Rickey Awards – Leadoff Men 1980s

I was reading the Old STATS Baseball Scorecards and they had a leadoff Triple Crown. It consisted of On Base Average, Runs and Stolen Bases. This is logical as On Base Average relates to batting average, Runs relates to RBIs and stolen bases is like, but not as helpful to winning as home runs.

I wondered who would be the leaders every year, as non-leadoff hitters try to get on base and score runs. Some even try to steal bases. I developed a formula like Bill James did for the regular triple crown. As Bill did his study, he came up with 1,000 total points which is impossible to hit. I did the same:

On Base Average: Maximum 400 points. I award two points for every point above .300 and up to .500.

Runs. Maximum 300 points. I awarded 2 points for every run up to 150 runs.

Stolen Bases. I award 3 points for each stolen base up to 100.

I debated the number of points for stolen bases, but decided I wanted an advantage for actual lead off men. Also, there haven’t been many years someone exceeded 100 stolen bases.

After reading a few of these listings, a Bill James online a reader came up with the name Rickey awards after Rickey Henderson, the man many of us consider the greatest leadoff man in baseball history. So, I will periodically call these the Rickey Awards.

1980 AL

Here are the AL leaders for 1980:

1. Rickey Henderson Oak 762
2. Willie Wilson KC 617
3. Al Bumbry Bal 552
4. Willie Randolph NY 542
5. George Brett KC 527
6. Miguel Dilone Cle 497
7. Dwayne Murphy Oak 418
8. Cecil Cooper Mil 417
9. Mike Hargrove Clev 414
10. Rod Carew Cal 409
10. Toby Harrah Cle 409

What I learned:

Toby Harrah in 1980 to 1982 stole 46 bases in 52 attempts. I never thought of him as much of a base stealer.

Wow, Rickey Henderson dominated in his first full year. He maxed out in stolen bases, was third in on base percentage and finished “only” fourth in on base percentage.

Miguel Dilone who had a lifetime average of .265 and a lifetime on base average of .315 hit .341 in 1980. He qualified for the batting title. It was by far his greatest season for offence. He also had a career high in walks in 1980 with 28.

1980 NL

Here are the NL leaders for 1980:

1. Dave Collins Cinn 557
2. Ron LeFlore Mon 555
3. Gene Richards SD 491
4. Keith Hernandez StL 480
5. Omar Moreno Pitt 474
6. Cesar Cedeno Hou 464
7. Billy North SF 427
7. Lee Mazzilli NY 427
9. Andre Dawson Mon 410
10. Mike Schmidt Phil 404

Things I Learned:

Stolen bases were high in the National League in 1980. Mike Schmidt was 4th in on base percentage and second in runs and barely made the top 10.

Dave Collins pulled off a surprising victory over Ron LeFlore. The difference was in on base average. I guess that is why the Yankees were paid so much to get Collins a few years later.

1981 AL

Readers suggested I used lower figures for on base percentage, otherwise it would rate too highly compared with runs and stolen bases as the players wouldn’t have as many games to accumulate the same figures. So for on base percentage I multiplied the amount over .300 by 1.3 instead of 2. Here are the AL leaders for 1981:

1. Rickey Henderson Oak 486.4
2. Dwight Evans Bost 326.5
3. Julio Cruz Sea 284.6
4. Carny Lansford Bost 282.7
5. Toby Harrah Cle 270.6
6. Rod Carew Cal 266
7. Al Bumbry Bal 263.4
8. Mike Hargrove Clev 262.2
9. Willie Wilson KC 255.5
10. Steve Kemp Det 246.7

What I Learned:

No matter what I would have done to the formula Rickey would have won. He led the league in runs and stolen bases and was third in on base average. I think Henderson should have won the MVP that year. Fingers won because he had a low ERA, but I remember Rickey being the spark that year. I think Evans would also good choice, and you could argue for either one as they have the same WAR, but I would have voted for Rickey.

Rod Carew made the top 10 in all three categories, but he was 9th in on base average, in a 3-way tied for 10th in runs and a 4-way tied for 9th in stolen bases. OK he was in the top 12 in all three categories.

