Baseball BeatNovember 24, 2004
Underappreciated? That's a Mora
By Rich Lederer

When the Quad hits your eye like a big-a pizza pie
That's a Mora
When the MVP voters don't treat you kind like they've had too much wine
That's a Mora

(With apologies to Dean Martin)

More than anything, putting together The 2004 Quad Leaders allowed me to appreciate just how well Melvin Mora performed last season. It's a shame the writers who voted for the Most Valuable Player Award failed to give him his proper due.

Mora was one of only three players in the American League to place in the top ten in all four of the Quad categories (on-base percentage, slugging average, times on base, and total bases). The other two players--Vladimir Guerrero and Manny Ramirez--finished first and third in the MVP balloting. Mora? Tied for 18th.

Only two of 28 writers even saw fit to vote for Mora. One writer listed the 32-year-old Venezuelan 8th and the other 9th. By comparison, all 28 voters had Guerrero and Ramirez on their ballots and nobody placed either player lower than fifth.

Did Guerrero and Ramirez really do that much better than Mora? Let's take a look.

             AVG     OBP     SLG     OPS    OPS+     
Guerrero    .337    .391    .598    .989    154
Ramirez     .308    .397    .613   1.009    152
Mora        .340    .419    .562    .989    149

I don't know about you, but I can't discern much of a difference in their rate stats. Mora had the highest batting average and on-base percentage, Ramirez had the best slugging average and on-base plus slugging average, and Guerrero had the number one on-base plus slugging normalized for both the park and the league.

Hmmm. It must have been something in their counting stats. Well, perhaps. All three players reached base essentially the same number of times but Guerrero and Ramirez outdistanced Mora in total bases by 57 and 39, respectively.

            TOB     TB
Guerrero    266    366
Ramirez     263    348
Mora        264    309

Let's call the rate stats even while giving a slight edge to Guerrero and Ramirez in counting stats. But is the difference enough to justify Vlad and Manny finishing 1st and 3rd in the voting and Mora T18th?

Mora, the father of three-year-old quintuplets, plays the most difficult position of the three although not all that well, I might add. However, Guerrero is no better than an average right fielder in spite of his strong arm and Ramirez is barely acceptable in left. Mora and Guerrero are faster and better baserunners than Ramirez.

Then what is it that the voters see that I don't see?

              W      L     PCT     PLACE
Anaheim      92     70    .568      1st
Boston       98     64    .605      2nd
Baltimore    78     84    .481      3rd

Ahh, Guerrero and Ramirez played on winning ballclubs while Mora, working on a three-year, $10.5 million contract, played on a losing team. A cynic might say that Vlad and Manny had the good fortune of playing for two owners who were willing to spend over $100 million on their team's payrolls. The Baltimore Orioles, on the other hand, spent just $51 million or about half the Angels and 40% of the Red Sox. Put a red uniform on the popular and versatile Mora and I gotta think he would have contended for MVP honors.

I'm not mocking the selection of Guerrero as the MVP nor am I questioning the fact that Ramirez placed third. Far from it. I actually had Guerrero and Ramirez in those exact same spots on my ballot for the Internet Baseball Writers Association Awards. If anything, I am guilty of underestimating Mora myself as I listed him eighth--as high as any voter from the Baseball Writers Association of America but lower than he deserved.

Not only did Mora get on base and drive runners around the bases with the best in the league, but he was arguably the most consistent player in all of baseball. Melvin's splits tell it all. He hit righties (.352/.419/.567) and lefties (.303/.418/.545). He hit at home (.356/.452/.605) and away (.327/.389/.525). He hit in the first half (.347/.433/.556) and second half (.333/.406/.567). He hit with nobody on base (.334/.409/.597) and with runners on base (.346/.430/.521). He even hit when batting second in the lineup (.354/.444/.594) and third (.331/.400/.541). No matter the situation, Mora flat out raked last year.

