Shut Out of the MVP Voting

The big news associated with the MVP award announced today will be the winners, especially this year with the Trout vs. Cabrera debate. Besides the winners, the below average players who receive votes get a bit of press. Today, I will look at another group of hitters, those who had a good season, but may not get a single MVP vote.

Last award season, I looked at what kept a hitter with a top 10 WAR total from not getting single MVP vote. The keys where:

1. They didn’t have a great season. The top players get noticed.

2. They didn’t hit great. The voters seem to ignore other negative traits if the player got most of his value from hitting.

3. The voters ignore value from base running and defense. Voters, in the past, have taken position into account though. They understand a good hitting shortstop is more valuable than a great hitting DH.

Last season, I identified 3 players, Andrew McCutchenBrandon Phillips and Shane Victorino, who where likely to not get one vote and McCutchen and Phillips were both shut out.

To start the process to see who will be possibly left off this season, here are the top 10 players according to WAR in each league.

Name Team wRC+ Base running and Fielding WAR
Mike Trout Angels 166 23.4 10.0
Robinson Cano Yankees 150 8.0 7.8
Miguel Cabrera Tigers 166 -12.8 7.1
Adrian Beltre Rangers 140 8.5 6.5
Ben Zobrist Rays 137 3.7 5.9
Alex Gordon Royals 126 15.3 5.9
Austin Jackson Tigers 135 3.4 5.5
Torii Hunter Angels 130 15.2 5.3
Joe Mauer Twins 140 -3.9 5.0
Prince Fielder Tigers 153 -8.7 4.9
Buster Posey Giants 162 2.1 8.0
Ryan Braun Brewers 162 6.7 7.9
David Wright Mets 140 14.4 7.8
Chase Headley Padres 145 4.8 7.5
Andrew McCutchen Pirates 158 -3.7 7.4
Jason Heyward Braves 120 29.2 6.6
Yadier Molina Cardinals 139 4.5 6.5
Aramis Ramirez Brewers 142 4.1 6.5
Michael Bourn Braves 104 29.0 6.4
Aaron Hill Diamondbacks 131 6.8 6.2

MLB changed their procedure this season and announced the top 5 vote getters in each league last week, so 9 players are immediately removed from the discussion (Josh Hamilton is the 10th player): Trout, Cano, Cabrera, Beltre, Posey, Braun, Headley, McCutchen, and Molina.

Most of the high WAR players (6.8 WAR or more) are on the top 5 list list, but David Wright meets the criteria and gets removed also.

Moving on to the good hitters (>= 140 wRC+) three more players get removed, Fielder (153 wRC+), Ramirez (142 wRC+), and Mauer (140 wRC+).

After going through the above criteria, seven players are left: Zobrist, Gordon, Jackson, Hunter, Heyward, Bourn and Hill. I will remove Zobrist and Jackson because both are close to the 140 wRC+ cutoff. Five potential players are left who fall into 3 categories.

Known Decent Hitters: Hunter and Gordon have almost identical criteria.

5.3 vs 5.9 WAR
130 vs. 126 wRC+
15.2 vs. 15.3 Runs for Fielding plus Base Running.

Besides nearly identical production, the pair should get some token votes especially when taking into account that each one has been around the league a while and received votes in previous MVP votes.

Huge defensive and base running value: Heyward and Bourn both had nearly 30 runs of value added by their base running and defense. Their 120 (Heyward) and 104 (Bourn) wRC+ values are the lowest two among the 20 players. One of these two could get shut out, probably Bourn.

Good, but not great season: Hill was one the best surprises in 2012. When I first saw the list of players, his name stood out to me for not getting the needed recognition during and after the season. Even though his WAR is higher than 6 AL players, a good chance exists for him getting left off.

Almost every year, some productive player according to WAR doesn’t get a single MVP vote. These unrecognized hitters usually receive a high amount of their value from fielding and base running. When the voting is released today, I would not be surprised to see Michael Bourn and Aaron Hill left off the list.

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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

41 Responses to “Shut Out of the MVP Voting”

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  1. jcxy says:

    Bourn does have a history of gaudy steal numbers and is a FA. I’d be surprised if he were shutout. Hill seems possible to me though.

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  2. Curtis says:

    Derek Jeter will finish higher than Alex Gordon and Ben Zobrist.

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  3. bill says:

    I actually would bet Alex Gordon as a possibility. Lowest wRC+ in the AL list, a lot of value from fielding (at a non-premium position), bad team, and bad counting stats.

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  4. Matt says:

    Man, Ben Zobrist is awesome.

    After reading this post and Dave’s about RBIs earlier today, and looking at a couple of player pages, I wouldn’t be surprised at all of Zobrist ended his career with more WAR than Juan Gonzalez. The man of 434 home runs and two MVPs.

    Which would be kind of awesome.

