This season on tap marks the last time professional baseball had a labor/work stoppage, even as one looms again with the next 30 days. On MLB Monday, we never stop, however, for such things. We just keep plugging along. And with some laughable Gold Gloves handed out yesterday, we know where our future lies, too, in terms of retroactive analysis. But we digress …
On with the awards for 1995, which was a 144-game season, due to continued labor issues from the prior year.
1995 AL MVP: Mo Vaughn (original), John Valentin (revised)
Boston Red Sox first baseman Mo Vaughn won the AL MVP vote with just 4.3 WAR, which included -0.2 dWAR, so he won’t be getting this hardware from us. In addition, he led the league in strikeouts (150), so that wasn’t good. Voters saw his 126 RBI for a division winner, and they were sold. Sad! To add injury to insult, Vaughn was second among position players on his own team when it comes to WAR: Boston won the AL East by 7 games over the New York Yankees, and Vaughn was not a difference maker.
So, who were the best players in the junior circuit? Red Sox shortstop John Valentin posted 8.3 WAR to lead all players in the AL, and he also topped the league in dWAR (3.0). Seattle Mariners designated hitter Edgar Martinez posted 7.0 WAR, which included -1.4 dWAR for the seven games he actually played in the field. Oh, and the Mariners won the AL West Division by 1 game to make the playoffs for the first time in team history. Interesting, huh?
Cleveland Indians left fielder Albert Belle (7.0) had an amazing season—which included 103 XBH—for his team that won the AL Central by 30 games (!). But Belle posted -0.6 dWAR, and Cleveland would have won the division without him, anyway. See where this is all leading? Minnesota Twins second baseman Chuck Knoblauch (6.7) played for a last-place club, and California Angels right fielder Tim Salmon (6.6) couldn’t get his team to hold a big September division lead, losing out on the postseason.
Salmon’s -1.1 dWAR may have cost his team a spot in October, actually. Finally, Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams (6.4) was the difference for his team’s postseason berth, as New York finished 1.5 games ahead of the Angels for the AL Wild Card. However, Valentin had the superior season in every way, so he wins our nod here for the following stat line: 27 HRs, 102 RBI, 20 SBs, 81 BBs, .298 average, .931 OPS, and that stunning 3.0 dWAR defense—which somehow didn’t even win him a Gold Glove!
1995 NL MVP: Barry Larkin (original), Mike Piazza (revised)
San Francisco Giants left fielder Barry Bonds (7.5 WAR) topped the senior circuit in value, but his team finished in last place. Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin (5.9) won the NL MVP vote, although several players were better than he was: Bonds, Reds RF Reggie Sanders (6.6), Houston Astros 2B Craig Biggio (6.3), and Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Mike Piazza (6.2). Larkin wasn’t even the best player on Cincy’s roster, as the Reds won the NL Central by 9 games to render both players moot here.
What about Biggio or Piazza? The Astros missed out on the wild-card spot by one game, while the Dodgers won the NL West by one game over the Colorado Rockies, who claimed the last NL postseason berth in just their third season of existence. This makes it easy to give the MVP nod to Piazza—assuming he had a positive dWAR mark, which he did (0.6). There it is.
We’re not sure why Larkin won the vote: He had a great season, but he didn’t lead the league in anything significant. Meanwhile, Piazza did top the NL in OPS+ (172) as he hit 32 HRs, drove in 93 runs, posted a .346 batting average, and registered a 1.006 OPS while playing good-enough defense, too. After he won the NL ROTY Award in 1993, this was a natural progression for a future Hall of Fame player. Also remember? We gave Larkin our 1988 NL MVP nod, so … it all evens out in the end, the way it should.
1995 AL Cy Young: Randy Johnson (original, confirmed)
Seven pitchers in the league finished in the MLB Top 10 for pitching WAR, so it looks very competitive. Seattle southpaw Randy Johnson (8.6 WAR) topped them all and won the AL Cy vote, too, for the AL West Division winners. That kind of seals it all, in truth, even before we look at the others, but we will enumerate them for posterity’s sake, nonetheless.
