Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Great "Boo" Debate

Michigan’s epic comeback win over Wisconsin provided three weeks worth of potential topics but in the interest of time, I’ll only be tackling one or two. Those who watched the game on TV probably heard some boos as ABC went to commercial after the first half ended. Those who were at the game undoubtedly heard the chorus of boos that rained down following a five turnover, 21 yard, zero point effort. The booing has resulted in a debate that has blazed across the Michigan fan-base like a wildfire. To boo or not to boo?

Like most heated debates, few people who have opined on the issue have left any room for compromise. Too many people love to play the “you’re wrong” game. Those words are like nails on a chalkboard to me. Part of the problem is that the internet is a historically bad place to conduct an argument. Tone and sarcasm are incredibly difficult to detect through written word. The result is a bitter feud where you’re either entirely for one thing or entirely against it. The problem with that is the right answer is almost always somewhere in the middle. For instance, the people who think fans shouldn’t boo are usually perfectly fine with calling out a player on an internet message board or website.

Booing isn’t my first reaction to crappy performances. I didn’t boo on Saturday. In fact, I was kind of caught off guard by it. As bad as Michigan played, the program is clearly in the midst of a rebuilding year. Booing implies that the team didn’t live up to expectations. It would be foolhardy for anyone to have had any expectations for this season. History shows that year one of implementing the spread is notoriously difficult to begin with. Throw a tall, slow, traditional pocket passer into the equation and the level of difficulty increases exponentially. So, by definition, there really shouldn’t be a whole lot to boo this season.

However, I have booed before. I really don’t remember exactly when it happened and I don’t feel ashamed about it. Most of it came from the student section and was directed at horrendous play calling. There isn’t a Michigan fan out there who doesn’t know what regime I’m referring to. I was anti-Carr way before being anti-Carr was en vogue. I always feel compelled to explain Carr’s dichotomy of being a great man and a not-so-great coach by quoting Jerry and George’s, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” Nonetheless, there were instances when I wanted to send a message. Did it make a difference? Who knows. Did any of my posts about Michigan needing to go in a different direction in the coaching department make a difference? I have no idea. But that doesn’t keep me—or most other fans—from trying.

I do not support unbridled booing the minute something goes wrong. Historically bad performances as a result of poor coaching deserve to be booed. I would’ve booed pretty hard if I were at the Appalachian St. game last season. Booing should be reserved for the most egregious of performances. I think that it is totally acceptable to boo for the right reasons. Clearly there should be a distinction between shouting expletives and booing. I also think booing individual players should be off-limits as well. In fact, I have never felt the desire to boo a Michigan player. They are full-time students who have enough going on in their lives to expect perfection on the football field—or even anything remotely close to it. On the other hand, there isn’t an elite program in the country that wouldn’t get booed by its fans under the right circumstances. I read a comment on an ‘M’ message board that suggested other programs that didn’t boo were classier and cited Georgia fans as an example. Georgia was losing 31-0 to Alabama on Saturday and did not boo their team. I would bet a significant amount of minutes with Mike Barwis that had Georgia turned the ball over six times in the first half and faced a 31-0 deficit to Louisiana-Lafayette that boos would’ve poured down from Sanford Stadium.

The Michigan coaching staff is a different story. The Michigan staff gets paid well (six and seven figures annually) to put a winning product on the field. If said product is supposed to be very good and it turns out to be inexplicably atrocious (see; Appalachian St. ’07, Oregon ’07, San Diego St. ’04, Utah ’02) then the coaches deserve to hear it. If fans affect the outcome of games by inspiring players to do well, then it’s hard to argue that they don’t equally affect the outcome by providing a motivational “boo” when things aren’t going well. Teams respond to both. Players don’t need fans to cheer to play well. Fans do it anyways. Coaches don’t need fans to boo when things are going terribly. Fans do it anyways. Coaches need to be held accountable for extremely poor performances. The fans pay money to see a good product. A more effective way of saying the same thing is that fans don’t pay good money to see an extremely poor product. If the coach isn’t doing his job, he needs to hear it. What other opportunity does the average fan have to express his/her dissatisfaction directly to the coach? I am almost certain that there have been a number of athletic directors over time who have taken a chorus of boos from a disgruntled fan-base as the final sign that a change needs to be made. Boos aren’t meaningless. They can serve a purpose if used correctly.

The only drawback I can think of to booing (assuming it is not abused) is that even when it is appropriately directed at the coaches, the players may think it is directed at them. Let’s be realistic, though. Would it be great to live in a world of permanent euphoria where nobody is ever criticized for anything and butterflies count as currency? Yes, sign me up. However, that isn’t our world. The Michigan football team is not made up of a bunch of 8-year crybabies. Most are 19+ years old. They are old enough to vote and go to war. They are mature enough to hear boos and respond by saying “let’s go break heads in the second half.” The supporters of this specific argument mean well bit it doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. What kind of treatment do these people think the players are subjected to in practice? Rodriguez is notoriously brutal on his players for making mistakes in practice. Virtually every coach in college football ridicules and shouts expletives at his players in practice. If booing is so bad and damaging to a player’s psyche, then how do they ever make it through extremely demanding practices?

A number of boo detractors state that booing is senseless because the players don’t play poorly on purpose. Again, I agree that boos should be directed towards the coaches and the overall performance rather than directly at individuals. It’s true that teams don’t play poorly on purpose but what about teams that aren’t giving it their best? Is it OK to take an opponent for granted? Is it OK to slack or assume that you’re going to win? That sort of thing is understandable on occasion. What if a team does it repeatedly? What about officials? They don’t officiate poorly on purpose but I would bet that most people would think it’s perfectly fine to boo an official. What if the players mistakenly think the people who are booing the officials are really booing them? If it’s a sportsmanship thing or a low class thing as some suggest, then why is it OK to boo the opposing team during introductions? It seems like the whole stadium takes part in that tradition. Being against booing opens up a whole slew of other things that people should be against but are not.