1981 NL

Here are the NL leaders for 1981:

1. Tim Raines Mon 453.3
2. Mike Schmidt Phil 367.5
3. Andre Dawson Mon 304.5
4. Keith Hernandez StL 297.3
5. Gary Mathews Phil 296.4
6. Pete Rose Phil 276.3
7. Dave Collins Cinn 275.5
8. Bill Madlock Pitt 270.9
9. Omar Moreno Pitt 265.7
10. Ken Griffey Cinn 257

What I Learned:

Tim Raines would have beaten Mike Schmidt even if I had used 2 instead of 1.3 in the on base average formula. Schmidt led the league in on base percentage and runs.

Philadelphia had 3 of the top 6 players.

Ken Griffey made it back on the list.

Bill Madlock made the list despite only scoring 35 runs.

1982 AL

Here are the AL leaders for the 1982 Rickey Award:

1. Rickey Henderson Oak 734
2. Paul Molitor Mil 527
3. Robin Yount Mil 458
4. Dwight Evans Bost 457
5. Toby Harrah Cle 447
6. Damaso Garcia Tor 416
7. Willie Wilson KC 415
8. Rod Carew Cal 398
9. Eddie Murray Bal 377
10. George Brett KC 376

What I Learned:

There are fewer power hitters on the leader board in the 80s. We had some very high individual totals in this era for stolen bases.

Rickey Henderson broke the stolen base record this year. He only got credited for 300 points in stolen bases.

Milwaukee not only had the second and third place finishers for the Rickey award, but had four of the top 10 leaders in runs scored. Gorman Thomas and Cecil Cooper were the other two.

John Wathan, a 32-year-old catcher tied for 5th in stolen bases.

Forgot to mention this earlier. Willie Wilson won the batting crown but didn’t make the top 10 in on base average. He was able to overcome this and make the top 10 in the Rickey standings.

1982 NL

Here are the NL leaders for the 1982 Rickey Award:

1. Lonnie Smith StL 606
2. Tim Raines Mon 520
3. Mike Schmidt Phil 464
4. Dale Murphy Atl 451
5. Leon Durham Chi 428
6. Andre Dawson Mon 417
7. Keith Hernandez StL 409
8. Joe Morgan Hou 408
9. Steve Sax LA 393
10. Mookie Wilson NY 382

What I learned:

The only power guy in the top 10 is Schmidt and he had a some speed. He was a better (according to Baseball Reference WAR) baserunner when he was younger.

Lonnie Smith was first in runs, second in stolen bases and eighth in on base average leading to victory. He beat Raines quite easily in runs and on base average.

Leon Durham surprised me as he stole 28 bases.

MVP Dale Murphy came in 4th as in did well in all three categories.

1983 AL

Here are the AL leaders for the 1983 Rickey Award:

1. Rickey Henderson Oak 738
2. Rudy Law Chi 501
3. Wade Boggs Bos 497
4. Lloyd Moseby Tor 441
5. Eddie Murray Bal 431
6. Alan Trammell Det 426
7. Robin Yount Mil 406
8. Willie Wilson KC 389
9. Cal Ripken Bal 384
10. Paul Molitor Mil 379

What I learned:

Boggs was number 1 in on base average and Henderson was number 2.

Baltimore had the only non-leadoff types in the top 10 with Murray and Ripken.

Rickey was over on stolen bases again.

1983 NL

Here are the NL leaders for the 1983 Rickey Award:

1. Tim Raines Mon 722
2. Dale Murphy Atl 538
3. Alan Wiggins SD 484
4. Lonnie Smith StL 457
5. Steve Sax LA 440
6. Jose Cruz Hou 430
7. Mike Schmidt Phil 427
8. Gary Redus Reds 401
9. Pedro Guerrero LA 389
10. Eddie Milner Cinn 377

What I Learned:

Tim Raines and Rickey Henderson had basically the same score in 1983.

I know Alan Wiggins had problems, but he could have been quite a player if he could have overcome them.

Raines had the same on base average as Murphy and scored two more runs. He had 60 stolen bases more than Murphy. Murphy had quite a year and it could be argued he deserved his MVP award.

