In looking over the Heisman candidacy of Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor, I cannot help but think back to when Andre Dawson won the 1987 National League MVP award.
Dawson certainly had a good season in some respects. He belted 49 home runs and batted in 137 runs, both of which were league-leading totals. The majority of the voters figured power numbers of that caliber were enough to vault Dawson to the top of their ballot, but Bill James had a different viewpoint in his 1987 Baseball Abstract. He figured those statistics were the numerical equivalent of empty calories.
He started by pointing out that Dawson's overall statistics weren't really that impressive. His .287 batting average was just below the median mark among NL outfielders, as were most of his other offensive stats. James also showed how Dawson's numbers were inflated in large part because he played in Wrigley Field.
After poking a hole in the statistical balloon, James proceeded to rant against what he saw as the real reasons behind the nomination. Quoting the Abstract:
"So why did he win the MVP award? I know what some people will say. It wasn't Dawson's statistics, it was his leadership and throwing arm. People will say that, but you know it isn't. You don't give an MVP for 'leadership' on a last-place team. Half the time, the MVP award goes to the league leader in RBIs. That's not leadership; that's statistics. And if they really understood his statistics, they wouldn't have done it."
One could make an almost identical argument regarding the Heisman case for Pryor.
His numbers may look gaudy at first glance, but a closer look at them and the real reasons he is among the front-runners for the award show that Pryor may be the most overrated player in college football.