The problem with being universally against booing is that drawing a line for acceptable behavior becomes nearly impossible without bringing “hypocrisy” into the equation. Is it OK to rail on a player on the internet? Even civil remarks like, “Player X is the worst player I’ve ever seen” or lists of the worst players in the program are every bit as egregious as booing. To support one without the other is weak. Fans criticize. As long as discretion is used, there isn’t anything wrong with it. Don’t use insults and profanities when talking about a weak performance by a player on the internet and don’t shout insults and profanities at a game. Don’t boo whenever the team plays poorly and don’t hang over the tunnel and drop f-bombs on the players or coaches no matter who you think is responsible.

Booing is a way of expressing a pretty severe level of dissatisfaction. It is a message. It has been going on at sporting venues in one form or another since ancient Greece. The players obviously got fired up after hearing the halftime boos in the same way that getting railed on by Rodriguez and the rest of the staff in practice fires them up. A Michigan player admitted as much after the game. The alternative is to go home to a computer and rip on a player who played poorly. How can that be any more acceptable than booing? I would argue that booing is more effective than criticizing in front of a computer because the booing might actually motivate someone. Stevie Brown played very well on Saturday. However, he was very suspect in Michigan’s first three games. I bet the majority of the anti-boo establishment thought it was more than acceptable to hop on the internet and post something about how terrible Stevie Brown is. Some of these same people are the ones who argue that players shouldn’t be booed because they don’t play poorly on purpose. So then how is it OK to ridicule or call out a player on the internet who obviously did not attempt to play poorly on purpose?

Arguments need to be consistent. It’s silly to suggest that booing is never OK without also admitting that all negative action (internet criticism etc.) is not OK. Do some players feel bad about hearing boos? Probably. Do some players feel bad about reading that they had a horrible game on an internet site or message board? Of course. Use discretion. Don’t boo everything you see. Save it for something that truly warrants it. This season need not apply. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that RR will make booing a thing of the past in Michigan Stadium.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Worst MVP Winners of All-Time (AL)

Before I get started, I want to reiterate a few things. First, this isn’t a knock on the players who erroneously won MVPs. The vast majority of these players had great seasons worthy of recognition. They just didn’t deserve the MVP.

Second, I mentioned this in the “NL” piece but I’ll touch on it again because it’s a pretty important element to these posts: The MVP should be given to the best player in the league. There are a number of acceptable methods for tabulating the best player. No two baseball fans will emphasize the exact same statistics to come to their respective conclusions. That’s fine. However, it’s not fine to use an alternative interpretation of what “MVP” means. By definition, the MVP is the best player in baseball. How can someone be more valuable than the best player? No GM in their right mind would value a worse player more than the best player. So, if you’re a voter, figure out who you think the best player in the AL was by whatever measure you think is the best and vote for that player. For the love of Fred Merkle, please don’t simply pick a player from a playoff team as your primary means for voting. I realize that no actual voters will read this so if you could just pretend you’re a voter for the moment that would make the last few sentences exceedingly more relevant.

As for this post, the players most adversely affected by shoddy voting in the AL are Ted Williams, Alex Rodriguez, Albert Belle, and Al Kaline. Try not to get too “bent out of shape” when you’re reading this. I’m giving you fair warning that some of these are just mind-numbing and will make you question your fellow man.

Worst AL MVPs of All-Time (winners listed first)


Miguel Tejada10834131738.862128336
Alex Rodriguez125571429871.015158389

Tejada’s MVP has to go down as one of the least deserving in MLB history. A-Rod destroyed Tejada in every category. Tejada won for two reasons; 1). He played for a playoff team and, 2). A-Rod was still dealing with the backlash from his $250 million contract. All of the Rangers failures were blamed on A-Rod for one reason or another. There was no chance he was going to win the MVP in ’02 even if he hit, like, 57 homeruns which he did.


Jason Giambi1093812021291.137198343

Ichiro had a very productive rookie season. It’s hard to argue, though, that he had a better season than Giambi. Even if Ichiro’s stolen base total is factored into total bases as the equivalent of a single, Giambi would still hold a sizeable advantage in OPS, 1.137 to .898. Ichiro won because he was a fresh face who did a few things extremely well (BA, SB, Runs, defense). Giambi was far more productive and probably would’ve won if seven voters didn’t think Bret Boone should’ve been the MVP. Giambi led the league in slugging %, OBP, OPS, doubles, walks, total bases, and runs created.


Juan Gonzalez11045157246.996149382
Albert Belle113491526811.054171399

IMO, Albert Belle should be in the Hall of Fame. It’ll never happen but he was one of the most feared hitters in baseball for 12 seasons. His career was cut short by a degenerative hip condition. I don’t see how Belle’s case is any different than Kirby Puckett’s. Both played 12 years and Belle was a better player. One of the reasons why he won’t make the HOF is because nobody likes him. That also just happens to be why he didn’t win—or even come to winning—the ’98 AL MVP. His season was better than Juan Gonzalez’s across the board. Gonzalez actually won two MVPs that he shouldn’t have. The other was in 1996…


Juan Gonzalez89471442451.011145348
Alex Rodriguez1413612315591.045160379

In his first full season, A-Rod should have won the MVP. He scored 52 more runs than Gonzalez, had a better OPS+ and had more total bases. He should have five MVPs as of 2008 but he only has three to show for it.


