Career Home Runs and MVP Awards Shares

January 29, 2018
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     The Hall of Fame credentials of Andruw Jones have lately been a topic of some discussion. Bill has written extensively about the issue, viewing the claims of Jones’ WAR-based advocates with a fair share of skepticism. In the way that these issues sometimes get polarized, the debate has devolved into "Andruw was clearly the greatest defensive outfielder of all time" versus "Andruw’s legendary defense is overrated." The truth likely lies somewhere in between.

     Recently I investigated the topic of Andruw’s MVP vote totals. My idea was to verify my understanding that Andruw had not received very much recognition in his career, as an MVP candidate. Having looked at the issue, I think there is reason to believe that that is true. His MVP numbers are not consistent with what one would usually call "one of the best players in baseball," the basic standard for Hall of Fame inclusion. 

      When I went to check Andruw’s record, I was confronted with two basic facts, and unhelpfully, they pointed in opposite directions. The first fact was Andruw’s Awards Share total, which at 1.10 was noticeably modest. On the other hand, it had not really entered my consciousness that Andruw had hit as many as 434 home runs in his career. 

     434 home runs is quite a heap of bombs. Andruw had his monster year in 2005, of course, when he led the major leagues with 51 swats -- in my head, that year was more of an outlier than it was in reality. He did, after all, have other years in which he hit 41, 36 (twice), 35, 34 (twice), and 33 home runs. Andruw was more of a consistent slugger than I had realized. 

     In a certain sense, one could say that this information settles the debate in favor of Andruw. If you have a guy hitting 434 home runs who is also widely regarded as a supreme outfield defender, well, that’s a very solid resume for the Hall of Fame. 

     The low MVP tallies nagged at me, however. The 434 home runs placed Andruw at the 47th slot all-time, while his Career Awards Share clocked in as the 233rd most impressive total all-time. Andruw never won an MVP award -- he finished 2nd in the NL vote of 2005 and never finished higher than 8th apart from that one year. 

     It occurred to me to ask, how many players who rank ahead of him on the all-time HR chart had weaker showings in MVP voting? My guess was pretty darn few. 

     That guess was certainly correct, but whether that is a true argument to be marshaled against Andruw as a Hall of Fame candidate is for others to decide. The real purpose of this article is to investigate the all-time HR list with an eye to the Career Awards Share tallies of each person in the top 50. It’s interesting information. 

     Here are the top 50 HR hitters of all time, with Career Awards Share info included: 

HR Rank

Player

Career HR total

Career Awards Share

Lower than Andruw?

1

Barry Bonds

762

9.30

 

2

Hank Aaron

755

5.45

 

3

Babe Ruth

714

1.83

 

4

Alex Rodriguez

696

5.23

 

5

Willie Mays

660

5.94

 

6

Ken Griffey, Jr.

630

3.20

 

7

Albert Pujols

614

6.91

 

8

Jim Thome

612

1.22

 

9

Sammy Sosa

609

2.46

 

10

Frank Robinson

586

4.84

 

11

Mark McGwire

583

1.94

 

12

Harmon Killebrew

573

3.23

 

13

Rafael Palmeiro

569

1.20

 

14

Reggie Jackson

563

3.28

 

15

Manny Ramirez

555

3.06

 

16

Mike Schmidt

548

4.96

 

17

David Ortiz

541

2.95

 

18

Mickey Mantle

536

5.79

 

19

Jimmie Foxx

534

4.22

 

20

Willie McCovey

521

1.63

 
 

Frank Thomas

521

4.79

 
 

Ted Williams

521

6.43

 

23

Ernie Banks

512

2.83

 
 

Eddie Mathews

512

1.61

 

25

Mel Ott

511

2.87

 

26

Gary Sheffield

509

2.48

 

27

Eddie Murray

504

3.33

 

28

Lou Gehrig

493

5.45

 
 

Fred McGriff

493

1.41

 

30

Stan Musial

475

6.96

 
 

Willie Stargell

475

3.30

 

32

Carlos Delgado

473

1.56

 

33

Chipper Jones

468

2.42

 

34

Dave Winfield

465

2.20

 

35

Adrián Beltré

462

2.27

 
 

Miguel Cabrera

462

4.68

 
 

José Canseco

462

1.53

 
 

Adam Dunn

462

0.03

YES

39

Carl Yastrzemski

452

2.23

 

40

Jeff Bagwell

449

2.89

 
 

Vladimir Guerrero

449

2.94

 

42

Dave Kingman

442

0.26

YES

43

Jason Giambi

440

2.19

 

44

Paul Konerko

439

0.72

YES

45

Andre Dawson

438

2.36

 

46

Carlos Beltrán

435

0.76

YES

47

Juan González

434

2.76

 
 

Andruw Jones

434

1.10

N/A

49

Cal Ripken, Jr.

