Seasons in the Shadows

November 15, 2021

 

            I will start this project with the way it started in my head, just a simple idea at the time.  Sometimes seasons of MVP quality are not rewarded with an MVP vote, and sometimes lesser seasons are.  I am not talking here about voting mistakes; well, that too, but mostly I am talking about being in the wrong place at the right time.  Paul Goldschmidt in 2015. Goldschmidt hit .321 with 33 homers, 110 RBI, 118 walks, an OPS of 1.005, 38 doubles, and won the Gold Glove at first base.  I’m not arguing the conclusion that Bryce Harper was even better; he was.  My point is that, even though he was not the Most Valuable Player in the NL that season, his season is actually better than probably half of all MVP seasons; he just did it at the wrong time. 

            So that’s what this project started out as:  taking a second look at MVP-caliber seasons.  If you take all of the MVPs in each decade, you have 20 seasons which are, by definition, of MVP caliber.   But suppose that you make up a SECOND list, which is the 20 best seasons during the decade?  Would not the second list of player/seasons be better than the first?   Jeff Burroughs won an MVP Award in 1974 because there wasn’t really anybody else, but Bobby Murcer had better seasons than that in both 1971 and 1972, and Ken Singleton had better seasons than that in 1975, 1977 and 1979, but without winning MVP Awards.  If you drop the Jeff Burroughs seasons off the list and replace them with the Murcer and Singleton seasons, it makes a stronger list—thus creating an honor that is HIGHER than the MVP Award, if you choose to look at it that way.

            So then we have three kinds of seasons:

1)     Players who were both MVP Award Winners and among the Top 20 seasons for the decade,

2)     Players who won the MVP Award, but were not one of the top 20 players (having one of the top 20 seasons) of the decade, and

3)     Players who had a Top-20 season, but did not win the MVP Award. 

 

As to how to pick the top 20 seasons of the decade, I am using Win Shares.  I am doing that because it’s a lot more accurate than WAR.  Just kidding, Tom; we’ll get to your stuff later. 

 

1930s

            I started the list in 1930, to have nice, even decades to work with.  The Associated Press voted on MVP Awards for 1930 and selected Hack Wilson and Joe Cronin.   It was just an unofficial thing, but I will include them on the list rather than having 18 on each list from the 1930s.

            So then we have:

            BOTH (8): Lefty Grove (1931), Jimmie Foxx (1932 and 1933), Dizzy Dean (1934), Lou Gehrig (1936), Carl Hubbell (1936), Joe Medwick (1937), and Bucky Walters (1939).

            MVP but not Top 20 (12):  Joe Cronin (1930), Hack Wilson (1930), Frankie Frisch (1931), Chuck Klein (1932), Carl Hubbell (1933), Mickey Cochrane (1934), Hank Greenberg (1935), Gabby Hartnett (1935), Charlie Gehringer (1937), Jimmie Foxx (1938), Ernie Lombardi (1938) and Joe DiMaggio (1939).

            Top 20 season but not MVP (21):  Lou Gehrig, Lefty Grove, Babe Ruth and Al Simmons (1930), Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig (1931), Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig (1932), Wally Berger and Lou Gehrig (1933), Lou Gehrig, Mel Ott, Charlie Gehringer and Arky Vaughn (1934), Arky Vaughan (1935), Joe Medwick and Mel Ott (1936),  Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig (1937), and Mel Ott (1938).

            The total of the MVPs and the Top 20/Not MVPs is 28, because of a large number of players tied for the 20th spot on the list.  We will usually have more players on the Top 20-excluded list than on the MVP-not Top 20 list, because of ties in Win Shares.  You can let that bother you if you want to.  It bothers me when people pretend that .1 WAR is a meaningful distinction between players.   A Win Share is about 3 runs.  .1 is about one run.  We cannot measure a player’s contribution to victory accurately enough to pretend that .1 WAR is a meaningful distinction.

John Kuenstler, longtime editor of the Baseball Digest, would say that he regarded Hack Wilson’s season in 1930 as the greatest season ever by a hitter.  Here, it doesn’t rank as one of the Top 20 seasons of the 1930s.  I know that some of you will have trouble accepting this, so let me explain as best I can.  Let us contrast Hack Wilson in 1930 with Wally Berger in 1933, a season which did make the Top 20 list. 

