MLB Monday marches on to the 2004 season, as the modern-day lockout continues and puts the 2022 in jeopardy. This was a landmark season for at least one long-time MLB franchise, of course, and it continues our ongoing challenges of sorting through statistics to find the best performances for the awards below.
We love starting out our week with baseball … truly.
2004 AL MVP: Vladimir Guerrero (original), Eric Chávez (revised)
This is an interesting situation, as the top vote getter was Anaheim Angels right fielder Vladimir Guerrero—a fan and media favorite in his first season with a new team after he left Montréal via free agency. We think the voters got caught up in that hoopla, as Guerrero finished with just 5.6 WAR, including a vile -1.5 dWAR. Since Anaheim won the AL West by only 1 game, it’s shocking Vlad didn’t cost his team big time.
That being said, the top 3 players in the junior circuit were Seattle Mariners RF Ichiro Suzuki (9.2), New York Yankees third baseman Álex Rodríguez (7.6), and Baltimore Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada (7.4). It’s ironic that A-Rod and Tejada both were with new teams, and we know both of them were PED users. Meanwhile, the Mariners won just 63 games, so we’re in a bit of a fix. Time to dig deeper …
Next on the list are Orioles 3B Melvin Mora (5.6), Oakland Athletics 3B Eric Chávez (5.5), Cleveland Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner (5.0), and Yankees left fielder Hideki Matsui (5.0). No one else should be considered … so, the Orioles finished under .500, even with both Tejada and Mora, while the A’s won 91 games to finish 1 game behind the Angels. Cleveland won just 80 times.
The Yankees won 101 games to finish 3 games ahead of the Boston Red Sox for the AL East Division title, but Matsui was a -1.0 dWAR defender. So, this comes down to Chávez or Suzuki, which is a weird comparison. Clearly, Ichiro was a much better player, but he doesn’t meet our historical threshold, and his team was terrible. All his value occurred in the void. So, Chávez it is, oddly.
He led the AL with 95 walks on a pretty weak offensive squad, while posting 29 HRs and an .898 OPS. His 1.4 dWAR was one of the better marks of his distinguished career, as he won his fourth straight Gold Glove this season—and would extend that streak to six straight eventually. There’s no way the A’s should have been contending for a playoff spot with their depleted roster, so Chávez ends up with this trophy.
2004 NL MVP: Barry Bonds (original), Adrián Beltré (revised)
Six players topped 8.0 WAR in the senior circuit: San Francisco Giants LF Barry Bonds (10.6), Los Angeles Dodgers 3B Adrián Beltré (9.6), St. Louis Cardinals 3B Scott Rolen (9.2), Cards first baseman Albert Pujols (8.5), Atlanta Braves RF J.D. Drew (8.3), and Colorado Rockies 1B Todd Helton (8.3). Vote-winner Bonds is out, of course, and so are the Cardinals teammates.
The Dodgers won the NL West by 2 games over the Giants, so Beltré looks solid atop the pile. The Braves won the NL East by 10 games, so Drew carries a little less value on multiple levels. The Rockies finished way under .500 for the year, so this means the hardware get shifted from S.F. to L.A.—which should infuriate Bonds tremendously, and that’s fine with us!
Beltré had a great season at age 25: 2.5 dWAR, an NL-high 48 HRs, 121 RBI, a .334 batting average, and a 1.017 OPS. He finished second in the MVP voting at the time in the walk year of his original contract, which means a lot of people whispered about potential cheating, but we cannot find any real proof of the matter anywhere, so he gets the trophy from us.
2004 AL Cy Young: Johan Santana (original, confirmed)
We have a fun situation here, too, albeit in different terms than the AL MVP discussion. The top 4 candidates here are two sets of teammates, and they can’t really cancel out each other in this circumstance, as then we’d have to go down under the 5.0-WAR threshold we established for these awards a long time ago.
The four guys are Minnesota Twins ace Johan Santana (8.7 WAR), Boston prodigal son Curt Schilling (7.8), Twins veteran Brad Radke (5.9), and Red Sox legend Pedro Martínez (5.5). The Twins won the AL Central by 10 games, while the Sox clinched the wild-card spot by 7 games over Oakland. With the teammates bit still in play for value, it’s all irrelevant, and we will confirm Santana’s vote win at the time.
His 20-6 record was bolstered by AL-best marks in ERA (2.61), Ks (265), and WHIP (0.921). He also topped the league in fewest hits per 9 IP (6.2) and most Ks per 9 IP (10.5). Schilling only led the league in wins (21), so it’s clear Santana was better and more valuable to a team that didn’t have the offensive firepower that Boston did.
2004 NL Cy Young: Roger Clemens (original), Carlos Zambrano (revised)
The voters really blew this one as Houston Astros acquisition Roger Clemens (5.4 WAR) won the award, despite at least six guys having better seasons in the NL: Arizona Diamondbacks superstar Randy Johnson (8.4); Milwaukee Brewers phenom Ben Sheets (7.2); San Francisco workhorse Jason Schmidt (6.8); Chicago Cubs youngster Carlos Zambrano (6.6); Pittsburgh Pirates surprise Oliver Pérez (5.7); and Rockies grinder Joe Kennedy (5.6).
(By the way, Pérez was still pitching in the majors last season! Think about that for a moment …)
Arizona won just 51 games, so the Big Unit’s season truly didn’t matter in terms of value; the Brewers also won just 67 times, so Sheets is out, too. The Cubs finished 3 games behind the Astros, while the Pirates and the Rockies were both sub-.500 clubs, and the Giants missed the postseason.
The only other guy we can consider is Florida Marlins lingerer Carl Pavano (5.3), as the team finished with 83 victories somehow after selling off its 2003 championship-winning roster. But Zambrano tops everyone here in legitimacy, value, and team position, so he becomes our Cy Young winner with the following stats: 16-8, 2.75 ERA, 188 Ks, 1.216 WHIP. Surprise!
2004 AL ROTY: Bobby Crosby (original, confirmed)
This was not a strong year for first-year players in the AL, as Oakland SS Bobby Crosby (3.3 WAR) took the vote, and the only real options were Kansas City Royals starter Zack Greinke (3.7)—another guy who is still pitching today—and Chicago White Sox closer Shingo Takatsu (2.2). The Royals won 58 games, and Takatsu was a 13-year veteran of the Japanese professional leagues. So Crosby it is.
His 1.5 dWAR glove was his main value, although he did have a solid year at the plate, too; in fact, Crosby posted career highs in HRs (22), RBI (67), and walks (58). Truthfully, he’d never be this good again, generally, in his remaining MLB days. By 2011, he was unemployed.
2004 NL ROTY: Jason Bay (original), Khalil Greene (revised)
There was a similar situation in the NL, with only San Diego Padres SS Khalil Greene (3.2 WAR), Padres reliever Akinori Otsuka (2.9), and Pirates LF Jason Bay (2.2) to consider for this award. Bay won the vote with a .907 OPS, but Otsuka was 32 years old with 7 seasons in Japan under his belt already. So what about Greene? With San Diego winning 15 more games than Pittsburgh, this award get re-assigned.
The rookie shortstop posted 1.1 dWAR for an 87-win team, and he hit decently, too. But like Crosby, he set some career bests that he would never top: 53 BBs and a .795 OPS. The .273 average was solid, and his 15 HRs and 65 RBI looked good, too. Greene would be out of the majors after the 2009 season, but he can always hang his hat on the award he should have won.