431

2.31

 

50

Mike Piazza

427

3.16

 

 

Andruw’s Career Awards Share total is a little low for a player who should, as some argue, be ushered into the Hall of Fame. The only players in the top 50 with a weaker performance in the MVP votes are Adam Dunn, Dave Kingman, Paul Konerko, and Carlos Beltran. Of that group, the only one who has a reasonable argument for the Hall of Fame is Beltran. 

I must say it was highly interesting to learn that Beltran’s MVP tallies have been so unimpressive. I don’t know why Beltran had such difficulty getting votes in MVP balloting. As a center fielder with considerable defensive value as well as some speed and power, it seems to me that Beltran is the most comparable player to Andruw on the list. 

I don’t have any big conclusion to draw here. We all have perceptions about career value and peak value, consistency and excellence, superstars and compilers, multi-faceted players and players with a narrow skill spectrum. This chart speaks to those perceptions. 

 

In no particular order, a few observations: 

* An obvious point, but Bonds’ total there is just staggering. Bonds has become a kind of unmentionable persona in the Hall of Fame debate and that has tended to obscure his credentials. The man won the MVP Award 7 times. It’s proper for someone to say that every now and again. 

* How many people do you suppose are aware that Albert Pujols has the third most impressive MVP Awards Share in baseball history? Obviously, he has a hypothetical chance of passing Musial to hit #2 all-time, but at this stage it would be unwise to wager that Pujols will be getting any MVP votes before his career is over -- wouldn’t it? On a lower level, Miguel Cabrera’s total jumped out as me as a bit more impressive than I would have expected before checking it.

 * The low total of Ruth is interesting. It would be tempting to explain that by reference to how early Ruth’s career took place, but the strong total of his obvious contemporary Lou Gehrig causes one to question that assumption. Does anyone know why Ruth’s MVP tallies are so low? Were multiple winners disallowed in his era? Did Gehrig’s numbers spike because he was always finishing lower than first? 

* The relatively weak showing of Willie McCovey parallels something I have always perceived, which is that McCovey had a somewhat recessive image as a great player. If you somehow could rank players by "number of words written about," McCovey would finish way, way behind a lot of his peers, such as Cal Ripken, for instance. 

* On November 23, 2017, Bill tweeted his view that Jim Thome is an obvious Hall of Fame candidate. As we all learned recently, Thome now is in the Hall of Fame, but his MVP performance was strikingly weak for someone who hit 612 home runs. That figure may be a tribute to his consistency, but ordinarily we would look at it as a negative showing.

 * A moment of true respect for Adam Dunn, who managed to swat 462 dingers without anyone ever buying into the idea that he might be one of baseball’s most prized performers. 

 

 
 
 

COMMENTS (27 Comments, most recent shown first)

MarisFan61
....back in the day, a letter in SPORT Magazine asked if Mike McCormick (pitcher of the Giants), Mike McCormack (lineman of the Cleveland Browns), and Mike McCormick (old outfielder on the Reds and other teams) were related.
Answer: No, just 3 guys named Mike.
4:54 PM Feb 9th
 
MarisFan61
(BTW, are Marc and Martin related?)
4:50 PM Feb 9th
 
Marc Schneider
Actually, I don't think there is anything particularly complicated about Andruw's lack of MVP votes or HOF votes for that matter. First, I agree with Marisfan 61 that his home run numbers, except for two years, weren't that impressive in the context of the era. This has nothing to do with whether or not he used PEDs, the numbers had been inflated. You see something similar with TD passes in the NFL; figures that would have been impressive in the 70s or 80s are not impressive today.

Second, as someone who followed the Braves and watched Andruw a lot, I don't he was ever considered a really good hitter despite the home runs. If you look at his numbers in retrospect, they were pretty good overall for 7 or 8 years. But watching him consistently swing and miss at low and away sliders, in a period before analytics were really in vogue, could get very frustrating. And he was never as good as Chipper Jones; no Braves fan in their right mind would have wanted Andruw Jones up in a "clutch" situation. And he never hit in an "MVP-type spot" in the batting order. He was typically 5th or 6th or sometimes lower.

