This will be Part 1 of a 4 part series where I cast my ballots for every Cy Young Award and MVP Award since their inception. It's no secret that the MVP voting has been wildly misrepresentative of who the actual most valuable or best players were in a given season, so I'll try to rectify some of those mistakes. I will be making my Top 5 for American League MVP every single year since the award has existed, and comparing it to the actual results. In order to not make this longer than it already is, I'm not going into depth on every single one of them, but I have plenty of interesting ballots that I need to dive into.
Something that I noticed whilst casting my ballot, is that I put probably too much weight into a players' OPS+, FIP, ERA, and fWAR, given that I was trying to work efficiently and well. fWAR itself, at least for pitchers, relies heavily on FIP, and for hitters, weights defense a lot more than MVP voters usually would. You will see many examples of me giving an MVP to a guy who had a very good offensive season, but really excelled on defense. Another important thing about the MVP races comes from the early days of the award. From 1911-1914, the award was not an MLB award, it was known as the Chambers Award, and not really the MVP, but it was still voted on similarly. However, from 1922-1928, the weirdest two rules existed.
This was only a rule in the American League, and it cost one man lots of hardware. We will NOT be using those rules, so if you played in the American League, you are eligible, those are my only rules. But, without further ado, let's award some MVPs.
In 1911, the first ever American League MVP Award was given out, and the winner was a well deserving Detroit Tiger who hailed from Narrows, GA by the name of Tyrus Raymond Cobb. Here you will see both the real ballot, and my ballot.
1912 is the first year where I have an issue with the winner. Whilst Tris Speaker put up a very very good .383/.464/.567 with a league leading 53 doubles and 10 homers, I find it absolutely ridiculous for the winner not to be Walter Johnson. Johnson put up a 1.39 ERA, 243 ERA+, 2.03 FIP, and a then unheard of, 7.4 K/9. All that for a 13.2 rWAR and 9.3 fWAR, ridiculous numbers. Speaker, a Red Sox legend and Hall of Famer would surely understand me taking away his MVP in 1912.
In 1913, Johnson put up an EVEN BETTER season, and locked in his second consecutive MVP (in my book)
Something fun about 1914, Dutch Leonard had a sub 1 ERA!!!! And he STILL isn't even my number 1 pitcher! That's because his sample size was much smaller than Walter Johnson, who still had a miraculous season on his own. In real 1914, the voters tied a man named Donie Bush with the legendary Frank "Home Run" Baker in third place. Something fun about Bush, is that in 1911, he led the AL in walks, but had the lowest AVG amongst qualified hitters, the second lowest SLG, and the fifth lowest OPS+. He had a 75 OPS+ in a season where he led his league in walks, wow.
From 1915-1921, the MVP Award was not given out. I'm sure that Walter Johnson, Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, or Shoeless Joe would have some hardware, but I didn't look into those years for this study.
In 1914, Babe Ruth made his debut in the majors as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, he was sold to the Yankees on the day after Christmas, 1919, to help fund one of Harry Frazee's projects. The Yanks moved him to the outfield, and in 1922, when the MVP Award came back, the Babe was ready to challenge everything known, but he'd have no chance at .420 hitter George Sisler in 1922. In real life, Ruth didn't even finish top 5, but here, he finishes number 3.
Ah, The Babe has arrived for 1923.
In 1924, Walter Johnson won the award, probably because Ruth had been ineligible in real life, but here we also see Harry Heilmann once again finishing second (in my ballot) behind Ruth. Heilmann is one of the most underrated players in MLB history, and it's a crime that it took him 18 years after his retirement to become a Hall of Famer. Heilmann was a stud alongside Cobb on those 20's Tigers teams, and is a career .342/.410/.520 hitter.
The Bambino arrived at Yankees training camp in 1925 as a fat man who'd been partying and drinking all winter (remember prohibition was still a thing, but it was stupid in the first place, never would've worked, never was enforced, put lots of people out of jobs. You really think you can just ban alcohol??? Also, why was this a constitutional amendment and not just a normal law, that always bothers me) he played just 98 games.
In 1926, Ruth is back
1927 is the year of the Murderers Row team of Earle Combs, Bob Meusel, Tony Lazzeri, Babe Ruth, and Lou Gehrig. This team was stacked, and they have my top two MVP candidates in 1927. Gehrig and Ruth each had a 1.200 OPS, but Ruth takes it with his 60 Home Runs.