Unbeknownst to most, Mora actually had one of the better seasons among third basemen in the history of the game. As a point in fact, he is one of only 17 players at the hot corner to put up rate stats that were 20% better than the league average across the board.


                         YEAR   RCAP     AVG     OBA     SLG     OPS    
1    George Brett        1980     85     145     137     166     153   
2    Wade Boggs          1987     83     137     138     138     138   
3    George Brett        1985     74     128     133     144     139   
T4   Al Rosen            1953     73     124     122     154     139   
T4   Joe Torre           1971     73     140     129     146     138   
6    Wade Boggs          1988     66     141     147     125     135   
7    Ken Caminiti        1996     65     121     120     147     135   
8    Home Run Baker      1913     64     127     123     142     132   
9    Chipper Jones       2001     63     123     126     137     132   
10   Wade Boggs          1983     62     136     136     121     128   
T11  Melvin Mora         2004     55     126     124     129     127   
T11  Edgar Martinez      1992     55     132     123     141     133   
13   Minnie Minoso       1951     45     121     120     127     124   
14   Pete Rose           1976     43     123     123     120     121   
15   Harry Steinfeldt    1906     37     129     124     134     129   
16   Rogers Hornsby      1919     35     120     121     124     122   
17   Bill Madlock        1976     31     129     125     134     130

That's not a bad list. Of the ten players listed above Mora, four of them (George Brett, 1980; Al Rosen, Joe Torre, and Ken Caminiti) were MVPs in the year shown. The other six finished no worse than 12th (Wade Boggs, 1983). Even the players below Mora fared better than he did in the MVP voting, ranging from Minnie Minoso (who played more games at 3B than any other single position that year although he played more often in the OF than 3B) and Pete Rose, fourth, and Edgar Martinez, 12th. For the record, there was no MVP voting in 1906 (Harry Steinfeldt) or 1919 (Rogers Hornsby).

First in OBP. Second in AVG. Fourth in OPS+. Fifth in SLG and OPS. Who could that have been in 2004? That's a Mora.

[Additional reader comments and retorts at Baseball Primer.]


Nice article.... My best friend in years past was from the UK living in the USA for some 10 years when I met him. Being curious I would ask him what were the cultural and social differences between the countries. One of the comments he made which underscores your point and his was that the impression of us is: "Americans love a winner". Being an O's fan, maybe this year we can have both and MVP candidate and "a winner".

Good article, Rich. Here's a question though: do you think Mora was the MVP of even the Orioles?

Wow. Thanks for that, Rich. I had no idea just how nice a year that was.
By the way, if my math is right, it looks like Ron Santo had three seasons in which he just missed your list (Numbers are for BA/OBP/SLG/OPS): 1964 (116/122/142/133), 1966 (117/127/135/131), and 1967 (114/121/132/127).
That's a heck of a standard, and it's very impressive that Mora has hit it.

Nice article, I was just wondering where Beltre's '04 season would fit into that last chart out of curiosity.

Studes makes a valid point. Miguel Tejada had a fantastic season, too. Was Mora better than Tejada? By most measures, he was superior offensively. Mora had a higher batting, on-base, and slugging average than Tejada. He reached base a few more times but fell short of his teammate in total bases due to the fact that he had 89 fewer plate appearances. OPS, OPS+, RCAA give Mora a decided advantage.

That said, I recognize that Tejada played the more demanding position, and he played SS much better than Mora played 3B. Big advantage to Tejada.

Shake it all up and I think a case could be made for either Mora or Tejada as the Orioles' MVP in 2004.

Dahlia - Going across the columns, Beltre's 2004 season was as follows:

61 - 124 - 114 - 144 - 131

Beltre had a great season. He just happened to miss the cut-off for OBP. His outstanding season, however, was recognized by the voters as he placed second in the N.L. MVP.

Great article. I thought he had a good season, just I didn't realise it was that good!

For those readers who may want Mora background information on the Oriole third baseman, I recommend that you check out Jay Jaffe's Wall of Fame piece on the 2003 Futility Infielder of the Year.

