If I Could Turn Back Time: 1995 AL MVP Edition

Cubsfan and I were talking a few weeks ago and the old Cleveland Indians happened to come up. I was looking into their great hitters like Manny and Jim Thome back in the day, but then I "stumbled" onto Albert Belle's numbers. I use the word stumbled very loosely because the dude was just fantastic and the best hitter on the great early 90's Indians team. But I never truly realized just HOW good he was until I compared his numbers to everyone else in baseball.

The dude never won an MVP and it's truly a travesty. TBO tells me the dude was a huge asshole and so the baseball writers decided to stick it to him by never giving Belle an MVP award. This is why we need retroactive voting for all things including Oscar winners and MVP voting. I'd encourage you to look over Mr. Belle's fantastic career, but I'd like to focus your attention to the 1995 season.

In 1995 Boston's Mo Vaughn took home the AL MVP.

Before I tell you the standings, keep in mind that in 1995, an MLB season only lasted 144 games, not the 162 it lasts now. That year the Red Sox won 86 games and the AL East. The Seattle Marines won 79 games and the AL West. The other AL team that won their division? You guessed it, the Cleveland Indians. The Indians won 100. I don't think that got through to you, the Indians won 100 games- in only 144 chances. To put that into perspective, it's really hard to win 100 games in a 162 game season. The only other team in 1995 to win over 90 games was the Atlanta Braves- who won 90. The fact that the Indians won 100 is really impressive and should already be a notch in the belt for Belle.

Even though team records are dumb to see who should be MVP, this was still the logic of how baseball voters thought back then. Another dumb statistic used to measure baseball players but was used back then: batting average.

In 1995, Vaughn hit .300. Still pretty impressive, but not as good as Belle's .317.

In fact, let's go back and compare Vaughn to Belle in all the other major categories.

Vaughn: .388
Belle: .401

Winner: Belle

Vaughn: .575
Belle: .690

Winner: Belle

Vaughn: 4.2
Belle: 6.6

Winner: Belle

Belle obviously beat Vaughn in OPS if he beat him in both OBP and SLG. Belle also had more runs, more hits, more walks, and the same amount of RBI's. Vaughn had more stolen bases (11 to 5) and four more at bats.

But here's the kicker. Albert Belle hit 50 home runs that year. FIFTY! FIVE-ZERO! Mo Vaughn only hit 39.

Yet Albert Belle was second in MVP voting to Vaughn by eight votes.

Just because I'm biased I decided to compare Vaughn to Chicgo's Frank Thomas. In 1995, Thomas had a better batting average, better on base percentage, better slugging percentage, more home runs, more runs, more walks, and a better WAR. In 1995, Thomas led all MVP candidates with 136 walks (which led the majors). ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY SIX!

If you go back and truly analyze the statistics and only go by WAR, Seattle's Edgar Martinez (7.7 WAR) and Randy Johnson (7.8 WAR) probably truly deserved it over Belle (6.6). But because Belle hit 50 HR, his team won 100 games, and because the dude had never won an MVP before, I would have given it to him.

Before I wrap up, here was Randy Johnson's statistics in 1995: 18 W, 3 L, 2.48 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 294 K in 214.1 IP. How's that for a fantasy line? Eat your heart out Roy Halladay! The dude won the AL Cy Young (deservingly) yet was the highest 2nd pitcher in MVP voting behind Jose Mesa- the Indians closer.

Moral of the story: we should wait to vote on these things instead of being caught up in the heat of the moment and go by the mainstream media idea.


The One DME Accosted said...

You know I love you Rexy, but you are out of your mind with the lack of fact-checking.

The AL went to a 162 game sked in '61, while the senior circuit waited until '62.

The One DME Accosted said...

Also, to compare OPS+ in '95:

Vaughn: 144

Belle: 177

Thomas: 179

And in the Big Unit v. Doc matchup, Doc's career ERA+ of 137 edges Unit's 136 (although that will change when Doc throws in a couple crappy career-ending seasons), but Unit had a ERA+ of 193 in '95, while Doc's top was 185 in '05.

The One DME Accosted said...

Finally, "dude having never won an MVP before" is probably not a great criterion for awarding an MVP, or at least no better than "number of teenaged trick-or-treaters chased down in a motor vehicle" (maybe you were being tongue-in-cheek; if so, sorry).

And all this ball-breaking shouldn't take away from the fact that I agree with your premise that Belle was a much better player than folks give him credit for being (career OPS+ of 143 is good for 51st all time) and that his 1995 season was ridiculously good.

David "MVP" Eckstein said...

OPS+ is a useless metric. OBP is 1.3x as valuable as SLG. Use wOBA and wRC+

Vaughn: 138
Belle: 177
Thomas: 168

David "MVP" Eckstein said...

And I too agree Belle is underrated. I did a podcast about him that I never figured out how to upload in the fall

David "MVP" Eckstein said...

Of all hitters with 1000+ PA to their career (3669) Belle's career 140 wRC+ is t-70 with Mike Piazza.

However, Jeff Bagwell's 149 wRC+ (.406 career wOBA) ranks T-30 overall, on par with none other than the career of Arod,

David "MVP" Eckstein said...

don't also forget that Belle was probably baseball's biggest asshole of the 90s

Sexy Rexy said...

1) During the 1995 season, due to the strike, they only played 144 games. The Cleveland Indians won 100 games that year and lost 44. My phrasing is funny but that sentence will not change and is true

2) I fully admit "not winning an MVP award" is not a very good reason, but to me and in my book- it is a factor. I know that sentiment leaves me open to criticism. Obviously it's not a HUGE reason but especially when players are close and it's an open debate, I'll give it to the guy who's never own it before. And I'll give it to the guy who hit 10 more HR than anybody else that year.

3) I know WHY Belle didn't win it but players are not human! They are soulless, calculated machines! All we care about are numbers!

Sexy Rexy said...

Also, The Big Hurt did lead the majors in 1995 with 136. Second was Barry Bonds with 120 and Edgar Martinez with 116.