Felix Hernandez and the AL MVP

A week ago, I wrote an InstaGraphs post noting that the current favorites for MVP in both leagues were playing in the Los Angeles market. The point of the post was to highlight Clayton Kershaw‘s candidacy, but in running through the other candidates for AL MVP, I wrote this:

Robinson Cano only has eight home runs and will probably split any votes he might get with Felix Hernandez, who would be a serious threat to Trout if the BBWAA gave pitchers the same credit as hitters in the voting. They don’t, though, so Felix probably finishes outside of the top five.

Since that post was published, Robinson Cano has hit .381/.536/.810, good for a 253 wRC+, including a couple more home runs. And Felix Hernandez has thrown 15 innings, allowed just seven hits, given up two runs, walked one, and struck out 16. In retrospect, I undersold the MVP case for both of Seattle’s stars, and particularly, the growing case for Felix as the top candidate.

If you want to just do the short-hand version for why the BBWAA should give Hernandez serious consideration for the award, there’s this.

AL WAR Leaders:

1. Felix Hernandez, +6.2
2. Mike Trout, +5.9

WAR isn’t perfect or the last one word on who should win the postseason awards — and a +0.3 WAR gap is effectively a tie, given the model’s limitations — but by at least that model, Hernandez has been the best player in baseball this year. And this isn’t just a FIP-based WAR thing; by RA9-WAR, Hernandez is at +6.6, so if you prefer to evaluate a pitcher by everything that happens while he’s on the mound, our version of WAR undersells his performance a little bit.

But voters shouldn’t (and won’t) just look at league WAR totals and list their ballot accordingly, so let’s take a deeper look at Felix’s candidacy.

First, let’s deal with the historical levels needed for a pitcher to win the MVP. Daniel Brim just worked through a similar exercise to evaluate Kershaw’s chances yesterday, so I’m just going to borrow a table from him, showing the last 10 pitchers to win the MVP award.

Player Year IP ERA- FIP- RA9-WAR fWAR
Justin Verlander 2011 251.0 58 73 9.2 6.9
Dennis Eckersley 1992 80.0 52 47 3.1 3.0
Roger Clemens 1986 254.0 57 65 9.5 7.8
Willie Hernandez 1984 140.1 49 65 5.2 3.0
Rollie Fingers 1981 78.0 30 58 4.7 2.5
Vida Blue 1971 312.0 56 65 11.3 8.7
Bob Gibson 1968 304.2 38 65 13.8 9.5
Denny McLain 1968 336.0 64 78 10.2 6.8
Sandy Koufax 1963 311.0 62 62 11.8 9.8
Don Newcombe 1956 268.0 78 86 6.9 4.9

Putting aside the BBWAA’s weird love of relievers-as-MVP, we find seven instances where a starting pitcher has won the MVP, with six of them occurring more than 40 years ago. To put into context how old some of these examples are, the median innings total for these seven pitchers in their MVP years: 305 IP. That’s not the max; that’s the median. The average — pulled down by the single modern candidate, Justin Verlander — is 290 innings.

Back when starters used to start 40 times per year and throw complete games more than half the time they took the hill, they were considered legitimate MVP candidates. Now, starters make 33 or 34 starts and the ones who work the most average seven innings per start. The game is different, but these changes have also led to position players dominating the MVP award for the last four decades. While Felix certainly should be a strong candidate this year, the BBWAA has had no problem overlooking similar or even better seasons from a starting pitcher when picking an MVP.

For example, we might look at Verlander’s 2011 season and conclude that perhaps a +9 RA9-WAR season should be enough to get a starting pitcher some real consideration, and Felix is actually on pace to have a better year than Verlander had three years ago. But from 1984 to 2013, there were 20 seasons more valuable than Verlander’s 2011 season by RA9-WAR, or an average of one per season. Here’s a list of 20 guys who pitched at that level (or better), and where they finished in the MVP voting that year.

Season Name Team IP ERA- FIP- WAR RA9-WAR MVP Place
1985 Dwight Gooden Mets 276.2 44 59 8.7 12.8 4
1985 John Tudor Cardinals 275.0 55 75 6.3 10.0 8
1986 Roger Clemens Red Sox 254.0 57 65 7.8 9.5 1
1986 Mike Scott Astros 275.1 63 60 8.6 9.4 10
1987 Roger Clemens Red Sox 281.2 65 64 9.0 9.5 19
1989 Bret Saberhagen Royals 262.1 56 65 8.1 9.3 8
1992 Greg Maddux Cubs 268.0 61 71 6.9 9.4 11
1993 Jose Rijo Reds 257.1 61 71 6.9 9.3 21
1994 Greg Maddux Braves 202.0 37 55 7.2 9.8 5
1995 Greg Maddux Braves 209.2 39 53 7.9 11.0 3
1996 Kevin Brown Marlins 233.0 46 68 6.6 9.7 22
1997 Roger Clemens Blue Jays 264.0 45 50 10.8 12.4 10
1997 Greg Maddux Braves 232.2 53 57 8.0 9.9 12
1997 Pedro Martinez Expos 241.1 45 56 8.6 9.8 16
1999 Randy Johnson Diamondbacks 271.2 53 58 9.6 10.7 15
1999 Pedro Martinez Red Sox 213.1 42 30 11.9 10.0 2
2000 Pedro Martinez Red Sox 217.0 35 46 9.9 12.2 5
2001 Randy Johnson Diamondbacks 249.2 55 46 10.4 9.8 11
2002 Randy Johnson Diamondbacks 260.0 54 60 8.0 9.5 7
2009 Zack Greinke Royals 229.1 48 53 9.1 9.5 17
  Average   248.5 51 58 8.5 10.2 10
  Median   255.6 53 59 8.3 9.8 10

That is 20 great seasons from starting pitchers, averaging +8.5 WAR by FIP and +10.0 WAR by runs allowed, both marks that Felix is unlikely to reach this year. Felix is matching the group average in ERA-, but he’s probably going to come a little bit short of the innings average, and with eight unearned runs allowed, ERA overrates his performance a little bit. But, certainly, Felix is having a season that isn’t too far off what those guys accomplished, and if he keeps up this pace, his 2014 season will go down as one of the best pitching seasons of the last few decades.

But look at where those guys finished in the MVP voting. Clemens managed to win the award once, and Pedro finished second, though all it took was maybe the most dominant single season any pitcher has ever had in the history of the game. Peak Greg Maddux finished third once, and he also got a fifth place finish, as did Pedro in his second attempt at having the most dominant season ever. Oh, and Dwight Gooden finished fourth in the year he was worth nearly +13 WAR by runs allowed. But those are the only six examples of these insanely great seasons where the pitcher even finished in the top five. 11 of the 20 seasons didn’t even result in a top 10 finish.

So, yeah, the BBWAA has a very strong recent history of just not giving serious consideration to starting pitchers for the MVP Award. They’ve made a couple of exceptions, but by and large, the voting panel prefers to vote for hitters, and occasionally relievers. As shown by the move away from Win-Loss record as the primary determinator of the Cy Young voting, the voting body is getting smarter, but history is still strongly against Hernandez’s chances.