Hack Wilson in 1930 was a 30-year-old National League center fielder. Berger in 1933 was a 27-year-old National League center fielder, not implying an advantage for either man.   Wilson created about 171 runs, whereas Berger created only an estimated 111 runs.

The player’s value, however, depends on how many runs he created relative to the offensive context; in other words, how productive he was relative to the other hitters playing in the same games.  The National League in 1930 scored 7,025 runs in 1,236 games, or 5.684 runs per game.  Wilson was playing in a hitter’s park, with a park factor of 113.  A park factor of 113 in an eight-team league implies that his offensive context (home and road) was inflated by about 5.56%, increasing it to 6.00 runs per game (6.000318, but whose counting?)   In his context, it took 6.00 runs a game to be a .500 player. 

Wilson’s 171 runs created represent, in his context, 28.5 games worth of runs. . ..171, divided by six.   It’s a very high number.  Berger created only 111 runs, but the National League in 1933 scored only 4,908 runs in 1,236 games, or 3.971 runs per game.  Berger played in the worst hitter’s park in the league, with a Park Run Factor of .86, so we need to multiply the run context by .94 in order to represent the games that Berger was playing in.  3.971 * .94 is 3.736, so Berger was competing in a context in which an average player would create 3.74 runs per 27 outs.  Berger thus created all of the runs that would normally be scored in 29.7 of his team’s games—111, divided by 3.736.   Berger, 29.7; Wilson, 28.5.   Berger’s hitting thus probably created more wins for his team than Wilson’s did. 

In addition to that, Berger has two other advantages, or three, if you want to argue about it.  First, Berger made fewer outs.  Wilson made 423 batting outs (AB – H, + SH + GDP +CS).  Berger made 374—a difference of almost 50 outs.  Second, Berger has far better fielding stats in the outfield.   Wilson made 357 putouts 155 games.  Berger, playing 19 fewer games, caught 25 MORE fly balls.  Wilson made 19 errors, leading the league.  Berger made 9. 

      The third small advantage, which is in this case too small to be worth arguing about, is that Berger’s team made more efficient use of their runs scored than did Wilson’s.   Wilson’s team finished 90-64, Berger’s team 83-71, and both teams won more games than expected by the Pythagorean Method.  The theory which underlies all of sabermetrics is that the statistical accomplishments of the players explain the success of the team.  That theory is what makes what are otherwise merely individual accomplishments into measures of value to the team.  Batting statistics in isolation are individual accomplishments, but when you combine them into Runs Created, put them in a run context and apply the Pythagorean Method or some similar method, THEN they become measures of the contribution to victory.  

      Suppose that there are two teams, each of which scores 700 runs and allows 650.  One team, however, wins 81 games; the other wins 95.   Are the two teams equal, or unequal?  Of course, they are unequal.  If the teams are not equal, then the players have made unequal contributions to victory.   But unless you adjust for the difference in the efficiency of the runs scored, they appear to be equal.  Thus, in order to find the TEAM VALUE hiding within the INDIVIDUAL statistics, you absolutely have to adjust for the team’s offensive efficiency.  The 1933 Braves offensive efficiency was 1.038; the Cubs in 1930, 1.027—thus, another 1% advantage for Berger.   

Berger has four advantages over Wilson:  More runs created compared to context, 49 fewer outs used as a hitter, better fielding, and playing for a team that was more efficient with its runs scored.  Putting them all together, it seems clear to me that Berger was the more valuable player.          

 

1940s

            BOTH (9):  Joe DiMaggio (1941), Hal Newhouser (1944 and 1945),Ted Williams (1946 and 1949), Stan Musial (1943, 1946 and 1948), and Jackie Robinson (1949).

            MVP but not Top 20 (11):  Hank Greenberg and Frank McCormick (1940), Dolph Camilli (1941), Joe Gordon and Mort Cooper (1942), Spud Chandler (1943), Marty Marion (1944), Phil Cavaretta (1945), Joe DiMaggio and Bob Elliot (1947), and Lou Boudreau (1948). 

            Top 20 season but not MVP (15):  Ted Williams (1941, 1942, 1947 and 1948), Enos Slaughter (1942), Mel Ott (1942), Luke Appling and Charlie Keller (1943), Dizzy Trout, Stan Musial and Snuffy Stirnweiss (1944), and Stan Musial, Ralph Kiner and Eddie Joost (1949). 

 

 

1950s

            BOTH (6):  Phil Rizzuto (1950), Al Rosen (1953), Willie Mays (1954), Mickey Mantle (1956 and 1957), and Hank Aaron (1957).

