Sunday, July 26, 2020

Diamond King Roundup: 1984

I am doing something a little different with this series.  I have mentioned before that the Diamond Kings subset is one of my favorites of all time.  The purpose of the subset is to highlight one player from each team who has made a big impact on the team.  It is also true that sometimes the choices were a little suspect.  I wanted to go through and look at the choices each year and determine which are the strangest choices.  Then I will grade the picks in the context of the team, only.  For this series, I only want to examine the years when there was one pick per team.  In the mid 1990's, the set kind of went off the rails.

Coming off of an MVP season, Yount's power numbers declined somewhat, but he still hit .308/.383/.503 with 17 home runs and 80 RBIs, as a shortstop.  He was an All Star and led the league with ten triples.  Yount was first on the team in batting average, on base percentage and second in home runs.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  Yes.  He was certainly the most complete player.  Cecil Cooper has an argument for being the biggest power threat (30 home runs, 126 RBIs) and hitting .307/.341/.508, but Yount had the higher WAR.

GRADE: A.  Sometimes giving the Diamond King to a player a season removed from an award is not the best decision.  Yount though was still the Brewers' best player.

Concepcion was in his 14th season with the Reds in 1983.  He hit .233/.303.280 with one home run, 47 RBIs and 14 stolen bases.  He notched 123 hits and 54 runs.  He made 13 errors and had a .979 fielding percentage.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  Yeesh.  No.  Definitely not.  By OPS+, Concepcion was the worst player on the team.  So, literally any other player would have been a better choice.  The best choice would have been Mario Soto, who 17-13 for a bad team and had a 2.70 ERA and 242 strikeouts while leading the league with 18 complete games.

GRADE: F.  This is one of the career achievement Diamond Kings for a player who was always pretty good, but never close to Hall of Fame-worthy.

Murphy led the A's in home runs (17, tied with Davey Lopes) and RBIs (75).  He won his fourth Gold Glove Award in 1983.  Murphy hit .227/.314/.380 and had 107 hits and 55 runs.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  No.  Murphy had the biggest power numbers on the team, though to be fair it was not a great year for that.  Several other players turned in better seasons, with Rickey Henderson being the best.  Henderson hit .292/.414/.421 and stole 103 bases.  Henderson though was the Diamond King the previous season.  Carney Lansford hit .308/.357/.475 with ten home runs and 45 RBIs.

GRADE: D.  Murphy had been better in the past but this was a pedestrian season for him and Henderson was much better.  The card back reads that Murphy is "considered to be the player who makes the A's go", which is just blatantly not true in a lineup with Henderson.

Castino was the Rookie of the Year in 1979 and turned in a decent year in 1983.  He hit .277/.348/.403.  He hit eleven home runs and drove in 57 runs, stealing four bases and hitting 30 doubles, scoring 83 runs and gathering 156 hits.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  Probably not, but he is not a bad one.  Castino was the WAR leader on the Twins, primarily due to his defense.  Kent Hrbek had the best year though, hitting .297/.366/.489 with 16 home runs and 84 RBIs.  

GRADE: B.  Castino was a steady, dependable player, and was the WAR leader, though no one knew what WAR was at the time.  Hrbek would have been a better pick.

Durham was in his fourth season in 1983 and was an All Star for the second time.  Durham played in just 100 games, but hit .258/.381/.466 with 12 home runs and 55 RBIs.  He stole 12 bases.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  Probably not.  He was the OPS+ leader, but played only two-thirds of the season.  He had been better in the past, and deserved the Diamond King the previous year, but injuries took their toll on him in 1983.  Lee Smith was the Cubs' best player as he saved 29 games, struck out 91 in 103.1 innings and had a 1.65 ERA.

GRADE: C+.  The Cubs were not stacked with great choices and Durham did have a decent year, when he was healthy.

Staub played in 104 games and had just 132 plate appearances in 1983.  In other words, he was a pinch hitter more often than he actually played in the field.  He hit .296/.371/.426 with three home runs and 28 RBIs.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  Definitely not.  How about Darryl Strawberry who was the Rookie of the Year after hitting .257/.336/.512 with 26 home runs, 74 RBIs and 19 stolen bases?  Jesse Orosco had a 1.47 ERA as a closer, and Keith Hernandez hit .306/.424/.434.

GRADE: F.  Staub was a pinch hitter.  This is the definition of a career achievement Diamond King.  He hit well enough, but he was not even a regular player.

Clark finished third on the Giants in most major offensive categories.  He hit .268/.361/.441 with 20 home runs and 66 RBIs, notching 132 hits and 82 runs scored.  

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  No.  Clark deserved it in previous seasons, but his numbers dropped somewhat and he was the third most productive hitter on the team.  The eternally underrated Darrell Evans hit .277/.378/.516 with 30 home runs and 82 RBIs.  Jeffrey Leonard was second on the team with 21 home runs and 87 RBIs.  Atlee Hammaker had a 2.25 ERA.