However, we know that one of the primary variables for MVP consideration is a team’s place in the standings, as we could also list some pretty great hitter seasons that didn’t result in MVP awards because the player’s team was out of contention. If we look at the six pitchers who managed a top five finish from the list above, here’s what we find in terms of their team’s overall results.

1984 Mets: 98-64, 2nd place
1986 Red Sox: 95-66, 1st place
1994 Braves: 68-46, 2nd place
1995 Braves: 90-54, 1st place
1999 Red Sox: 94-68, 2nd place
2000 Red Sox: 85-77, 2nd place

And of course, Verlander’s 2011 MVP came in a season where the Tigers went 95-67 and won their division. There’s a clear connection between team finish and MVP placement, and this shouldn’t be a huge surprise, since voters clearly articulate a preference for the MVP to come from a winning team. But even with a great season on a winning team, we still find weird things like 2001-2002 Randy Johnson.

The Diamondbacks won their division in both seasons, winning 92 games in ’01 and 98 games in ’02. Not only was he roughly a +10 WAR pitcher by runs allowed in both seasons, but he played on first place teams that had a small margin of divisional victory, so voters couldn’t even play the “they’d have won without him” card. And yet he finished 11th in 2001 and 7th in 2002.

Trying to find a common thread of logic and reason in how the BBWAA has treated starting pitchers in the MVP voting is basically futile. Some great seasons on winning teams have been rewarded with a top five finish, and a couple have even resulted in a victory, but there’s no obvious rhyme or reason as to why those seasons were selected. Verlander’s season was terrific, but not as terrific as many others, and Jacoby Ellsbury was a fantastic candidate on a team whose season ended in Game 163. Why did Verlander win that year, when guys like Johnson couldn’t even finish in the top 10 in better seasons in years where their team won the division?

For Hernandez, it seems like his best hope is to continue his ridiculous current streak of starts with seven or more innings and two or fewer runs allowed. He’s at 16 and counting, setting a new Major League record in the process, and this is the kind of run that draws attention. If he runs out a few more of these and pushes his total near 20 straight “Super Quality Stars” or whatever nickname they end up getting, the voters will take notice.

But to call this an uphill battle would be a drastic understatement. While Felix is having a great season, Mike Trout is also having a great season, and Trout’s team is more likely to win one of the two Wild Card spots, and might even still steal the division title. Trout’s individual resume might not be quite as impressive as it was the last few years, but he’s hitting better than ever, and voters are unlikely to care too much about the decline in his defensive and baserunning value. Trout is the best player in baseball, he’s playing at a high level, and he’s on a team with very strong postseason odds. He’s still the favorite to win, even if Felix keeps pitching at this level.

But it will be interesting twist to the MVP race if Felix does actually keep this up. While Trout has been the endorsed candidate of the nerd crowd for the last few years, I’m guessing most of us are probably more interested in rewarding starting pitchers as MVPs than the BBWAA has historically been, and if the gap between Felix and Trout grows, we could be the ones arguing against Trout as MVP this year, with the voters giving him a trophy in a year where he’s maybe not the most deserving candidate.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


161 Responses to “Felix Hernandez and the AL MVP”

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  1. Mr Punch says:

    You’re thinking of Player of the Year. Does that award still exist?

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  2. Dave Pomerantz says:

    In 1994 and 1995, Maddux was with the Braves, who finished 68-46 (2nd place) and 90-54 (1st place). More clearly demonstrates the team record’s influence on the vote.

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  3. Tim says:

    I think you meant ’94 & ’95 BRAVES, not Cubs for Maddux

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  4. the tourist says:

    Cue to comments saying Dave is a biased Mariners fan in 3, 2, 1….

    But in all seriousness, Felix has been an absolute pleasure to watch. Even if he doesn’t win the AL MVP, he’s helping that team win by limiting runs to a pretty historical degree. Every time he’s on the mound, the team just needs a few runs and they have a legitimate shot to win, inept defense and all.

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    • the tourist says:

      That’s what I get for not proofreading.

      Inept offense.

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    • CabreraDeath says:

      I don’t think you can call Dave biased or a homer this year. No one has been more wrong, more often about the Mariners this year than him. Kind of the opposite of the #6th org debate.

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  5. CabreraDeath says:

    The only reason that the WAR is close between Trout/Felix is that somehow, someway, Trout’s defense has rated well-below average. No one truly believes that Trout is a below-average defender; therefore, if there was ever a year to disregard (or at least marginalize) a SSS of below-average defense for a considerably above-average defender….this year is it.

    Felix is a close #2, in my eyes, but Trout still reigns.

    CD

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    • wallysb01 says:

      I’ve often thought it would be nice if WAR used a regression model for the defensive contribution. So, if it takes 3 years for defensive measurements to be an accurate indicator of true talent, maybe we should regress current performance toward a 3-year average. Or in cases of players without 3 years of playing time, toward the league average.

      This way Trout wouldn’t have a -7 runs on his defense this year, but rather we’d adjust his LF metrics in 2012 and 2013 to what we’d expect them to mean in CF, then take the average of this adjustment combined with this CF play in 2012-2014. Once you add this all up, it looks to me that Trout is roughly a +0 run defender in CF. That might be the back of the napkin version but I think this general idea would be useful.

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      • TKDC says:

        Why? The fact that Trout is likely a much better fielder than he has shown this year does not change the fact that he has not done well in the field this year. If we’re just going to pretend that everyone has done as good as they should given their talent, just give the award to Trout before the season starts.

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        • Dan says:

          Is it a fact(/i) that he has not done well in the field this year?

          No.

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        • Dan says:

          Oopsie, formatting.

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        • TKDC says:

          Well, it’s not a fact. It’s not a fact that Ryan Howard has not done well in the filed this year, either. The best statistical evidence we have says that he has not produced good results in the field this year. I favor looking at performance to determine the MVP, not true talent levels. A three-year average for defense does a much better job of judging talent. However, to use it to determine 2014 value would be a mistake.

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        • The Foils says:

          The issue with defensive stats in small samples is not just one of predictability. It’s that it also magnifies the human error implicit in a stat that’s calculated by hand.

          So, it’s not accurate to say that the stats necessarily show what actually happened. They probably show what mostly happened, though. That I’d agree with.

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        • Walter says:

          The why is because the measurement error in one season is too large to accept as a true measure of actual value.

          So, is the stat really a measurement that shows what he’s done on the field is worse than typical, or is the measurement just faulty because its method is imperfect and leads to lots of noise in ~1 season samples?

          I’m suggesting the latter is more likely and we should maybe adjust WAR because of it.

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        • TKDC says:

          Well, the error bars for components of defensive value are of course unknown. It does seem like in general different measures of defense go up and down together, and it is silly to think that players can’t perform better or worse in the field from year to year in the same way they do at the plate or on the basepaths.