Mo Vaughn98391261168.963144316
Edgar Martinez1212911341161.107185321
Albert Belle121501265731.091177377

Belle should’ve won two MVPs. He finished second to Vaughn in ’95 despite having a much better season. Belle became the first player in MLB history with 50 home runs and 50 doubles in the same season. He led the AL in home runs, RBIs, runs, doubles, slugging %, and total bases. He had the most extra base hits in the American League since Lou Gehrig in 1927. His total of 103 extra base hits is the 6th best single season in MLB history.


Eck ‘90.61606.6148
Eck ‘921.91196.9151

Eck had no business winning the MVP in ’92. If a closer is going to win an MVP, it has to be a truly unbelievable season like, say, Eck in ’90. His numbers in ’90 were out of the stratosphere. It’s ludicrous that he won the MVP in ’92 and not in ’90. A better way to put it would be if Eck didn’t win the MVP in ’90, he sure as heck shouldn’t have won in ’92. The MVP should’ve gone to either Big Mac, Big Hurt, or Kirby Puckett.


Rollie Fingers1.04332.8728

Rickey Henderson8963556641.045150185

Henderson’s season totals don’t look that impressive but that’s because ’81 was a strike-shortened season. Rickey was on pace for 134 runs, 203 hits, 84 stolen bases, and 96 walks. The only reason Fingers won the award is because his numbers “looked” like full season numbers whereas Henderson’s don’t look impressive at all since 54 games weren’t played.. There’s no way Fingers wins the ’81 AL MVP if the season goes the full 162 games.


Don Baylor120361392271.901145333
Fred Lynn116391222821.060176338

Baylor received 20 first place votes. Lynn received zero. Lynn led the AL in batting average, slugging %, OBP, OPS, and Runs Created. Lynn’s OPS+ dwarfed Baylor’s. Lynn also had more doubles, home runs, and total bases. It seems pretty clear to me that Lynn was the MVP in ’79.


Thurman Munson79171051429.769125266
George Brett947672149.839144298

More times than not, catchers who win the MVP don’t deserve it. Brett was clearly the better player in ’76. He led the league in batting average, triples, total bases, hits, and runs created. Munson led the league in nothing.


Boog Powell82351141104.961163289
Carl Yazstrzemski12540102231281.044177335

Yaz not winning the ’70 AL MVP goes down as one of the worst votes in voting history. He pretty much destroyed Powell in every category. Yaz led the AL in slugging %, OBP, OPS, Runs, total bases, and runs created. Powell led the league in nothing.


Zoilo Versalles12619772741.781115308
Tony Oliva10716981955.869141283

There has always been a debate about what “MVP” actually means. Some think it means best player while others think it means best player on a good team. There really should be no confusion, though, when comparing two players from the same team. In that case, the award should obviously go to the player who had the better season. Mystifyingly, voters got in wrong in the 2000 NL vote and then again, in the 1965 AL vote. Versalles only had an OPS that was 15% better than the league average. That is one of the worst marks every by an MVP-winner.


Elston Howard752885035.970140257
Harmon Killebrew884596072.904147286
Al Kaline8927101654.889144283

Howard won the AL MVP in ’63 because the Yankees made playoffs and the Tigers and Twins did not. Killebrew and Kaline had nearly identical numbers. Both would have been worthy MVPs. Howard—despite having a pretty good season—was not worthy of the MVP in ’63.


Roger Maris13261142094.992167366
Mickey Mantle13254128121261.135206353

It’s hard to argue that Maris should not have won the MVP during the year in which he broke Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record. In fact, I’m not going to argue too much about it. If it were up to me, Mantle would’ve won. His OPS+ of 206 was much, much better than Maris’s 167.


Nellie Fox84270571.769114243
Al Kaline8627941072.940151271

When discussing Al Kaline’s MVP snubs, the question isn’t whether he should’ve won an MVP, rather, it’s how many should he have won? Kaline had as good a case as any in ’63. In ’59, he was clearly the best player in the AL. Nellie Fox won because the Chicago White Sox went to the playoffs. Kaline’s numbers are better in every statistic in the chart. It’s goofy things like Nellie Fox and Elston Howard winning the MVP when they shouldn’t that make Kaline one of the most underrated baseball players in history.


Jackie Jensen8335122999.931148293
Mickey Mantle1274297181291.035188307

There’s not a whole lot I can say that the chart doesn’t already make obvious. Mantle received zero first place votes. Ted Williams also had considerably better numbers and received zero first place votes.


Yogi Berra8427108160.819120254
Al Kaline12127102682.967162321

Instead of three MVPs, Al Kaline has zero. He should’ve won by a landslide in both ’55 and ’59.


Yogi Berra922788544.842130269
Ted Williams1093012611441.020165295

Get used to seeing “Ted Williams” in this post. You’ll see his name a total of five times. It’s insulting to compare The Splendid Splinter’s numbers with Berra’s. They aren’t even remotely close. Williams had almost as many walks as Berra had hits!


Phil Rizzuto1257661292.857122271
Larry Doby11025102898.987164299

The Yankees, of course, won the AL Pennant so, by law, a Yankee had to win the MVP. If voters of the day were going to use the “best player on the best team” logic (which is more like the anti-MVP than the MVP) then they should at least give it to the right player. Rizzuto wasn’t even one of the top two Yankees. Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra would have actually been sane choices. Rizzuto? Not so much. Doby had better numbers than Rizzuto and he finished 8th! Berra probably deserved more in ’50 than he did in any of the three years in which he actually won it.


Lou Boudreau11618106398.987154274
Ted Williams1242512741261.112189313

Broken record.


Joe DiMaggio972097364.913154279
Ted Williams1253211401621.133205335

Williams had three seasons in which he tallied an OPS+ of 200 or better without winning the AL MVP. He clobbered DiMaggio in ’47. There were clearly some shenanigans going on amongst the voters because Williams only lost by one point despite receiving five fewer first place votes. Oh yeah, he won the Triple Crown and had 162 walks too which was the second highest single-season total in baseball history at the time.


