Former Cleveland Indians slugger Albert Belle should have been the 1995 MVP
Former Cleveland Indians slugger Albert Belle might be one of the most misunderstood players in baseball history. He falls into a group of players that were able to put up incredible numbers in such a shortened career, a list that includes players such as Kirby Puckett, Don Mattingly and Ralph Kiner.
However, Mattingly and Puckett saw their careers halted due to severe injuries that they were not able to overcome. Albert Belle, on the other hand, had a different issue to try to overcome and it was his personality.
He was not liked by the media what-so-ever and, if we’ve learned anything, the sports media can make or break your legacy. As for fans of the Cleveland Indians, he was beloved for a good chunk of his tenure and was a tremendous part of one of the best offensive teams in recent memory. What Albert Belle was able to do at the plate was nothing less than spectacular!
When you think of power hitters, you probably associate a lot of home runs and even more strikeouts. Not Belle. He was able to put up numbers that would rival some of the better seasons in the game today, maybe even better than some of the best seasons in recent memory, and he was able to do all of this without striking 150-200 times a year.
The comparison of Belle to Mike Trout doesn’t work too well, but even Trout has struck out at least 120 times in seven of his seasons. Belle struck out a 100 or more times in a season just twice. He struck out 128 times in 1992 and in 1997, his first year with the Chicago White Sox, he struck out 105 times. That’s it.
If I had to compare Albert Belle to another major league ball player over history, Ralph Kiner is a name that comes to mind. Kiner played in 10 major league season’s while Belle officially played in 12. If we were to take the first two seasons Belle played in the big leagues we could get a better comparison of the two.
In 1989 Belle appeared in 62 games while batting. 225 with seven home runs and 37 RBI. Then in 1990, played in only nine games with one home run and three RBI. A side-by-side comparison of Kiner and Belle shows that Belle out performed the Hall of Famer in nearly every offensive category.
Belle had 1,673 hits over that 10-year span while Kiner had 1,451. Home runs favored Belle who had 373 while Kiner had 369. Batting average is not as close with Belle batting at an average of .298, well above the .279 that Kiner produced.
The numbers don’t just stop there. Belle had more RBIs, more runs scored and more doubles. Kiner had a higher OPS, beating Belle by .001 with a .946 over Belle with a .945. Belle did have 161 more plate appearances over the 10-year span, but that hardly is enough to allow Kiner to catch up.
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In a strike-shortened 1994 season, Belle played in 106 games had a slash line of .357/.438/.714 with 36 home runs and 101 RBIs to go along with an other worldly OPS+ of 1.152. In 1995, he proved it wasn’t a fluke, going on to be one of the biggest snubs in recent MVP voting history.
During the 1995 season, Belle finished second in MVP voting behind Mo Vaughn who also put up incredible numbers. This isn’t a knock against Vaughn, but statistically there is no reason Albert Belle should not have won the MVP. This might have gone back to his personality and how much the media disliked him. It’s the only logical explanation to why he finished in second place and the numbers speak for themselves.
Again, Vaughn had a strong season. Over 140 games, he logged 165 hits, including 39 home runs, 98 runs and126 RBI. He also stole 11 bases while maintaining a slash line of .300/.388/.575 with an OPS+ of .963 and and MLB-high 150 strikeouts.
However, Belle’s stats were more impressive. Over 143 games, he led the majors in doubles with 52, home runs with 52 and slugging percentage at .690. As for the American League, he led the way in runs with 121 and tied Vaughn in RBI with 126. That doesn’t include his 173 hits, 11 stolen bases, slash line of .317/.401/.690 and an OPS+ of 1.091. Oh, and he struck out just 80 times.
Seeing those stats, it begs the question, how can a player lead the way in some many categories and still not win the MVP?