          To me, I’d think that if the error bars are large, a season like 2014 Mike Trout would be a good candidate for it being unfair to him, and maybe there is an adjustment that could account for that and best predict what his actual on-field value is (I don’t have the background to know if this is sound, but it just makes sense to me). However, just doing a 3-year average is silly when trying to find value for a single year. It only works if you think players just play defense at some sort of constant (I actually have friends that think this; I think these friends are idiots).

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        • Brian says:

          We should certainly not adjust WAR because of it, because the purpose of WAR is to quantify the value that a player produced with the opportunities he has been given. WAR is inherently unfair, but that’s because baseball itself is unfair. Sometimes you can correct for it accurately (i.e. park effects, DIPS) and sometimes you can’t (fielding chances).

          A starting center fielder only gets something like 400 chances (balls in zone + plays out of zone) per 1300 inning season. That’s just not enough time to drown out all the noise and guarantee that a player puts up a DEF that is commensurate with his talent level. Even if we had perfect granular FieldF/X data, some of that noise is still going to be there. And it should be there- it’s not like players don’t underperform or overperform their mean talent level all the time.

          I think there is an argument for regressing fielding data somewhat to account for some of the variability in the BIS raw data (i.e. it’s not as reliable as say K% for a hitter). But only if you can quantify how much it should be regressed relative to BsR and OFF – and you have to realize that even if we could figure it out, fielding data is still going to be really noisy from season to season. If you can’t accurately regress, (and presently, we cannot), then all you can do is present WAR and its components as estimates (which is how it’s done now), and leave it up to the user to decide how to use that information when they decide how “good” a player really is.

          And as far as MVP voting goes, it’s really up to the individual on how to weight fielding based on how the chances are distributed. There’s really no right answer to how “fair” a voter should be – or even on how to define “fair.”

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        • Walter says:

          TKDC, I agree that we shouldn’t just replace 1 year stats with 3 year averages, that’s why I was suggesting a regression rather than replacement, but I can see that’s was clear.

          And I don’t think multiple metrics showing the same general trend necessarily means the trend is true. Rather, they could be correlated because they rely on much of the same methodology.

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        • Walter says:

          “A starting center fielder only gets something like 400 chances (balls in zone + plays out of zone) per 1300 inning season. That’s just not enough time to drown out all the noise and guarantee that a player puts up a DEF that is commensurate with his talent level.”

          No offence, but I think you’re getting a bit stuck in the mud.

          The problem is not in assigning credit for events that happen rather than true talent. I’m perfectly OK with giving credit for noise, if noise happened. The problem is in how that credit is assigned by the UZR model. It muddles all kinds of things together, binning things this way or that, all of which might even out over 3 years, but not 1. So, why blindly expose ourselves to the fluctuations due to the imperfections in the model when we know more than just the 1 year?

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        • Brian says:

          Yeah, UZR is far from perfect with how the bins work. But don’t you see that by using some sort of 3-year average you are eliminating a lot of the noise that you want to capture? You lose ageing effects, injury, outliers, batted ball distribution and more. Wouldn’t that sort of be like calculating wRC+ using two-year regressed xBABIP and HR/FB%?

          So you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place because your model isn’t great but its the best you’ve got. And in that situation, you’re better off giving the reader the raw output of the model for their own interpretation rather than doing some sort of black box regression and forcing the user to undo it if they want to see the raw output.

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        • Walter says:

          I’d rather not have to go through and look at ump-teen different players 3 year UZR/150 ratings to determine how much I believe their fielding competent then subjectively adjusting their total WAR when ranking players. That’s my motivation for not just letting the reader decided. I’d rather just have both in columns right next to each other.

          And what I want is the best possible estimation of true value, so I suppose I’m advocating a bit more of a Bayesian. “Real” noise or not can go to hell, I want every piece of data used to inform a present value estimation and am not OK with accepting bad noise to get the good.

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        • Brooks says:

          @TKDC:
          “[I]t is silly to think that players can’t perform better or worse in the field from year to year in the same way they do at the plate or on the basepaths.”

          I don’t know why you would say it is silly. Fielding and hitting involve entirely different skills. They share absolutely nothing in common, aside from the fact that they are played out on a baseball field.

          For one thing, fielding should not be as susceptible to the vagaries of chance as hitting or pitching. I believe that the year-to-year fluctuations in defensive metrics like UZR can probably be explained by fluctuations in the fielder’s positioning. Positioning plays a very important role in any defensive metric, including UZR. And I do not disagree with giving value to positioning, because positioning is a skill. However, the question is how much liberty an individual fielder has with regard to his positioning, and how much is attributed to his coaching staff. If a fielder is being told where to position himself on each batter, then is it fair to punish or reward him for a metric that is designed to evaluate individual performance?

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        • Cool Lester Smooth says:

          Actually, the vagaries inherent in the methodology used to calculate UZR are why we should not pretend to know whether or not Trout has done well in the field this year.

          This year’s UZR data means absolutely nothing, because it neither measures true talent nor tells us what actually happened. We do, however, have a three year sample of UZR data that tells us his true talent level is that of an above average CF, so we should use that in our assessment of his worthiness as MVP, rather than a model which tells us that Adeiny Hechavarria and Derek Jeter have been equally valuable defensively this season.

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        • But what does UZR from two years ago tell us about how a fielder is performing now? You wouldn’t accept that as a judgement of how good his batting is.

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        • Brian says:

          I think in the end my willingness to accept a one-year UZR even knowing about the warts is 1) On the population level it works, even if it often is inaccurate on the individual level, so it’s better than nothing.
          2) We can’t just ignore fielding, and I think it’s a mistake to use data from 2 years ago to tell us something about the value that a fielder produced last year. That risks “losing the baby with the bath water,” as they say.
          3) You could use a Bayesian model to get fielding value, but this will necessarily underrate young, good fielders and overrate those same fielders when they get older. That’s fine when you’re ranking careers but bad when talking about individual seasons.
          4) A better metric would do a better job crediting fielders for plays they did make, but would still have issues debiting players if plays they should have made but did not. I’m thinking about the MLBAM demo of the Puig catch against the Mets here. We can’t argue with the talent display, as great and valuable a catch it was, his ability to even get to that ball is a matter of one step this way or that. If his positioning was bad, now you have the Jeter issue of making an easy play look hard. But can you know much about his positioning value? There are so many variables that go into it that I would argue that you can’t; at least not down to the accuracy you’d need to establish the edge of a player’s ideal range. Even if you could, it’s probably unreasonable to expect a player to be able to figure it out down to that level. So even with a better model for measuring talent, I think you’re probably going to introduce a lot of inaccuracy when you try to turn talent level into a metric that measures value produced. I hope I’m wrong about it, but I’m not holding my breath.
          5) Even considering all that, UZR produces somewhere on the order of +-0.5 extra wins through its inaccuracy. You’re standing on thin ice saying that a 4.2 WAR player is much different from a 4.7 WAR player for example, so I’m OK with just accepting it for what it is.

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      • Yeah says:

        It’s not measuring talent it’s measuring performance.

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        • Cool Lester Smooth says:

          UZR, in a three year sample, can roughly assess talent.

          It cannot, however, assess performance accurately, so we should not attempt to use it to do so.