Joe Gordon88181031279.900155264
Ted Williams1413613731451.147217338

Williams’s OPS+ of 217 is the third highest total for a player who didn’t win the MVP. Williams failed to win in ’41 with a 235. Rogers Hornsby failed to win in ’24 with a 222. Clearly voters of the day were ignorant in a number of disciplines including math and logic. Williams had 87 more RBIs and Runs than Joe Gordon. He also had 66 more walks.


Joe DiMaggio122301254761.083184348
Ted Williams1353712021471.288235335

Ted Williams has the highest single-season OPS+ total of any player to not win the MVP. Ted Williams is on this list five times. That means he should have won five more MVPs than he actually did. I don’t think that was a coincidence.


Charlie Gehringer12214961190.978144293
Hank Greenberg1374018381021.104172397
Joe DiMaggio151461673641.085168418
Lou Gehrig1383715941271.116177366

What a race, huh? Gehrig, DiMaggio, Greenberg, and Gehringer. Gehringer had a good season but the other three had great seasons. I have no idea who I would’ve voted for. It’s a dead heat between DiMaggio, Gehrig, and Greenberg. For the second time in four years, a Detroit Tiger won the AL MVP without even being the best player on his team.


Mickey Cochrane74276878.840117180
Lou Gehrig1284916591091.171208409

I don’t think the MVP voters had their #@%$ together in ’34. Gehrig’s OPS+ was nearly 100 points higher than Cochrane’s. He scored 54 more runs and drove in 89 more RBIs. The most egregious part of this debacle is that Gehrig only managed a fifth place finish. Three Detroit Tigers finished ahead of him in the voting. Ironically, Cochrane wasn’t even the best Tiger in ’34. That distinction went to Charlie Gehringer.

The 2008 AL MVP Race

The AL MVP race is crazy enough to make you dizzy a few times over. Midway through the season, it certainly appeared that Josh Hamilton was the run-away winner. Hamilton followed up his amazing 95-RBI performance in the first half with a puzzling 31-RBI effort in the second half. He’ll end up with very good numbers for the season but he probably won’t win the MVP. There is no way of knowing how voters are going to spread out their votes so it’s possible that Hamilton could win without getting many first place votes. I can see a scenario where voters can’t agree on who should win but do agree that Hamilton should be in the top three or four. A number of guys could win via that avenue. The more I look at the statistics, the more I’m compelled to give the nod to Justin Morneau. Hamilton and Morneau’s numbers are nearly identical. Both are worthy of winning the MVP. However, Morneau has two advantages: 1) His team (the Twins) is in the thick of the playoff race while Hamilton’s team is 21.5 games out; 2) Morneau was more consistent.

Look for Pedroia and Youkilis to split votes. I actually think either would be honorable choices considering how well Boston played this year without a healthy David Ortiz and the Manny Ramirez-fiasco. Cliff Lee is having one of the great statistical seasons of all-time. His team is terrible but winning 22 of his team’s 79 games makes him a). pretty damn good and b). pretty damn valuable. Aubrey Huff and Miguel Cabrera will finish with some of the best numbers in the league but both played for terrible teams and both started out slowly. They were out of the race by mid-season.

The player who was in position to win the AL MVP once Hamilton hit his wall was Carlos Quentin. He got hurt like every other White Sox player and his improbable run at the MVP was finished.

Best Guess for 2008 AL MVP Results

1). Justin Morneau
2). Josh Hamilton
3). Dustin Pedroia
4). Kevin Youkilis
5). Cliff Lee
6). Miguel Cabrera
7). Aubrey Huff
8). Carlos Quentin
9). Grady Sizemore
10). Alex Rodriguez
11). Mark Teixeira
12). Joe Mauer
13). Milton Bradley
14). Roy Halladay
15). Raul Ibanez
16). Ichiro
17). Carlos Pena
18). Jason Giambi
19). Evan Longoria
20). Jim Thome

Worst MVP Winner of All-Time (NL)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Worst MVP Winners of All-Time (NL)

This post is a little overdue. I meant to have this out immediately following my “worst Cy Young winners” posts but this took much longer than I anticipated. Apologies.

The criteria for winning the Cy Young Award is pretty straight forward. Voters simply vote for the best pitchers. The criteria for the MVP Award is much more confusing and frustrating. Some choose to vote for “the best players on the best teams.” Others like to say it should go to “the player who meant the most to his team.” I will admit that ambiguity is inherent to an award titled “Most Valuable Player” rather than “Best Player.” However, I believe that the spirit of the award was for it to be given to the best player. I can see where the word “Valuable” could cause confusion but I think that was used instead of “Best” or another synonym because it sounds fancier. Remember, the award was created near the beginning of the 20th century. People cared about fanciness back then. Plus, why would the criteria for the Cy Young (an award for pitchers) be different than the MVP (an award primarily for hitters)?

Even though I understand why there might be some confusion as to what “Valuable” is supposed to mean, I do not support multiple interpretations of the criteria for winning the award. The people who think it should go to “the best player on the best team” are way off base unless, of course, that player is the best player in MLB as well. Simply being the best player on the best team is not even remotely close to an acceptable reason to award the MVP. The best player on the best team by definition isn’t as important because the team is already good. Likewise, the people who think the award should go to “the player who meant the most to his team” are way off base. People of this ilk generally dismiss players from poor teams. Ironically, those players are just the players who mean the most to their teams. Imagine how much worse a bad team would be without its best player. Great players on bad teams are usually the most “valuable” players in the league. They are surely more valuable than great players on great teams. I'm OK with using "value to team" as a tiebreaker but it's weak as the primary criteria for awarding the MVP.