How is it that Mike Schmidt never made the list? Like in 1981, for example, when his OPS+ was 1999, just a hair behind Brett's 201 in 1980.

Schmidt missed out in 1981 based on the fact that he only had 434 plate appearances owing to the strike-shortened season. I had set the minimum criteria at 502.

Had the criteria been relaxed to accommodate Schmidt's 1981 season, he would have qualified with the following #s across the board:

48 - 121 - 133 - 171 - 153

Schmidt's 48 RCAP projects to approximately 76 over a 162-game schedule. Mike's adjusted RCAP would rank third, his SLG first, and his OPS tied for first. Along with Brett in 1980, Michael Jack's 1981 season arguably ranks as one of the two best ever by a third baseman.

Schmidt, in my opinion, is the greatest third baseman of all time. I would rank Mathews, Brett, and Boggs directly behind him.


According to the Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia, Santo fell just short of 120% of the league BA in 1964, 1966, 1967, and 1972. Otherwise, he would have qualified across the board.

Here are how his numbers show up:

1964: 50 - 119 - 124 - 144 - 135
1966: 52 - 118 - 127 - 135 - 132
1967: 35 - 116 - 123 - 135 - 130
1972: 24 - 118 - 120 - 129 - 125

Normally, I wouldn't bring up defense, but in Mora's case, how many runs did he cost his team with the glove?

Trying to quantify the impact of a player's fielding isn't as clear cut as hitting, in my judgment. However, Baseball Prospectus, among others, has created a few defensive stats that measure the number of runs a fielder is above or below the average or replacement level player. In this regard, Mora was found to be -2 Fielding Runs Above Replacement and -15 Fielding Runs Above Average in 2004. His so-called Rate was 87, which means he was 13 runs below average per 100 games.

Based on Mora's raw fielding stats, I think it is safe to say that he was below-average defensively last year. However, in his defense (so to speak), Mora was only switched to 3B last spring despite having only played seven games at the hot corner in his entire career.

Prior to 2004, Mora had played mostly LF, CF, and SS. Based on BP's measures, Mora had been an above-average LF and an average CF and SS throughout his career. As a result, I wouldn't hold it against Mora that he was asked to play 3B for the O's out of need.

Mora hit well enough to be a LF and is unquestionably a much better defensive outfielder than Ramirez (who BP found to be 0 FRAR and -9 FRAA). Accordingly, I don't believe it is fair to ding Mora for more runs than Ramirez just because he plays a more demanding and important position.

I hope that helps.

Don't forget the two biggest things that Ramirez and Guerrero had going for them: hype and constant media attention throughout the season

Great article on Mora. Near the end of the season it occurred to me that ARod was about the 5th most productive 3rd baseman in baseball in 2004 - after Beltre, Rolen, Mora, and Castilla. On top of that a case could be made for the very comparable (to ARod, that is) Aramis Ramirez.

I wouldn't place Vinny Castilla in the top five third basemen for 2004. In fact, I wouldn't even include him in the top ten. I realize that he hit 35 HR and led the N.L. in RBI with 131. However, his stats benefited greatly by playing his home games at Coors Field (.321/.379/.575 vs. .218/.281/.493 on the road).

Based on Runs Created, the top five 3B last year were Beltre, Mora, Rolen, A-Rod, and Blalock. If you adjust for the ballpark effects, Huff replaces Blalock in the top five.

Win Shares, which factors in fielding and hitting with runners in scoring position, would change out Huff/Blalock for Lowell.

Runs Created, Runs Created Above Average, Runs Created Above Position, and Wins Shares Above Average all point to a top four of Beltre, Rolen, Mora, and A-Rod.

Huff, Blalock, and Lowell all had better years than Castilla, as did Ramirez and Chavez. I would even put Jones or Bell (whose OPS on the road was nearly .100 pts higher than Vinny's) in the top ten in front of Castilla.