Now I know many of you do not trust fangraphs WAR for pitchers, but you can pretty much generalize that if a pitcher scores 2.0 on their scale, then they are definitely not better than a pitcher who scores 7.0. Argue the close calls, that's pretty fair, but there's been some absolute clunkers over the years and its nice to see them rectified. Some of these are simple fixes: they were based entirely on wins and nothing more (see Welch, Bob 1990).
Who wouldn't get a warm feeling inside knowing Nolan Ryan's 8-16 1987 season really was the best pitching performance that year? Randy Johnson's 16-14 2004? There's something about the real best players being ignored because of the team theyre on, its a huge, lovable flaw: the games voters get swayed by emotion. Sure the sounds of "Sweet music Viola" defined the 1987 playoffs and wafted into his 1988 24 win season, but he simply was not a better pitcher than Roger Clemens in 1988.
Just like the point they tried to make with Felix this year (although that is under fire too, Lee outperformed him by fangraphs WAR), we realized it was not their fault their offenses refused to score runs for him, and that should never be a factor when discussing a singular players true performance? My findings have shown that there have been a lot of obvious, win-related blunders over the years, as well as the obvious gaffe of including relievers, who usually pitch a third or a quarter of most starters, therefore making them by nature, a pitcher of lesser value. If you hate fangraphs, do a baseball-reference one instead, I'm getting tired. List after the jump...
Year/Player/Team/WAR/Incumbent & their WAR
2008: Roy Halladay, TOR 7.5 (Cliff Lee 7.2 incumbent)
2004, Randy Johnson, AZ 9.9 (Roger Clemens 6.0 incumbent)
2001, Mike Mussina, NYY 7.1 (Roger Clemens 5.8 incumbent)
1998, Kevin Brown, SD 9.3 (Tom Glavine 4.9 incumbent)
1996, Roger Clemens, BOS 7.6 (Pat Hentgen 6.4 incumbent)
1994, Randy Johnson, SEA 5.3 (David Cone 4.3 incumbent)
1993, Kevin Appier, KC 7.4 (Jack McDowell 5.1 incumbent)
1992, Roger Clemens, BOS 8.5 (Dennis Eckersley 3.0 incumbent.....Frank Thomas wants a word about that MVP too, Eck)
1991, David Cone, NYM 6.6 (Tom Glavine 5.7 incumbent)
1990, Dwight Gooden, NYM 6.9 (Doug Drabek 4.3 incumbent) & Roger Clemens, BOS 8.7 (Bob Welch 1.8 WAR & 27 wins, incumbent)
1989, Orel Hershiser, LAD 5.5 (Mark Davis 2.0 incumbent)
1988, Dwight Gooden, NYM 5.9 (Orel Hershiser 4.0 incumbent) & Roger Clemens, 10.0 BOS (Frank Viola 7.1 incumbent)
1987, Nolan Ryan, HOU 6.8 (Steve Bedrosian 1.0 incumbent)
1985, Bert Blyleven, CLEV/MINN 7.7 (Bret Saberhahen 6.8 incumbent)
1984, Dwight Gooden, NYM 8.6 (Rick Sutcliffe 6.3 incumbent) & Dave Stieb, TOR 6.1 (Willie Hernandez 3.1 incumbent....Cal Ripken really should have his MVP too)
1983, Steve Carlton, PHILY 7.7 (John Denny 6.1 incumbent) & Jack Morris, DET 6.2 (LaMarr Hoyt 5.7 incumbent)
1982, Len Barker, CLEV 6.1 (Pete Vukovich 2.3 incumbent)
1981, Steve Carlton, PHILY 5.7 (Fernando Valenzuela 5.1 incumbent) & Len Barker, CLEV 4.7 (Rollie Fingers 2.5 incumbent)
1980, Mike Norris, OAK 6.0 (Steve Stone 3.2 incumbent)
Some things really stick out about this list: for one, the best pitchers have higher expectations from voters: Dwight Gooden has one Cy Young, he deserved 4. Roger Clemens has 7 Cy Youngs, he should have had 9.
You see a lot of the better "stories" (Fernando! Hershiser's scoreless streak!) and obviously win-inflated credibility on the way out, and the same names creep back in: less Pat Hentgens, John Dennys & Barry Zitos, more Steve Carltons, Randy Johnsons and Roger Clemens. You have to be actually good to lead the league in WAR, not false or "lucky" good, as outlined the most by Bob Welch, and we also see how stupid it is to vote relievers and their sub 5 WARs in.
In this fangraphs-realm of stats, 29 out of their last 60 choices have been filled by less valuable players, usually by voting based on pitcher wins and saves. Lets hear it for the above guys, who shined brightly than all but were not recognized. To the voters, thanks for getting it right a little over half the time, I guess?