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 RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first season in Tout Wars, he won the H2H league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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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.