            MVP but not Top 20 (14):  Jim Konstanty (1950), Yogi Berra (1951, 1954 and 1955), Roy Campanella (1951, 1953 and 1955), Hank Sauer and Bobby Shantz (1952), Don Newcombe (1956), Jackie Jensen (1958), Ernie Banks (1958 and 1959), and Nellie Fox (1959).

            Top 20 season but not MVP (17):  Stan Musial (1951 and 1952), Jackie Robinson (1951), Ralph Kiner (1951), Eddie Mathews (1953 and 1959), Duke Snider (1953, 1954 and 1955), Robin Roberts (1953), Mickey Mantle (1954, 1955 and 1958), Willie Mays (1955 and 1958), Ted Williams (1957) and Hank Aaron (1959). 

            It will be surprising to many of you that (a) Stan Musial is on the Top-20 list in 1952 and (b) Robin Roberts is NOT on the Top 20 list in 1952, but is in 1953. Musial in 1952 hit "just" .336 with 21 homers, 91 RBI, his worst set of numbers in years, while Robin Roberts in 1952 went 28-7, but 23-16 in 1953

            It’s just the way the numbers work out; I don’t necessarily believe it myself, but that’s the way the numbers work out.  There were only 5,158 runs scored in the National League in 1952, the lowest number since 1946, and, while the St. Louis Park normally shows as a hitter’s park, in 1952 it has a Park Factor of 94 (reducing offense by 6%).  Musial’s offensive numbers were down, but compared to the offensive context they were about the same as usual.   And in re Roberts, the National League in 1953 scored about 750 runs more than in 1952, so Roberts’ 2.75 ERA in 1953 is significantly more impressive than his 2.58 ERA in 1952, and we don’t pay that much attention to won-lost records (although the Win Shares system does give a small weight to won-lost records.)   I will note that Baseball Reference WAR , which makes Robin Roberts the #1 player in the National League in both 1952 and 1953, also rates him as significantly more valuable in 1953 than in 1952.  It’s just the way the numbers work out. 

 

1960s

            BOTH (4):  Willie Mays (1965), Frank Robinson (1966), Carl Yastrzemski (1967) and Willie McCovey (1969).  

            MVP but not Top 20 (16):  Roger Maris (1960 and 1961), Dick Groat (1960), Frank Robinson (1961), Maury Wills (1962), Mickey Mantle (1962), Sandy Koufax (1963), Elston Howard (1963), Brooks Robinson (1964), Ken Boyer (1964), Zoilo Versalles (1965), Roberto Clemente (1966), Orlando Cepeda (1967), Bob Gibson (1968), Denny McClain (1968) and Harmon Killebrew (1969).

            Top 20 season but not MVP (16):  Willie Mays and Eddie Mathews (1960), Mickey Mantle and Norm Cash (1961), Willie Mays and Frank Robinson (1962), Willie Mays and Hank Aaron (1963), Willie Mays and Dick Allen (1964), Harmon Killebrew and Ron Santo (1967), Carl Yastrzemski and Frank Howard (1968), and Hank Aaron and Reggie Jackson (1969). 

 

            It is notable that, in the 1960s, only four players who won the MVP Award actually had one of the 20 best seasons of the decade.   We have seen that MOST of the best seasons in any decade have NOT won the MVP Award, 60% or more have not.   This will continue to be true until the present day.   There has never been a decade in which even one-half of the 20 MVPs make the list of the 20 best seasons of the decade.  The primary reason that this happens, though, is not generalized ignorance; it is, rather, the reluctance to give the MVP Award to the same players every year. Ruth, Gehrig, Williams, Musial, Mays, Mantle, Mike Schmidt and Mike Trout are much more heavily represented on the "20 best seasons of the decade" list than on the MVP list.  And I think I agree with that, generally speaking.  I don’t know that it accomplishes anything to give players of that caliber the MVP Award every year.   We KNOW how great Mike Trout as been.  We don’t need to be told that every voting cycle. 

 

 

 

1970s

            BOTH (8):  Joe Torre (1971), Dick Allen and Johnny Bench (1972), Joe Morgan (1975 and 1976), Rod Carew (1977) and Dave Parker and Jim Rice (1978).

