As we move through the early 1980s on MLB Monday, it’s time to take on a season where one player stole more bases (130) in a single season than any other player before then—or since then, for that matter. The stolen base has become a lost part of the MLB game these days, for the most part. We miss it.
Enough of the waxing nostalgic, though. On with the 1982 awards show!
1982 AL MVP: Robin Yount (original, confirmed)
This is kind of an open-and-shut case, as Milwaukee Brewers shortstop Robin Yount (10.5 WAR) easily outdistanced the next-best player in the league, California Angels third baseman Doug DeCinces (7.6). With the Brewers winning the AL East by 1 game over the Baltimore Orioles, Yount’s season was historic and plenty valuable. In other seasons, DeCinces would have had a shot here, with his team winning the AL West by 3 games.
But not this time out: Yount won the vote, and we confirm it. His traditional numbers—a .331 average, 29 home runs, and 114 RBI—were augmented by his 1.8 dWAR. He also topped the AL in hits (210), doubles (46), SLG (.578), OPS (.957), and total bases (367) while starting the modern redefinition of an offensive shortstop (see the AL ROTY winner below).
Yount had made his MLB debut at age 18 in 1974, so this was his true coming out party at age 26 on his way to 3,000 hits and a spot in the Hall of Fame as he set career highs in almost every category. It’s too bad, because we would have loved to run a picture of DeCinces and his classic ‘stache.
1982 NL MVP: Dale Murphy (original, confirm)
By WAR, the four top players in the senior circuit were Montréal Expos catcher Gary Carter (8.6), Expos center fielder Andre Dawson (7.9), Philadelphia Phillies 3B Mike Schmidt (7.4), and Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Pedro Guerrero (6.8). Meanwhile, Atlanta Braves OF Dale Murphy (6.1) won the vote at the time. Dawson won our award last year, taking it away from Schmidt, who won our honors in 1977, 1978, and 1980.
Here’s the rub: Even with the dynamic duo, the Expos finished 6 games out of first place—and 3 games behind the Phillies—in the NL East. While Carter and Dawson were the best players, the value they brought was muted by the team’s overall underperformance. Meanwhile, the Braves ousted the Dodgers in the NL West by 1 game, making Murphy more valuable than Guerrero. So this comes down to Schmidt and Murphy then.
One problem we have with Murphy is that he was a zero defender, posting 0.0 dWAR. Schmidt was getting older, but his 0.8 dWAR still was decent enough. He also topped the NL in walks (107), OBP (.403), SLG (.547), and OPS (.949), while hitting .280 overall with 35 HRs, 87 RBI, and 14 SBs. Murphy led the league in RBI (109), and that’s it, while posting an .885 OPS and hitting .281 overall.
Both the Phillies and the Braves finished with the same 89-73 records, but we see Schmidt as better even though Atlanta would not have won the NL West without Murphy. But his underwhelming defense doesn’t impress us, and although the voters at the time just liked his RBI total, we see deeper than that with sabermetrics. If Murphy had been a negative defender, this would be a done deal for Schmidt.
But we do have our cemented standards, and Murphy meets them, circumstantially and by the skin of his teeth. We confirm his award, although this was close—and quite a surprise to us, in truth.
1982 AL Cy Young: Pete Vukovich (original), Dave Stieb (revised)
This was a very underwhelming year for pitchers in the junior circuit, which is why Brewers workhorse Pete Vukovich (2.8 WAR) won the Cy Young vote despite some truly atrocious numbers (102 BBs, 105 Ks, 1.502 WHIP). Needless to say, he won’t be keeping his hardware in our corner of the universe. He deserved a Razzie for his performance in Major League, however, and he may be the worst Cy Young winner ever.
The real candidates for this award were Toronto Blue Jays youngster Dave Stieb (7.6), Cleveland Indians veteran Rick Sutcliffe (5.7), and Blue Jays innings eater Luis Leal (5.1). Again, this is an underwhelming pool of options as both Cleveland and Toronto won just 78 games. But we have our firm standards with the 5.0 WAR threshold, so this award will go to Stieb, hands down. He was the best pitcher, and in this unique situation, his value also is tops.
His traditionals: 17-14, 3.25 ERA, and a 1.200 WHIP in 288 1/3 innings, which the most in the AL. He also topped the league in complete games (19) and shutouts (5). As the ace of a 78-84 team, those numbers stand out.
1982 NL Cy Young: Steve Carlton (original), Joaquín Andújar (revised)
Seven pitchers meet our requirements here: Expos veteran Steve Rogers (7.6 WAR), our 1973 NL ROTY winner; Cincinnati Red starter Mario Soto (7.5); Houston Astros knuckleballer Joe Niekro (6.8); St. Louis Cardinals ace Joaquín Andújar (5.8); Phillies legend Steve Carlton (5.5), three-time winner in this space; San Francisco Giants closer Greg Minton (5.4); and Dodgers phenom Fernando Valenzuela (5.0). Carlton won the vote at the time.
We know where the Expos finished, while the Reds finished dead last in the league with 61 victories. That eliminates Rogers and Soto, despite their stellar seasons. The Astros won just 77 games to finish 12 games out, so Niekro didn’t carry a lot of impact, either. The Cards won the NL East by 3 games, as we know, finished 3 games ahead of the Phillies. So Lefty would be behind Andújar, anyway. He is not keeping his trophy this time.
The Giants finished just 2 games behind the Braves in the NL West, while L.A. was right between those two teams. So, we’re down to Andújar, Minton, and Fernando, and without their ace, St. Louis does not win the NL East, period. Thus Andújar takes the nod for these traditionals: 15-10, 2.47 ERA, 1.080 WHIP, 265 2/3 IP.
1982 AL ROTY: Cal Ripken, Jr. (original, confirmed)
Four first-year players topped 3.0 WAR: Baltimore Orioles SS Cal Ripken, Jr. (4.7), Boston Red Sox 3B Wade Boggs (3.9), Minnesota Twins first baseman Kent Hrbek (3.6), and Seattle Mariners reliever Ed Vande Berg (3.2). Ripken won the vote at the time over Hrbek, with Boggs coming in a distant third for hitting .349 in 104 games. Tough crowd, those voters, eh?
With the Orioles finishing just 1 game out of first place, it’s easy to confirm Ripken’s vote win, though. Even though his OPS was just .792, Cal posted 1.4 dWAR at a key spot in the field while adding 28 HRs and 93 RBI. The Twins won just 60 games, by the way, while Boston finished 5 games behind Baltimore. We’re not sure why Boggs was so ignored by the voters, except for Hrbek’s power numbers (.301 average, 23 HRs, 92 RBI). Typical!
1982 NL ROTY: Steve Sax (original), Steve Bedrosian (revised)
Dodgers second baseman Steve Sax (3.3 WAR) won the NL ROTY vote over Braves swingman Steve Bedrosian (4.0), Pittsburgh Pirates 2B Johnny Ray (3.8), and Chicago Cubs infielder Ryne Sandberg (3.1). Based on Atlanta’s division championship, it’s easy to re-assign this award to Bedrock (8-6, 2.42 ERA, 11 saves, 137 2/3 IP).
Sax hit .282 with 49 SBs, but he also got caught stealing 19 times while posting just a .694 OPS. The Pirates were also-ran entrants in the NL East, while the Cubs were less than mediocre (73 wins). No question here about this one, as the “Los Angeles star factor” once again gets debunked in this space.
Check in every Monday for our MLB awards historical analysis on The Daily McPlay!