Wait, Who Got an MVP Vote?

In the spirit of awards season, I decided to take a look at the BBWAA decisions of the past couple decades and, my goodness, I could not believe my eyes when seeing some of the down-ballot vote-getters. Middle relievers, players who didn’t even play long enough to make it out of arbitration, below-average corner outfielders, you name it. I could not help but put some of these names in writing to maybe strike a little nostalgia into some curious baseball fans.

Brad Hawpe, Colorado Rockies, 2007, 2009

Mr. Hawpe shows up on a ballot in TWO different years. I haven’t heard this name since 2012. Hawpe last played for the Angels in 2013 and posted a .185 slugging percentage in 32 plate appearances. He never received another contract. His two ‘MVP caliber’ years were eerily similar. Hawpe is the prototypical product of Coors Field. Although he didn’t have too different of numbers outside of Coors Field as a Rockie, he completely tanked once he got out of their organization. If you are from some other planet and don’t believe that Coors Field has any benefit for the hitter, then Hawpe’s offensive numbers were outstanding. He posted an on-base percentage above .380 in both years and hit over 20 home runs in both as well. He did all of that while still maintaining a solid batting average. The problem with Hawpe, and most likely a huge reason why he didn’t get more chances in the majors, was how god-awful his defense was. Sandwiched between his 2007 and 2009 seasons, he posted the worst defensive season in the league according to fWAR. If he would have been merely a below-average corner outfielder, or even first baseman, there is a chance Hawpe could’ve resurrected his career and maybe would still be playing today.

Scott Eyre, San Francisco Giants, 2005

Growing up a Giants fan, this name is familiar to me. Yet 99% of other baseball fans might need to do some thinking before they can figure out who he was, let alone realize that he actually received an MVP vote once. In 2005, Scott Eyre became the first-ever relief pitcher to receive an MVP vote without recording a save. He was outstanding. He posted a 2.63 ERA in 63.1 innings, appearing in 86 games. Now, 2.63 may not be too sexy for a middle relief pitcher nowadays, but 2005 was still feeling the effects of the steroid era. It is hard to believe a middle relief pitcher playing on the 2005 Giants got enough attention to receive a vote. The only thing bringing any attention to those 2005-2007 Giants teams were the controversies surrounding Barry Bonds. Trust me, I lived through it. Sadly, this was by far Eyre’s best year in the majors. He posted a couple semi-solid years before and after his 2005 season, but was all but out of the league by his 37th birthday.

Nate McLouth, Pittsburgh Pirates, 2008

Probably the most recognizable name on this list, Nate McLouth. McLouth had a weird career. He posted a couple stand-out season with the Pirates, toiled with an almost career-ending stint with the Braves, had a a solid comeback season with the Orioles in 2013, then was out of the league after the 2014 season. That 2008 season, though. If it weren’t for his almost-terrible defense he would’ve received several top-five votes. He went 26-23, had over 200 combined runs and RBIs, had a .356 OBP, and was one of the best baserunners in the league. It would’ve helped if he played for a better team too. Mr. McLouth is one of the few on this list I’d argue deserved a few more votes than he actually got.

Antonio Alfonseca, Florida Marlins, 2000

I’ll admit I had to look this one up. Alfonseca received one tenth-place vote way back when in 2000. If he had the same stat line in 2016, he might have a hard time keeping a job, but 2000 was a different time. He posted a 4.24 ERA in 70 innings, which was right in line with his 4.16 FIP. He only struck out six per nine but he tallied a whopping 45 saves, which I assume was the kicker for him nabbing that tenth-place vote. Alfonseca, surprisingly, was a perfectly viable middle reliever throughout the steroid era. Oddly enough, his 2000 season was probably his third or fourth-best season. Although he never came close to topping his 45-save number. Long gone are the days of average closing pitchers with high save totals receiving MVP votes.

Travis Fryman, Cleveland Indians, 2000

How I have never heard about this guy before this exercise is beyond me. He had a great career! Over 30 career WAR. Sadly for Travis he played through the steroid era and his skillset was completely overlooked, or else he may have seen a few more MVP votes. A slick-fielding third baseman with a solid walk rate was underappreciated in the years before Moneyball and modern defensive metrics. I’d describe Fryman as the very poor man’s Adrian Beltre. His 200o season was very Beltre-esque. He hit 22 bombs while sporting a .321 BA and a .392 OBP with solid defensive numbers, a type of season that gets overlooked when you think about the absurd numbers being put up around the league around the turn of the millennium. Unfortunately for Mr. Fryman, he was born 20 years too early, or else he would be heralded as one of the top three-baggers in the league and would’ve been in for one or two hefty paydays.

Bob Wickman, Cleveland Indians, 2005

Don’t get me wrong, while big Bobby Wickman is an easy player to overlook, he had an outstanding career. He recorded 13.7 WAR over his 15-year career, outstanding for a relief pitcher. He notched a career-high 45 saves in his 2005 season. What is so unbelievable about that particular season was that it was by far his worst season of his career. He was worth -0.3 WAR. And yet he received an MVP vote. You can make an argument he has had two or three different seasons where he warranted an MVP vote! But he never had the gaudy save total that he did in 2005. That along with the Indians’ solid 93-win season and Wickman takes some of the credit despite being worse than their best AAA pitcher. Maybe this was some kind of career achievement award for an underappreciated closing pitcher.

Who’s going to be 2016’s Antonio Alfonseca? My guess is Wilson Ramos, but that might be cheating with his season-ending injury already in the books. All in all, it is pretty amazing the types of names you can come up with just by looking at the historical results of baseball’s most prestigious award.

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History student at American River College. http://dylansvobodabaseball.blogspot.com @svodylan

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No Deivi Cruz?


Fun article my dude!

It is worth mentioning Alfonseca gained extra value from his extra fingers.