article about it? "Unsatisfying" is a good description of this one!
   7. jmac66 Posted: May 04, 2006 at 02:22 PM (#2003637)
1979 Adjusted OPS+
Winfield-SDP165
Foster-CIN155
Schmidt-PHI154
Hernandez-STL152
Parrish-MON146
   8. jmac66 Posted: May 04, 2006 at 02:23 PM (#2003638)
by the way, Stargell's OPS+ was 139 in 480 plate appearances
   9. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: May 04, 2006 at 02:44 PM (#2003663)
Stargell's votes were not for mere sentiment, if sentiment means something like "shoulda won it some time in the past, let's recognize him now". All year long he was loudly trumpeted as the leader of that team, its heart, its soul, blah blah Pops blah blah blah. He hit well in his somewhat limited duty, his team finished in first place, so it wasn't a surprise; he was a typical MVP contender.
   10. DiggerP Posted: May 04, 2006 at 02:48 PM (#2003669)
I wasn't saying that Schmidt should have won the MVP. But he hit 45 homers, had 114 rbi, 120 bbs, and won the gold glove at third. The Phils weren't great, but they won 84 games - Winfield's Padres won 68 or something like that.

Winfield was probably the best player, and came in 3rd.

Schmidt was certainly one of the top 5 players that year, but finished behind Ray Knight, Dave Concepcion, and just 2 spots in front of Omar Moreno for God's sake.
   11. BDC Posted: May 04, 2006 at 02:54 PM (#2003675)
Digger, in retrospect I agree completely; I was just trying to convey the sentiment in Philadelphia in 1979 ... we never thought the Phillies deserved anything ...
   12. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: May 04, 2006 at 03:11 PM (#2003690)
He hit well in his somewhat limited duty, his team finished in first place, so it wasn't a surprise; he was a typical MVP contender.

He also hit well in key games down the stretch.

On Sep 18, leading the Expos by one game, he hit a 2 run homer in the 11th to beat them and go up 2.

On Sep 25, trailing the Expos by half a game, he hit two homers against them, both of which gave the Pirates the lead, leading to a win.

On the last day of the season, leading the expos by one game, he homereed and drove in 2 in a 5-3 division clinching win over the Cubs.
   13. Mark Armour Posted: May 04, 2006 at 03:12 PM (#2003691)
You all realize that there is more to baseball value than OPS+, right?
   14. greenback calls it soccer Posted: May 04, 2006 at 03:40 PM (#2003717)
You all realize that there is more to baseball value than OPS+, right?

No.
   15. greenback calls it soccer Posted: May 04, 2006 at 03:45 PM (#2003723)
I talked to Jack Lang, former Executive Secretary of the BBWAA, about this. He says that the MVP ballots are shredded a few years after the elections, so there is no way to retrieve the ballot in question.

Why the heck would they shred the ballots? Is this an Arthur Andersen/Bill Seitz thing?
   16. dlf Posted: May 04, 2006 at 03:52 PM (#2003731)
You all realize that there is more to baseball value than OPS+, right?

Sure.

There's playing time. But Stargell was out there what, about 85% of the time?

There's baserunning. But by that point of his career, Pops was a station to station runner.

There's defense. Once a pretty handy corner outfielder, Willie's defense at 1B was nothing special.

There is even a more nuanced view of hitting performance than simple OPS+. But as his performance was slugging heavy, a more detailed review doesn't favor Stargell's hitting.

There is performance down the stretch. But for the month of September, he batted .222 (803 OPS) after hitting .237 (702) in August. His full season was actually better; including those months, he had a 904 OPS. Unless the stretch means having 3 homers in the last week of the season, while going 5 for 26, he didn't shine there either.

Then there is leadership. For Stargell to have deserved the MVP that year, one has to put a tremendous amount of weight on leadership skills that don't seem to have been visible a year before or a year after.
   17. BDC Posted: May 04, 2006 at 04:01 PM (#2003740)
He hit well in his somewhat limited duty, his team finished in first place, so it wasn't a surprise; he was a typical MVP contender

Well, yes and no. Most other MVPs in recent years had led the league in a traditional category or two. In fact, none of the 1977-78 MVPs had come from division champions; all of them were among the league leaders. Hernandez, the batting champion and Runs leader, fit that pattern (the Cardinals finished third). "Its heart, its soul, blah blah Pops blah blah blah" describes the sentiment very well: the handful of stars he stuck all over Tim Foli's cap when Foli was new to the club and slumping, &c. &c. For all I know, the voters pegged Stargell's value perfectly, but in 1979, I was dubious ...
   18. Hubie Brooks (Not Really) Posted: May 04, 2006 at 04:11 PM (#2003751)
The ladies love Keith.
   19. Mark Armour Posted: May 04, 2006 at 04:13 PM (#2003753)
I was not suggesting that a closer look would help Stargell. I just hope that people aren't overly persuaded by a list of OPS+ leaders. There were several reasonable candidates, Stargell not among them.
   20. esseff Posted: May 04, 2006 at 04:15 PM (#2003757)
greenback,

the shredding thing is what jumped off the page at me, too. It's disappointing that the baseball writers' organization, of all people, hasn't a better sense of history. The MVP ballots should be in a research library at Cooperstown or elsewhere so folks like Bill Deane could get the answers to what they ask.
   21. greenback calls it soccer Posted: May 04, 2006 at 04:29 PM (#2003763)
Nice to hear you from ess eff, with the demise of the dugout and all.

