People have had pretty hot takes on Rick Porcello winning the American League Award over Justin Verlander, namely, Verlander’s fiancée Kate Upton. There has also been past controversy over Mike Trout failing to win MVPs in the past, although voters finally rewarded him this year.
There have always been controversies over awards, or worthy players overlooked because they didn't put up the right stats. Here are some times when the voters got it wrong and cost a Royals player an award.
George Brett - MVP, 1985
The big miscarriage isn’t that Brett didn’t win, it is that Don Mattingly of the Yankees did win with his flashy 145 RBI. What voters couldn't wrap their heads around was that Mattingly was driving home Rickey Henderson, who led the league with 146 runs scored. Henderson was a sensational 9.9 WAR that year, leading the league with 80 steals and in all honesty, should have been that year's MVP.
But George Brett was pretty damn good that year as well, finishing third in WAR behind Henderson and Boston's Wade Boggs. The Yankees won 97 games with Henderson and Mattingly, but narrowly missed the playoffs. Meanwhile, George Brett was pretty much a one-man show, dragging the Royals to 91 wins and the division title. He was one of just three hitters in the Royals lineup with an OPS+ over 100. Opponents certainly recognized he was a one-man show, intentionally walking him 31 times, the most any player had drawn in baseball in 15 years.
Brett hit .335/.436/.585 with 30 HR 112 RBI, leading the league in slugging percentage, OPS, OPS+, and finishing second in the batting title. He was fifth in RBI, second in on-base percentage, fifth in doubles, second in total bases, and led the league in Runs Created, Adjusted Batting Runs, and Adjusted Batting Wins. He was American League Player of the Month for both May and July, which doesn't even recognize his August, when he hit .365/.458/.708.
Now I know that Rickey Henderson or Wade Boggs shouldn't be penalized just for having good teammates, or that Brett shouldn't get a bump for playing in a much weaker division. But if you do buy into the "who was more valuable to their team" argument, Brett should probably win the award. I think Henderson was the most valuable player that year, but Brett was certainly more valuable to his team than Don Mattingly was to the Yankees.
Kevin Seitzer - Rookie of the Year, 1987
No one had reached the 50 home run plateau since George Foster in 1977, so when a rookie named Mark McGwire wowed everyone with 49 home runs in 1987, it pretty much sealed up the Rookie of the Year vote. However, 1987 was the year of the "juiced ball" with home run rates going up 15% that year, to the highest rate in baseball history up to that point. Random guys like Matt Nokes, Brooks Jacoby, and Larry Sheets all smacked 30 home runs that season suggesting the ball was doing funny things.
So perhaps McGwire's season should not have been as impressive as the season third baseman Kevin Seitzer had for the Royals. Seitzer led the league in hits and posted a .399 on-base percentage, nearly 30 points higher than McGwire's. He benefited from the juiced ball too - his 15 home runs that year would be a career high. But he bested McGwire in WAR 5.5 to 5.1, even edging him in Offensive WAR 5.8 to 5.7. McGwire would be a unanimous selection with Seitzer finishing second, but Seitz was arguably the better rookie that year.
Frank White - Gold Glove, 1988
The selection of Harold Reynolds over Frank White is still a bit of a head-scratcher, and it darn near caused a riot among Kansas City fans. Frank was an eight-time Gold Glove winner by 1988, having won the award the previous two seasons. He was 37 years old at the time, and perhaps the 27-year old Reynolds was seen as the up-and-comer.
But White had done little to show it was time to pass the torch in 1988. By Defensive WAR, he easily outpaced Reynolds 1.3 to Harold's 0.3. The metrics show Frank hadn't lost a step - he still fared better than Reynolds in Range Factor per-nine-innings. Even by the stats of the day - fielding percentage - Frank White ran circles around Harold Reynolds. Reynolds committed 18 errors that year for a fielding percentage of .977, while Frank White committed a total of four errors - four! - for a fielding percentage of .994. Frank certainly doesn't need a ninth Gold Glove to validate he was a sensational defender, but he really deserved that ninth Gold Glove.
Tom Gordon - Rookie of the Year, 1989
Tom "Flash" Gordon exploded onto the scene so quickly, the Royals weren't quite sure what Gordon's role would be in 1989. He began the year in the bullpen. By mid-July, he had already collected ten wins in relief, and was put into the starting rotation. He struck out ten in eight innings in his first start, then tossed a three-hit complete game shutout a few starts later. In his first eight starts, he posted a 1.95 ERA. He was 16-4 with about five weeks remaining in the season, a very good bet to win 20 games and Rookie of the Year.