GRADE: C.  Clark was good, but his numbers declined and there was one clearly better choice, and a couple of other choices that would have been just as good.

Dravecky had the lowest ERA on the Padres staff among pitchers with at least 120 innings.  He had a 14-10 record with a 3.58 ERA and struck out 74 versus 44 walks in 183.2 innings pitched.  He was second on the staff in wins and fourth in strikeouts.  He was an All Star in 1983.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  No.  Terry Kennedy, the Diamond King the previous season, was still the team's best player, by a significant margin.  He hit .284/.342/.434 and led the team with 27 doubles, 17 home runs and 98 RBIs, as a catcher.  

GRADE: C+.  Donruss did not like to repeat Diamond Kings at this point.  I guess Dravecky is probably the second best choice, though his numbers were hardly standouts.

Oliver followed up his first batting title by hitting .300/.347/.410.  He led the league in doubles (38) and was an All Star for the seventh time in his career.  Oliver had 184 hits, eight home runs and 84 RBIs.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  Oliver was decent, and probably deserved to be the Diamond King the previous season, but Andre Dawson and Tim Raines were clearly better.  Dawson hit .299/.338/.539 with 32 home runs, 113 RBIs and 25 stolen bases.  Raines hit .298/.393/.429 and stole 90 bases to lead the league.

GRADE: C.  Oliver had a decent season, but Dawson and Raines had seasons that would help lead them to the Hall of Fame.

Righetti's biggest achievement was pitching a no hitter in 1983, but he turned in a 14-8 record, a 3.44 ERA.  He led the team in strikeouts (169), versus 67 walks in 217 innings pitched.  He was third on the staff with seven complete games.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  No, he was not even the best pitcher on the staff.  Ron Guidry, who was the 1983 Diamond King, went 21-9 with a 3.42 ERA, striking out 156 in 250.1 innings.  Guidry was also the only player with a higher WAR than Righetti.  Donruss did not like to repeat Diamond Kings, but Guidry was a Diamond King when he should not have been and now could not be used when he should have been.

GRADE: C.  Righetti gets points for leading the team in strikeouts and pitching the no hitter, but Guidry was quite a bit better.

The year before, McRae led the league in doubles and RBIs, but in 1983 his numbers slipped a little bit.  He hit .311/.372/.462, which was a better slash line, but his power numbers dipped to 12 home runs and 82 RBIs.  He led the team in batting average and doubles (41).

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  No.  George Brett was still the best player on the team, as he hit .310/.385/.563 with 25 home runs and 93 RBIs, almost universally better numbers.  Dan Quisenberry actually led the team in WAR when he led the league in saves (45) and had a 1.94 ERA, and finished second in the Cy Young vote.

GRADE: B.  McRae was good, but he was better the previous season and Brett was clearly better than McRae.  Quisenberry also has a good argument.

Knight had been an All Star the previous season, but he was even better in 1983, even though he was not named to the team.  Knight hit .304/.355/.444 with nine home runs and 70 RBIs.  He led the team with 36 doubles. 

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  No.  Jose Cruz hit .318/.385/.463 with 14 home runs and a team-leading 92 runs.  Dickie Thon had the highest WAR, hitting .286/.341/.457 with a team-high 20 home runs and drove in 79 runs, as a shortstop.

GRADE: C.  Knight was decent, but he was not a standout player.  Thon would have been the better pick, and Cruz was also better.

The Cardinals closer, Sutter pitched in 60 games and had a 9-10 record, with a 4.23 ERA.  He saved 21 games.  He notched 64 strikeouts versus 30 walks in 89.1 innings pitched.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  Those are frankly not good numbers for a closer.  Pick a player, and they likely had a better season.  Darrell Porter led the team in WAR, hitting .262/.363/.421 with 15 home runs and 66 RBIs and was a great defensive catcher.  George Hendrick had the best stats, hitting .318/.373/.493 with 18 home runs and 97 RBIs.  

GRADE: F.  Sutter was not even good in 1983.  This one makes no sense.

Horner missed some time with injuries in 1983, only playing in 104 games.  He had a very good season when he was healthy, hitting .303/.383/.528 with 20 home runs and 68 RBIs.  Despite missing time, he led the team with 25 doubles.  He even received some down-ballot MVP votes.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  No.  Horner received MVP votes, but teammate Dale Murphy was the MVP when he hit .302/.393/.540 with 36 home runs, 30 stolen bases and a league-leading 121 RBIs.  Murphy was the Diamond King the previous season.

GRADE: B.  Murphy was clearly better, but Horner would have likely had a similar season had he not missed so much time due to injuries.  

