Saturday, August 15, 2015

1984, what a great start!

            1984 was a season of great promise. The playoffs saw the first appearance of the Padres in the post-season, the return of the Tigers to the World Series, and a playoff chase in Wrigley for the first time since early August of 1969.
            Three of the four playoff berths were won by teams making their Championship Series debut (Cubs and Padres), or their first appearance in over a decade (the Tigers). The Royals were the only one of the 'new guard' that played in October, only to be swept by the juggernaut Tigers team.

            The promise of a bright future for the Cubbies, who picked up some pitching during the season to help their playoff run (Rick Sutcliffe and Dennis Eckersley). The Mets, who debuted Dwight Gooden, on his way to his record setting Rookie of the Year campaign. And the Blue Jays, who at the end of the 1984 season, were setting themselves up to be the team to beat in 1985. (I remember telling my buddy Squig that the Jays were the team to beat that spring, and he thought I was crazy, but who won the AL East in 1985?). But, I digress.

            The Tigers shot out of the gates, with a remarkable 35-5 record, coasting into the playoffs, winning the division easily by 15 games over Toronto. If you look at their record, taking away their first 40 games, they still played at a .574 clip, which would have won either division handily.
            Reputations mean a lot, as does perception. The Tigers were led offensively by the likes of Trammell, Whitaker and Gibson, and their ace was Jack Morris, with Willie Hernandez coming out of the pen as the 'stopper'.
            While in the NL, The Cubs were carried by Ryne Sandberg, Leon Durham and Jody Davis. The pick up of Rick Sutcliffe (who went 16-1 for the Cubs) at the deadline anchored the staff that also featured Dennis Eckersly (picked up in exchange for Bill Buckner.) Big Lee Smith was their closer that year. as they beat out the upstart Mets to win the division by six and a half games.
            The Padres used some homegrown pitching, the first full season for Tony Gwynn along with some veteran leadership (Rich Gossage, Steve Garvey and Graig Nettles) to win the West over the Braves. The Padres were the only team in the West to have a winning record, finishing with 92 wins. (I'm not going to mention their uniforms)
            And the Royals, by this point a perennial playoff team, edged out the Angels by 3 games. They had the worst record of the four playoff teams.

·         1984 saw the first AL perfect game since 1981, as Mike Witt of the Angels was perfect against the Texas Rangers on September 30th.
·         It saw Pete Rose get his 4,000th hit.
·         It saw Tom Seaver, now of the White Sox (ugh, don't ask) get a win in relief, and then start a game the same day, and get the win of course.
·         Reggie Jackson hits his 500th home-run, or tater, as he called them, off of Bud Black.
·         Don Mattingly went 4-5 on the last day of the season to beat out teammate Dave Winfield for the batting title. Mattingly finishes at .343 to Winfield's .340.

            So, where do we start picking this apart?
            In the National League, let's look at the pitchers. In reality, Rick Sutcliffe didn't pitch enough innings to qualify for the ERA title, or to place in a lot of the statistical categories that have qualifiers. But, let's face it, we need some sort of qualifiers. So I used 120 IP for a starting pitcher as my number, and 50 IP for relievers.
            Now, the top NL pitchers against the league were:
            Rick Sutcliffe              Cubs
            Dwight Gooden          Mets
            Bruce Sutter                Cards
            Charlie Lea                  Expos
            Alejandro Pena           Dodgers

            And against their team's average performance:
            Sutcliffe                      Cubs
            Mario Soto                  Reds
            Gooden                       Mets
            Sutter                          Cards
            Pena                            Dodgers
            Then combining/averaging those figures:
            Sutcliffe                      Cubs
            Soto                             Reds
            Gooden                       Mets
            Sutter                          Cards
            Pena                            Dodgers

            Over to the American League, pitchers against the league:
            Mike Boddicker          Orioles
            Bert Blyleven              Indians
            Dave Steib                  Blue Jays
            Rollie Fingers              Brewers
            Frank Viola                 Twins

            Against their team:
            Fingers                        Brewers
            Don Sutton                 Brewers
            Blyleven                      Indians
            Tom Tellman               Brewers
            Moose Haas                Brewers

            *side note here, the Brewers pitching in 1984 was not very good, and the team finished thirty six and a half games off the pace. That means that a pitcher that has a better than mediocre season could theoretically excel beyond their team performance so much so, that they can rank higher than players on stronger teams. Some of my earlier postings reflect that, some don't. Still weighing the question over which is a truer measure of player performance.