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    • Andy says:

      If you don’t like a site that rates Trout’s defense as below average, go to another. Like BBPro, where Trout has a 6.99 WARP vs. 4.41 for Felix. This article never would have been written for that site.

      Personally, I like to average the three sites. Last I checked, Trout was at 6.35, Felix at 5.54. Trout has close competition from other position players, too, at each site, but no other player is close to him at all three sites.

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    • Cool Lester Smooth says:

      Exactly. This article should read:

      “If you’ve never watched Mike Trout play baseball, and therefore believe that UZR may be accurate in saying that he has been the second worst defensive CF in baseball this season, then Felix Hernandez might have an argument for the AL MVP.”

      Perfect InstaGraphs piece.

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  6. King Buzzo's Fro says:

    Well first they bucked the Cy Young trend by giving it to Felix with “poor” won-loss record. Now they can do it again with the MVP

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    • JH says:

      13-3 is poor?

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      • Brian says:

        If he ends up 17-5 like ZiPS/Steamer think he will, that’s not “poor,” but in the mind of a W-L advocate that’s not “good enough” either. Even if he ends up like 20-3, those 20 wins probably aren’t enough to convince that voter that Felix was more “valuable” than Trout. Felix probably doesn’t have enough starts left in the season to get his wins number high enough for MVP consideration in that voter’s mind.

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      • Alex says:

        Felix was 13-12 when he won the Cy Young in 2010.

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  7. Visitor says:

    Seeing Newcombe on there with a relatively low WAR, I went to see how much he added with his bat, knowing that he was a fantastic hitter for a pitcher. He only added 0.9 WAR in 1956 but then I also saw that he added 2.3 WAR in 1955. 2.3 WAR in 125 PA! He hit .359/.395/.632!

    Just thought that was amazing, even though it really has nothing to do with what this article is about.

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    • EDogg1438 says:

      Somehow, on a World Series winning Dodger squad in 1955, he managed to lead the team in SLG despite the presence of Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, and Gil Hodges.

      Big Newk hit 7 HR in only 125 PA that year.

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    • a eskpert says:

      An important point. Pitcher hitting should count towards the MVP, but not towards the Cy Young.

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    • bob says:

      Replacement level batting for pitchers is really low, so that inflates it a bit. Still really great, though.

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  8. Purps says:

    This Daniel Brim guy knows his stuff.

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  9. Anthony A. says:

    To nitpick, Maddux played for the Braves in 1994 and 1995 (not the Cubs) finishing 68-46 (2nd) and 90-54 (1st), respectively.

    If my memory serves me right, 2011 didn’t have a particularly outrageous season by a hitter, while 24 wins is almost unheard of in the modern game. Ellsbury’s Red Sox finished 3rd in the standings while Bautista’s Blue Jays finished 4th, further supporting your implication that playing for a winning team holds great significance.

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  10. Well-Beered Englishman says:

    I think it would be hilarious if Mike Trout retired with, say, 200 career WAR as the greatest player in baseball history, but through a series of increasingly bizarre coincidences, never managed to win a single MVP award. Sort of like Alfred Hitchcock, Peter O’Toole, and Charlie Chaplin never winning a single (competitive) Oscar.

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    • Visitor says:

      Chaplin did technically win a competitive Oscar, winning Best Original Score for “Limelight” in 1972, 20 years after the film was originally released.

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      • Visitor says:

        Correction: 1973

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      • Well-Beered Englishman says:

        On one hand, that seems like a “we’re sorry we didn’t give you an Oscar for all the great work you did 30-50 years ago” consolation prize, and I hesitate to count it.

        On the other hand, Chaplin really was a gifted musician and composer. The score for Modern Times is brilliant, and Meredith Willson (who also wrote “The Music Man”) said that all the best bits of his score for The Great Dictator were actually Chaplin’s ideas.

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        • Visitor says:

          No disagreement–that was surely actually a lifetime achievement award more than one for that particular score.

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        • Jason B says:

          I hate those lifetime achievement makeups: “hey, we missed this guys 4 A-plus movies or roles, let’s give him a makeup award for a B-minus one!”

          (See also: “The Departed”)

          Can you imagine going, “Hey we might should have given Trout an MVP sometime in the last two years! Ah it’s OK, we can give him one when he goes 260/340/430 for like 3.5 WAR at age 34.”

          (See also: Two wrongs, they don’t make a right.)

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        • a eskpert says:

          That’s Trout’s age 44 season.

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        • Visitor says:

          The Oscars are political awards. They have nothing at all to do with the art they are supposedly celebrating.

          Incidentally, one other weird thing about Chaplin’s Oscar: He would have had zero chance if the clear favorite had not been ruled ineligible. Nino Rota’s score for “The Godfather” was originally nominated for the award and pretty clearly would have won, but it was removed from consideration when it came to light that Rota had re-used some earlier score material.

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        • So then how did “The Artist” win best original score a couple years ago? The best music in the film is stolen directly from Hitchcock’s Vertigo.

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        • Visitor says:

          While I am not sure, I believe that the rules were changed after “The Godfather” was ruled ineligible. After all, the rules had blocked one of the most memorable scores in the history of film from winning the award when it clearly would have.

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  11. King Buzzo's Fro says:

    Randy Johnson 01-02 was amazing. I have to think having Curt Schilling pitching tremendously alongside him split some votes.

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    • MDL says:

      This did happen, but the effect was not huge. Combining their MVP shares in 2001 would not have moved Johnschilling up in the standings, and combining their 2002 MVP shares would have moved Johnschilling from 7th to 4th (basically 3rd).

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      • Costanza says:

        OTOH, having another player, especially on the same team, doing nearly as great of things can make the peak accomplishment (RJ in this case) seem less accomplished.

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    • Jon L. says:

      I think the effect was huge, not just in splitting votes, but in diluting the perception of either of them as an MVP candidate. How can you be the MVP at 24-5 (or 21-6), when your teammate is 23-7 (or 22-6), and vice-versa?

      I think the same goes for the other part of that question (Verlander vs. Ellsbury), as Ellsbury’s teammates rivaled him in HR, RBI, avg (Adrian Gonzalez beat him in 2 out of 3, while David Ortiz was close), and even WAR (Pedroia). The next-best member of Verlander’s rotation didn’t come within 50 innings of him and put up a 4.43 ERA.

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    • Yilan Dai says:

      Plus the fact that dominant hitters like Barry Bonds, Todd Helton, Larry Walker, Shawn Green, Jeff Kentand Luis Gonzalez all playing in the same division. Throw in more dominant hitters in Albert Pujols, Sammy Sosa, Lance Berkman, Vladimir Guerrero and others, and it’s almost impossible for any pitcher, no matter how great, to win the MVP.

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  12. Dougie G says:

    Isn’t it a tad unfair to say that Felix’s 8 unearned runs are overselling his performance? With a sample that small, wouldn’t it make sense to go look at those innings/plays and see if that was the case instead of making that generalization?