Parrish, the team's catcher, led the team in the major power categories, hitting 27 home runs, 42 doubles and driving in 114 runs.  Parrish hit .269/.314/.483.  He was an All Star and won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards and finished ninth in the MVP voting.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  I am going to go with yes.  A couple players probably had better slash lines, with Alan Trammell hitting .319/.385/.471 and Lou Whitaker hitting .320/.380/.457, but Parrish had significantly more home runs and RBIs.  And Parrish also played a demanding defensive position.

GRADE: A.  He did not have the highest WAR or OPS+, but those power numbers from a catcher make it hard to deny Parrish as the Diamond King.

Young was in his rookie season in 1983 and led the Mariners staff in most major pitching categories.  He had an 11-15 record (for a 102 loss Mariners team), a 3.27 ERA and 130 strikeouts (second on the team) in 203.1 innings.  Young was an All Star and led the team in WAR (5.1).

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  This is weird as a Red Sox fan who remembers him losing a game in which he gave up no hits, but yes, Young was the best choice.  He was clearly the team's best pitcher and their only good hitter, Steve Henderson, hit .294/.356/.450 with ten home runs and 54 RBIs.  Pat Putnam led the team with 19 home runs and 67 RBIs.

GRADE: A.  This one looks weird, but Young was pretty clearly the best player the Mariners had in 1983.

Lynn was the All Star Game MVP in 1983 when he hit a grand slam off of Atlee Hammaker.  Lynn led the team in triples (3), home runs (22) and RBIs (74), despite only playing in 117 games.  Lynn hit .272/.352/.483.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  It's probably pretty close.  Bobby Grich was probably a better player, hitting .292/.414/.460 with 16 home runs and 62 RBIs, while playing terrific defense at second base.  Lynn's better power numbers and All Star MVP are points for him, but he did miss quite a few games.

GRADE: B+.  Points off because Lynn missed a chunk of time, but he had a very good season and this one is pretty close.  Grich might have deserved it slightly more though.

Kittle was an All Star and won the Rookie of the Year in 1983.  He only led the league in one statistical category, strikeouts (150), but he hit .254/.314/.504 with a team-leading 35 home runs and 100 RBIs.  

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  It's complicated.  Kittle had the best power numbers on the team, but as a one-dimensional slugger, he was not close to the best WAR.  LaMarr Hoyt won the Cy Young Award, going 24-10 with a 3.66 ERA and 148 strikeouts in 260.2 innings, but may not have been the best pitcher on the team.  Richard Dotson was 22-7 with a 3.23 ERA and 137 strikeouts in 240 innings.  Carlton Fisk hit .289/.355/.518 with 26 home runs and 86 RBIs, lesser power numbers, but a much better slash line, and Fisk was a very good defensive player at an important position.

GRADE: B.  It is hard to ignore the Rookie of the Year and I will give Donruss credit for that, but power numbers aside, Kittle was not really great.  They did ignore the Cy Young winner and a pitcher who might have been better as well as some better hitters.  

Coming off of an All Star season in 1982, Clancy was part of a good, young pitching staff with Toronto.  He was second on the staff in wins (15), ERA (3.91) complete games (11) and innings pitched (223).  He had a 15-11 record and struck out 99 versus 61 walks.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  No.  He was not the best pitcher on the team as Dave Stieb had him beat in virtually every pitching category when he was 17-12 with a 3.04 ERA and 187 strikeouts in 278 innings.  Willie Upshaw was probably the team's best hitter, with a slash line of .306/.373/.515 with 27 home runs and 104 RBIs.  Lloyd Moseby also hit .315/.376/.499 with 18 home runs and 81 RBIs and was a great defensive outfielder.

GRADE: D.  Clancy just does not stand out at all on a good, young team.  Stieb was a significantly better pitcher and they had a couple very good hitters.

Madlock won his fourth batting title in 1983 and was an All Star for the third time.  The Pirates third-baseman hit .323/.386/.444 with 12 home runs (tied for third on the team) and 68 RBIs (fourth on the team).  He had 153 hits and scored 68 runs (second on the team).

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  Probably.  Madlock did win the batting title and had the highest OPS and OPS+ on the team.  Johnny Ray had the highest WAR due mostly to his defense, as he hit .283/.323/.399 with five home runs.  John Candelaria had a 15-8 record with a 3.23 ERA.

GRADE: A.  Madlock had the best traditional stats and highest OPS, even if his WAR was not the highest.  

Parrish, no relation to Lance, hit .272/.326/.474.  He led the team in home runs (26) and RBIs (88), while also recording 76 runs, 151 hits, and 26 doubles.  He also led the team in OPS (.800) and OPS+ (121).

