Odds and ends from 1985
If you enjoyed last week’s article then you should really enjoy this one. While explaining my hatred was an exercise in fun, I thought it this week I would look back statistically at the greatest season in the history of baseball, 1985. If Cardinals fans were upset by last week’s playful banter, I can only imagine how they’ll feel about reliving their most painful loss. We’ll start with some fun facts about the Kansas City Royals, move on to the 1985 St. Louis Cardinals, and finish with my favorite stats from the 1985 World Series.
- On this date in history, after an 8-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners, the Royals were 4.5 games out of first at 33-33. Things got much worse before they got better and bottomed out at 7.5 games back on July 21st. From that point forward they finished 45-27 to win the division by one game.
- That team had only three players with an OPS+ better than 100—George Brett (179), Hal McRae (118) and Steve Balboni (112) and Brett was the only player with more than 100 runs or RBI.
- In case you ever wondered how Buddy Biancalana became so popular, Onix Concepcion may go down as the worst player ever to start a majority of the season for a World Series team. Conception hit just .204 with 8 extra base hits and an incredible 39 OPS+. He also committed at 21 errors at short in just 128 games.
- Charlie Leibrandt won 17 games and led the team with a 2.69 ERA while only striking out 4.1 batters per 9 innings. Perhaps more impressively, he threw 8 complete games including three shutouts. That was good enough for 5th in the Cy Young voting, behind two of his own teammates. Of course, Brett Saberhagen won the award, and Dan Quisenberry finished 4th.
- Coming into 1985 the Royals’ starting five had combined to win just 81 games in their career. They won 75 games in 1985 and by the end of their collective careers, they’d won 672.
- The Cardinals won their division more convincingly, but had their own struggles early. After a 13-2 loss in front of 4,817 fans in Pittsburgh, the Cards trailed by six games in their division. They finished 71-35 and led their division by three games or more for most of September.
- The Cardinals line up featured five switch hitters, and even less power than the Royals. Jack Clark led the team with 22 home runs, and no one else hit more than 13.
- By OPS+ standards, Clark was the best Cardinals hitter, but only by the slimmest of margins over speedster Willie McGee. McGee won the MVP with his .353 average, but judging by WAR it may have been one of the worst decisions in MVP history. Here’s a look at the top 5 MVP vote getters along with their WAR:
Willie McGee- 7.9
Dave Parker- 4.4
Pedro Guerrero- 3.0
Dwight Gooden- 13.0
Tom Herr- 5.3
- John Tudor had one of the best seasons ever for a pitcher that didn’t garner even one first place vote in the CY Young race. 21-8, 1.93 with 169 Ks and just 49 BBs in 275 innings. He threw 14 complete games and 10 shutouts (2 of them lasting 10 innings, both in September). Maybe his arm fell off in Game 7.
- Joaquin Andujar was even more overworked, leading the league with 1127 batters faced in 269 innings. He had an 11 inning outing! It’s no wonder he had an ERA of nearly 9 in the postseason.
- Todd Worrell appeared in only 17 games in the regular season but 7 of the 13 in the postseason.
- There were only four home runs hit in the entire World Series, two from each team. The Cardinals home runs came from Tito Landrum and Willie McGee. They combined to hit 92 home runs in nearly 9300 at bats.
- It’s been well chronicled that the Cardinals hit .185 for the entire seven game series, but even worse was their slugging % of .269. That is historically awful. Ozzie Smith led the way with two singles in 23 at bats. The amazing part? He didn’t strike out once! The Cardinals leading RBI man Tom Herr hit .154 with exactly zero RBI.
- Steve Balboni, after hitting .243 with 36 home runs in the regular season, hit .320 with 8 singles and zero extra base hits.
- The Cardinals stole 314 bases in the regular season, or nearly two per game. They stole two in the entire seven game series and were thrown out three times.
- Brett Saberhagen threw two complete games and allowed one run and one walk while striking out ten. He was one of only seven Royals pitchers to pitch in the Series; their five starters, Quiz and Joe Beckwith. Only Bud Black had an ERA above 2.76 in the Series.
That’s it for now, although if the Royals pitching continues its current trend I may not have much more to be optimistic about in a couple of weeks.