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      The earned runs/unearned runs distinction is pointless. If you’re trying to strip defensive performance out of the results, you shouldn’t be using runs allowed — either earned or unearned — to begin with. Only looking at scenarios where an error was involved to determine whether or not that run should be credited to his performance is silly. Either strip out defense or don’t, but don’t just pick a few arbitrary plays and take those out for some unknown reason.

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      • Dougie G says:

        The distinction may be pointless in a vacuum, but here you’re comparing him via ERA- to other pitchers who were subject to the same rules and definitions. So unless you’re saying those pitchers did not get the benefit of unearned runs, how can Felix’s performance be overstated compared to them?

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        • Costanza says:

          Those pitchers did not get the benefit of not counting up to 8 runs. Those 8 runs scored while the pitcher in question was on the mound. They scored due to a combination of performance between the pitcher and his defense. Using ERA implicitly says that we can remove the blame for those runs entirely from pitchers, which isn’t something most analysts are comfortable with.

          If you use RA, you’re evaluating the quality of the pitcher, his defense, the park, and the hitters. If you use ERA, you’re doing the same thing with a subjective adjustment, removing blame from the pitcher and assigning it to his defense. If you use DIPS, you look at just what the pitcher controls (now with more catcher receiving confounders!)

          WRT Felix, the GP is saying we should either use DIPS or we should look at the Mariners’ run prevention as a whole. Using ERA is adding in subjectivity for little reason other than historical ones.

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    • MDL says:

      In 2010 Felix snuck 17 unearned runs past the Cy Young voters (including a grand slam that yielded 4 unearned runs – check out that sterling stat line).

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      • Brian says:

        Nah man, check out Masterson’s line. 6 BB and 3 K in 6 IP (eww), but only 1 hit allowed and no runs. I guess the Mariners tickled some sleeping luck dragons that day.

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      • Costanza says:

        I’m always blown away that a HR can be an unearned run just because the defense blew the third out.

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  13. Dave Pomerantz says:

    I kind of think BBWAA should make the MVP award specifically a position player-only award. There’s the Cy Young for the best all around pitcher, but nothing for the best all around position player – there’s the Hank Aaron award for best hitter, but that doesn’t take into account defense. It’s also very much a second- or third-tier award. And we all know Gold Gloves are really mostly an offensive award. Looking at you, Mr. Jeter.

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    • Anon21 says:

      Agreed. There is no good reason for pitchers to be eligible for MVP; the award should be restricted to everyday players and perhaps renamed slightly.

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      • Bip says:

        Well, yes, there is a good reason, namely that pitchers are players (because everyone on a baseball team is a player) and pitchers can also be the most valuable players (in that they contribute the most wins to their team).

        That said, I think it makes a lot of sense to just regulate this no-pitchers semi-rule that the BBWAA selectively enforces. To have a set of players that are equally capable of providing value who are basically excluded from winning the award due to… I don’t know, voter preference… casts doubt on whether the award does what it says it does. If pitchers are exclude by rule, then it will become better defined, instead of “best position player who may or not be more valuable than the best pitcher, but who is in any case an acceptable alternative to the most valuable pitcher.”

        For this same reason, it may also be beneficial to put into the rules that only playoff teams are eligible. Otherwise you’ll have some people voting for the best player on a playoff team and some voting for the best player, so what is the award really for?

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        • Anon21 says:

          “Well, yes, there is a good reason, namely that pitchers are players (because everyone on a baseball team is a player) and pitchers can also be the most valuable players (in that they contribute the most wins to their team).”

          That’s why I said the award should perhaps be renamed slightly. There is no good policy reason to have one prestigious award that recognizes the best pitcher, plus one prestigious award that recognizes the best position player or pitcher, but no prestigious award that recognizes only the best position player. (Hank Aaron Award: not prestigious, also only recognizes best hitter. As we saw in the last two years in the AL, hitting isn’t everything.) There should be two prestigious awards: one for which only pitchers are eligible, and one for which only position players are eligible. Given the history, it makes sense that the MVP, in a very slightly modified form, should fulfill the latter role.

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      • CMoney87 says:

        I find this “everyday player” angle to be really shallow. As a hitter, even if they play every day, they are only one out of nine guys in the lineup. Think of it breaking down into individual hitter vs. pitcher matchups. If a hitter averages 5 ABs a game that’s 25 matchups for every 5 games. A pitcher faces all nine guys in the lineup and if a pitcher averages 7 innings a game and 4 batters per inning that’s 28 matchups per 5 games. So if you disregard any value from defense and baserunning, which often is the case for MVP (see: Miguel Cabrera), then SPs have just as many chances to add value. A position player that adds a lot of extra value through defense/baserunning in addition to being a great hitter should have an advantage towards the MVP but saying a starter can’t be the most valuable player would be a mistake.

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    • Yilan Dai says:

      Then there’s the problem: the MVP and the best position player award would overlap for about 90% of the time, making the best position player award irrelevant. I do think the league should make a bigger deal on Hank Aaron award, probably giving the voting to BBWAA would help a lot.

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    • a eskpert says:

      Cy Young generally doesn’t take into account Pitcher Hitting, which is a part of the way they can or can’t produce value.

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    • Fred says:

      No kidding. If the season ended today, Felix would have the Cy Young and Trout the MVP. Felix plays every 5 or 6 days; Trout plays every day. It really is that simple. I don’t know why there’s any debate here.

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  14. tz says:

    A quick note on the other Hernandez pitcher to win the AL MVP. Even though Willie Hernandez’s WAR was just 3.0 (as a closer), his WPA was a crazy 8.6!

    Not only this almost double the next best pitcher, it was over a full win better than any hitterj in 1984:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=pit&lg=all&qual=0&type=3&season=1984&month=0&season1=1984&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0

    If you could convert his Win-Probability Added to a World-Championship Probability Added, he might have set a record that year. Whatever “clutch” the BBWAA saw in him that year, the numbers corroborate it.

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  15. Jon L. says:

    Only five of the seven starters were more than 40 years ago. I know it’s a small correction, but I read that and wondered if I had hallucinated Roger Clemens’ MVP. Gave me hope for Don Mattingly maybe.

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    • Erik says:

      I wonder how much a single MVP would’ve changed his HoF chances.

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      • DNA+ says:

        Not at all, I imagine. As a lifetime Yankee, the bar is quite high for HOF.

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        • DNA+ says:

          Wait, Mattingly did win MVP in 1985.

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        • Bip says:

          The bar is high? That’s he stuck on ballot so long is surely because he’s a Yankee. By what standard is Mattingly even a below-average hall of famer?

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        • DNA+ says:

          I don’t think Mattingly is a HOFer. However, as a Yankee, he isn’t even close to being a HOFer. Borderline HOF candidates associated with the Yankees don’t even get considered for the HOF, e.g. Randolph, Nettles, Munson. The standard just seems to be different for Yankees than it does for, say, the Twins.

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        • tz says:

          I’m not so sure that there’s an anti-Yankees bias at play. Rather, those borderline candidates got a lot of their value from defense, which didn’t show up in their career hit and RBI totals.

          It is ironic, though, that Mattingly and Munson had WAR in the same ballpark as Kirby Puckett, who got elected on the first ballot after a similarly truncated career.