            MVP but not Top 20 (13):  Johnny Bench and Boog Powell (1970), Vida Blue (1971), Pete Rose and Reggie Jackson (1973), Jeff Burroughs and Steve Garvey (1974), Fred Lynn (1975), Thurman Munson (1976), George Foster (1977), and Don Baylor, Keith Hernandez and Willie Stargell (1979). 

            Top 20 season but not MVP (12):  Carl Yastrzemski (1970), Ferguson Jenkins (1971), Bobby Murcer (1971 and 1972), Joe Morgan, Steve Carlton, Johnny Bench and Gaylord Perry (1972), Joe Morgan and Willie Stargell (1973), Mike Schmidt (1974), and Ken Singleton (1977). 

 

1980s

            BOTH (8):  Mike Schmidt and George Brett (1980), Robin Yount (1982), Cal Ripken (1983), Ryne Sandberg (1984), Willie McGee (1985), Jose Canseco (1988) and Kevin Mitchell (1989).

            MVP but not Top 20 (12):  Rollie Fingers and Mike Schmidt (1981), Dale Murphy (1982 and 1983), Willie Hernandez (1984), Don Mattingly (1985), Mike Schmidt and Roger Clemens (1986), George Bell and Andre Dawson (1987), Kirk Gibson (1988) and Robin Yount (1989).

            Top 20 season but not MVP (13):  Mike Schmidt (1982 and 1983), Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn (1984), Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines, George Brett and Pedro Guerrero (1985), Wade Boggs (1986), Alan Trammell (1987), Will Clark (1988 and 1989) and Howard Johnson (1989). 

 

 

1990s

            BOTH (6):  Barry Bonds (1990, 1992 and 1993), Rickey Henderson (1990), and Ken Caminiti and Ken Griffey Jr. (1997). 

            MVP but not Top 20 (14):  Cal Ripken and Terry Pendleton (1991), Dennis Eckersley (1992), Frank Thomas (1993 and 1994), Jeff Bagwell (1994), Barry Larkin and Mo Vaughn (1995), Larry Walker (1997), Juan Gonzalez (1996 and 1998), Sammy Sosa (1998), and Ivan Rodriguez and Chipper Jones (1999).

            Top 20 season but not MVP (14):  Ryne Sandberg and Barry Bonds (1991), John Olerud (1993), Barry Bonds (1995), Bagwell and Bonds (1996), Frank Thomas, Mike Piazza, Tony Gwynn, Craig Biggio and Barry Bonds, all had great seasons in 1997, Mark McGwire and Albert Belle, 1998, and Jeff Bagwell in 1999.

 

2000s

            BOTH (9):  Jason Giambi and Jeff Kent (2000), Ichiro Suzuki (2001), Barry Bonds (2001, 2002 2003 and 2004), Alex Rodriguez (2007) and Albert Pujols (2009),

            MVP but not Top 20 (11):  Miguel Tejada (2002), Alex Rodriguez (2003), Vladimir Guerrero (2004), Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols (2005), Ryan Howard and Justin Morneau (2006), Jimmy Rollins (2007), Albert Pujols and Dustin Pedroia (2008) and Joe Mauer (2009). 

            Top 20 season but not MVP (14):  Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Delgado and Edgardo Alfonzo (2000), Sammy Sosa, Jason Giambi, Roberto Alomar, Alex Rodriguez and Luis Gonzalez (2001), Albert Pujols (2003, 2004 and 2006), Lance Berkman (2008) and Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder (2009).  

 

2010s

            BOTH (8):  Ryan Braun (2011), Buster Posey (2012), Miguel Cabrera (2013), Mike Trout (2014 and 2016), Bryce Harper (2015), Jose Altuve (2017) and Mookie Betts (2018).

            MVP but not Top 20 (12):  Joey Votto and Josh Hamilton (2010), Justin Verlander (2011), Miggy (2012), Andrew McCutchen (2013), Clayton Kershaw (2014), Josh Donaldson (2015), Kris Bryant (2016), Giancarlo Stanton (2017), Christian Yelich (2018), and Mike Trout and Cody Bellinger (2019).

            Top 20 season but not MVP (18):  Adrian Gonzalez (2010), Miguel Cabrera (2011), Matt Kemp (2011), Jose Bautista (2011), Andrew McCutchen (2012 and 2015), Mike Trout (2012, 2013, 2015 and 2018), Paul Goldschmidt (2013 and 2015), Robinson Cano (2013), Freddie Freeman (2013), Matt Carpenter (2013), Jose Altuve (2016), Alex Bregman (2018) and Marcus Semien (2019). 