At the very least they could've sold the ballots to somebody.
   22. WalkOffIBB Posted: May 04, 2006 at 04:58 PM (#2003787)
The ladies love Keith.

And Keith loves them, as long as they are not in the dugout.
   23. Repoz Posted: May 04, 2006 at 05:06 PM (#2003796)
And Keith loves them, as long as they are not in the dugout.

Even Jennifer Jason Leigh?
   24. A triple short of the cycle Posted: May 04, 2006 at 05:11 PM (#2003803)
So, while it apparently can't be proven one way or the other, there is a one-in-five chance that one of the co-winners of the 1979 NL MVP Award got a gift he didn't deserve.

I thought this line was funny. As if you don't earn an MVP on the field during the season, but rather when you win the most points in a vote by dumbasses.
   25. Mom makes botox doctors furious Posted: May 04, 2006 at 05:16 PM (#2003812)
Also Mantle, 123 games in 1962.
   26. ECBucs Posted: May 04, 2006 at 05:45 PM (#2003848)
Personally I like the idea of secret ballots.

What happens to Hall of Fame ballots, I bet they are shredded after awhile too.

I do think some of the votes to Stargell were sentimental and that has happend to other players in other years too.

I don't see anything wrong with that. That is probably how Dick Groat won in 1960.

Marty Marion was MVP in 1944 (think that was the year) and it had nothing to do with his offense.

It really goes back to definition of MVP.

Look at Jason Bay in 2005. He wasn't in the top of MVP balloting (I don't think he deserved to be much higher since he was on such a lousy team) but his stats were better than a few of the players that finished ahead.
   27. Sam M. Posted: May 04, 2006 at 06:18 PM (#2003884)
You all realize that there is more to baseball value than OPS+, right?

Yeah, there's ERA+, but that's for pitchers, silly.
   28. Flynn Posted: May 04, 2006 at 06:38 PM (#2003910)
Also Mantle, 123 games in 1962.

Very bizarre year. Mantle had under 400 at bats, yet won in a landslide because very few people had good years. Norm Siebern was probably the next best player and only created 12 more runs than Mantle in an entire season with an OPS+ of just 141 to Mantle's 196. Considering Siebern was a 1B while Mantle was a CF, the writers probably made the correct choice, although the fact Siebern's KC A's lost 90 games didn't help him.
   29. jmac66 Posted: May 04, 2006 at 07:08 PM (#2003940)
Very bizarre year

yes, bizarre in both leagues--Mantle, of course, apologized for "stealing" the award from his teammate Bobby Richardson
(he of the .714 OPS) while in the Nat'l, Maury Wills got it over much more deserving Mays or Robinson (or even Aaron)
(discussed ad nauseum in a thread a couple months ago)
   30. DCW3 Posted: May 04, 2006 at 07:11 PM (#2003944)
The 1979 NL's top ten in Wins Above Average (actually, RCAP and RSAA converted to wins):
Dave Winfield    4.76
Keith Hernandez  4.71
Davey Lopes      4.60
Garry Templeton  3.77
Lee Mazzilli     3.74
George Foster    3.38
Larry Parrish    3.27
Mike Schmidt     3.19
J
.RRichard     2.98
Ted Simmons      2.93 

Now, that stat adjusts for position, but doesn't include defense--although Winfield and Hernandez were both considered to be excellent defenders at their respective positions.
   31. Mefisto Posted: May 04, 2006 at 07:49 PM (#2003983)
while Mantle was a CF

By 1962, this was pretty much a courtesy title.
   32. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: May 05, 2006 at 03:17 AM (#2004886)
Most other MVPs in recent years had led the league in a traditional category or two. In fact, none of the 1977-78 MVPs had come from division champions; all of them were among the league leaders.

True, of course--but I did merely say "contender". A veteran "presence" having a good year on a good team is 'most always someone who will be thought well of at voting time.
   33. Flynn Posted: May 05, 2006 at 03:43 AM (#2004903)
Now, that stat adjusts for position, but doesn't include defense--although Winfield and Hernandez were both considered to be excellent defenders at their respective positions.

True. Winfield is probably the better player - although it's close - but a look at the standings tells you why Hernandez got the votes. The Cardinals improved by 17 games from 1978 and Hernandez was a very large reason why (their pitching improved a little and Ken Oberkfell and Garry Templeton burst onto the scene, but a good deal of credit must go to Hernandez).

Meanwhile the Padres, coming off their first good year ever in 1978, were a major disappointment. Ozzie Smith completely forgot how to hit, posting a putrid .260 OBP. Gene Richards lost 30 points off his average, and Oscar Gamble was traded for Mike Hargrove and Kurt Bevacqua. Bevacqua didn't hit and Hargrove hit under .200 before he was traded to Cleveland for Paul Dade, who didn't hit either. Their offense, pretty average in 1978, completely collapsed. They got some sore arms in the rotation, and their bullpen, led by Rollie Fingers, also collapsed. The pixie dust stopped falling on Randy Jones, whose inability to strike anybody out came back to haunt him as he posted a 3.63 ERA.

The Padres went from 84-78 to 68-93, and no matter how good you do, voters aren't going to give you the MVP when your team is a bust.

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