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        • Brian says:

          It’s doubly weird that Puckett didn’t exactly win the good guy award either. I still remember SI trashing him with bile usually reserved for people like Marvin Harrison, who probably murdered two people in cold blood.

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    • KCDaveInLA says:

      The Don Mattingly HOF discussion should just stop. Will Clark and John Olerud, just to name a couple of contemporaries, both finished with higher lifetime WAR and had better peak seasons, and neither of them are in a serious HOF discussion.

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      • Cliff says:

        Were their careers cut short by back injuries?

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        • Bip says:

          Considering Olerud had a better peak, I’m not sure why that matters.

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        • Jason B says:

          “Were their careers cut short by back injuries?”

          No.

          Also: who cares?

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        • Carl Pavano says:

          Joe Torre should be in as a player before Don Mattingly. Give it up, His career and prime were cut short making him NOT a Hall of Famer.

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        • DNA+ says:

          Olerud did not have a better peak than Mattingly. The problem is that Mattingly’s peak was incredibly short because of the back injury. …also, it is worth noting that Mattingly is tremendously undervalued on Fangraphs because of the ridiculous defensive numbers that consider him a below average fielder. He was pretty much unanimously considered the best fielding first baseman in the AL, and considered to rival Keith Hernandez for best in MLB. When you consider that UZR from Mattingly’s time isn’t really based upon anything, you are certainly better off ignoring it completely.

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      • Bip says:

        Not that Olerud is a slam-dunk by any means, but the fact that he got 0.7% of the vote in his only year on the ballot is just atrocious. I’m sure that if he had accumulated the same offensive value, but done it primarily through power, he would have gotten some serious consideration.

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      • Jason B says:

        “The Don Mattingly HOF discussion should just stop.”

        But but but Yankees are so underrepresented and picked on!!1!

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        • DNA+ says:

          The Yankees actually are underrepresented in the HOF relative to the talent they have had on the field. For example, Randolph, Nettles, and Munson should all be in the HOF but were never even given consideration.

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        • tz says:

          If you use Kirby Puckett as the comparison point, I agree.

          But then you have to also consider the likes of Reggie Smith, Sal Bando, Buddy Bell, Tony Phillips, Jorge Posada, Mike Cameron, Toby Harrah, Jimmy Wynn…just off the top of my head.

          (though I’d much prefer liberal HOF voting to the idiotic voting logic in play right now that may very well lead to Jeff Bagwell ending up on the freaking Veterans Committee ballot).

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  16. TKDC says:

    Looking at a few examples, I think W-L record plays a big role in this. Clemens goes 24-5 and wins the award; he goes 20-9 and finishes 19th (also, the writers prefer to not have guys repeat). Jose Rijo was 14-9. Brown was 17-11. Greinke was 16-8.

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    • Jason B says:

      Yep. Voters are sometimes still wowed by large, shiny win totals and very high winning percentages. Some of that started to change when Felix won the Cy a couple years back, but I think it’s still kind of a thing, albeit a less pronounced thing.

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      • DNA+ says:

        Greinke won it the year before Felix at 16-8.

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      • Bip says:

        Well I think W/L plays a much bigger role in the MVP than the Cy Young now. The Cy Young has sort of become “which pitcher is the best, which displayed the greatest skill” kind of thing. For this, they will look primarily at ERA and strikeouts. However, as you can see from the reasons that people use to exclude players from non-contenders from the MVP, people have a way of separating performance from “value.”

        So, as I see it, a more traditional voter might say “in 2009, Greinke showed great skill as seen by his 2.16 ERA, but it didn’t translate into much value, as he was only 16-8.” That’s the kind of logic I believe MVP voters are using.

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    • Canard says:

      Yeah, Verlander went 24-5 the year he won. Hitting 24 wins surely helped his MVP case.

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    • haishan says:

      I’m honestly not sure why Cameron didn’t bring this up. If you’re trying to make the sabermetric case for or against Felix’s MVP, FIP- and WAR are great. If you want to accurately examine the odds of the BBWAA actually giving the award to him, you probably have to take into account things like pitcher wins and (unadjusted) ERA.

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  17. george says:

    How the hell did tejada win in 2002? my mind is blown

    arod is the obvious traditional winner, lead in hrs, rbi, and 300 compared to tejada 308….wtf? hell he even had more steals.

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    • DNA+ says:

      Oakland was a playoff team. The Rangers finished in last place (and presumably would have if Arod never played an inning).

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    • Brian says:

      Isn’t it amazing how much the writers play favorites? Even if there was no A-Rod centaur or the popcorn video at the time the consensus was that A-Rod was all about himself back then. And the writers also wondered how someone making $25 million a season could be valuable at all. I think you’ve forgotten just how much that contract pissed everyone off.

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      • DNA+ says:

        He won and MVP on a last place team with that contract though.

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      • Brian says:

        Especially since the Rangers were in last place. It was consensus that A-Rod needed to win not 5…not 6…not 7 championships to even begin to justify that contract.

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        • Brian says:

          Yeah he did win MVP in 2003. However, there were factors that basically eliminated his competition that year. You could see that

          The highest vote-getter on a playoff team was Posada, and he had a crazy offensive season for a catcher that year but he didn’t have the sparkly numbers you usually see from an MVP, and a reputation as a bad-to-average defensive catcher probably did him in. As I recall he was thought of a little bit as a catcher who couldn’t catch the ball, and despite his cannon arm his CS% was pretty average.

          Carlos Delgado also could have won that year if all you are allowed to look at is a player’s AVG/R/HR/RBI/SB. However if you look further down the list you will find that the writers couldn’t figure out who was the best player on the Jays that year. He paid the penalty for being a 1B, so Shannon Stewart and Vernon Wells combined for 4 first place votes. Delgado had 5 and A-Rod 6. Six other first place votes went to Red Sox players, and Posada got 5.

          So at the team and division level there was so much attrition among A-Rod’s competition that he pretty much won by default. Which is nuts because if you think about it, he probably should have been near unanimous. That year he was an above-average defensive SS by both UZR/DRS and reputation, with traditional numbers .298/124/47/118/17 and 2 WAR more than any other position player in the league. It is absolutely crazy that he basically only won that MVP by process of elimination.

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        • tz says:

          I remember one of the ESPN writers made a big pitch for Shannon Stewart as MVP simply because the Twins went on a winning streak soon after he joined. (Never mind that Stewart’s first half in 2003 was anti-valuable to the Jays).

          Yep, a guy who was traded with a player to be named later mid-season for Bobby Freaking Kielty, with a full-season WAR of about 3, got first-place MVP votes over A-Rod.

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        • tz says:

          I found it. It was in a Jayson Stark column, though he keeps using “we”:

          http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/columns/story?columnist=stark_jayson&id=1626319

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        • Brian says:

          That’s a good point – the type of moron that would vote for Stewart that year certainly isn’t giving A-Rod a fair shake. If you redistribute those points to other candidates on contending teams, A-Rod maybe doesn’t win. So in a way, because the voters were more idiotic than normal that year, the result was more rational.

