Kansas City Royals: Appreciating Kevin Appier’s amazing 1993 season

Pitcher Kevin Appier of the Kansas City Royals - Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn /Allsport
Pitcher Kevin Appier of the Kansas City Royals - Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn /Allsport /
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Designated hitter Frank Thomas #35 of the Chicago White Sox (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Designated hitter Frank Thomas #35 of the Chicago White Sox (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The Most Valuable Player Award and the Cy Young Award have an interesting relationship. Despite what some may think, the Cy Young Award was not created to be the “Pitchers’ MVP.” No, pitchers can still win the MVP Award. It just rarely happens.

The Cy Young Award wasn’t introduced until 1956, right after the death of Denton True “Cyclone” Young–Cy Young for short. For the first 11 years of its existence, only one Cy Young Award was awarded between the two leagues despite that never having been the case for the MVP Award since its inception in 1911.

In 1956, the Major League Cy Young Award winner was Don Newcombe of the Brooklyn Dodgers. He also won the National League Most Valuable Player Award.

Since then, only 10 pitchers have won an MVP Award. But it still happens and happened as recently as 2014 when Clayton Kershaw won the NL MVP with the Dodgers. Before that, it happened in 2011 when Justin Verlander of the Tigers won the AL MVP.

Before Verlander, the last time a pitcher in either league had won an MVP was in 1992.

So it’s not out of the realm of possibility to state that not only was Kevin Appier robbed of the 1993 American Cy Young Award, but also he was robbed of the 1993 American League MVP Award.

In 1993, Frank Thomas of the White Sox captured his first of back-to-back American League MVP Awards. And he had a pretty good season, no doubt about it.

The Big Hurt didn’t lead the league in any offensive categories but slashed a healthy .317/.426/.607 for an OPS of 1.033, which was 77% above league average. He bashed 41 homers to go with 36 doubles, scored 106 runs, and drove in 128 runs. He also walked dang near twice as much as he struck out.

For some reason, he won the MVP Award with ease, receiving all 28 first-place votes. He was worth 6.2 wins above replacement, which is excellent, but was also 10th among the 26 players who received some recognition for the MVP that year, and 15th among all Major League hitters.

His win probability added came out to 6.3, tops in the AL.

Appier’s numbers, when looked at together, top Thomas’. But Appier finished tied for 24th in MVP voting that year with two other Royals finishing ahead of him. Overall, Appier finished with 9.3 WAR, which led the American League and was over 3 WAR more than Thomas; and he finished with 6.2 WPA, right behind Thomas.

Why was Appier hardly considered for the American League MVP Award, then?

Well, one, he was a pitcher, and it seems that a pitcher can only win the MVP Award if he has a historic season. And I mean historic, like one look at it and it’s a no-brainer. When you have to dig, when you have to analyze, that doesn’t get the job done. Not meaning that’s right, but that’s the way it is.

Two other reasons, and they’re both reasons why he finished third in the Cy Young voting: pitcher wins, and team wins. He didn’t reach 20 wins and his team finished well back of division champion.

In hindsight, we can much better appreciate Appier’s outstanding 1993. But it’s still a shame that those who voted upon the awards in 1993 didn’t give him his due credit.