 

Part II of the Article

            The general purpose of this article is to give recognition to those seasons in baseball history which are of the same stature and quality as MVP seasons, but which did not happen to win the MVP Award.   In particular, I am trying to give attention and recognition to those seasons, as described, which are not by Hall of Fame players or players who are not obviously going into the Hall of Fame, and by players who never won an MVP Award.   There is no particular reason to draw more attention to Ted Williams’ 1947 season, let us say; what I have in mind is more Eddie Joost’ season in 1949, or Frank Howard in 1968, or Will Clark in 1988 or 1989.   These are seasons just as good as MVP seasons, but (a) they didn’t happen to win the MVP Award, and (b) the players are not in the Hall of Fame, so their seasons are sort of standing in the shadows.   Shadowed seasons, let’s call them.   In fact, I think I’ll name the whole article that.  I would argue that there are 26 "shadowed seasons" or shadowed great seasons in baseball history, although this include a few Steroid Seasons, which I don’t especially want to highlight, and I stopped the list at 2013, since many of the players post-2013 are potential Hall of Famers, so it is jumping the gun to assume that they are not.   .  Here is my list:

 

Shadowed Seasons

Wally Berger, 1933

Charlie Keller, 1943

Dizzy Trout, 1944

Snuffy Stirnweiss, 1944

Eddie Joost, 1949

Norm Cash, 1961

Frank Howard, 1968

Bobby Murcer, 1971 and 1972

Ken Singleton, 1977

Pedro Guerrero, 1985

Will Clark, 1988 and 1989

Howard Johnson, 1989

John Olerud, 1993

Albert Belle, 1998

Carlos Delgado, 2000

Edgardo Alfonzo, 2000

Luis Gonzalez, 2001

Lance Berkman, 2008

Prince Fielder, 2009

Adrian Gonzalez, 2010

Matt Kemp, 2011

Jose Bautista, 2011

Paul Goldschmidt, 2013

Matt Carpenter, 2013

 

Reaching for a Little More Data

            Ok, having come this far with this approach, it occurred to me that I could logically go further.  This is why it often takes me two weeks to finish an article that I think I can dash off in two hours. 

            Suppose that we create a system of "MVP Equivalent Seasons".  An MVP Equivalent Season, as defined here, is any season in which a player:

1)     Wins the MVP Award,

2)     Has one of the 20 highest Win Share totals of the decade, or is tied for a spot on that list,

3)     Leads the league in Win Shares, or ties for the lead,

4)     Leads the league in Baseball Reference WAR, or is tied for the lead.

 

Three of those four categories, however, discriminate against catchers, since catchers do not normally get enough playing time to lead the league in Win Shares or WAR or to have a total which is among the Top 20 in the decade.  To address that issue, I awarded one additional point to any catcher who had 29 or more Win Shares in a season.   There are 48 catchers in the years 1930 to 2019 who meet that standard.  I don’t think that brings the catchers QUITE up to even with the non-catchers, but it eliminates some of the gap between catchers and players at other positions. 

So altogether there are 815 MVP-equivalent accomplishments in the 1930 to 2019 period, spread more or less evenly between the decades.  Those are:

181 points to players voted the MVP (two per season, plus Keith Hernandez and Willie Stargell tied in the MVP vote in 1979-NL.)

181 points for having the highest WAR in the league (two per season, plus Willie Mays and Duke Snider tied for the league lead in WAR in 1956-NL.)

201 points for leading the league in Win Shares (two per season, plus ties.)

204 points for having one of the 20 highest Win Share totals of the decade.

48 points to catchers who had a 29 or more Win Shares in a season.

 

Those 815 MVP-equivalent points are spread among 490 different player/seasons.   In 180 different leagues, that is 2.72 players per league picking up MVP-equivalent recognition.   Those 490 player/seasons are by 270 different players. 

I am trying to put a certain misleading argument into an appropriate context, and thus make it less powerful.   It is what might be called the Maris-Murphy-Gonzalez argument. 

In any Hall of Fame debate, there is someone who will present as evidence that Dale Murphy should be in the Hall of Fame the fact that he won two Most Valuable Player Awards.   Well, yes, but those seasons are really not great; they’re very good seasons, and they happened to win MVP Awards, but they’re not actually convincing evidence of greatness.   They’re not the bottom of the MVP barrel, but they are toward the bottom. They’re not better seasons than Bobby Murcer had in 1971 and 1972.  The fact that Murphy won MVP Awards should not then be used as a reason to give him another high honor, an even higher honor. 