1984 AL

Here are the AL leaders for the 1984 Rickey Award:

1. Rickey Henderson Oak 622
2. Brett Butler Clev 494
3. Lloyd Moseby Tor 447
4. Eddie Murray Bal 444
5. Wade Boggs Bos 441
6. Dwight Evans Bost 427
7. Dave Winfield NY 416
7. Dave Collins* Tor 416
9. Willie Wilson KC 403
10. Kirk Gibson Det 397

What I Learned:

Dave Collins didn’t have the required plate appearances, so I recalculated his on base average with him having the required amount and not getting on base in the additional appearances. I usually erase that asterisk but forgot to this time.

Kirk Gibson beat Alan Trammel by 6 points to make the top 10. If I was Sparky, I would have limited the running game in the second half of the season that year.

Eddie Murray actually finished in front of Boggs in on base percentage. Henderson in third. Boggs and Henderson had lower on base averages than they normally had in this time period.

1984 NL

Here are the NL leaders for the 1984 Rickey Award:

1. Tim Raines Mon 623
2. Alan Wiggins SD 506
3. Tony Gwynn SD 495
4. Gary Matthews Chi 473
5. Ryne Sandberg Chi 458
6. Juan Samuel Phil 440
7. Bob Dernier Chi 435
8. Von Hayes Phil 432
9. Jose Cruz Hou 420
10. Lonnie Smith StL 402

What I Learned:

Tim Raines scored one more point than Rickey Henderson, which means they both had the same type of season.

Both the division winners (San Diego and Chicago) had the top two hitters in their lineups in the top 10 of the Rickey award.

1985 AL

Here are the AL leaders for the 1985 Rickey Award:

1. Rickey Henderson NY 770
2. Wade Boggs Bos 520
3. George Brett KC 515
4. Brett Butler Clev 507
5. Toby Harrah Tex 427
6. Kirk Gibson Det 410
7. Eddie Murray Bal 403
8. Dwight Evans Bost 397
9. Gary Pettis Cal 396
10. Lloyd Moseby Tor 385

What I Learned:

I already knew this, but Rickey had a super year. Boggs and Brett also had outstanding seasons, but not as much in the leadoff categories.

Gary Pettis finished 9th so he made some offensive contribution. When he played I thought he was all defense.

1985 NL

Here are the NL leaders for the 1985 Rickey Award:

1. Tim Raines Mon 650
2. Willie McGee StL 564
3. Vince Coleman StL 554
4. Ryne Sandberg Chi 516
5. Pedro Guerrero LA 478
6. Tommy Herr StL 445
7. Dale Murphy Atl 442
8. Juan Samuel Phil 367
9. Eddie Milner Cinn 353
10. Keith Hernandez NY 351

What I Learned:

Willie McGee earned his MVP according to WAR. At least for position players, Gooden could have been easily voted MVP. I would have voted for Gooden.

Vince Coleman maxed out in stolen bases causing him some points. He could have passed McGee in that case, but not Raines.

Juan Samuel made the top 10 despite an on base average of .303 earning 6 total points in the category.

Mike Schmidt in his last full season finished 10th in on base average and in runs.

Davey Lopes had 47 stolen bases in 51 attempts at the age of 40. This was the year he looked slow except he knew when to steal bases and had enough speed to make it. Sandberg had 54 that year (out of 65 attempts). By far the most in his career. I wonder how much coaching on base running Lopes did that year.

1986 AL

Here are the AL leaders for the 1986 Rickey Award:

1. Rickey Henderson NY 637
2. Wade Boggs Bos 520
3. Phil Bradley Sea 449
4. Kirby Puckett Minn 430
5. Don Mattingly NY 422
6. Gary Pettis Cal 414
7. Kirk Gibson Det 412
8. Brett Butler Clev 392
9. Oddibe McDowell Tex 391
10. Willie Randolph NY 383
10. Alan Trammell Det 383

What I Learned:

Rickey Henderson had another easy victory despite not being in the top 10 in on base percentage.

I always thought Oddibe McDowell had all the tools to be an all-star player. After all he had 18 home runs and scored 105 runs at the age of 23. He also looked good in the field which WAR verifies as he was fast. It wouldn’t take much improvement to become an all-star type player. It didn’t happen for some reason.