5 MVP's for Ruth as he takes home the award for 1928 with another super impressive season.
The Award took a few years off, and then it came back in 1931, but for me it's the same s***, different day.
We finally get a new winner in 1932, in the person of Philadelphia Athletics first baseman Jimmie Foxx, who hit 58 homers, no wonder they called him "The Right Handed Babe Ruth"
Ruth falls out of the top 3, giving way to Lou Gehrig and Joe Cronin to finish behind Foxx.
After back to back wins for Foxx, he finishes second to Gehrig, who finished just 5th in real life.
Here we are taking an MVP from Hammerin' Hank Greenberg and giving the Iron Horse his second despite finishing 5th in real life once again.
In 1936, Foxx falls out of the top 3, and Gehrig wins his third in a row. This was Foxx's first season with the Red Sox.
Young stud Joe DiMaggio beats Gehrig, the two Lefty's, and Hammerin' Hank to win an MVP that he originally lost to HOF 2B Charlie Gehringer.
Foxx is back, and Gehrig finishes outside the top 5, but voters in real life loved Bill Dickey more than I did, as he'd had multiple top 5 finishes in real life while not getting one from me.
1939 was the rookie season of Ted Williams, who'd go on to be snubbed so many times in real life, but here, that'll change, but not yet. He didn't get snubbed in '39, the Yankee Clipper deserved it.
We finally have another pitcher winning the award, as the Heater from Van Meter becomes just my second pitcher to win the award after Walter Johnson.
1941 was a case of highway robbery. Joe DiMaggio had a 56 game hit streak, but Ted Williams hit better than DiMaggio during that streak. .357/.440/.643, those were DiMaggio's numbers for the season, which are absolutely insane.... but Ted Williams hit .406/.553/.735. It was Williams' crowning accomplishment, the most recent player to do the impossible and hit .400 for a season. Even using just the 3 basic numbers, AVG, HR, and RBI, Williams had .406/37/120 while DiMaggio was .357/30/125. There is no excuse for Williams to not win this award.
Williams was robbed AGAIN in 1942, this time by Joe Gordon. This becomes a theme.
Ted goes off to war, as does DiMaggio and other stars, so Spud Chandler becomes the third pitcher to win MVP.
Hal Newhouser had seasons that bWAR absolutely loves, unfortunately for him, I mainly used fWAR here, and an epic battle with Dizzy Trout ends in Trout winning.
Newhouser gets his revenge and wins in 1945 after losing his first of two in a row from real life.
Guess who's back, back again, Teddy's back, tell a friend.
Joe DiMaggio robbed Ted Williams even WORSE in 1947.
DiMaggio: 141 G 601 PA .315/.391/.522 31 2B 10 3B 20 HR 97 RBI 3 SB 4.6 bWAR -8 TZ (OF) 152 wRC+ 4.9 fWAR
Williams: 156 G 693 PA .343/.499/.634 40 2B 3 3B 32 HR 114 RBI 0 SB 9.5 bWAR 0 TZ (OF) 207 wRC+ 10.5 fWAR
There is no excuse for this.
Somehow, someway, Indians shortstop Lou Boudreau does the impossible, taking down Ted and DiMaggio in 1948 whilst leading the Tribe to a World Championship.
I may have overrated Mel Parnell, but that doesn't change the fact that Ted Williams is now 1 away from tying Ruth. Also, voters love Phil Rizzuto, who was super overrated.
Welcome to a new decade, and we have our first African-American MVP, Larry Doby. He takes it over Al Rosen, his rookie teammate, as Williams is off injured playing just 89 games.
Ted Williams walks a lot again, wins his 6th MVP, ties Babe Ruth's record.
A's pitcher Bobby Shantz overcomes young superstar Mickey Mantle to win the 1952 MVP as Williams goes off to the Korean War.
Refer back to My article about Al Rosen
HE DID IT! Despite playing just 117 games, Ted Williams takes home his 7th MVP. Some of Ted's best seasons were cut short due to wars or injury.
We will never see anybody like Mickey Mantle again.... right? A five tool center fielder who hits for power, is super fast, has a very good glove, hits for average, walks, he does everything. He's gonna win a lot of these.
