Pittsburgh Pirates: Best Individual Seasons That Didn't Win Awards

Milwaukee Brewers v Pittsburgh Pirates
Milwaukee Brewers v Pittsburgh Pirates / Justin K. Aller/GettyImages
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1971 Willie Stargell

Willie Stargell is one of, if not the best hitter in the franchise’s history. Stargell took home just one MVP award in his storied career, and it wasn’t even close to the best season of his career. If you had to choose a season in which Stargell was at his peak, it would be 1971.

During that year, the left fielder batted .295/.398/.628 with a .445 wOBA, and 186 wRC+. Stargell’s 25.4% strikeout rate was terrible for the time, but he drew walks at a 13.7% rate. Stargell is of course known for his massive power, and he hit a career-best 48 home runs this season. His .333 isolated slugging percentage was the second-best of his long career. Stargell was never known for his defensive prowess, but he held his own in left field this season, owing +3 total zone runs and about average remarks for range factor per-9 innings and range factor per game.

Stargell lost to Joe Torre during MVP voting this season. Torre was a good hitter who batted .338/.421/.555 with 24 home runs. Though in terms of a rate basis, Stargell was the better hitter. Torre had a lower OPS, a wOBA of .429, and wRC+ of 173. His numbers at the dish were good but not as good as Stargell's. Not to mention Torre had terrible numbers at third base with -25 total zone runs, and below average range factor. If it were modern times, Torre likely would have finished behind Stargell.

Still, Stargell’s 1971 season is one of the best in Pirates’ history. It ranks second in wRC+, fifth in wOBA, eighth in OPS, third in home run total, and fourth in fWAR at +8.2. This was before an era of silver sluggers, and he certainly would have won the award had it existed at the time. But it’s one of the best seasons in baseball history to not take the MVP.

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