Since the Brewers have a day off before Game 1 of the American League Championship Series tomorrow (it never gets old saying it!), I thought I’d break down Robin Yount‘s competition for the AL MVP award. Let’s be honest: As Brewers fans, it’s obvious to us who has earned the award this year. But I wanted to step back and take as unbiased a look as I can at which players he’ll be up against when the voters cast their ballots.
When the votes come in, you’ll see as many as 30 or so names in all that get listed on the ballots. But of course, not all of those names are legitimate contenders. I want to start this exercise by whittling down my list to the players we may find in the top three to five when all is said and done.
As I look through our top performers in the American League, I immediately decided to eliminate all pitchers. Though our own Rollie Fingers may have won the award last season, there simply does not appear to be a serious contender this season. The only pitchers to consider are Pete Vuckovich, Dan Quisenberry and Jim Palmer. Vuke won’t get it ahead of Yount, and neither Quisenberry nor Palmer made the playoffs. So hitters only.
While I could limit it only to players on playoff teams, I think that’s a mistake. The players who make the post season will have an advantage, but we can’t ignore great performances from those players who didn’t make it to the next round.
So here’s my list, in alphabetical order to avoid any perceived bias:
I could have legitimately listed Gorman Thomas and Paul Molitor, but let’s be honest: If there’s an MVP award coming from Milwaukee again this year, it’s going to be Robin Yount. I considered not listing Cooper for that reason, but his stats are just as good as most of these guys, so he has to be in the mix.
Let’s stack them up and make a list. I have placed the numbers in bold if they lead this group (they don’t necessarily lead the league). Also, players marked with an “x” are those who are on teams that won their division.
|Cooper, MIL -x||32||121||.313|
|DeCinces, CAL -x||30||97||.301|
|Jackson, CAL -x||39||101||.275|
|Yount, MIL -x||29||114||.331|
|Cooper, MIL -x||104||205||2|
|DeCinces, CAL -x||94||173||7|
|Jackson, CAL -x||92||146||4|
|Yount, MIL -x||129||210||14|
As you can see, there are six different players who lead this group in at least one category: Dwight Evans in OBP, Rickey Henderson in stolen bases, Reggie Jackson in home runs, Hal McRae in RBI, Willie Wilson in batting average and Robin Yount in three categories. So five players led in one category apiece while Yount leads in runs, hits and slugging.
Of course, leading isn’t everything because a well-rounded player who is second in everything may be the MVP. But let’s use Robin Yount as the statistical measuring stick since he appears to be our front-runner.
Cooper is well-rounded, but Yount leads him in everything but home runs and RBI, and both by slim margins. Let’s toss away Cooper. Sorry, Coop.
Yount leads DeCinces in everything but homers, but again that difference is only one. Nope, not happening.
Yount leads Evans in everything but homers and OBP. He’s at about Cooper’s level, but the Red Sox didn’t make the playoffs. Nope, not Evans.
Rickey Henderson was amazing this season, blowing away Lou Brock‘s stolen base record. He led Yount in stolen bases (by a ton) and OBP, but that’s it. Henderson hit only .269 with 10 homers and the A’s didn’t make the post season. So, no. Not Rickey Henderson, though I think his special season should warrant consideration.
Reggie Jackson hit more home runs than Yount and he led his Angels to the playoffs, but that’s really it. Considering Jackson is known for his power, it’s telling that Yount has a higher slugging percentage (.578 to .532). Good year for Reggie, but Yount was better.
Hal McRae led the majors in RBI, but the Royals collapsed and missed the playoffs. Nope, not McRae.
Eddie Murray led Yount in homers and OBP, but nothing else. Had the Orioles knocked off the Brewers on the final day of the season, he’d get a much more serious look. But they didn’t, and Yount’s season was clearly better. Not Murray.
I added Willie Wilson to the list just to make myself angry. As you know, Wilson held a small lead in batting average over Yount heading into the final day of the season. Yount had three hits, including two homers and a triple. To preserve his average, Wilson didn’t play. Pathetic. The Royals don’t deserve the playoffs and Wilson doesn’t deserve either the batting crown (which he won) or the MVP award (which he’ll lose).
Dave Winfield is yet another example of a player who hit more homers (37) but nothing else to distinguish himself from Yount. And the Yankees were never a serious player in the pennant race.
Alright, so it’s obvious. Robin Yount will be this season’s American League Most Valuable Player. The majority of players who are close statistically to Yount aren’t even in the playoffs. Add to the mix that Yount hit two crucial home runs in the final, division-clinching game of the season, and any dispute should be laughed at. If Yount does not win the award — and by a lot — there should be an investigation.
Ladies and gentlemen, not only have our Brewers made the playoffs, but rest comfortably knowing that we will have secured the MVP award for the second consecutive season.