          Also it’s always fun to read an article by an author, who later turned on all PED users as if they were murderers, that was like ZOMG BARRY BONDS in 2003.

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        • tz says:

          Good thing Shannon Stewart never even made it to the HOF ballot.

          Being a clean player and all…..

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    • david says:

      tejada was on that a’s team that won 20 straight with him contributing huge hits practically every night down the stretch.

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  18. Grumpy Ole Bass Turd says:

    Why do you obsess over what a bunch of imbeciles think? The best player (or best pitcher) exists independently of what a group of dinosaur hacks say. Nobody gives the first crap about the vast majority of these people’s opinions on any other baseball related subject, but they’ve managed to self-promote the awards and the HoF into such a circus that they’ve bootstrapped relevance, and every time you and anybody else who should know better (or are you just playing along for clicks???) talks about it, it delays progress again. BBWAA voting has less merit than pitcher wins and batting average, and while you correctly try to marginalize the latter by talking about it as little as possible and crapping all over it when you do, you never shut up about the idiotic awards voting, and you treat it with far more relevance than it deserves.

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  19. One point in Felix’s favor is how he’s kept his team in the playoff race despite having the second-worst offense in baseball.

    Felix is 13-3, for a .81 winning percentage (not that winning percentage really means anything).
    In the 9 no decisions Felix got, there was only one game where the Mariners were losing when he was pulled. In the other 8 games, Felix was pulled with a lead twice and in a tie six times. The team went 4-5 in those five games.

    So, the Mariners are 17-8 (0.68 win%) when Felix starts, and 46-47 without him.
    Without Felix, the Mariners are a below-.500 team, but with him, they’re in the playoff hunt. Once again, these numbers aren’t really meaningful without context, but if the Mariners do make the playoffs, these are the numbers that will get used to try to garner support for an MVP award.

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    • Bip says:

      Here’s a stat you may not believe:

      In 2014:
      Felix ERA in wins: 1.94
      Felix ERA in losses: 2.01
      Felix ERA in no-decisions: 1.94

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  20. DNA+ says:

    For something like MVP voting, we should look at the record of the team on the day the pitcher pitches. If we are after value, then how the team does on those days is actually important. This is especially when pitchers have so much power to effect the outcome on the days they pitch.

    Of course, pitchers don’t have total control, but I am perfectly happy for value to be a function of how well a team utilizes the performance of the individual.

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    • Bip says:

      So Max Scherzer’s 5.64 runs of support, which is a lot more than the Tigers scored on the days he didn’t pitch, should factor into whether he is the MVP?

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      • Bip says:

        *that figure is from 2013.

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      • DNA+ says:

        Yes, the run support should factor into the MVP in so much as the team won the games when Scherzer pitched. The MVP is not for best player, and it is not for best performance, it is for most valuable player. In a team sport, some fraction of your actual realized value will be contingent upon team performance.

        If Scherzer pitched a complete game and gave up one run every single time, but the team never scored a run for him and they lost every game, what would his actual value to the team be? It would be zero, even though, individually, he probably had the greatest pitching season in history. Bad luck for him!

        Since the point of baseball is to win games, I can’t see how we can reasonably determine value with respect to anything but actual real-world wins when considering an MVP.

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        • Jason B says:

          “I can’t see how we can reasonably determine value with respect to anything but actual real-world wins when considering an MVP.”

          I can! I don’t think “gee your hitters had an awesome day, we should give you more credit for that!” could factor in.

          Hypothetically, if a pitcher goes 8 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K every start and goes 14-10 because his offense is dumpster fire awful, and another pitcher puts up the same 8/5/1/1/7 line every start and goes 21-4 because his offense is credible, is the second pitcher better? More valuable? He put up the exact same line as the other pitcher!

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        • DNA+ says:

          Is he better? No, of course not. The MVP isn’t for best player though (whom we can generally identify before the season even starts).

          Is he more valuable that season? I do think so, since the point is to win the games. Wasted performances are not the players fault, but they are still wasted. What real value is there in a spectacular performance that results in a loss? It is unfortunate, but that is baseball.

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  21. DNA+ says:

    1985 John Tudor is interesting. That 1985 Cardinals team probably was a spectacular defensive team.

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  22. Grammar Police says:

    Ellsbury’s season ended in game 162 in 2011 thanks to a Papelbon blown save and a Longoria clutch shot.

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  23. GilaMonster says:

    If Pedro couldn’t win the AL MVP in 1999, no pitcher should EVER be allowed to win MVP.

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    • King Buzzo's Fro says:

      Couldn’t agree more. That 13.2 k/9 is ridiculous for a SP. And 1.39 FIP?!? And he followed it up in 2000 with basically the best ERA+ EVER

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  24. mcbrown says:

    Trout is finally going to win the award this year, in his worst season in the majors so far, for one reason and one reason only: Arrr-beee-eyes.

    Sad, but true.

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    • mcbrown says:

      (Not that he will be undeserving, mind you… Trout’s “worst” is better than almost everyone else’s “best”, which is mind-blowing. The “sad” part is that he will win this year’s award, but that he did not win either of the last two.)

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      • mcbrown says:

        (Er, should read ‘The “sad” part is not that he will win…’)

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        • Jason B says:

          I read that as “He’s going to win because of Arby’s” and thought perhaps the oven mitt was sponsoring a ‘get-out-the-vote’ campaign.

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    • Ruki Motomiya says:

      That’s not the only reason: There’s also pretty much no close eligible position players, except Alex Gordon who has an absurd 19.7 defensive rating (Alex Gordon is kind of amazing) and NL players. The next closest dude is Brantley at 1.1 WAR less than Trout.

      (Then I looked it up and saw Miggy had less WAR than I remembered…I thought be broke 9 WAR one of those years. Huh.)

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    • Cool Lester Smooth says:

      Also because he’s the best player in baseball.

      Unless you’re saying that RBIs are the only reason this isn’t his third MVP, in which case I agree with you.

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  25. sam says:

    What if you added an award for best offensive player? That way you eliminate the argument that the MVP is the hitters’ award and the Cy Young is the pitcher’s award. Both hitters and pitchers can have their own award and then you can decide the actual Most Valuable Player among all positions that season. I don’t know if it would catch on, just a thought.

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    • BenRevereDoesSteroids says:

      They already do. Its the Hank Aaron award. They media just ignores it, likely because the fans make 30% of the final outcome.

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    • a eskpert says:

      Pitcher hitting is a thing.

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      • Carl Pavano says:

        I’m waiting for the Dodgers to DH for Darwin Barney in an AL matchup while letting Greinke or Kershaw hit. Man that would be cool. I remember Rick Rhoden or Rick Reuschel either DHing or hitting for themselves in a Yankees game in the late 80’s.

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        • Bob says:

          Not allowed sadly.

          The Designated Hitter rule:
          A hitter may be designated to bat for the starting pitcher and all subsequent pitchers in any game without otherwise affecting the status of the pitcher(s) in the game. A Designated Hitter for the pitcher must be selected prior to the game and must be included in the lineup cards presented to the Umpire-in-Chief.

