We have reached that annus horribilis on MLB Monday known as the year that baseball canceled the World Series. This means a few things: We had no true pennant races, and all Wins-Above-Replacement values will look smaller as most teams only played around 115 games in the regular season. It’s hard to remember how sad this was, but again, it was the stain of Bud Selig on the sport that we’re still suffering through today.
At least we have this stuff to raise our spirits, in retrospect … Enjoy!
1994 AL MVP: Frank Thomas (original), Kenny Lofton (revised)
Four position players stood out in the junior circuit: Cleveland Indians center fielder Kenny Lofton (7.2 WAR), Seattle Mariners center fielder Ken Griffey, Jr. (6.9), Chicago White Sox first baseman Frank Thomas (6.4), and Cleveland left fielder Albert Belle (5.7). Thomas won the MVP vote again, although remember we stripped him of it last year due to his extremely poor defense. This time? His -1.3 dWAR will keep him from retaining the award, again. He should have been a straight DH.
This also was the first year of both the three-division format and the wild-card berth in the postseason, so the Indians—trialing the White Sox by 1 game in the Central Division—were in line for the postseason for the first time since 1954. But with two players from the club in the MLB Top 10 for WAR, can we give it either one? Well, Belle also posted a -1.3 dWAR, while Lofton contributed 1.5 dWAR, so that answers that question: Lofton deserves this award for making up for Belle’s brutal defense.
For the record, the Mariners were 49-63 when the season was called, and even though that was good enough for just a 2-game deficit in the newly constructed AL West, we think Lofton’s season was more valuable to a truly contending team—not just a team that was contending because its division was so bereft of quality competition. That’s just logical, and for the record, here were Lofton’s numbers: an AL-best 160 hits and 60 steals, plus a .349 average and a .948 OPS—not to mention Gold Glove defense.
Remember, Lofton won our AL ROTY in 1992, so this was the natural ascendance of a stellar player.
1994 NL MVP: Jeff Bagwell (original, confirmed)
We have an interesting bit here in the senior circuit, as three of the Top 10 in MLB WAR were Montréal Expos players: CF Marquis Grissom (5.1), LF Moises Alou (5.1), and right fielder Larry Walker (4.7). With the team posting the best record in baseball (74-40) when everything was stopped, it all but eliminates all three of them from NL MVP contention. Also, two of the Top 10 were members of the under-.500 San Francisco Giants: LF Barry Bonds (6.2) and third baseman Matt Williams (4.7).
That leaves us with Houston Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell (8.2 WAR), who topped all position players in value. Prorated to a full season, his WAR would have been 11.6 WAR—which more than clinches this award, by our established methods/standards. Bagwell did win the NL MVP vote at the time, too, and the Astros were just 2.5 games out of the wild-card slot in the NL playoff chase, too, when the season was halted prematurely. We can overlook his -0.1 dWAR, too, as perhaps he could have improved it.
Some have suspected Bagwell of PED use, but we really can’t find legit data on it, so we will confirm his vote win. He led the NL in runs (104), RBI (116), SLG (.750), OPS (1.201), and TB (300), while also adding 39 HRs, 15 SBs, and a .368 average. At age 26, Bagwell was entering his prime and posted relatively consistent numbers like this for the next handful of seasons until an inevitable decline in his mid-30s. Maybe he did do PEDs; maybe he did not. We can’t argue it soundly, so … it is what it is.
We took away Bagwell’s 1991 NL ROTY Award, so this is his revenge on us.
1994 AL Cy Young: David Cone (original, confirmed)
There were a handful of stellar pitching performances in the AL during the 1994 season: Kansas City Royals veteran David Cone (6.9 WAR), Boston Red Sox ace Roger Clemens (6.0), Mariners southpaw Randy Johnson (5.5), Baltimore Orioles phenom Mike Mussina (5.4), Toronto Blue Jays youngster Pat Hentgen (5.4), and Cleveland veteran Dennis Martínez (4.6). This comes down to where teams were hanging in the standings when the season was stopped.
The Royals were 3 games behind Cleveland; the Red Sox were well under .500 for the year. The Mariners were faux contenders; the Orioles were chasing Kansas City by 1.5 games in the wild-card race. Toronto was also playing sub-.500 ball, so that leaves us with Cone, Mussina, and Martínez. Cone won the vote, and his WAR edge on El Presidente is hard to ignore when prorated to a full season (about 3.2 WAR). Interestingly, none of our three finalists topped the AL in any major statistical category.
Therefore, we will confirm Cone’s hardware for the following stat line: 16-5, 2.94 ERA, 3 shutouts, 171 2/3 IP, 132 Ks, and a 1.072 WHIP. It wasn’t a truly great season, but the WAR shows just how much he was carrying the Royals into contention.
1994 NL Cy Young: Greg Maddux (original, confirmed)
Nothing stands in the way of us confirming Atlanta Braves ace Greg Maddux and his third straight NL Cy, as he posted 8.5 WAR in the short season, which was a full 3.0 WAR better than the next-best pitcher in the league (New York Mets veteran Bret Saberhagen). This was perhaps one of the most dominant seasons we’ve seen in awhile, as the statistics below will show. Maddux also topped the league for the fourth straight season in inning pitched (202).
The numbers don’t lie: 16-6, 1.56 ERA, 10 CGs, 3 SOs, 156 Ks, 0.896 WHIP, 6.7 hits allowed per 9 IP, and just 0.2 HRs allowed per 9 IP. All those stats led the NL, too, in addition to the overall IP total. The WAR mark projects out to 12.1 WAR over a full season, which is absolutely mind numbing. At age 28, this was a master artist at his absolute best.
1994 AL ROTY: Ken Hamelin (original, confirmed)
Only two rookies topped 2.0 WAR in the short season: Royals designated hitter Ken Hamelin (2.6) and Milwaukee Brewers infielder José Valentín (2.5). Hamelin won the vote for hitting 24 HRs with a .987 OPS, but his -0.8 dWAR is problematic for us, since he only played infrequently (24 games) at first base—and still managed that negative rating. Meanwhile, Valentín was average with the bat (.751 OPS) and stellar with the glove (1.3 dWAR).
The issue is that the Brewers finished 11 games below the Royals in the AL Central Division standings, so Valentín’s effort was wasted, while Hamelin’s defense was one of the reasons Kansas City only mildly trailed Cleveland in the race for the wild-card spot. But in the end, this is not an MVP vote, and Hamelin’s bat still helped the Royals more than his glove hurt them, so we confirm the award in the absence of better alternatives.
1994 NL ROTY: Raúl Mondesi (original, confirmed)
The Los Angeles Dodgers finished the short season with a 58-56 record, good enough for “first place” in the NL West by 3.5 games over the Giants, and their rookie outfielder Raúl Mondesi (1.8 WAR) won the NL ROTY vote, even though three NL rookie pitchers were better than he was, in terms of value: Chicago Cubs starter Steve Trachsel (3.4), San Diego Padres starter Joey Hamilton (3.2), and New York Mets starter Bobby Jones (2.3).
Yet all of those other teams finished under .500, so Mondesi will win this award by default, really, despite his -0.7 dWAR—in a situation very similar to Hamelin’s above. It was just that kind of season? Mondesi did hit .306 with 16 HRs and an .849 OPS, so the Dodgers would not have been in first place without him.
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