Or Murphy and Henry Aaron, both Braves outfielders.   Murphy won 2 MVP Awards; Hank Aaron won one.   But Dale Murphy did not have more great seasons, more MVP-type seasons, than Hank Aaron did.   Murphy won 2 MVP Awards but has 2 MVP-equivalent points, since Murphy never led the league in Win Shares or WAR and never had a season which was one of the 20 top seasons of the decade. 

Hank Aaron has one MVP Award, but 10 MVP equivalent points.  Mel Ott won no BBWAA MVP Awards, but has 8 MVP equivalent points.  Murphy has 2 and 2, Juan Gonzalez has 2 and 2, Roger Maris has 2 and 3.   Aaron won an MVP Award (1957), led the league in WAR (1961), had four seasons leading the league in Win Shares (1957, 1959, 1961 and 1963), and had four seasons which were among the 20 best in their decade (1957, 1959, 1963 and 1969). 

In theory it is possible to pick up five points in a season, although no one ever has.   If a player had a season in which he won the MVP Award, led the league in WAR, led the league in Win Shares, had a season which was one of the 20 best in the decade, and was a catcher, that would be a 5-point season.  But nobody has ever done that, because no catcher has ever had a "complete domination" season.   In fact, only one catcher has ever won THREE of the four categories, thus moved up to the four-point level with the special rule for catchers.  That one catcher is the recently retired Buster Posey, in 2012.  These are the other "complete domination" seasons in which the player had an MVP-caliber performance no matter how you look at it:

Jimmie Foxx, 1932 AL

Jimmie Foxx, 1933 AL

Carl Hubbell, 1936 NL

Joe Medwick, 1937 NL

Bucky Walters, 1939 NL

 

Stan Musial, 1943 NL

Hal Newhouser, 1945 AL

Stan Musial, 1946 NL

Ted Williams, 1946 AL

Stan Musial, 1948 NL

Ted Williams, 1949 NL

 

Al Rosen, 1953 AL

Willie Mays, 1954 NL

Mickey Mantle, 1956 AL

Mickey Mantle, 1957 AL

 

Willie Mays, 1965 NL

Carl Yastrzemski, 1967 AL

 

Joe Morgan, 1975 NL

Joe Morgan, 1976 NL

Rod Carew, 1977 AL

 

George Brett, 1980 AL

Robin Yount, 1982 AL

Cal Ripken, 1983 AL

Ryne Sandberg, 1984 NL

 

Barry Bonds, 1990 NL

 

Barry Bonds, 2001 NL

Barry Bonds, 2002 NL

Barry Bonds, 2004 NL

Alex Rodriguez, 2007 AL

Albert Pujols, 2009 NL

 

Bryce Harper, 2015 NL

 

 

And then Buster Posey, 2012, is also on the 4-star list, although he did not lead the league in Win Shares.  Below are the leaders in career MVP-equivalent points.  Since there are 180 league/seasons within the study and 815 MVP-equivalent accomplishments, we might generalize that 4.5 points are equal to one MVP award.   Willie Mays thus has the equivalent of six MVP credentials and Ted Williams the equivalent of five, although each won "only" two MVP votes.

 

First

Last

MVPs

Equivalent Pts

First

Last

MVPs

MVP Points

Barry

Bonds

7

32

 

Dick

Allen

1

5

Willie

Mays

2

27

 

Jose

Altuve

1

5

Mickey

Mantle

3

24

 

Miguel

Cabrera

2

5

Stan

Musial

3

22

 

Roy

Campanella

3

5

Ted

Williams

2

22

 

Gary

Carter

0

5

Mike

Trout**

3

18

 

Roger

Clemens

1

5

Albert

Pujols**

3

16

 

Bob

Gibson

1

5

Mike

Schmidt

3

16

 

Joe

Mauer

1

5

Alex

Rodriguez

3

15

 

Andrew

McCutchen**

1

5

Lou

Gehrig*

1

13

 

Joe

Medwick

1

5

Joe

Morgan

2

12

 

Hal

Newhouser

2

5

Jimmie

Foxx*

3

11

 

Jackie

Robinson

1

5

Carl

Yastrzemski

1

11

 