I swear, that's an incredible season from Mickey Mantle, no way he can do it again.
Wanna see me do it again?
FINALLY! The reign of the Commerce Comet has ended. Camilo Pascual with an insane season on the mound unseats the great Mantle.
In Ted Williams' final season, he finishes fourth behind pitcher Jim Bunning and Yankee duo Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle, the latter name sounds familiar, did I mention him yet? Maris led the league in SLG and RBI and put up a very good season, but his 1961 would be maybe even better.
Remember how good Maris was in '60, yeah he was even better in '61, breaking the Babe's HR record, but Mickey Mantle almost did the same thing, and Mantle also had a higher AVG, OBP, SLG, OPS, and a league leading 206 OPS+. Interestingly, Norm Cash of the Tigers also put up a season I consider better than Maris' in 61, with a 201 OPS+ of his own.
That Mantle guy was pretty good.
Remember Ted Williams, yeah, his successor just finished second in the MVP voting. Carl Yastrzemski finishes second only to a man who got majorly snubbed in real life, Bob Allison, who didn't even finish top 5 somehow.
Real life MVP Brooks Robinson falls to a ridiculous season by Dean Chance. Oh yeah, that Mantle guy finished third.
One of the most random MVP's ever, Zoilo Versalles, finishes second to pitcher Sam McDowell, as I don't care at all that the Twins won the AL Pennant. A major theme in awards is that players on winning teams tended to win more awards, and that's something I don't care for.
Frank Robinson retains his MVP, and as of now, the throne of being the only man to win MVP in both the American and National Leagues, although that may change.
T R I P L E C R O W N
One of the greatest seasons ever by a hitter was put up by that dude that was Ted Williams' successor. Seven years after Williams' retirement, the great Carl Yastrzemski, who holds the record for most games played with one team, will develop a legacy in Boston thanks in major part to his 1967 MVP season.
1968 was the year of the pitcher, the AL batting champ was Yaz, who batted .301. Luis Tiant, with a 1.60 ERA and 2.02 FIP takes the MVP over Yaz and pitchers Dean Chance, Sam McDowell, and original MVP Denny McLain. Tiant becomes the second Cuban AL MVP after Camilo Pascual.
I so badly wanted to give the 1969 MVP to Rico Petrocelli, who actually led the AL in fWAR and bWAR, but I just gave it to Reggie Jackson in one of the closest races that I had. Petrocelli had defense on his side, but I went with offense here.
Yaz wins his 2nd MVP, taking it away from Boog Powell, who looked like he was 55 years old when he was at the plate. Perfect Earl Weaver player, as in the body type doesn't matter, results matter.
Pitching is king again in 1971, and Vida Blue, who pitched a phenomenal season, retains his MVP award, this time defeating Wilbur Wood and not Sal Bando.
Dick Allen retains his MVP, but spitballer Gaylord Perry jumps into the top 3, and both Bobby Murcer and Mickey Lolich make encore appearances in the top 5.
I have no idea how Bert Blyleven got so disrespected in real life, who put up over 10 fWAR in his age 22 campaign. Blyleven put up a 2.52 ERA and 2.32 FIP, and he beats out Jim Palmer, Reggie Jackson, and Sal Bando, who all finished ahead of him in real life.
One of the weakest MVP's ever was Jeff Burroughs, and he will not win in 1974 in my book. Blyleven, who put up 8 fWAR and a 2.37 FIP will take home back to back MVP's in years where he didn't even finish top 5 in real life, probably because he went 20-17, and then 17-17. With the emphasis on the W-L in real life, many pitchers got robbed of MVP's and Cy Youngs.
Fred Lynn won MVP as a rookie for the Red Sox, and he will maintain that, but Rod Carew, who didn't finish top 5 in real life, finishes number 2. If you haven't already, make sure to read my Rod Carew article
Yankee catchers getting their MVP's taken away seems to be a theme, as Berra, Dickey, and now Munson have all been overhyped by the BBWAA. George Brett replaces him on top. Rookie pitcher Mark Fidrych, who pitched one of my favorite seasons in MLB history this year, finishes fourth in my ballot. Just wanted to shout out "The Bird"
.388. That's Rod Carew's 1977 AVG. He had a 1.019 OPS despite hitting just 14 HR. Once again, make sure to check out the article I linked above. (NOTE: I misspelled Graig Nettles' name as I spelled in "Nettle," please ignore that.)