None of this is necessarily rational but I think a lot of these things added up. I don't think anyone watching Andruw Jones play, other than perhaps in2005 (his 51 homer season) would have considered him MVP-worthy, maybe unfairly. He almost certainly was more valuable than his MVP votes suggest (especially factoring in his defense), but I don't think he was ever perceived that way, especially since the Braves were so dominated by the pitchers. True, his defense was otherworldly, but I think that was sort of taken for granted to an extent.​
1:16 PM Feb 6th
 
DHM
I like 3for3's idea - it would put the leaderboards in perspective and possibly provide more "value" for the stat.
8:55 AM Jan 31st
 
dbutler69
Just for the heck of it, I divided the Awards Shares by the HR total for each player. The only players with a worse Award Share/HR ratio than Andruw Jones were all of the guys that Martin labeled as Lower than Andruw, plus Rafael Palmeiro and Jim Thome. Stan Musial had by far the highest ratio, followed by Teddy Ballgame, Bonds, Pujols, and Gehrig.
3:32 PM Jan 30th
 
rpmcsweeney
Is there a way to determine to what if any extent Jones's low MVP share is a result of the MVP dominance of Bonds and Pujols, who won around 50% of the awards during Jones's career (plus accounted for many top-10 finishes)? Essentially, every year of Jones's career, there were two players who were more or less guaranteed to receive an MVP vote, and likely a very high total of votes. The vote share available to Jones and other NL players of the era may have been lower than during other eras.
10:52 AM Jan 30th
 
bearbyz
However, the MVP votes are effected by the steroids. Thirty home runs won't impress the voters if someone is hitting 70. With so many players hitting so many home runs in the 90s and 00s, I do a mental reduction when I read the total of home runs hit. So the figure of 434 doesn't impress me.
10:48 AM Jan 30th
 
3for3
I was thinking of 'creating' a new statistic. It is meant to measure HR's (or some other statistic) relative to the league leader. Well, actually relative to the guy who was second in both leagues. The guy who is second gets 1.00 for that year. Everyone else is a percentage of that player. This allows the leader to get more than 1.00 so that he receives credit for every HR he hits.

I am sure players like Andruw will drop out of the top 50.
10:08 AM Jan 30th
 
MarisFan61
Sorry if I've been unclear. I didn't mean that I think any MVP votes were affected by that. I don't think they were -- or little at most.
9:36 AM Jan 30th
 
sansho1
MarisFan, the problem with conflating Andruw's MVP vote totals with his HOF vote totals and surmising it's about steroid use is that the voters couldn't punish everybody with their MVP vote -- they had to vote for somebody. Take the year 2000, Andruw's only .300 season. He finished eighth -- the top 10 was Kent, Bonds, Piazza, Edmonds, Helton, Vlad, Bagwell, Andruw, Sheffield, Sosa. Are you seriously telling me that Andruw stands out in THAT group???
3:39 AM Jan 30th
 
wdr1946
Ruth's MVP totals are low because the mature of the system was different before 1931. Before then, a player who had won the award was ineligible to be elected again. Ruth won in 1923, and was not eligible again until the rules were changed in 1931. There were other pre-1931 rules that also weighed against him. In 1927 Ruth did not receive a single vote, despite hitting 60 HRs. Luckily, the 1927 Yankees, often thought of as the greatest team in history, had a worthy winner in Lou Gehrig. Bonds etc.'s votes are also more remarkable because there are now nearly twice as many players as before 1960. On the other hand, the Cy You ng award has usually removed pitchers from consideration- Hubbell and Newhouser won two MVPs each in the 1930s and 1940s.
1:49 AM Jan 30th
 
MarisFan61
(......although on second thought, maybe that's exactly a part of what you were showing!)
12:14 AM Jan 30th
 
MarisFan61
Chuck: That's a way which (IMO) is more potentially revealing than comparing bare HR numbers of players of different eras.
But I'd suggest that there's sort of an inefficiency about what you're showing also. I don't think there's anything particularly meaningful about finishing 9th or 10th or 11th in home runs, or even 5th or maybe even 3rd, when trying to understand anything about MVP vote performance. The year that Andruw was 1st in HR's is relevant, and indeed he had a very high MVP share that year. I don't think it helps toward understanding anything to look at how any given player did in MVP voting when he came in 5th or 9th or 10th in the league in HR's.