1986 NL

Here are the NL leaders for the 1986 Rickey Award:

1. Tim Raines Mon 618
2. Eric Davis Cinn 568
3. Vince Coleman StL 490
4. Tony Gwynn SD 487
5. Steve Sax LA 482
6. Bill Doran Hou 446
7. Von Hayes Phil 444
8. Keith Hernandez NY 420
9. Lenny Dykstra NY 397
10. Mitch Webster Mon 396

What I Learned:

Steve Sax had a great season and tied Tim Raines in runs. But was outperformed by Raines in stolen bases and on base average by quite a bit.

Von Hayes had better seasons in Philadelphia then I remembered or what I thought at the time.

The champion Mets had 8th and 9th place.

Vince Coleman had an on base percentage of .301. He had over 100 stolen bases so lost a few points because he went over. He still wouldn’t have caught Davis must less Raines.

1987 AL

Here are the AL leaders for the 1987 Rickey Award:

1. Paul Molitor Mil 639
2. Wade Boggs Bos 541
3. Phil Bradley Sea 496
4. Alan Trammell Det 485
5. Brett Butler Clev 479
6. Dwight Evans Bost 464
7. Willie Randolph NY 447
8. Julio Franco Clev 446
9. Lloyd Moseby Tor 445
10. Kevin Seilzer KC 444

What I Learned:

Rickey Henderson played only 95 games. He scored 421 points, still not enough for the top 10. You can tell the offense increased in 1987, just look at the scores.

Poor Wade Boggs, Rickey is hurt and Paul Molitor has a Rickey like season, so it is the third straight year in 2nd place for Boggs.

Phil Bradley missed the top 10 in runs scored and on base percentage by the narrowest of margins, but stole enough bases for 3rd place.

1987 NL

Here are the NL leaders for the 1987 Rickey Award:

1. Tony Gwynn SD 700
2. Vince Coleman StL 668
3. Tim Raines Mon 654
4. Eric Davis Cinn 588
5. Ozzie Smith StL 521
6. Darryl Strawberry NY 520
7. Dale Murphy Atl 512
8. Jack ClarK StL 507
9. Billy Hatcher Hou 455
10. Pedro Guerrero LA 437

What I Learned:

What a year for leadoff men in the NL. Tim Raines had a great season and came in third. Gwynn came in second in on base average and stole 6 more bases than Raines to take the victory. Coleman maxed out in stolen bases and had a decent on base average for second.

Both Eric Davis and Daryl Strawberry were in the top 10 in all three categories. It was more than just a power year.

1988 AL

Here are the AL leaders for the 1988 Rickey Award:

1. Rickey Henderson NY 703
2. Wade Boggs Bos 614
3. Jose Canseco Oak 542
4. Paul Molitor Mil 521
5. Mike Greenwall Bos 452
6. Dave Winfield NY 415
7. George Brett KC 400
8. Kevin Seilzer KC 386
8. Kirby Puckett Minn 386
10. Fred McGriff Tor 370

What I Learned:

Jose Conseco had quite a year with 42 home runs and 40 stolen bases. He beat Paul Molitor who had a real good lead off statistics.

Rickey again used stolen bases to produce an easy win.

1988 NL

Here are the NL leaders for the 1988 Rickey Award:

1. Brett Butler SF 533
2. Kal Daniels Cinn 465
3. Kirk Gibson LA 459
4. Ozzie Smith StL 431
5. Vince Coleman StL 423
6. Gerald Young Hou 421
6. Darryl Strawberry NY 421
8. Will Clark SF 403
9. Barry Larkin Cinn 396
10. Eric Davis Cinn 393

What I Learned:

This was a strange year, as the best leadoff men had off years. Gwynn was hurt for a while, Raines missed more than 50 games. Vince Coleman went below 100 stolen bases and his on base average dropped to 313. Future superstar Barry Bonds had an off year in stolen bases. Not only did he steal only 17 bases but was caught 11 times. Very unusual for him at the time. I am guessing he had some sort of injury.

However, the top 3 had solid years and Butler deserved his victory. He was 2nd in on base average and first in runs scored. He stole enough bases to make this a fairly victory. Kal Daniels led the league in on base average. Kirk Gibson came into the new league and was fourth in on base average and second in runs scored while stealing a nice total of 31 bases. I can see why the MVP voters were impressed.

