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HE WUZ ROBBED

[January 2nd] -- I was working on a story about Ryan Zimmerman this morning and I got to thinking about that questionable rookie-of-the-year award that went to Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins. Though no one doubts Ramirez had a solid season, a side by side comparison of their statistics made his win very curious. That got me to thinking about another National League rookie-of-the-year award that made me scratch my head and go "huh?"

There is no doubt that everyone - even 11 year olds like me - had heard of Tom Seaver going into the 1967 season. After playing just one year in the minors, he wowed the Mets' management in spring training. He had a blazing fastball and a dominant curve. At 23, he was ready for the major leagues.

His success that year didn't come as a surprise to anyone. He started 34 games, going 16-13, 2.76. He gave up just 8 hits per 9 innings and struck out 6 per 9 innings. He was a stud. Seaver rode those numbers to the rookie-of-the-year award, and was the toast of New York City for many years.

But see, here's the weird thing: his record wasn't nearly as good as the second and third place finishers that year.

Dick Hughes wasn't a young, handsome rookie with a gorgeous wife like Seaver. Hughes, 30, had spent the previous decade in the Cardinals' minor league system. He was tall and gangly with a demeanor befitting his rural Arkansas roots. He got his cup-of-coffee with St. Louis in 1966, going 2-1, 1.71. Even though he was impressive in 1966, he likely wouldn't have gotten his chance had Bob Gibson not broken his ankle during the '67 season.

That's all he needed.

Hughes went 16-6, 2.67 in 222 innings in 1967. He gave up two fewer hits per 9 innings than Seaver and had the same strikeout totals. Without question, Hughes was the better rookie - leading Seaver in virtually every significant statistic.

Yet when the balloting was in, Seaver won easily with 55% of the vote. Huges won 30% and Gary Nolan of the Reds (14-8, 2.58) won just 15%.

How's that possible? Seaver won just 55% of his games. Hughes won 76% of his -- heck, even 3rd place finisher Gary Nolan won 63% of the time. In terms of ERA, Seaver finished dead last among the top three rookie candidates.

On and on it goes.

I'd have to guess that Tom Seaver won the award because of his home field advantage -- that is, playing in New York City and the most powerful reporters in the nation. Hughes (St. Louis) and Nolan (Cincinnati) just weren't on the big stage often enough for the voters to give them any real opportunity to win the award.

Interestingly, Seaver ended up being the right choice, at least in the long term. Seaver's hall of fame career included 311 wins and a 2.86 ERA. Hughes was out of baseball the very next year, a victim of a arm trouble. His career numbers were stellar however: 20-9, 2.79. Nolan fought injuries through much of his career and retired with 110 wins.

That said, Dick Hughes was robbed in 1967.


Comments:
Fascinating post. I can't recall ever even hearing of Hughes!

But, after looking at it, I don't think he was robbed. His '67 Cards went 101-60; Seaver's '67 Mets went 61-101. (Nolan's '67 Reds went 87-75). Seaver's 1967 season is like a mini-Carlton '72 before that happened. Straight-up individual W/L records don't really tell the story.

Additionally, Seaver pitched about 25-30 more innings than Nolan and Hughes and, given the quality of his teammates, it's reasonable to suspect the defense around Seaver wasn't that great, which could have affected his ERA. Even at that, adjusting for home park (ERA+), Seaver and Hughes were virtually even. I think Nolan has a bit of a better case of being robbed, but I still think Seaver was quite deserving.
 
All good points, and your premise is a valid one.

I looked at ERA, which (for the most part) is the equalizer - team defense and offense can skew many of their stats, but ERA is ... well ... earned runs allowed. Of course those other variables would effect their won-loss records, but even then, Hughes had the better ERA.

Again, you thought of some things I hadn't. That's why I always count on you leaving posts, Basil!

Thanks buddy.
 
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