So, for the purposes of this post, please understand that I believe that the MVP should be given to the best player. Voters should vote for the best players. It is the years in which they failed to vote for the “best” players that you’ll find in my list of the worst MVP winners of all-time.

Worst National League MVP Winners of All-Time (winners listed first)


Jimmy Rollins13930944149.875118380
Matt Holliday1203613711631.012150386
David Wright113301073494.962150330
Prince Fielder109501192901.013156354

Rollins had a pretty good season but I’m not sure he had a better season than David Wright or Prince Fielder let alone Matt Holliday. Holliday was robbed. The stat-lines speak for themselves.


Jeff Kent1143312512901.020162350
Barry Bonds12949106111171.128188330

This was pre-70 home runs but, by many accounts, Bonds had already begun taking steroids. His numbers show it. He had his best season in nearly a decade. Nonetheless, Bonds should have easily won his fourth MVP award (which would’ve given him eight overall) in 2000. His numbers dwarfed Kent’s and they played for the same team.


Chipper Jones11645110251261.074168359
Mark McGwire1186514701331.121177363

I kind of feel bad for McGwire but it’s hard to feel too bad for a guy who juiced his way to the front page of every newspaper in the country. McGwire should have won at least two MVPs but ended up with zero. Chipper Jones had a very good season in ’99 but it wasn’t nearly as good as McGwire’s. McGwire led the league in home runs and RBIs. He had more HRs, RBIs, Runs, and walks than Jones and had a much better OPS.


Sammy Sosa1346615818731.024160416
Mark McGwire1307014711621.222216383

I never understood the results of the ’98 MVP race. It was almost as if the voters decided to give the MVP as a consolation prize to the loser of the great McGwire/Sosa home run race. McGwire had an OPS+ of 216! Sosa was 160. No player since Ted Williams was routinely hosed out of winning the MVP in the 40s and 50s had failed to win the MVP with an OPS+ of at least 216. Sosa had more runs and RBIs than McGwire but it’s important to remember that McGwire was walked 89 more times than Sosa. How many more RBIs would McGwire have had if he got as many looks as Sosa? McGwire destroyed Sosa in ’98. Few players in MLB history have had a big margin in OPS than McGwire had over Sosa and not won the MVP.


Ken Caminiti1094013011781.029173339
Barry Bonds12242129401511.076188318

Bonds’s reputation cost him the MVP in ’96 as it did in 2000. Caminiti didn’t deserve the award any more than Kent did in 2000. Heck, Bonds was 40-40. At the time, only Jose Canseco had accomplished 40-40. That should’ve been an automatic MVP-win. Bonds also had Caminiti beat in virtually every other statistic. This should’ve given Bonds nine MVPs. Bonds finished fifth (!!!) in the voting.


Barry Larkin9815665161.886133244
Barry Bonds10933104311201.008168292

Larkin is one of the least deserving MVP winners of all-time. If the player with Bonds’ numbers had been anyone else, Larkin wouldn’t have won. But, once again, Bonds was denied an MVP because of his popularity—or lack thereof. The numbers aren’t even close. Hilariously, Bonds finished 12th in the voting. Vendetta, anyone? This would’ve given Bonds 10 MVPs.

Greg Maddux1.6326290%209.719.81181

If Bonds wasn’t going to win the MVP in ’95, the only other logical choice (unless you want to make a somewhat understandable case for Mike Piazza) was Greg Maddux. Maddux had one of the greatest seasons in baseball history. To suggest that Larkin was better in ’95 than Maddux is to insult the intelligence of every baseball fan in the world. Maddux went 19-2 with the fifth best ERA+ in MLB history.


Terry Pendleton9422861043.880139303
Barry Bonds952511643107.924160262

This was the first year Bonds was screwed out of the MVP. Pendleton’s numbers don’t even come close. This should’ve been his second overall and should’ve been his 11th total.


Kirk Gibson10625763173.860148262
Darryl Strawberry101391012985.911165296

As much as I love Gibby, Darryl Strawberry was the man in 1988. If not Strawberry, then it should’ve been Will Clark.


Andre Dawson90491371132.896130353
Jack Clark933510611361.056176250

As I mentioned in the intro, some of these are much worse than others. This one isn’t as bad as most but Jack Clark was clearly the more feared and productive hitter. He had 104 more walks than “The Hawk”. His OPS and OPS+ were much better. Clark also played on a team where the second highest OPS+ was 105. Dawson played on a team with nine players who had an OPS+ better than 105. Clark had the better season and he was more important to his team. I’m sure a decent argument could be made that Dawson deserved the MVP but I think a better argument could be made for Clark.


Steve Garvey9521111531.811130301
Mike Schmidt1083611623106.941158310

Garvey’s win in ’74 is one of the worst in MLB history. Schmidt has him beat in every category and most of them aren’t close. It’s unfortunate for Schmidt that he was robbed of this MVP because it would’ve given him four for his career which would have been a significant accomplishment. When Schmidt retired, nobody in MLB history had won four MVP awards. Even now, Schmidt would have been one of two players with four or more MVPs.


Pete Rose1155641065.838138297
Willie Stargell106441190801.038186337

Rose won the MVP in ’73 because he led the league in hits and batting average and played for the first-place Reds. Unfortunately for “Pops”, that is a recipe that’s hard to beat even if your season is twice as impressive. Rose had 49 extra-base hits. “Pops” had 44 home runs alone. He had 90 extra-base hits. He had 55 more RBIs. This is definitely won of the worst MVP results in MLB history. This kept Stargell from becoming a two-time winner which would’ve certainly increased his already-impressive resume.