          The Designated Hitter named in the starting lineup must come to bat at least one time, unless the opposing club changes pitchers. It is not mandatory that a club designate a hitter for the pitcher, but failure to do so prior to the game precludes the use of a Designated Hitter for that game.

          Pinch hitters for a Designated Hitter may be used. Any substitute hitter for a Designated Hitter himself becomes a Designated Hitter. A replaced Designated Hitter shall not re-enter the game in any capacity. The Designated Hitter may be used defensively, continuing to bat in the same position in the batting order, but the pitcher must then bat in the place of the substituted defensive player, unless more than one substitution is made, and the manager then must designate their spots in the batting order.

          A runner may be substituted for the Designated Hitter and the runner assumes the role of the Designated Hitter.

          A Designated Hitter is “locked” into the batting order. No multiple substitutions may be made that will alter the batting rotation of the Designated Hitter.

          Once the game pitcher is switched from the mound to a defensive position this move shall terminate the DH role for the remainder of the game. Once a pinch-hitter bats for any player in the batting order and then enters the game to pitch, this move shall terminate the Designated Hitter role for the remainder of the game.

          Once a Designated Hitter assumes a defensive position this move shall terminate the Designated Hitter role for the remainder of the game.

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  26. PackBob says:

    Once the upper tier of MVP candidates is decided by performance, it’s all about the narrative that accompanies each player. Felix is developing a great narrative with the super-quality starts. If he continues the streak and helps pitch the Mariners into the playoffs, he has a great shot at MVP.

    Trout should win because he is the best player in baseball having a best player in baseball year. But his narrative is a bit ho-hum, Mike Trout just doing the Mike Trout thing.

    A lot depends on how it all gets spun down the stretch.

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  27. Costanza says:

    Isn’t it problematic to compare pitchers and hitters’ WAR, since it’s a bit arbitrary that WAR is assigned 65/35 to hitters/pitchers?

    Wouldn’t a better measurement of dominance be % of WAR within the pitcher/hitter category? E.g., if Felix has 10 WAR of 350 allocated to pitchers, and Trout has 10 WAR of 650 allocated to hitters, don’t Felix’s WAR represent a bigger component of the overall “pool” he could get?

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    • Bip says:

      What do you mean WAR is allocated 65/35 hitters to pitchers?

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      • Carl Pavano says:

        Run prevention is 50 percent and run scoring is 50 percent. I think he is pointing out that since Position players are involved in both they get all (at least in the AL) the credit for Run production plus partial credit for run prevention (defense not provided by the pitcher). Whether it’s a 65/35 split or 60/40 may be up to debate. What he is clearly missing is that an individual pitcher’s WAR total has already been adjusted for teammates help in run prevention, so his point is mute. Felix’s WAR of 6.2 has already accounted for the defensive efforts of his teammates.

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        • Brian says:

          Uh no it hasn’t. FIP adds back in the factor to get it on the same scale as ERA. Basically it assumes league average fielding and then adds back in the linear weights of the fielding independent outcomes (K, BB, HR, IFFB).

          The split in WAR is 57%/43%. This is since a pitcher can’t take credit for all run prevention, so when you subtract lgFIP-FIP, it strips out the fielding dependent pitching. That part of run prevention necessarily goes to hitters to keep the lgWAR constant at 1000.

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  28. Andy says:

    Surprised no one has mentioned that in 2012, Verlander had a higher WAR than his teammate who won the MVP.

    Also relevant is that Trout’s WAR is lowest on FG. It’s currently more than 1 win higher at BBPro. Seems to me that if WAR is going to be a serious criterion for the MVP, one should consider what all three sites say, not just one of them.

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  29. Andy says:

    BBRef: Trout 6.2, Hernandez 6.-
    BBPro: Trout 6.99, Hernandez 4.41

    Stanton currently leads Trout slightly at BBPro, and Gomez edged him out there last year. Donaldson is very close to Trout at BBRef. Tulo would be ahead of him at FG if not for the injury.

    What makes Trout standout is at or nearly at the top at all three sites. Three somewhat different methods for valuing players, and Trout stands out on all three. No one else in baseball is in his class in that sense.

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  30. pft says:

    No question that Cano is the MVP. Forget WAR, until they fix the defensive uncertainty due to SSS and the positional adjustments and add context it will never be able to assess a players value to its team for MVP purposes. 849 OPS Hi-Lev, 1178 OPS 2 outs with RISP and a 1.68 WPA on an offensively challenged team are all you need.

    King Felix has had equally great years and the Mariners did nothing. Cano is the difference maker.

    Trout deserves consideration as always, but he has a much better offensive supporting cast than Cano does (Seager has had himself a nice year too, but its still a weak lineup unless Jackson and Morales come though)

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  31. joe says:

    Trout will win because the voters will feel bad for shafting him in the past. That’s how they role.

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  32. RaysDaddy says:

    I’m supposed to trust someone named “Daniel Brim” to offer me a fair argument hat Mike Trout isn’t the MVP? That’s like “Bill Pattymelt” judging whether burgers or hot dogs are best for 4th of July BBQ’s.

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  33. Noah Baron says:

    The one thing I don’t think anyone is considering here is the fact that pitcher fWAR doesn’t strip out the effects of pitch framing, which directly limits walks and increases strike-outs. Felix Hernandez has had one of the best pitch framers in baseball as his catcher in Mike Zunino.

    Once the effects (which can be quantified, by the way) of pitch framing are weeded out, the tiny lead that Felix has over Trout in fWAR is obliterated.

    Also, for god’s sake, give Mike Trout his MVP award. How many times does he have to be the best player in baseball to win the damn thing? Usually I want to reward the best player that season, but if we’re talking about Felix leading by a breathtaking 0.3 WAR difference in early August, which, by the way, is aided by framing, then I’m more than happy to give the MVP award to the guy who was the far and away the best player in baseball for the last three seasons, poor 2014 defensive numbers aside.

    If Trout doesn’t win the MVP this year, I’ll be genuinely pissed. Pissed enough to start a petition on Change.org.

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  34. Tom says:

    Here is the BBWAA checklist for MVP in order of importance:

    1. Did his team make the playoffs? (This is clearly the most important since there have been more mediocre MVP winners than there have MVPs from non-playoff teams)

    2. Does he “feel like” an MVP (this is very important as it’s completely nebulous and you can’t argue with someone over it)

    3. Is he a hitter and not a pitcher?

    4. Did the guy have a great season? (as defined by traditional statistics. Pedroia might be the one exception here but he didn’t win BECAUSE of defense/positional value, and in fact there were better candidates by WAR)

    5. If for some crazy reason the narrative does allow for a pitcher to be considered, did he win a lot of games? (Felix’s Cy win notwithstanding, no chance Verlander wins that MVP if he’s 19-11)

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  35. The mound did it says:

    let’s all take a moment to reflect on the fact that Bob Gibson allowed 38 ER in 34 starts in 1968.

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  36. Ben says:

    “But even with a great season on a winning team, we still find weird things like 2001-2002 Randy Johnson.”

    Oh, you mean Barry Bonds?

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