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Award Redo: 1987 N.L. MVP

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There's an ongoing debate about the baseball Most Valuable Player voting: Should it go to the best player in baseball or should it go to the best player on a winning team? I used to be very much on the side of it should be the best player on a winnig team but I've backed off that, although today I still don't think a player on a last place team shouldn't be winning the MVP but don't believe that a player on a losing or middle of the road team should be automatically discarded from consideration.

 

Whatever side of the debate you are on everyone can agree one of the most bizarre MVP winners was Andre Dawson in 1987. The main reason Dawson won most likely was because he lead the league in homeruns and rbi which is always to grab the attention of the voters. But what was odd about was that Dawson played on a last place team in the Cubs. Now at 76-85 I suppose the Cubs were a "good" last place team but they were never in serious contention in the very tough N.L. East which featured three teams with 90+ wins that year. Also when you looked at Dawson's numbers beyond the homeruns and rbi they weren't that impressive. He hit .287 with a .328 OBP and despite his 49 homeruns who only finsihed 6th in SLG in a year full of great offensive performances. There were several of great candidates on some of the leagues top teams (Cardinals, Giants, Mets, Expos) yet a player on a last place team wins it who's numbers did not blow away the competition. Here's the actual order of finish for the 1987 N.L. MVP:

 

1) Dawson 2) Ozzie Smith 3) Jack Clark 4) Tim Wallach 5) Will Clark 6) Darryl Strawberry 7) Tim Raines 8) Tony Gwynn 9) Eric Davis 10) Howard Johnson 11) Dale Murphy 12) Vince Coleman 13) Juan Samuel 14) Mike Schmidt 15) Pedro Guerrero 16) Steve Bedrosian 17) Milt Thompson 18t) Bill Doran 18t) Terry Pendleton

 

So I've decided to redo the voting and give my own Top 10 for that year (note used '88 cards since they'd be '87 photos).

 

#10

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.308/.371/.580, 113 RC, 153 OPS+, .311 EQA, 49.5 VORP, 25 Win Shares

 

#9

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.293/.388/.548, 112 RC, 142 OPS+, .313 EQA, 58.1 VORP, 26 Win Shares

 

#8

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.338/.416/.539, 123 RC, 155 OPS+, .331 EQA, 69.5 VORP, 28 Win Shares

 

#7

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.295/.417/.580, 136 RC, 156 OPS+, .328 EQA, 73.0 VORP, 29 Win Shares

 

#6

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.303/.392/.383, 90 RC, 105 OPS+, .288 EQA, 59.1 VORP, 33 Win Shares

 

#5

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.370/.447/.511, 135 RC, 158 OPS+, .341 EQA, 90.8 VORP, 29 Win Shares

 

#4

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.284/.398/.583, 122 RC, 162 OPS+, .332 EQA, 69.4 VORP, 30 Win Shares

 

#3

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.293/.399/.593, 112 RC, 155 OPS+, .330 EQA, 78.7 VORP, 30 Win Shares

 

#2

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.286/.459/.597, 115 RC, 176 OPS+, .353 EQA, 65.2 VORP, 33 Win Shares

 

#1

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.330/.429/.526, 119 RC, 149 OPS+, .333 EQA, 78.7 VORP, 34 Win Shares

 

As you see Dawson doesn't even crack the Top 10. If Raines played anywhere less but Montreal he probably gets more consideration although even in this year he didn't finish higher than his teammate Tim Wallach. Dawson of course played in Montreal originally and had signed as a free agent with the Cubs before the '87 season. It's highly unlikely he would have won the award in '87 with his numbers playing Montreal. Raines truly was one of great, underappreciated players of the 80's.

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This blog's becoming one of TSM's hidden gems.

 

It took me awhile to see this, but I had to comment on this particular MVP race. It is my opinion that Ozzie Smith nearly deserved the MVP award. If not, he certainly ranks higher than sixth. It is easy to look at Ozzie's 1987 stats and dismiss them slightly. After all, there is little impressive about a .383 Slugging percentage. However, for an NL shortstop they are extremely good numbers. Of the twelve shortstops in the NL in 1987, Smith rates first in batting average and OBP, and third in slugging percentage. He rates second in OPS+ behind Hubie Brooks. And Ozzie rates first in steals among shortstops, with twice as many as his nearest competitor (Barry Larkin).

 

That's pretty good for an average fielding shortstop. Smith of course was not an average fielder. Every single defensive rating system ever devised ranks Ozzie among the greatest fielders in baseball history. When you have a shortstop making an enormous number of plays in the field and creating runs at the plate in a leadoff hitter fashion, that's every bit as valuable as a 40 home run guy. Tim Raines probably edged Smith, but the voters were closer to nailing his spot.

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Thanks for the compliment.

 

To be honest when doing these redos I haven't given any real consideration to the position of the player and possibly I should. Thing about 1987 it was such a monster year for offense I just feel even with the high OBP Smith's defense can't make up for how his offensive numbers are dwarfed by the competition. The highest I could see putting him is 3rd.

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Thanks for the compliment.

 

To be honest when doing these redos I haven't given any real consideration to the position of the player and possibly I should. Thing about 1987 it was such a monster year for offense I just feel even with the high OBP Smith's defense can't make up for how his offensive numbers are dwarfed by the competition. The highest I could see putting him is 3rd.

There probably isn't a player who deserves more credit for his defense than Ozzie Smith. The problem is that this is very hard to quantify. Just looking at range factors, Ozzie scores a full play per game better than league average. If we were to assume these were all singles, that would save about 18 runs a season beyond what an average shortstop would do. That's about two wins in the standings. Total Baseball scores Ozzie at 19 Fielding Runs, so my calculations are not off base. The question is how close that closes the gap regarding batting statistics. And to be honest, I don't have a good answer for that. Total Baseball sees Smith outside of the top three, but win shares places him second.

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