1989 AL

Here are the AL leaders for the 1989 Rickey Award:

1. Rickey Henderson NY-Oak 679
2. Wade Boggs Bos 492
3. Carny Lansford Oak 469
4. Steve Sax NY 433
4. Gary Pettis Cal 433
6. Robin Yount Mil 427
7. Alvin Davis Sea 416
8. Fred McGriff Tor 415
9. Paul Molitor Mil 407
10. Julio Franco Tex 395

What I Learned:

The decade ends with another easy victory for Rickey and another second-place finish for Boggs.

I had forgotten that Steve Sax had played for the Yankees. He had a good first year with the Yankees. I looked at his career. Sax had a few good years, mixed with a more years at slightly below average for WAR. He ended his career with an average WAA.

1989 NL

Here are the NL leaders for the 1989 Rickey Award:

1. Lonnie Smith Atl 483
2. Howard Johnson NY 469
3. Tim Raines Mon 465
4. Tony Gwynn SD 462
5. Will Clark SF 446
6. Von Hayes Phil 422
7. Vince Coleman StL 415
8. Mark Grace Chi 400
9. Brett Butler SF 391
10. Jack Clark SD 390
10. Barry Bonds Pitt 390

What I Learned:

The top two were surprises to me. Lonnie Smith won 7 years apart, as he won in 1982 earlier. That might be the record. I didn’t ever expect to see Howard Johnson in 2nd.

Raines had a minor comeback with a third-place finish.

Barry Bonds first year in the top 10, a tie for 10th. Not a spectacular debut. I am sure he will do better in the 90s.

Top 10 AL 1980s

  1. Rickey Henderson 108
  2. Wade Boggs 64
  3. Paul Molitor 32
  4. Dwight Evans 30
  5. Brett Butler 26
  6. Willie Wilson 21
  7. George Brett 19
  8. Eddie Murray 19
  9. Lloyd Moseby 18
  10. Robin Yount 17

What I Learned:

Rickey Henderson and Wade Boggs had so many points that it was hard for anyone else to score that many points. However, there are a total of 6 hall-of-famers on the list, led by Henderson and Boggs. Paul Molitor was an excellent lead off man when he wasn’t hurt. Brett, Murray and Yount weren’t leadoff men and leadoff categories weren’t their great strength. However, they hit well enough to come in the top 10 for the decade.

For the non-hall-of-famers, Dwight Evans was like Brett, Murray and Yount, except he walked more. This gave him an excellent on base percentage which is why he finished fourth in the decade. He helped strengthen his hall-of-fame argument. Brett Butler was an excellent leadoff man. He would have done better here except he finished the 80s in the National League. Willie Wilson was fast enough to score a lot of runs and steal a lot of bases to come in the top 10 every year in the first half of the decade, so he made the top 10 here. Lloyd Moseby was a solid leadoff man who squeezed into the top 10.

Top 10 NL 1980s

  1. Tim Raines 86
  2. Vince Coleman 36
  3. Tony Gwynn 34
  4. Lonnie Smith 32
  5. Dale Murphy 25
  6. Mike Schmidt 23
  7. Keith Hernandez 22
  8. Alan Wiggins 18
  9. Eric Davis 18
  10. Dave Collins 16

What I Learned:

Tim Raines won easily. Coleman was a better base stealer but was poor in on base average. Surprising there are only 3 hall-of-famers, with Gwynn and Schmidt being the other two. Gwynn was a high average hitter who stole a good number of stolen bases. Schmidt was a power hitter who had an excellent on base average.

Vince Coleman was the fastest player I ever seen stealing bases. He stole 100 three years in a row. However, as I mention above, he was poor in on base average. He did better in the couple of years he was average in on base average. Lonnie Smith had drug problems and spent half the decade in the American League. Dale Murphy looked like a hall of famer who faded fast. Like Schmidt he was a power hitter. He wasn’t as strong in on-base-average as Schmidt but stole more bases. Keith Hernandez who was a smart high average hitter, who did a everything well with the bat. Alan Wiggins had two really good seasons as a leadoff hitter. Eric Davis to me always had a lot of potential but was hurt by a lack of playing time when he was young and injuries his whole career. Dave Collins was a solid leadoff man who had one outstanding year at the beginning of his career.

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