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    • Roy J says:

      I love that guy. He’s a big reason why I love the WAR statistic(there’s reasons why I don’t like it though). It really tries to compile everything. Zobrist is a top 10 player but he’s not exceptional at anything in particular. He’s good at hitting, good at fielding, good at baserunning(it might be on the decline though, we’ll see next year), etc. But all those “goods” turn into “fantastic” with WAR.

      He’ll be one of my favorite players of all time when he retires, even if though there will probably be no chance anyone else with think the same.

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    • Robbie G. says:

      Zobrist is basically the Bobby Grich of the modern era, is he not?

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  5. Dreamin says:

    Aaron Hill wasn’t even good enough to be an all-star, apparently. He’s been flying under the radar all year. He may be the one to get left off any ballots.

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  6. Ian says:

    Wouldn’t surprise me if Mauer was left off the list. Twins were horrible, Mauer is still rehabbing his legacy and Willingham would get a few votes. (Incidentally, if you were using B-R WAR, Span would be the pick).

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  7. Jeff Zimmerman says:

    Hill, Bourn and Heyward each pull 3 votes. Close.

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  8. Evan says:

    He wasn’t completely shut out, but I’ve long been perplexed by Cal Ripken receiving only 1 point in the 1984 MVP voting when there was a reasonable case to be made for him winning.

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    • Jon L. says:

      1. The team was disappointing, slipping from greatness to a handful of games over .500.
      2. Slipping team offense hurt Ripken’s run and (all-important) rbi totals. His batting average was also a bit lower.
      3. He’d established his level of greatness the year before. It’s hard to repeat with a similar quality of play, especially due to 1 and 2.

      Oh, and 4. No one had invented WAR yet.

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  9. Jeff Zimmerman says:

    Jackson, Gordon and Hunter all left off.

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  10. Dave says:

    Raul Ibanez got a 10th place vote.


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  11. Skip says:

    An MVP must lead. Trout didn’t lead. Or did I miss seeing him in the playoffs. Posey and Cabrera both won in their rookie year. Trout has no excuse.

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  12. Dave says:

    And i should add Jim Johnson got a 3rd place vote. WTF?

    This is absurd, some of these voters must be absolute morons.

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  13. Tristan says:

    The ballots had to be in before the playoffs started, right? I can think of absolutely zero reasons for someone voting Ibanez as the 10th most valuable player. He played a third of his games as DH, had an OPS of .761 and a WAR of 1.1
    Even looking at him in the most old-school way possible would get you a triple crown line of .240/19/62
    In the words of Alan Partridge, ‘How and why?’

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  14. jacob says:

    i love that ibanez got an mvp vote. he might not even be the 10th most valuable player on the yankees.

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  15. Brian Mc says:

    I just checked, and in terms of WAR, Ibanez was the 16th most valuable Yankee, which sounds about right after watching them all season.

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  16. RJ says:

    Tracy Ringolsby from Fox should be banned from voting. Kimbrel 2, Holliday 4 and Zimmerman 5. Youve got to be kidding me.

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  17. JT Grace says:

    I love that Kimbrel finished 8th in MVP voting….that’s kinda awesome.

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    • Hurtlockertwo says:

      What is odd about that is Kimbral and Chapman finished in front of Dickey in the MVP vote, but way behind in the Cy Young. Same for Verlander in the AL.

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  18. Tristan says:

    I sent a very polite email to the guy who put Ibanez on the ballot. If he ever gets back to me, I’ll share what promises to be an enlightening explanation for the 10th place vote

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  19. Steve McGuire says:

    The facts that we can even debate whether a triple crown winner deserves an MVP award or not shows just how ridiculous this debate is. This is not fantasy baseball! Some advanced metrics are worth noting, but there are many intangibles that determine a player’s worth that there are no stats for. There’s a reason Derek Jeter has made 17 of 18 postseasons, and it’s called character.

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    • Matt says:

      No, it is not character. If anything, it is the huge financial advantage the Yankees have over the rest of the baseball world.

      Or, if I’m wrong, why has Jeter’s character only worked once in the last 10 Yankee trips to the post-season?

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    • BJsWorld says:

      It’s called outspending your opponents.

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  20. Steve McGuire says:

    Ian says Span is more valuable than Mauer or Willingham. Do you see the point of how ridiculous the numbers get? Please someone say that you see this point!

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    • sgs says:

      You are a fucking idiot.

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    • Tree Climber says:


      I see your point and agree 100%.

      While a nice player, Ben Zobrist is ranked by FG as the 3rd best player in all of MLB for the past 4 years. In the 1970′s there was a computerized NBA board game played with dice. The best all-round player in that game was Mel Counts, a backup center on the Lakers.

      The modern (over) thinking is all about fantasy points, not real baseball value. WAR vastly overrates defense. Think about it, 95% of all defensive plays are routine. The only AB that’s routine is an IBB. Yet offense and defense value are weighted equally or even in favor of defense for premium positions.

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