The 1985 Season as seen through the Prism of Player Won-Lost Records
Next in my continuing series of looking at individual seasons through the prism of Player won-lost records is the 1985 season.
The Best of 1985
I calculate Player won-lost records two ways: pWins, which tie to team wins and eWins, which control for context and the ability of one's teammates. For players with more pWins than eWins, their Player wins contributed to more team wins than one might expect; for players with more eWins than pWins, just the opposite is true: their Player wins translated into fewer team wins than expected. Or more briefly: a player with more pWins than eWins was better in context, a player with more eWins than pWins was worse in context.
The top 10 players in pWins above Positional Average and Replacement Level were as follows.
The top 10 players in eWins above Positional Average and Replacement Level were as follows.
The 1985 season was the breakthrough season for 20-year-old Dwight Gooden who almost certainly had the best season by a 20-year-old in major-league history and one of the best seasons, period. Among players for whom I have calculated Player won-lost records, Gooden ranks top 5 in pWins over positional average (pWOPA) and replacement level (pWORL). His rankings are somewhat lower in eWOPA and eWORL (top 30 in each), but still, this was an outstanding season. Rather than write more about Gooden here, I decided to give him his own article.
I will, however, take a somewhat closer look at two of the top non-pitchers in all four tables above: Rickey Henderson and Pedro Guerrero.
The 1985 AL MVP Award was given to Don Mattingly on the strength of his major-league leading 145 RBIs, the most in the American League in 35 years.
The player who Mattingly drove in more than any other (56 times) was Rickey Henderson, who scored a major-league leading 146 runs, the most runs scored in the major leagues in 48 years.
MVP voters obviously were more impressed by Mattingly for driving in all those runs. Player won-lost records (and most other sabermetric measures) are more impressed by the guy who got on base and ran the bases well enough to score all of those runs.
The next table breaks down the (context-neutral) performance of Henderson and Mattingly in 1985 to show how Henderson ends up more valuable.
||Decomposition of eWORL
||Wins over Average
Based on Player won-lost records, the best non-pitcher in the National League in 1985 was probably Pedro Guerrero.
Pedro Guerrero was what you might call a hitting savant. He could fall out of bed and rip line drives. At his peak, he was as reliable a guy to give you a .300/.370/.500 line with 30 home runs as anybody in baseball.
The top 10 players in Player batting wins over non-pitcher average for the 1980s are shown in the next table.
Unfortunately, he gave about half of that value back with below-average baserunning and fielding.
His teams (the Dodgers and Cardinals) tried him all over the field - he saw most of his time at first base, third base, right field, and left field, but also saw time (somewhat surprisingly) in center field and at second base. He was something of a born DH who had the misfortune to play his entire career in a non-DH league.
Even more unfortunate than his fielding record, however, Guerrero has had more than his fair share of misfortune in his life outside of baseball.
But the man could hit well enough that he was one of the best players in baseball for a few years. The last table in this section presents Pedro Guerrero's career Player won-lost record.
Basic Player Won-Lost Records
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The 1985 postseason saw one team make the first postseason appearance in its history, two teams who had been to the World Series earlier in the 1980s and would return again in two of the next three years.
And a team who capped off a ten-season, seven playoff appearance, run with the only World Series win in its franchise history.
Top postseason players by round were as follows.
Best of 1985 by Factor and Position
Next, let's look at the top players in (context-neutral, teammate-adjusted) eWins over Positional Average in various aspects of the game.
Best by Factor: Batting, Baserunning, Pitching, Fielding
There are four basic factors for which players earn Player won-lost records: Batting, Baserunning, Pitching, and Fielding. The top players in 1985 in eWOPA by factor were as follows.
Positional Average excludes pitcher offense
Positional Average excludes pitcher offense
Best by Position
Next, we look at 1985 Major-League leaders in eWOPA by position. The figures shown here only include Player decisions earned while playing this particular position, and include no contextual adjustments (expected or actual).
The next table shows the top 12 seasons in starting pitcher eWOPA for which I have calculated Player won-lost records.
John Tudor had a truly exceptional 1985 season, arguably one of the top 10 seasons by a starting pitcher in the last 60 years. Unfortunately, Tudor had the great misfortune of doing so the same year that Dwight Gooden was having an historic season.
For relief pitchers, context-neutral records may not be the best measure of how good they are, as context can matter a great deal, depending on how a pitcher is used. Here are the top relief pitchers of 1985 in context, in terms of pWins and pWOPA.
Finally, here are the best at three oft-forgotten positions that can nevertheless matter: pitcher offense, pinch hitting, and pinch running.
That kid really could do it all. He was even above-average as a fielder (0.525 eWin percentage).
Noteworthy Players of 1985
End of an Era
It seems somewhat unbelievable as I write this in 2013, but when I first became a baseball fan, one of the elite franchises in the major leagues was the Kansas City Royals. From 1976 through 1985, the Royals won the AL West 6-1/2 times (they won the AL West in the "second half" of 1981) in 10 seasons, a run which culminated in their only World Championship in 1985.
The next table shows the players who appeared on the first and last Royals teams to make the playoffs. Not surprisingly, at the top of the list is the best player in Kansas City Royals' history, first-ballot Hall-of-Famer George Brett.
Goodbye to a Couple of Great Ones
Finally, 1985 was the final season for two Hall-of-Famers: Rod Carew and Rollie Fingers. Their career records, as measured via Player won-lost records, are presented in the final table here.
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All articles are written so that they pull data directly from the most recent version of the Player won-lost database. Hence, any numbers cited within these articles should automatically incorporate the most recent update to Player won-lost records. In some cases, however, the accompanying text may have been written based on previous versions of Player won-lost records. I apologize if this results in non-sensical text in any cases.
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