Orlando Cepeda91251111162.923164295
Roberto Clemente10323110941.954171324

This one is another like the ’87 NL MVP voting. It’s not horrible but I think it went to the wrong person. Clemente has Cepeda beat in OPS, OPS+, Total Bases, and RBIs+Runs. Cepeda’s advantages are razor-thin. I could’ve easily not included this one but it seems pretty obvious to me that Clemente had the better season.


Roberto Clemente10529119746.896146342
Dick Allen1124011010681.028181331

The ’66 NL MVP voting saw Clemente on the other side. Unlike ’67 when he lost but should’ve won, he won but should’ve lost in ’66. The only difference is that the ’66 race was much more decisive. Dick Allen destroys Clemente in a season vs. season comparison. Allen was similar to Albert Belle in the sense that he was a feared slugger who dominated baseball for ten years but was denied an MVP and ultimately election to the Hall of Fame because the writers didn’t like him.

Sandy Koufax1.7319075%32327.99317

Koufax had a legit claim to the MVP in ’66 as well. His numbers weren’t as good as Maddux’s in ’95 but they were pretty stellar. If Allen wasn’t going to win the MVP, it should’ve been Koufax.


Ken Boyer10024119370.854130307
Willie Mays121471111982.990172351

This is easily one of the worst. A comparison of Mays and Boyer’s statistics in ’64 goes something like a comparison of Mays and Boyer’s careers. Mays dominated Boyer. I really don’t have much more to add. The result is inexcusable. Get used to seeing Mays. He appears four times on this list as a player who should have won. He should have won five MVPs at a minimum.


Maury Wills13064810451.720100259
Frank Robinson1343913618761.045173380
Willie Mays130491411878.999165382
Hank Aaron1274512815661.008170366

The ’62 NL MVP results are one of the two worst of all-time in my opinion. There are other instances when players who didn’t win had equally greater stats than the eventual winners as the ’62 group. However, there has never been an instance where three of the greatest players of all-time had unbelievable seasons and all lost to a weak player. It’s astonishing. Just look at the numbers Aaron, Mays, and Robinson put up. Then look at Wills. I’m getting fired-up just talking about this. Wills had an OPS+ of 100. By definition, that means he was simply average in ’62. How did he end up beating three phenomenal seasons?


Dick Groat85250039.765110226
Willie Mays291032561.936159330

The fact that Willie Mays didn’t win the NL MVP in ’60 is ridiculous. The fact that Dick Groat did is just silly. It’s really not worth discussing since the chart pretty much paints the picture. Mays even played 15 more games than Groat.


Ernie Banks9745143264.970155351
Hank Aaron116391238511.037181400

Banks had a very good season in ’59 but Aaron was considerably better. He had huge advantages in Total Bases, OPS, and OPS+.


Don Newcombe3.0613279%26827.99139

Hank Aaron1062692237.923151340

There have been a litany of pitchers in baseball who have put up the numbers Newcombe put up in ’56 and never came close to the MVP. Pitchers should win the MVP under two conditions; 1). There season was historically good and 2). There aren’t any obvious hitting candidates. Neither applied to the ’62 NL MVP race. The voters didn’t see it that way, though. Seven different players received first place votes and none of them went to Hank Aaron.


Roy Campanella8132107256.978153260
Willie Mays1235112724791.059174382

Campanella won three MVPs but probably should have won only one. Mays clearly outperformed Campy in ’55. I realize that, for a catcher, Campanella had a magnificent season. However, there is no way that his defense from the catching position or the offense that he provided above and beyond the average catcher was enough to offset the remarkable season that Mays had.


Roy Campanella9033108153.983159298
Stan Musial124321084981.063182355

Ditto. Musial should’ve won three more MVPs than he did which would’ve given him six.


Jim Konstanty2.6615270%152161.0456

Stan Musial105281095871.033163331

Konstanty’s season should not have been good enough to win the award over Musial. In fact, Konstanty wasn’t even the best pitcher in the NL in 1950. He only pitched 150 innings. Robin Roberts pitched twice as many innings with a pretty damn good ERA+. Sal Maglie pitched 50 more innings with a nearly identical ERA+, more wins, and a better winning percentage.


Jackie Robinson122161243786.960152313
Ralph Kiner1165412761171.090186361

Robinson was good in ’49 but Kiner was flat-out robbed. He led the league in home runs, OPS, RBIs, walks, and slugging percentage. Baseball writers must have had a grudge against Kiner because he didn’t receive a single first place vote while six other players did.


Bob Elliot9322113387.927147287
Ralph Kiner118511271981.056173361

Kiner was robbed even worse in ’47 because at least Jackie Robinson led the league in something in ’49. Bob Elliot won the MVP without leading the league in anything. Kiner led the league in home runs, OPS, slugging %, total bases, and runs created. Again, Kiner didn’t receive a single first place vote while 10 others did.


Phil Cavaretta94697581.949166249
Tommy Holmes125281171570.997175367

I hadn’t heard of either of these dudes before looking this stuff up but there were some shenanigans going on in the ’45 voting. Holmes drove in and scored 51 more runs than Cavaretta. He had 118 more total bases. This was one of the worst votes of all-time…


Marty Marion52663143.68691183
Stan Musial1121294790.989175312

…but not the worst. That has to go to the ’44 NL MVP vote. If it was a joke, it wasn’t funny. Marion didn’t even have a 100 OPS+ which I believe makes him the only non-pitcher in MLB history to win the award with less than a 100 OPS+. Musial destroyed him in every category. Marion wasn’t a decisive winner garnering only 7 of 24 first place votes but voters probably had their own agendas and that cost Musial—clearly the best player in the league—another MVP.


Frank McCormick9319127252.849132298
Johnny Mize111431377821.040176368

Mize doesn’t get near the fanfare as he should and some of that has to do with the fact that he was robbed out of two MVP awards. In 1940, he led the league in OPS, slugging percentage, total bases, home runs, RBIs, and runs created. McCormick led the league in hits and doubles. Go figure.