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  Probably.  Parrish's stats were not eye-popping, but he was the best hitter on the team.  He had a lower WAR because he was fairly one-dimensional.  The highest WAR belonged to Buddy Bell, who hit .277/.332/.411 with 14 home runs and 66 RBIs, but was great defensively.  Charlie Hough was second with a 15-13 record, 3.18 ERA and 152 strikeouts.

GRADE: A.  The Rangers were fairly underwhelming and Parrish had significantly better power numbers.  

Murray finished second in the AL MVP vote in 1983 and was an All Star for the fourth time.  He led the team in home runs (33), RBIs (111), on base percentage (.393), slugging percentage (.538), OPS (.930) and OPS+ (156), while hitting .306.  

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  Surprisingly, no.  Murray was second in the MVP teammate Cal Ripken Jr.  Ripken did not quite have the power stats, but he hit .318/.371/.517 with 27 home runs and 102 RBIs while playing a more demanding position and led the league in WAR (8.2).

GRADE: B+.  Sure, they missed the AL MVP, but Murray was second, and had a great season, leading the team in most offensive categories.  

Schmidt was third in the NL MVP vote and was an All Star, Gold Glove winner and Silver Slugger.  He led the league in home runs (40), walks (128) and on-base percentage (.399).  He hit .255/.399/.524 and led the team in RBIs (109).

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  Surprisingly not.  Schmidt was second in WAR on the team to Cy Young winner John Denny.  Denny was 19-6, leading the league in wins, with a 2.37 ERA and 139 strikeouts in 242.2 innings.

GRADE: B.  Denny kind of came out of nowhere while Schmidt was clearly heading for the Hall of Fame.  Schmidt had a great season, Denny was just slightly better.

Guerrero was fourth in the NL MVP race and was an All Star for the second time.  He hit .298/.373/.531 with 32 home runs and 103 RBIs while stealing 23 bases.  Guerrero led the team in doubles (28), home runs, RBIs, and all three slash line categories, registering a .904 OPS and 150 OPS+.

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  Clearly yes.  Bob Welch was second on the team in WAR when he was 15-12 with a 2.65 ERA and 156 strikeouts in 204 innings pitched.  

GRADE: A.  This one is very easy.  Guerrero had a fantastic season and was well ahead of anyone else on the team.

Thornton was the Indians' primary power threat.  He tied for the team lead in home runs with Gorman Thomas, hitting 17.  Thornton hit .281/.383/.439 and had 143 hits and 78 runs, driving in 77.  Thornton led the team in slugging and OPS (.822).  

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  Tough to say.  No one on the Indians had eye-popping stats.  Advanced metrics show Thornton as a somewhat poor choice, and this was not his best season.  The WAR leader was Lary Sorensen, a pitcher with a 12-11 record and a 4.24 ERA in 222.2 innings.  Rick Sutcliffe was 17-11 with a 4.29 ERA and 160 strikeouts in 243.1 innings.

GRADE: C+.  I don't know.  Thornton was kind of ordinary in 1983 and had been much better in the past, but there just are not many standouts from this team.  I guess if I had to pick who I think it should have been, I would go with Sutcliffe.

Boggs won his first batting title and his first Silver Slugger Award in 1983.  He also led the league in on base percentage.  Boggs hit .361/.444/.486 with five home runs and 74 RBIs.  He led the team in hits (210), runs (100), walks (92), and OPS (.931).

WAS HE THE BEST CHOICE?  Yes.  Boggs did not have much power, but he was an exceptional hitter and truly great at getting on base.  The closest competitor was Jim Rice, who hit .305/.361/.550, while leading the league in home runs (39) and RBIs (126).

GRADE: A.  Boggs was the best player on the team, even if his power numbers paled in comparison to Rice.  

BEST CHOICE:  I think I will go with Pedro Guerrero here, with Wade Boggs a close second.  Both players had outstanding seasons, with Guerrero a bit better all-around.  

WORST CHOICE:  I think Dave Concepcion was the worst pick, with Bruce Sutter and Rusty Staub coming close.  Concepcion was just a bad pick with an extremely low slash line.  Staub was decent, but barely played, and Sutter had a bad year.

BIGGEST SNUB:  Dale Murphy.  The Braves' representative the previous season was the MVP once again, but lost out to Bob Horner who had a decent season, but Murphy was much better and played a lot more.

WEIRDEST PICK HISTORICALLY:  Matt Young.  He deserved it for a bad Mariners team, but this seems so odd, particularly for a Red Sox fan who has odd memories of Young.  Beats out John Castino, who at least was a Rookie of the Year at one point, and Jim Clancy, who was a decent pitcher for several seasons, but rarely great.


  1. Great post and a fun read.
    Not a lot of A's in that group... I think I only counted six total.

  2. Where DKs started to go downhill. I don't think I ever realized that each team received a DK each year back when I was collecting in the '80s.