There's a tendency in sabermetrics (I think) to look at most calculatable and correlatable things as continua. (Continuums?) :-)
But lots of things aren't continuums, and I think this is an example of a thing that pretty clearly isn't. Standing in the league in HR's, in terms of possible in-and-of-itself significance in MVP voting, falls of a cliff pretty fast.
11:42 PM Jan 29th
 
chuck
I think Marisfan has a point here- the one about how 400+ home runs in the 1990s-2000s is not as remarkable as in earlier eras. My thought was, instead of looking at and comparing career home runs with MVP award shares...
instead look at Jones' league rank in home runs each season, with MVP award shares.
Jones ranked in the top 10 in homers four times:
9th in 2002: .02 MVP shares
10th in 2003: .03 shares
1st in 2005: .78 shares
5th in 2006: .06 shares

He also had .21 shares in 2000, when he tied for 11th in the NL in HR.
So, maybe that sort of MVP vote share is light, for those home run rankings, or perhaps not.

Juan Gonzalez had the same number of career HR as Jones, though of course was not anywhere near the defender. Yet, Gonzalez won 2 MVPs and had shares in 5 other seasons. In every season he finished in the top 10 in home runs he got MVP consideration:
He led the AL in HR in 1992 and 1993, getting .04 and .47 shares.
He won the MVP in 1996 (5th in HR) and 1998 (4th in HR).
The other years:
1997: 3rd in HR, .17 share
1999: 7th in HR, .03 share
2000: 9th in HR, .40 share

But I think Gonzalez’ MVP shares had more to do with his being high in RBI. He was 7th in RBI in both those early years he led in home runs but didn't win MVP. Compare that with 1996, when he was 2nd in RBI and 1998 when he was 1st, winning MVP both years. Jones’ lack of award shares may have more to do with his placement on the RBI rankings.

He had 3 seasons ranking in the top 10 in RBI:
2003: 7th (.03 shares)
2005: 1st (.78 shares)
2006: 4th (.06 shares)
That 2005 vote was a close 2nd to Albert Pujols.
10:27 PM Jan 29th
 
MarisFan61
(....or maybe it's more on-point to say the subject is:
Trying to understand the seeming discrepancy between Andruw's record and his MVP vote record and Award Shares, and by extension his BBWAA vote.)​
10:04 PM Jan 29th
 
MarisFan61
I don't want to stray here from the subject, which is:
Trying to understand the seeming discrepancy between Andruw's record and his BBWAA vote.

I'll be glad to address that on Reader Posts if you'd like....
9:50 PM Jan 29th
 
doncoffin
Maris--How do you fell about Pujols? Inquiring minds want to know...
9:34 PM Jan 29th
 
MarisFan61
I continue to be in pretty severe disbelief that such concrete comparison of numbers is being done, with such serious devotion and apparently with such serious regard of the comparative results, without even a nod to the 'special' nature of Andruw's era.

It is flabbergasting.

Even if you don't suspect Andruw's numbers of being way pumped up by PED's; even if you don't suspect their being pumped up at all by PED's; even if you don't agree that others besides you might suspect it, and that it affected his result with the BBWAA -- even if all of that:

You still have to -- HAVE TO (because I said so) :-) -- have to take account that those HR numbers meant something different in the '90's and '00's than they meant in those earlier times.
Such HR numbers simply were not as remarkable in Andruw's time as they were in those earlier times.
It makes very little sense to compare Andruw's HR numbers with the HR's numbers of earlier players and to be surprised at their being seen differently.

'Earth to BJOL, Earth to BJOL....' :-)
9:06 PM Jan 29th
 
doncoffin
My immediate reaction, when I see data like this (career HR & career award shares) is (1) to make a chart and (2) calculate a correlation coefficient. I can't paste the chart here, but I can report the correlation coefficient: 0.5.

That's (clearly) positive--there's a tendency for higher HR totals to go along with higher award shares. And (take my word for it?) it's a statistically significant correlation. But it's not really strong. So if our question is whether there's a relationship between HRs and award shares, the answer is "Yes, but not a strong one."

And, incidentally, on average, Andruw's 434 HRs would be "associated with" about 2.2 award shares.(Thome is an even bigger outlier--612 HRs would (on average) be "associated with" around 4.1 award shares. (In the other direction, Musial's 475HRs would be, on average "associated with" about 2.6 award shares. Pujols is also something of an over-achiever as far as the HR-award shares relationship goes.)