Bucky Walters2.2916871%319271.13137

Johnny Mize104281080921.070178353

Mize was just as good in ’39. He led the league in batting average, home runs, OPS, slugging %, runs created, and total bases. The ’39 result wasn’t nearly as bad as in ’40 because Bucky Walters led the league in virtually all pitching statistics. He had a very good season.


Ernie Lombardi601995040.915153256
Mel Ott1163611621181.025178307

Mel Ott and Johnny Mize were easily the two best hitters in the NL in 1938. Naturally, they received a combined zero first place votes. They combined to lead the league in virtually all major statistics. Ernie Lombardi led the league in batting average. Whoop dee doo.


Gabby Hartnett671391141.949151225
Arky Vaughan10819994971.098190303

This probably had something to do with the precedent that catchers can win the award with inferior statistics simply because they are catchers. Vaughan clearly has the advantage in every statistic.


Frankie Frisch964822845.764102205
Chuck Klein12131121759.982152347

1931 is generally considered the year in which the MVP began as we know it now. Before ’31, the MVP voting process was a joke. Unfortunately, the ’31 voting process was a joke as well. Frisch over Klein was not a good way to begin the “new and improved” voting process.

The 2008 NL MVP Race

Just like the 2006 NL Race, the ’08 race comes down to Albert Pujols and Ryan Howard. In ’06, Howard had a phenomenal two months (23 home runs and 62 RBIs) to overtake Pujols. Phat Albert’s numbers were better than Howard’s but Howard’s surge to end the season led the Phillies into the playoffs. The exact same scenario is unfolding in the NL this year. Howard has been scorching over the last two months leading the Phillies back into another likely playoff appearance. There are two differences from ’06, though: 1) Pujols and the Cardinals will not be in the playoffs and; 2) Howard’s OPS+ is only 120 compared to 167 in ’06. Maybe those factors will cancel each other out and we’ll see Howard over Pujols again. While I was fine with Howard over Pujols in ’06 (in fact, I wrote a post supporting that outcome), I wouldn’t be supportive of if it happened again this year. Pujols has a 184-120 advantage in OPS+. He has a .633-.533 advantage in slugging percentage. He has a .453-.336 advantage in OBP. Pujols has nearly a 2 to 1 BB:K ratio. Howard is much worse than 1 to 2. The numbers are there for Pujols. His team won’t make the playoffs but he deserves the MVP. Here is a guess at how the voting might turn out…

Best guess for 2008 NL MVP Results

1). Pujols
2). Howard
3). Manny Ramirez
4). Berkman
5). Chase Utley
6). D. Wright
7). H. Ramirez
8). Aramis Ramirez
9). Chipper Jones
10). Carlos Beltran
11). Adrian Gonzalez
12). Delgado
13). Jose Reyes
14). Prince Fielder
15). Ryan Braun

Worst MVP Winners of All-Time (AL)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Michigan Player Board Week 3

Progress isn’t usually synonymous with losing but there was clearly progress on the offensive side of the ball against Notre Dame. The defensive line was terrible. The rest of the team—other than the turnovers—was actually pretty good in spite of the score. The perpetual complainers will surely use the final score as fuel for their RichRod slam fest but people who actually know what they’re looking for should be pleased with that they saw. It’s sad to think that there are actually people out there who don’t think that Rich Rodriguez is building a championship program. Those people should be ridiculed and refused admittance into Michigan fandom. The hints are out there. The writing is on the wall. Recruiting is going very well. The strength and conditioning is top notch. Heck, Rodriguez almost won a National Championship at West Virginia. If you think that’s easy to do, you might want to give Bill Stewart a call. These people need to get their heads out of their asses and use that thing inside their skull for something more than remembering where they placed their keys. Seriously, if you’re a Michigan fan and you don’t think this program is going to explode, get lost. Notre Dame and its mediocrity would love to have you. I apologize for wasting your time with that diatribe. There may not be a single person reading this who actually thinks Michigan is heading in the wrong direction. Trust me, those people are out there and they are idiots.

Top 25 Michigan Player Board

1Brandon Graham, DENot a great game in South Bend. Still leads team in TFLs and sacks.

2Sam McGuffie, RBClose to three times as many total yards as any other ‘M’ player. Tore up South Bend.


3Donovan Warren, CBOutplayed Trent in two of three games so far. Played very well against Notre Dame.


4Brandon Harrison, SLeast productive game of the season but still played pretty well.


5Morgan Trent, CBLooked bad on a number of plays. Looked pretty good on a few others.


6Tim Jamison, DEThe D-Line was terrible against ND but Jamison probably had the best game of the bunch.

7Montavious Odoms, WROdoms is ‘M’s leading receiver in both catches and yards. He has twice as many receptions as any other WR.


8Obi Ezeh, LBDidn’t play particularly well against ND.


9Zoltan Mesko, PWeirdly had best game of the season in sloppy conditions. Four kicks for 211 yards (52.8 average) was followed by a Ray Guy nomination.


10Greg Mathews, WRMathews has been Michigan’s best WR but has only played in 2 of 3 games.

11Will Johnson, DTDropped for the second straight week. Again, the D-Line was awful.


12Terrance Taylor, DTTaylor at #12 after three games can only be described as a disappointment.


13Steven Threet, QBImproved by leaps and bounds against Notre Dame. That sort of performance the rest of the season would surely lead to a bowl game.


14John Thompson, LBFairly solid for second consecutive game. 7 tackles, a TFL, a forced fumble and a quarterback hurry was one of better D performances.


15Jonas Mouton, LBDitto John Thompson


16Michael Shaw, RBHamstring injury limited reps.