1.74 ERA, 2.19 FIP, 9.1 fWAR, 25-3, Ron Guidry somehow finished second in this MVP race to Jim Rice, who had 46 HR, 139 RBI, and 7.7 fWAR, very good, but Guidry put up an all time great season and didn't win. This is not as egregious as 1941 or 1947, but this one still bothers me, despite my Red Sox fandom, hatred of the Yankees, and Rice being my dad's favorite player.
Don Baylor had an MVP season that was not even worthy of top 10 in my book, but 1975 MVP Fred Lynn had a season for the ages. Lynn won the triple slash crown, which is leading the league in AVG, OBP, and SLG, and thus he also led the league in OPS. His MLB high 176 OPS+ coupled with 42 2B, 39 HR, and 122 RBI somehow finished just fourth. This is ridiculous. Baylor in '79 was very good, with a .296/.371/.530 slash line and 36 HR, but Lynn was robbed.
Winning his second MVP in 1980 will be George Brett. The second greatest third baseman of all time, behind only Mike Schmidt, Brett won the triple slash crown with an outrageous .390/.454/.664. Despite only playing in only 117 games, Brett qualified for the batting title with just 13 more PA's than the limit, but his slash line speaks for itself, and we mirror reality.
Relievers simply should not win MVP Awards, it's ridiculous. Rollie Fingers had a great year, but he wasn't even the best reliever in the AL that year, as Goose Gossage finishes fifth in my ballot. Eddie Murray and Bobby Grich finish fourth and third, but the top 2 is the important part. Dwight Evans led the AL in Homers, walks, and OPS, and rides that to the MVP slightly above Rickey Henderson, who led the league in Stolen bases.
It took an incredible season by Robin Yount to unseat Evans as the AL MVP, and Henderson, despite stealing 130 bags, finishes just third.
The young Cal Ripken Jr. takes the 1983 MVP deservingly, but a man who never got enough love from the voters, Wade Boggs, finishes second in his second season for me.
RELIEVERS SHOULDN'T WIN MVP! SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS! Willie Hernandez won MVP, yeah, he wasn't even the best pitcher in the AL, that was Dave Stieb. Cal Ripken Jr. walks away with the MVP for me beating teammate Eddie Murray.
Here we see a stellar Rickey Henderson season, OBPing over .400 in his first season with the Yankees, stealing 80 bags, putting up over 20 homers and 70 RBI while playing premium center field. For me, Rickey comfortably takes it over Wade Boggs and original MVP Don Mattingly. (excuse the typo in George Brett's name)
I so badly wanted to give this one to Boggs, buy Roger Clemens was a guy that put up some insane seasons over the course of his career, seasons that you may see featured later.
FINALLY! After so many second place finishes, Wade Boggs wins the AL MVP in 1987. 87 may have been Boggs at his best, but the BBWAA disrespected him, something they usually tended to do.
Jose Canseco did 40-40, yeah I don't care, Roger Clemens put up another insane pitching season and takes home my MVP for his second.
Back to back seasons where a pitcher wins MVP also features an old Nolan Ryan in the top 5. Historically underrated Bret Saberhagen wins MVP for me in 1989.
He won it in real life in 1990, and Rickey will win his second AL MVP in my book for his incredible power surge to add to his ridiculous speed and on base skills for 1990.
Winning 3 MVP's AND playing every single game in a 15 year stretch, yeah Ripken accomplishes both of those feats in a fair world. An extremely deserving MVP with over 10 fWAR.
RELIEVERS SHOULDN'T WIN MVP!!!! SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS! Frank Thomas didn't even get into the top 5 despite putting up 174 OPS+, 46 doubles, and a .439 OBP, yeah, he's my winner.
Maybe the most underrated single season performance ever is John Olerud's 1993. .363/.473/.599, those are Ted Williams numbers being put up along with 80 XBH and fantastic defense at first base. Olerud easily takes it despite Ken Griffey Jr's best efforts.
Look at The Kid, sitting in second again, behind just the Big Hurt. This strike shortened season was a chance for Griffey to break Maris' record, he had 40 before August 12th, but that would be all. Frank Thomas deservedly takes home his second Most Valuable Player Award.