Babe

Ruth*

0

5

Hank

Aaron

1

10

 

Duke

Snider

0

5

Cal

Ripken

2

10

 

Arky

Vaughan

0

5

Johnny

Bench

2

8

 

Ryan

Braun**

1

4

Yogi

Berra

3

8

 

Rod

Carew

1

4

Mel

Ott*

0

8

 

Steve

Carlton

0

4

Joe

DiMaggio

3

7

 

Will

Clark

0

4

Rickey

Henderson

1

7

 

Tony

Gwynn

0

4

Jeff

Bagwell

1

6

 

Bryce

Harper**

1

4

George

Brett

1

6

 

Reggie

Jackson

1

4

Jason

Giambi

1

6

 

Fred

Lynn

1

4

Lefty

Grove*

1

6

 

Eddie

Mathews

0

4

Carl

Hubbell*

2

6

 

Dave

Parker

1

4

Mike

Piazza

0

6

 

Al

Rosen

1

4

Buster

Posey**

1

6

 

Joe

Torre

1

4

Frank

Robinson

2

6

 

Joey

Votto**

1

4

Ryne

Sandberg

1

6

 

Bucky

Walters

1

4

Frank

Thomas

2

6

       

 

Robin

Yount

2

6

 

 

 

 

 

 

One asterisk means "played before 1930, thus theoretically could have a higher total for his full career"; two asterisks means "played after 2019, thus theoretically could have a higher total by now."  You had probably figured that out on your own. 

A few miscellaneous points in closing:

1)     No catcher is in the top 15 in career totals, thus re-assuring us that the 48 points given to catchers are not an excessive number.

2)     Of the 48 points given to catchers, 11 were in the 1970s—Bench, Simmons, Fisk, Gary Carter and Thuman Munson.   Nine decades, 48 catcher points, 5.3 per decade; every decade had at least four except the 1940s, which had none at all. 

3)     Of the 201 points earned by leading the league in Win Shares, only 10 went to pitchers, a number which is too low, and I frankly wish it was higher.  Of the 181 MVPs, 21 were pitchers.  Fifteen (15) of those were from 1930-1969; six (6) since 1970. 

But of the 181 points awarded for leading the league in WAR, 70 went to pitchers, including citations for Hank Aguirre (??), Kevin Appier, Ned Garver, Claude Passeau, Jose RIjo, Earl Wilson and Wilbur Wood.  Some of those seem a little questionable, although there are many I agree with, and the total of 70 is not inherently unreasonable.

 

 

Thanks for reading.

 

 
 

COMMENTS (21 Comments, most recent shown first)

jdw
Agree with the comment on Schmidt's 1981. 30 WS in 107 team games is better than Will Clark's rate in 1989.
12:28 AM Nov 23rd
 
jdw
Ted has a fair amount to complain about given:

2-2-WW2-WW2-WW2-1-2

Those 2's were .406, Triple Crown and Triple Crown.

The DNP's were his age 24, 25 and 26 seasons.

He was Top 20 in Bill's list from 1941-42 and 1946-49. Several, if not all, of 1943-45 would have been as well.
12:18 AM Nov 23rd
 
Robinsong
Ted Williams famously won fewer MVPs than he “should” have, but Mays has much more to complain about with 27 points and only two awards.
8:23 PM Nov 22nd
 
Robinsong
Ted Williams famously won fewer MVPs than he “should” have, but Mays has much more to complain about with 27 points and only two awards.
8:23 PM Nov 22nd
 
BrianFleming
In 1989 Howard Johnson stole 41 bases and was caught stealing 8 times for an 84% success rate.

In 1989 Tim Raines also stole 41 bases, but was caught 9 times.

I just completely forgot that HoJo was pretty good on the bases, thanks for highlighting his great season.
12:52 PM Nov 20th
 
tangotiger
The pitchers 10/201 (5%) for Win Shares and 70/181 (39%) for WAR is what I expected. As I've mentioned many times in the past, I believe this is a bias in WSh.
9:46 PM Nov 17th
 
evanecurb
From 1973 through 1980, Singleton hit at a hall of fame level - on base 265 times a year, averaged 48 extra base hits. .297/.406/.464. He’s not a hall of famer but he was an elite player for a few years there.
7:06 PM Nov 17th
 
jeffsol
I was really surprised not to see Gooden ‘85 among the top 20. Also, Sosa 1998 wasn’t listed either in MVP that top 20 nor MVP not top 20.
3:59 PM Nov 17th
 
bjjp2
Surprised not to see any mention of Seaver, Randy, Maddux, Pedro among top 20s.
11:41 AM Nov 17th
 
Guy123
mostly I am talking about being in the wrong place at the right time.

