Okay back to the redos. In the last two redos I took away an MVP from a closer, Willie Hernandez and Dennis Eckersley. Since I've established that closers should not receive serious consideration for the MVP award and now to turn the focus to starting pitchers. In the last three redos a starting pitcher cracked the Top 10 but I didn't give any of them serious thought for the #1 spot. In today's game with five man rotations and relaitvely stricter pitch counts a pitcher it is difficult for a starting pitcher to rack up the innings to match the value of an everyday player. You have to go back to 1980 to find the last starting pitcher to throw over 300 innings in a single season, Steve Carlton. Since that year three closers have won the MVP award but only one starting pitcher, Roger Clemens in 1986. It seems very odd that closers now seemingly have a better shot to win an MVP than starting pitchers.
Now this brings me to a year that a starting pitcher received serious consideration for the MVP and deservedly so, 1995. Remember 1995? The strike was still going on by Spring Training and we came very close to seeing replacement/scab players fielding Major League teams in games that counted but it ended right before Opening Day. I can even remember an exhibition game at the Coliseum with scab players right before the strike ended. The start of the season was pushed back to late April and the season shrunk to 144 games.
That year Greg Maddux had probably the best season a starting pitcher has had in my lifetime. He went 19-2 with 1.63 ERA, which was actually slightly higher than his previous year but he had better peripherals. He would win the Cy Young unanimously and finish 3rd in the MVP voting with seven first place votes. 2nd place went to Dante Bichette who benefitted from Coors Field and the Rockies surprise run to the Wild Card in the third year of exsistence. The winner would be Barry Larkin. Larkin's win has been perceived as possibly not deserving since '95 as he followed up that year with an even better season in '96 and I'd count myself as one of the doubters to this point. One interesting result in the '95 voting was the complete lack of support for Barry Bonds who finished 12th overall as the Giants floundered at the bottom of the N.L. West.
So was 1995 finally a year a starting pitcher should have won an MVP? Was Barry Larkin's win undeserving? Did Dante Bichette really have a better year than Barry Bonds?
1) Barry Larkin 2) Dante Bichette 3) Greg Maddux 4) Mike Piazza 5) Eric Karros 6) Reggie Sanders 7) Larry Walker 8) Sammy Sosa 9) Tony Gwynn 10) Craig Biggio 11) Ron Gant 12) Barry Bonds 13) Mark Grace 14) Derek Bell 15) Jeff Bagwell 16t) Andres Galarraga 16t) Charlie Hayes 18t) Vinny Castilla 18t) Chipper Jones 20t) Fred McGriff 20t) Pete Schourek 22t) Jeff Conine 22t) Tom Henke
.340/.364/.620, 131 RC, 130 OPS+, .286 EQA, 54.7 VORP, 23 Win Shares
.326/.395/.516, 113 RC, 143 OPS+, .309 EQA, 56.3 VORP, 23 Win Shares
.368/.404/.484, 105 RC, 138 OPS+, .312 EQA, 56.5 VORP, 23 Win Shares
.298/.369/.535, 108 RC, 145 OPS+, .309 EQA, 50.4 VORP, 25 Win Shares
.306/.397/.579, 110 RC, 155 OPS+, .320 EQA, 61.5 VORP, 27 Win Shares
.302/.406/.483, 104 RC, 141 OPS+, .317 EQA, 71.7 VORP, 29 Win Shares
.346/.400/.606, 105 RC, 172 OPS+, .338 EQA, 72.0 VORP, 27 Win Shares
.319/.394/.492, 96 RC, 134 OPS+, .311 EQA, 77.1 VORP, 30 Win Shares
.294/.431/.577, 125 RC, 168 OPS+, .339 EQA, 77.0 VORP, 36 Win Shares
259 ERA+, 7.87 K/BB, 0.81 WHIP, 94.0 VORP, 30 Win Shares
I'm starting to remember why I stopped collecting baseball cards, too damn many of them by the mid-90s.
So there you have it, Greg Maddux should have been the first N.L. pitcher to win the MVP since Bob Gibson in 1968. But in retrospect Barry Larkin was hardly a bad choice and was a deserving candidate as again with most years there always a few good candidates. There is a very good case to be made for Mike Piazza as well. As it turns out beyond Bichette's 2nd place finish and Bonds lack of support the '95 voting wasn't too bad. Okay there was one bizarre result with Charlie Hayes getting four voting points. Even his baseball writer friendly numbers were nothing special (.276 AVG, 11 HR, 85 RBI) and he played on a losing team.