Blueprint for winning the MLB MVP Award



Let’s look at has been consistent in the MVP winners of the past.  It seems like voters emphasize batting average over defensive position, or OBP.  My preconception is that more MVP winners come from East coast teams and are generally first basemen, or second basemen.  Also, I think voters emphasize a teams’ overall record in their voting.  Am I right in feeling this way?  Well, let’s see….

Since I looked at AL MVP winners yesterday, I’ll do NL this time because I want to see some different names.  So, what are some trends?  The first thing that pops out of the page is Barry Bonds and his 7 MVP awards.  The next, the number of winners from the same teams.  Since 1970, the Cincinnati Reds have won 8, Giants 7 (Only 5 from Bonds), St. Louis 6, Philadelphia 5, and Atlanta has won 4.  These 5 National League teams make up about 31% of the League (before 1993 expansion, they made up about 45% of the league) but, the MVP winners from these teams comprise 30 of the past 41 (73%).  My first instinct here is that these cities are favored because of their population but, given that logic, New York and Los Angeles would be better represented.  So what do these teams have in common?  Wins and dynasties.

The Big Red Machine

The Big Red Machine produced 6 winners, the Braves stretch of 14 stright division titles produced 2 winners, from 2000-2004 (all Giants winners) the Giants averaged 95 wins.  This makes me think that MVP winners come from winning teams. This would make sense because MVP caliber players have the ability to increase their teams overall record because of their performance but,  could it be within the psyche of MVP voters that the MVP has to come from a winning team?  The question is, just how valuable is a player if he can’t lead his team into the playoffs?  We’ll never know the real answer but, I suggest it resides more the minds of the voters than on with the players on the fields.

My next question involved the position of the winners.  It seems like we favor first basemen and second basemen.  What do the numbers say?  Considering pitchers don’t win the MVP since the 1970 inception of the Cy Young award  (9 pitchers won from 1933-1969 but with the CY Young Award, pitchers stopped wining), that leaves 8 positions that can possibly win the MVP or a 12.5% chance for all positions.  Because Willie Stargell and Keith Hernandez shared the MVP in 1979, there have been 42 MVP winners.  The breakdown goes like this:  C-2 (4.7% and both Johnny Bench), 1B-8 (19%), 2B-4 (9.5%), 3B-7 (16.6%), SS-2 (4.7%), LF-11 (26%), CF-3 (7.1%) RF-4 (9.5%).  So clearly voters favor 1B, 3B, and LF.  I really should have known this considering Barry Bonds played mostly exclusively in Left.

Andre Dawson (MVP winner 1987) wearing an awesome Expos uniform

Whats the moral of the story?  The voters for the MVP award don’t appreciate the defensive positions on the baseball field.  Catcher is largely under-appreciated as is shortstop despite their importance to the team.  Shortstop is known as the most important position on the field and yet only two have been considered the most important player in the league in a given year.  Is it that there just haven’t been any great shortstops in the last 41 years in the National League? There’s no way.  It seems that there is a disadvantage to playing shortstop.

There’s also my question of East coast v West coast.  West coast teams and people often complain about the national media sports coverage that East coast teams receive.  Is this evident over the last 15 years in the MVP voting?  I’m going to look at both leagues since Barry Bonds dominates and, the last 15 years as MLB has only been evenly distributed over the country fairly recently.  12 of the last 30 winners in both Leagues have come from what would be considered West coast teams.  10 have come from the Central time zone and 8 from teams on the East coast.  This goes completely against what I would have thought.  The East coast bias is not played out in the MVP voting.  Great players supersede bias.

So, if your going to be a baseball player and have dreams of winning the MVP, you should consider Left Field.  You should also consider hitting for a high average, playing on a winning team out West, and changing your name to Barry…. Good Luck.

Stat of the Day: George Sisler held the single season hits record (257) from 1920-2003 before Ichiro Suzuki hit 262 in 2004.  That’s 83 years.  There’s hope Cubs fans.

-Sean Morash

Be sure to visit Off The Bench for more great baseball articles.

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