Then Flash hit a wall. He dropped five decisions in a row, and had a 7.30 ERA over his last eight starts, likely costing him the Rookie of the Year Award. However, he still had a better season than eventual winner Gregg Olson, a closer for the surprising Orioles. Olson was part of the "Baby Birds" that turned around a 100-loss team into a contender in 1989. He had 27 saves with a 1.69 ERA, but Gordon had been a more valuable player in both a starting and relieving role, edging Olson in WAR 3.4 to 3.3. Gordon pitched 163 innings that year, striking out 153, with a 3.69 ERA and a 3.28 FIP.
Ultimately, Gordon would finish second to Olson, but it would be the rookie who finished third - Ken Griffey Jr. - who would become a bigger star than either of them.
Kevin Appier - Rookie of the Year, 1990
I don't remember much being made of it at the time, but Kevin Appier was really screwed out of the Rookie of the Year Award in 1990. The narratives were all on Sandy Alomar, Jr.'s side at the time. He had been a top prospect for years, had the bloodlines of being the son of a big leaguer and the brother of a big leaguer, he was Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year the previous season, and started the All-Star Game as the leading vote-getter at the catcher position.
Alomar had a fine season - he hit .290/.326/.418 with 9 HR 66 RBI, winning a Gold Glove. But by WAR, Kevin Appier easily outpaced him, with 5.3 WAR to Alomar's 2.3. Appier didn't join the Royals until late April and didn't join the rotation until June. He still won 12 games with a 2.76 ERA, good for fourth in the league. He finished third in shutouts, and was fifth among all American League pitchers in WAR. It was just the beginning of Appier being a criminally overlooked pitcher in his career.
Kevin Appier - Cy Young, 1993
Not content to screw Appier over in Rookie of the Year, voters really screwed him over three years later for the Cy Young. Ape got off to a bit of a shaky start, but after mid-June, he was dominant, posting a 1.56 ERA over his last 20 starts, ending at 2.56 to lead the league. His 2.90 FIP also led the league, and he allowed just eight home runs, the best home run rate in the league. He was top ten in innings pitched, strikeouts, complete games, and second in WHIP. He even had a nice win total, winning 18 games for a very mediocre Royals club.
But he lost out to Jack McDowell of the White Sox, who had an ERA 0.81 runs higher than Appier's, but had a gaudy win total of 22. It was the second consecutive year McDowell had won 20 games, and perhaps voters felt bad they overlooked him in 1992 in favor of a reliever, Dennis Eckersley, so they rewarded his 1993 performance. Appier actually finished third, also falling behind Randy Johnson of the Mariners, who struck out 308 that year, but also had an ERA significantly higher than Appier's at 3.24.
Kevin Appier had 9.2 WAR that year, more than anyone in the American League, even more than MVP Frank Thomas or even Ken Griffey Jr, who led all AL position players with 8.7 WAR. The Big Unit had 6.3 WAR that year, and Black Jack McDowell had a mere 4.3. Voters didn't have WAR to help them back then, but the dominating ERA should have given Appier the Cy Young in 1993.
Lorenzo Cain - Gold Glove, 2014
This one still baffles me. Not only did Lorenzo Cain lap the field in nearly every defensive metric, he was widely acknowledged as one of the best defenders in baseball. Teammate Alex Gordon was the only American League outfielder who topped Lorenzo Cain in Defensive Runs Saved, Range Runs, and Ultimate Zone Rating. The Royals pretty much rode their defensive prowess to an unlikely pennant, with Cain's spectacular grabs making highlight reels on a weekly basis.
But what hurt Cain is that he started 29 games in right field and would frequently move to right field late in games to make way for Jarrod Dyson. Dyson was not as experienced in right field as Cain, so Cain was the one to move over to cover the deficiencies of Nori Aoki. However some voters may have seen that as a repudiation of Cain's defense, and with the award now given out to three separate positions - left-, center-, and right-field - Cain's chances were damaged considerably. Voters decided to give the centerfield award to Baltimore's Adam Jones, who was very good, but behind Cain in virtually every defensive metric. What is remarkably stupid is that even to this day, Lorenzo Cain, widely acknowledged as one of the best defenders in the game, has never won a Gold Glove.
Honorable mention: Dan Quisenberry probably shouldn't have won the 1983 Cy Young Award, but he had a much better season than winner LaMarr Hoyt, besting his WAR 5.5 to 3.7. While Hoyt had a gaudy win total, his ERA was subpar while Quisenberry was a dominating reliever with a 1.94 ERA, 45 saves, and just eleven walks in 139 innings.