Put down that turkey leg. It's time for a Thanksgiving edition of our Top 10 Useless Info Nuggets of the Week:
10. As mind-boggling as it may seem that Jason Giambi got a first-place vote in the MVP balloting and still finished (gulp) 13th, we found four other players in the division-play era who got first-place votes and finished lower:
1989 AL: Carney Lansford (17th)
1979 NL: Gary Carter (17th)
1979 NL: Bill Madlock (18th)
1977 AL: Carl Yastrzemski (17th)
Your all-time record holder: Dixie Walker, who got a first-place vote in 1947 but still came in 19th (because he got no other votes).
9. Even more rare was the site of your MVP winner (Alex Rodriguez) getting a ninth-place vote. With the help of the Elias Sports Bureau's Ken Hirdt, we determined that, over the last 20 years, only two other MVPs dropped that low on any ballot -- or even disappeared entirely.
Barry Larkin got a 10th-place vote and still won the 1995 NL award. And in 1984, Tigers closer Willie Hernandez was left off all 10 spots on one voter's ballot but still finished first overall. We went back through 1977 and couldn't find any winners before A-Rod who got a ninth-place vote.
8. Thanks to Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent, the Giants have won four MVP awards in a row. The only other teams to do that: the 1960-63 Yankees (Roger Maris two, Mickey Mantle, Elston Howard) and 1954-57 Yankees (Yogi Berra two, Mantle two).
7. But even more amazingly, A-Rod was Texas' fourth MVP in the last 10 years. If you don't count the Yankees, who have done that numerous times, just six other teams have produced four or more MVPs over any 10-year period -- but the Rangers are the only one to do it without winning a postseason series. In fact, the Dallas Morning News' Gerry Fraley reports, the Rangers actually have a losing record over the last 10 years (637-659). The other six:
1970-79 Reds five (Joe Morgan two, Johnny Bench two, Pete Rose)
1964-73 Cardinals four (Ken Boyer, Orlando Cepeda, Bob Gibson, Joe Torre)
1955-64 Dodgers four (Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe, Maury Wills, Sandy Koufax)
1949-58 Dodgers five (Campanalla three, Newcombe, Jackie Robinson)
1943-52 Cardinals five (Stan Musial three, Mort Cooper, Marty Marion)
1934-43 Tigers four (Hank Greenberg two, Mickey Cochrane, Charlie Gehringer)
6. Most MVPs by any franchise over any 10-year period: eight, by (guess who) the Yankees, from 1954-63 (Mantle three, Berra two, Maris two, Howard one).
5. Maybe the quality that most separated the late, great Warren Spahn from any modern-day pitcher is that you needed a court order to get him to come out of a game. Spahn completed 382 of his 665 career starts (57.4 percent), the highest percentage of any starting pitcher in the live-ball era. Only one active pitcher -- Curt Schilling -- has even completed 20 percent of his starts. Here's the active top five, courtesy of the new 1994 Bill James Handbook and Lee Sinins' new Sabermetric Encyclopedia CD-Rom:
4. Spahn also completed at least 20 games in 13 different seasons. We're now closing in on two decades since any pitcher completed 20 games in a season. Last to do it: Fernando Valenzuela in 1986 (20). Since 1990, only two pitchers have even reached 15 -- Schilling in 1997 and Jack McDowell in 1991.
3. But Spahn was also a tremendous hitter. In fact, according to the Sultan of Swat Stats, SABR home run historian David Vincent, Spahn holds the all-time pitchers' record for most consecutive seasons hitting a home run. The leaders in that prestigious category:
Warren Spahn (1948-1964) 17
Bob Lemon (1946-1957) 12
Dizzy Trout (1942-1952) 11
Gary Peters (1963-1971) nine
Red Ruffing (1928-1936) nine
Wes Ferrell (1931-1938) eight
Walter Johnson (1909-1916) eight
Al Orth (1895-1902) eight
And most in the DH era (post-1973):
J.R. Richard (1974-1980) seven
Larry Christenson (1975-1980) six
2. If the Red Sox trade for Schilling, that will give them three pitchers on one staff who have started an All-Star Game -- Schilling, Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe. (In fact, Schilling has started All-Star Games against both Martinez and Lowe.)
We looked back through the division-play era and found only two other teams that employed three pitchers who had once started an All-Star Game: the 1998-2002 Braves (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz) and the 1990-92 A's (Dave Stewart, Bob Welch, Dennis Eckersley). Of course, since Eckersley was a closer by then, maybe those A's shouldn't count. If anyone can find any others, send them along to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Finally, Schilling averaged better than six strikeouts for every walk this past season -- at age 36. Among all pitchers in history who worked that many innings and struck out at least 100 hitters in a season, only one other pitcher his age had ever done that before -- some guy named Cy Young. Here are the best strikeout-walk ratios of all time by pitchers 36 or older, according to Lee Sinins' Sabermetric Encyclopedia:
Question: The late, great Warren Spahn once won 20 games for six seasons in a row, from 1956-61. Can you name the four active left-handers who even have won 20 more than once in their careers?