17Steve Schilling, OTO-line played better against ND.


18Mike Martin, DTContributions to date have been a pleasant surprise. Didn’t factor much in South Bend.


19Brandon Minor, RBI feel bad for Minor. Hopefully the offense will improve enough that his role will increase. Dropped a costly lateral pass recovered by ND.


20Darryl Stonum, WRPlayed pretty well against Notre Dame. Three catches for 35 yards were big.


21K.C. Lopata, KPerfect against ND with a low degree of difficulty.

22Ryan Van Bergen, DEPlays fairly well in limited action.

23Dave Molk, C’M’s second best O-lineman played fairly well despite being blown off the ball on a crucial third down play.


24Stevie Brown, SSurprisingly makes solid plays. Too bad they're intermingled with terrible ones.


25Junior Hemingway, WRAnother zero catch performance will keep him off the list next week.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Observations on 'M' vs. Notre Dame

  • Sam McGuffie was the best player on the field on Saturday. His performance reminded me of Justin Fargas’s rainy-day effort against Northwestern in 1998. When the rain began to poor in the second half on Saturday and both teams struggled to move the ball, McGuffie was still churning out yards like they were a brand of Edy’s ice cream. His 40 yard TD catch and run was a magnificent example of McGuffie’s ability and the potential of RR’s offense. In a season that was never supposed to be anything more than a stepping stone for the future, fans should remember this game as the day Sam McGuffie went from a YouTube sensation to a college football sensation instead of the fact that Michigan lost. McGuffie had 178 total yards. Notre Dame had 260.

  • Steven Threet was probably the third best player on the field on Saturday behind McGuffie and Notre Dame’s Golden Tate. ‘M’ fans have to be encouraged by the way Threet was able to throw the ball on a miserable day. He was so impressive that some fans are starting to think he has a chance of being Michigan’s starting QB next season. That would be the definition of “getting a little carried away” but Threet’s rapid development from last week’s god-awful performance to this week’s heroic effort is great news for Michigan’s prospects of reaching a bowl for the 34th consecutive season.

  • We saw an example of vintage Michigan football on Saturday. Notre Dame stunk. The Irish only managed 14 first downs (Michigan had 21) and 260 total yards (Michigan had 388) yet, somehow, Michigan still managed to give up 35 points. This game reminded me of Michigan’s trips to Washington in 2001, Notre Dame in 2002, and Oregon in 2003. Hopefully there will be no equivalent editions in 2009 and 2010. Losing games to opponents who don’t play well is a Michigan staple. I would love for that to stop.

  • Michigan tried to tweak its punt scheme a few years back in what ‘M’ fans endearingly refer to as the “Boccher debacle”. Jim Boccher was unceremoniously removed from Michigan’s coaching staff after his "whacky" punt formations were ruined by horrible execution by his players. Boccher became the fall guy and his reputation and employment at Michigan were history. Michigan’s current punt scheme is not so different from what Boccher tried to do. In fact, I bet this is exactly what he had in mind. Did I mention that I love it? Zoltan Mesko is fast and he can break a tackle as he proved on his fake punt against Notre Dame. This scheme works well for three reasons: 1). for every yard the punter runs forward, an extra yard is essentially gained on the punt, 2). if the defense doesn’t honor the punter’s run threat, then the punter can take off, and 3). the defense cannot run its usual punt return formation when it has to devote players to a constant fake punt threat.

  • RR’s decision to allow Threet to throw the ball more often gave Threet a chance to get into a rhythm. His strength is throwing the football but we didn’t see anything that led us to believe that was actually true against Utah or Miami (OH). That’s because RR didn’t let Threet thrown down field. I think RR realized that Michigan’s offense could not be effective without the downfield threat. Threet showed he was capable of fitting the ball into tight spots. This is a good sign for the remainder of the season.

  • Another good sign? RR took a severely inexperienced offense—with four freshman starters, a poor offensive line, and a QB ill-equipped to run the spread—into a hostile environment in terrible weather conditions and still put up 388 total yards.

  • My first impression of Notre Dame’s announcers was that Tom Hammond was his normal homer-self and Pat Haden was quite tolerable. After a second viewing of the game, I’m very comfortable with those first impressions. However, Hammond and Haden were a lot like Michigan’s special teams in the booth. Both made sweet (if sweet means not sweet) comments that are sure to get large portions of the country riled up. Haden ripped on the state of Kentucky by insinuating that half is equal to 50% everywhere but Kentucky. He suggested that Kentuckians think that half is 53%. Hammond followed that with brilliant (and by brilliant I mean not brilliant) rhetoric of his own by saying, “The fag is down in the end zone” no doubt bringing a smile to the pope.

  • I’m not familiar with Gregg Easterbrook’s work beyond what I read in his TMQ column today on ESPN.com. For the love of sports journalism, I hope his asinine comments aren’t indicative of his typical opinions. He said of Michigan under Rich Rodriguez, “Considering the fantastic advantages in money and recruiting power possessed by Alabama, Arkansas and Michigan, orangutans could have coached them to 13-8.” I’m not sure where to start. Alabama is 3-0 and ranked #9 in year two under Nick Saban. Bobby Petrino and Rich Rodriguez are just starting to build their programs with new schemes that will take at least two years to reach an elite level even with the most optimistic expectations. Easterbrook’s attempt at a witty putdown is incredibly flawed. He has woefully entangled two totally unrelated points. Only an idiot would attempt to criticize Saban, Petrino, and Rodriguez’s merits as coaches. If he takes issue with their decisions to leave old jobs for new jobs (a decision that is usually criticized with ignorance), then that’s one thing. To try to make the leap from that to “orangutans are just as good” is just simply moronic.

  • Go Blue!

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