            Combined, the numbers as such:

            In looking at the site for their WAR (Wins Against Replacement) rankings their top 5 is:
            Dave Steib
            Bert Blyleven
            Doyle Alexander         Texas
            Dwight Gooden
            Jim Beattie                  Seattle

            Interesting, to me anyway, is the lack of Detroit Tigers from these lists. The highest ranking Tiger pitcher, using the combined value numbers, was reliever Willie Hernandez, who came in at #19, lower than Bill Caudill, Dan Quisenberry and Rollie Fingers.

            Let's take a look at the offensive numbers now, against the National League. We have another qualifier issue here, with Dan Gladden. The qualifying rule is 3.1 plate appearances for each game their team plays. In order to get more players, I lowered my number to 300 plate appearances. I will include Mr. Gladden, just as a point of reference where he should be, but will add an additional qualifying player as well:
            Ryne Sandberg           Cubs
            Leon Durham              Cubs
            Dan Gladden              Giants
            Mike Schmidt             Phils
            Gary Carter                 Expos
            Gary Matthews           Cubs

            Now against their team, where the Cubs were the most potent offensive team:
            Gary Carter                 Expos
            Pedro Guerrero           Dodgers
            Dale Murphy               Braves
            Tim Raines                  Expos
            Tony Pena                   Pirates

            Combined, the value numbers are:
            Gary Carter                 Expos
            Dan Gladden              Giants
            Dale Murphy               Braves
            Tony Pena                   Pirates
            Mike Schmidt              Phillies
            Pedro Guerrero           Dodgers

            And over in the Junior Circuit, where the Tigers tallied the highest team performance:
            Dave Winfield            Yankees
            Dwight Evans             Red Sox
            Don Mattingly            Yankees
            Tony Armas                Red Sox
            Eddie Murray              Orioles

            And versus their team:
            Eddie Murray              Orioles
            Alvin Davis                 Seattle
            Dave Winfield            Yankees
            Buddy Bell                 Texas
            Kent Hrbek                 Twins

            Combined, they are:
            Dave Winfield            Yankees
            Eddie Murray              Orioles
            Alvin Davis                 Seattle
            Kent Hrbek                 Twins
            Don Mattingly            Yankees

            And the WAR rankings were:
            Cal Ripken                  Orioles
            Ryne Sandberg           Cubs
            Gary Carter                 Expos
            Lloyd Moseby             Blue Jays
            Eddie Murray              Orioles

            Such a wide discrepancy between my numbers and the WAR numbers. It's just as wide between these sets of numbers and the post season awards.

            The top 5 vote getters in each league, with my total value number off to the side:
            American MVP
            Willie Hernandez        Tigers              19
            Kent Hrbek                 Twins               4
            Dan Quisenberry         Royals             18
            Eddie Murray              Orioles             2
            Don Mattingly             Yankees           5

            AL Cy Young
            Willie Hernandez        Tigers              19
            Dan Quisenberry         Royals             18
            Bert Blyleven              Indians             2
            Mike Boddicker          Orioles             3
            Dan Petry                    Tigers              24

            And in the Senior Circuit, the MVP vote was:
            Ryne Sandberg           Cubs                7
            Keith Hernandez         Mets                6
            Tony Gwynn               Padres             20
            Rick Sutcliffe              Cubs                1
            Gary Matthews           Cubs                23

            NL Cy Young:
            Rick Sutcliffe              Cubs                1
            Dwight Gooden          Mets                 3
            Bruce Sutter                Cards               4
            Joaquin Andujar          Cards               7
            Rich Gossage              Padres              38!

            So, in actuality, if I were voting, my players of the year for each league would be:

            National League:
Gary Carter

Rick Sutcliffe

            American League:
Dave Winfield

Rollie Fingers

     There you have it. I would love to know what you think of these rankings...

 A great book, but an even better audio book. Your normal audio book is someone reading the text...this is the actual tapes that the writer used, so you hear the voices of the players themselves...This is a MUST for anyone interested in baseball in the early twentieth century

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