Hmmm. Aren't these actually cases of being in the right place but at the wrong time? :D

2:40 PM Nov 16th
 
phorton01
Loved this article, but one quibble.

I don’t know that it accomplishes anything to give players of that caliber the MVP Award every year. We KNOW how great Mike Trout as been. We don’t need to be told that every voting cycle.

Unless we're going to change the definition of the MVP award to mean "Most valuable player who hasn't already won too many (how many is too many?) MVP's already" -- I just can't agree with this comment.

This seems like the "sportswriter mentality" I've seen decried on here so often: "I know what is right, but I'm going to promote someone else by ignoring the facts to get someone else some recognition."
1:08 PM Nov 16th
 
pbspelly
It seems pretty clear that the players in the "Top 20 seasons but not MVP" category are, on the whole, better players than the players in the "MVP but not Top 20" category. In fact, many, if not most of them, are Hall of Famers (or would be, absent steroids). I think this is clearly due to, as Bill puts it, the reluctance to give the MVP Award to the same players every year. So if you are a great player who establishes a high level of performance, it may actually work against you in the MVP voting. You are competing not just with other players, but with your own past level of performance.
8:14 AM Nov 16th
 
markj111
You show Bench’s 1972 season in”Both,” and “Top 20 But Not MVP.” What am I missing?
11:12 PM Nov 15th
 
bjames
Bench in 1972 rather than 1970 is correct. Bench earned 37 Win Shares in 1972, 34 in 1970. The NL in 1970 scored 15% more runs per game than in 1972. Bench drew 46 more walks in 1972 than in 1970, and his defensive stats are MUCH better. He had 12 errors in 1970, 6 in 1972, 9 passed balls in 1970, 2 in 1972, and in 1972 threw out more base stealers with fewer stolen bases allowed. He seems clearly better in 1972.

it seems to me obviously inappropriate to make a strike adjustment in this context. The issue is not how well he played; it is the weight and stature of the season. 31 homers and 91 RBI in 110 game is no more impressive in 1981 than it would be in any other season.
7:02 PM Nov 15th
 
3for3
No strike adjustments? Schmidt, Bagwell and Thomas all had great seasons…
6:09 PM Nov 15th
 
FrankD
very interesting article. I am surprised that Mauer scored so high. And I especially like the comment that getting an MVP award should not necessarily be used as a qualification for HOF.....
4:21 PM Nov 15th
 
hotstatrat
Thanks, Bill.

I am not fretting over the under representation of catchers. The fact is it would be expectedly very very rare for a catcher to measurably help a team win games as much as a position player would who can play every day. It is often the case that a team will steer their best hitting prospects away from catcher, so that the grind of catching won't hamper their hitting and playing time. Thus there should be disproportionally fewer catching MVPs. Yes/No?

And until they have an award for best position player, I really don't care to see pitchers win the MVP.
3:04 PM Nov 15th
 
shthar
Timing is everything.


1:55 PM Nov 15th
 
bhalbleib
Actually I think Bill might have messed up his columns(rows?) on Bench, because he has his 1972 season listed under "Both" and "Top 20 seasons but not MVP"
1:45 PM Nov 15th
 
wovenstrap
I really love this. I'm glad to see Prince Fielder in there. He never gets mentioned anymore so this is my only chance to tell this story which is only tangentially related.

After the 2007 season I got into an argument with a Mets fan. My friend was touting Jose Reyes as an MVP candidate and for some reason I ended up talking about Prince so the argument devolved into, Reyes vs. Prince, who's better? My friend had a sports talk radio mentality, not analytical. His big talking point was that Prince was so fat and slow that if he got a single it would literally take three other base hits to score a run, clogging up the basepaths, no value. I checked the record. Jose Reyes scored 119 runs that year; Prince Fielder scored 109 runs. Those numbers are fairly devastating for the Reyes argument.....

Prince was a good player with a lot of value.
1:08 PM Nov 15th
 
patzeram
Great article Bill. A lot of surprises to me here. I was stunned Johnny Bench in 1970 did not have a top twenty season if I read it correctly.
1:07 PM Nov 15th
 
 
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