The other six were Yankees star David Cone (7.2); Baltimore Orioles phenom Mike Mussina (6.1); Texas Rangers lefty Kenny Rogers (5.8); Toronto Blue Jays veteran Al Leiter (5.7); Cleveland elder statements Dennis Martínez (5.7); and Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (5.0), who won our NL ROTY nod in 1992.
Johnson’s value is too much to overcome for any of these guys, however, based on this pitching line: 18-2, 2.48 ERA, 6 CGs, 3 SOs, 294 Ks in just 214 1/3 IP, and a 1.045 WHIP. The ERA, the Ks, and the WHIP topped the AL, and the Big Unit also led the league in fewest hits (6.7), fewest HRs (0.5), and most Ks (12.3) per 9 IP. He was pretty dominant, as he came into his prime at age 31, which is a little late, but he finally had learned to corral his wildness.
1995 NL Cy Young: Greg Maddux (original, confirmed)
The three best pitchers in the league were Atlanta Braves ace Greg Maddux (9.7 WAR), Reds midseason acquisition David Wells (5.4), and San Diego Padres veteran Andy Ashby (4.9). Maddux won the vote for the fourth year in a row, and for the fourth time in a row, we will confirm that vote. His WAR prorates to 10.9 in a full season, by the way, so this was two consecutive seasons where Maddux posted historic numbers. Oh, and his Braves won the NL East Division, too.
His numbers: 19-2, 1.63 ERA, 10 CGs, 3 SOs, 209 2/3 IP, and an 0.811 WHIP. He also led the NL in fewest HRs (0.3) and walks (1.0) allowed per 9 IP, as well. All these stats led the league, actually. With 181 Ks, Maddux did set a career high with 7.8 K/9, too. When we combine his 1994 and 1995 seasons, we literally may be looking at the best pitching stretch ever in MLB history.
Over 411 2/3 IP, Maddux notched a 35-8 record, a 1.60 ERA, 20 CGs, 6 SOs, 337 Ks, just 53 BBs, only 12 HRs, and an 0.891 WHIP. This was his age-29 season, and while he would pitch very well for a long time, this was the last time he won a Cy Young vote. We will see if he wins another one from us down the line, but four in a row puts him in select company with us: Dave Stieb, Lefty Grove, Pete Alexander, and Walter Johnson. And yes, Stieb is still the most underrated pitcher ever …
1995 AL ROTY: Marty Cordova (original), Andy Pettitte (revised)
We have a fun situation here, as Twins outfielder Marty Cordova won the AL ROTY vote (3.3 WAR), even though he played for a last-place team. The Angels’ drive to a near-playoff spot was fueled by two rookies: reliever Troy Percival (3.2) and left fielder Garret Anderson (3.0). They cancel each other out in value, while Milwaukee Brewers starter Steve Sparks (3.2) tossed his innings for a team well under .500 for the year. That leaves us with one real candidate: Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte (2.9).
New York made the postseason by a slim margin, so Pettitte made the difference with this pitching line: 12-9, 4.17 ERA, and a 1.406 WHIP. It’s not pretty, but the value is the best there is here under the circumstances. Go figure. Pettitte finished third in the vote, nonetheless, so we’re not too far off.
1995 NL ROTY: Hideo Nomo (original), Ismael Valdéz (revised)
Despite pitching in the Japanese professional leagues for five seasons, Dodgers “rookie” Hideo Nomo (4.1 WAR) won the NL ROTY Award, and we can’t in good conscience consider him for this hardware, since he was a seasoned professional already. We have done this in the NBA before, of course, but this is the first time we’ve done it here for MLB’s awards.
In truth, the award should have gone to his teammate, Ismael Valdéz (3.4), who finished seventh in the vote despite posting the second-highest WAR among NL rookies (including Nomo). With L.A. barely winning the NL West Division, he made a difference as a true rookie with this pitching line: 13-11, 3.05 ERA, and a 1.108 WHIP in 197 2/3 IP. That’s value for a team that qualified for the postseason by a sliver.