Two Mariners finish 1,2, but not The Kid, due to his injuries. Edgar Martinez had an awesome season, way better than actual MVP Mo Vaughn, but Randy Johnson dominated 1995, and this would be the Big Unit's first MVP.
Actual MVP Juan Gonzalez 1996: 134 G 592 PA .314/.368/.643 33 2B 47 HR 144 RBI 2 SB 3.8 bWAR -11 TZ (OF) 141 wRC+ 3.8 fWAR
A-Rod 1996: 146 G 638 PA .358/.414/.631 54 2B 36 HR 123 RBI 15 SB 9.4 bWAR +8 TZ (SS) 159 wRC+ 9.2 fWAR
The only other person besides A-Rod that you could argue for is Griffey, but I say advantage Rodriguez in a coin flip.
Roger Clemens takes away Junior's MVP. I feel so bad for it, but Clemens just deserved it. And how on earth did Randy Myers finish top 5 in real life. This is why the BBWAA is not to be trusted.
Oh man, he won his fourth. Roger Clemens has doubled Walter Johnson and Bert Blyleven's mark of most AL MVP's won by a pitcher. He did it in style in 1998, defeating Alex Rodriguez, who somehow didn't finish top 5. Juan-Gon is loved by the voters, but he shouldn't be.
For 1999 and 2000, I refer my arguments to this video:
Same argument here.
I hate to take one away from Ichiro, but Jason Giambi put up ridiculous numbers, .342/.477/.660 with a 199 OPS+ is disgusting.
A-Rod was a WAR darling, and he wins his second MVP in my book for 2002, peep Alfonso Soriano in the top 5, he and A-Rod have a history together, or a future shall I say.
There's that man again. Alex Rodriguez wins his 3rd MVP, once again beating out the great Pedro Martinez. He won in real life before being traded to the Yankees for Alfonso Soriano.
Remember George Sisler's 256 hits? Yeah, Ichiro broke that record, he had 262 and a .372 average. That easily puts him ahead of A-Rod and original MVP Vlad Guerrero.
Johan Santana just misses out on an MVP award, but there's nothing wrong with losing to Alex Rodriguez, who takes it home in 2005.
So... I should probably explain myself: Okay: Grady Sizemore had over 50 doubles, a .375 on base percentage, 133 OPS+ and 22 Stolen bases, which is very good, but not MVP. But then there's his defensive value, which gets him to a league leading 7+ fWAR.
Yeah, that A-Rod guy again....
I was super close to giving it to Cliff Lee, but Dustin Pedroia put up over 50 doubles and a .326 average with gold glove second base defense, and that's winning it for me. (Also Pedey is my favorite player of all time)
Imagine a catcher batting .365, yeah that's Joe Mauer in 2009. Unbelievably, Ben Zobrist finds himself in the 3rd spot with lots of WAR.
.359 and an OPS over 1.000. What a phenomenal season for Hamilton, who I've already written about.
32 Homers, 39 Stolen bases, 46 doubles, 146 OPS+, gold glove defense, yeah I think Ellsbury deserved it.
We will never see anybody like Mickey Mantle again.... right? A five tool center fielder who hits for power, is super fast, has a very good glove, hits for average, walks, he does everything... well meet Mike Trout, who is basically Mickey Mantle, he's gonna win a lot of these, isn't he.
Miggy's Triple Crown in 2012 could only be unseated by Trout, who had a fantastic 2013, and Cabrera didn't do quite as much.
This was Trout's worst healthy season in real life... he won unanimous MVP.... he'll do the same here.
I wrote about Josh Donaldson, but I failed to mention that Mike Trout exists and should've won MVP in 2015.
This should've been Mike Trout's 5th MVP, instead, it was his second.
The one time Trout doesn't win, hallelujah, somebody else. Aaron Judge put up a .422 OBP with 52 homers and a ridiculous walk rate. Yeah, he struck out a lot, but he had a better season in my opinion that Jose Altuve.
It's very possible that Mookie Betts' 2018 was the best season by a hitter in this decade, better than any of Trout's seasons, putting up 10 bWAR and 10 fWAR. He batted .346, led the league in on base, had a 30-30 season, AND won a Gold Glove, he deserved the MVP.
Trout did it again.....
And now, the final list, of how many MVP's each person with multiple won:
Thanks to Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs for providing most of my data.