From 1981 to 1985 here is Dave Stieb's AL WAR, his rank in the AL for WAR, and how he placed in CY Young voting.
|Year||WAR||AL Rank||CY Young Place|
So from 1981-1985 Stieb was 1st or 2nd in AL WAR for pitchers every year. He twice lead the league in innings pitched (was top 5 three other times), lead the league in ERA once (was top 5 three other times), was top 3 in strikeouts twice (top 10 three other times). I could go on more.
For all that wonderful performance, the Cy Young voters decided to give him nothing better than a 4th place finish in 1982 and two 7th place finishes. Two times, they didn't even bother to give him a single vote. Cy Young voters were still too hung up on wins & losses. That is a travesty.
Unfortunately for Stieb, if he had played in the 2010s things might be different. By 2010, Felix Hernandez was able to win the Cy Young award despite having only a 13-12 record. Voters were able to see his overall performance and look past David Price's 19-6 record and CC Sabathia's 21-7 record.
My subjective analysis is that with modern voters, Stieb would have easily won the Cy Young award in 1982 (beating out Pete Vuckovich and his 18-6 record), would have been top three in 1983 (close vote w/ Jack Morris and Lamarr Hoyt), been atleast top two in 1984 (would have still battled Willie Hernandez, but was the clear best starting pitcher), and probably would have beaten Bret Saberhagen for the Cy Young in 1985 (with a healthy challenge by Bert Blyleven).
At the minimum, this would have changed Stieb's legend and history. A couple of Cy Young awards suddenly turn you from "star of an era" into "Hall of Fame candidate". Stieb's injuries early in career probably hurt is Hall of Fame candidacy for good, but voters would have looked at him more seriously.
So that got me thinking, has this happened to anyone else recently? I suddenly recalled the 1987 MVP vote in both the NL and AL.
Lets start with the NL in 1987, as it was the more famous controversy. Despite all of the ballyhooing over how an MVP player needs to play on a playoff team or a winner, Andre Dawson won the MVP playing for the last place Chicago Cubs. Yup, that's LAST PLACE. Not 2nd place, or close to making the playoffs, or atleast having a .500 record, LAST PLACE. He won the MVP playing for a team that was 76-85. My overwhelming assumption why he won is because he hit 49 home runs and had 137 RBIs ... which are big numbers.
On the other hand, Ozzie Smith, the Hall of Fame defensive wizard of the St. Louis Cardinals had his best offensive season of his career hitting .303 and driving in 75 runs. He had a WAR of 6.2 to Dawson's 3.7. Oh, and he also lead the Cardinals to a division title and a playoff appearance. He was the runner up in the MVP voting in 1987. Ozzie Smith split the MVP vote with his teammate Jack Clark, which probably cost him the award, but it is a travesty that Andre Dawson secured 11 of the 24 first place votes. (Oh, and Jack Clark had a WAR of 5.2 over Dawson's 3.7.)
On the AL side, George Bell won the MVP. Why? My assumption is it's because he hit 47 home runs and had 134 RBIs, which are again big numbers. He did a little better than Dawson by having a 4.6 WAR. However, he beat out Tigers great Alan Trammell for the MVP. Trammell had an 8.0 WAR that year, second to Wade Boggs' 8.2. He hit 28 home runs and had a .343 batting average. Oh yeah, remember that thing about MVPs playing for winning teams? The Tigers made it to the playoffs and the Blue Jays didn't. Granted, the Blue Jays were just behind the Tigers in the pennant chase (2nd place finish w/ 96-66 record to Detroit's 98-64 record), so it's not as tragic as the NL MVP case.
One of the other reasons I view the 1987 AL MVP vote a travesty is how it could have changed perceptions for Alan Trammell. Alan Trammell has regularly failed to secure enough votes to get into the Hall of Fame. Allan Trammell unfortunately played in a time when Ozzie Smith and Cal Ripken Jr. (and for awhile Robin Yount) were setting new standards for shortstops, so he may have never been viewed as an elite shortstop during his era. Somehow, that didn't affect Barry Larkin's election into the Hall of Fame, as he also had the problem of playing when Ozzie Smith and Cal Ripken Jr. were playing.
What are the differences between Trammell and Larkin? Lets see
Allan Trammell career WAR - 67.1
Barry Larkin career WAR - 67.1
Allan Trammell Gold Gloves - 4
Barry Larkin Gold Gloves - 3
Allan Trammell All Star Teams - 6
Barry Larkin All Star Teams - 12
Allan Trammell Silver Slugger - 6
Barry Larkin Silver Slugger - 8
Allan Trammell MVPs - 0
Barry Larkin MVPs - 1
Now I don't know if Alan Trammell really deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, but I can't help but think that one MVP award made a difference for Barry Larkin. Unfortunately, the lack of voting consistency and illogic in 1987 may have really hurt his chances.