I am sure, as well, that if we extended this to all players with any award shares, the relationship between award shares and HRs would all but vanish.
7:59 PM Jan 29th
 
Brock Hanke
Just on first look, some of the guys with numbers in the ones - McGwire, McCovey, Canseco, Mathews - played substantial parts of their careers in strong pitchers' parks. McGwire's sudden rise to 70 homers is largely due to getting out of Oakland and into St. Louis, where the ballpark, at that time, was neutral. Mathews played in Milwaukee. McCovey in wind-blown Candlestick. I don't know if this info is generally useful (I don't know if the numbers correlate with ballpark effects or anything), but that was noticeable, just scanning over the list.
4:52 PM Jan 29th
 
wovenstrap
(By the way, wovenstrap = Martin Schneider = author of this article.)
4:36 PM Jan 29th
 
sansho1
MarisFan, I'm struck by your seeming contention that Andruw was a likely steroid user. Surely you aren't referring to his MVP vote totals (the focus of this article) as evidence Andruw's supposed roiding was suspected strongly, relative to his peers? I'm assuming you mean his HOF vote totals.

Even in that case, I have to say I don't recall Andruw being anything like the poster child for the steroid era. He did fill out before getting fat, but at no point did he display any of the presumed telltale physiological signs of steroid use (vascularity, cranial growth, bad temper). And I don't remember it ever being particularly rumored (although I will say the output of the lineup as a whole during the Sheffield era was more than a little suspicious). The arc of his career doesn't cast suspicion of much beyond the old rumors that he was older than he claimed. So I'm wondering why you think this about him in particular.
4:01 PM Jan 29th
 
BryanBM
Top 50 in HR includes 9 players who have yet to be voted on by the BBWAA and 4 players who were more or less the equivalent of modern first ballot selections who retired before 1960.

Since then 19 first ballot HoF inductees and the following first ballot results:

Vladimir Guerrero 71.7%
Harmon Killebrew 59.6%
Mike Piazza 57.8%
Andre Dawson 45.3%
Jeff Bagwell 41.7%

Barry Bonds 36.2%
Eddie Mathews 32.3%
Manny Ramirez 23.8%
Mark McGwire 23.5%
Fred McGriff 21.5%

Sammy Sosa 12.5%
Gary Sheffield 11.7%
Rafael Palmeiro 11%
Andruw Jones 7.3%

Juan Gonzalez 5.2%
Carlos Delgado 3.8%
Jose Canseco 1.1%
Dave Kingman 0.7%

Alternatively starting from Kingman's first ballot it's 9 first ballot HoF inductions and 16 who are not. Duke Snider who is currently 55th in career HR has a lot more in common with Andruw than most of the Top 50 and he debuts with 17% of the vote, 48 years later (almost) entirely different voters aren't all that impressed with Andruw.
3:26 PM Jan 29th
 
MarisFan61
(about Vizquel and "everything" applying: obviously I don't mean HR's but in terms of award shares and the analogous things for him)
2:18 PM Jan 29th
 
MarisFan61
I think there are two 800-lb. elephants in there, not mentioned.

-- PED's
-- Omar Vizquel

About the first thing: I think the main reason he didn't get at least more support in the vote is PED suspicion. I'm close to assuming he used and (important separate extra thing) not just that he used but that his performance was greatly affected by it. But whether or not you think he did, or whether you think it's fair to suspect it of him, I think it is widely suspected, and that it kept his support down.
Let me put it this way: I think otherwise a guy who was an outstanding defensive CF (regardless of whether one thinks he was the best or one of the best ever) plus who had a 50-HR season plus a bunch of other 30 HR years and 100 RBI years would have gotten way more than 7% from the BBWAA.

About the second thing: I think everything you said would apply also to Omar Vizquel, who got 37%.
2:13 PM Jan 29th
 
stevebogus
The modern MVP award did not begin until the 1930s. There were other awards before this, with different voting rules that were changed often due to criticism. Some years a previous winner was disqualified, some years only one player from each team could be listed, etc.
2:11 PM Jan 29th
 
BobGill
"Does anyone know why Ruth’s MVP tallies are so low? Were multiple winners disallowed in his era?"

Bingo! You answered your own question. There was no award for the first seven years of Ruth's major league career, and the league awards that began in 1922 did not allow for repeat winners. So after he won in 1923, he wasn't eligible until the BWAA awards began, and by then, although still a great player for a couple more years, he wasn't the dominant force he had been in the 1920s.

2:02 PM Jan 29th
 
 
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