Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Divisional MVP's

What if the Most Valuable Player Award was given to six players each year, with one for the top player in each division? This came up in the comments section of a recent High Heat Stats post. The author, birtelcom, suggested the idea and fellow HHS contributor Bryan O'Connor gave his six winners for 2013: Chris Davis, Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, Freddie Freeman, Andrew McCutchen and Paul Goldschmidt.

That's a pretty good list. Even though we won't know the MVP results until later in the week, we know that Davis, Miggy and Trout are the three AL finalists, making them the three voting winners. Goldschmidt and McCutchen are finalists in the NL, with Yadier Molina joining them in the top three. I'll give Cutch the Central nod as he's favored to win the award. The NL East is wide open with no finalist. Freeman will likely be the highest in the vote, but as Bryan points out there is an "opportunity for a non-traditional candidate like Andrelton Simmons or Matt Harvey."

Let's take a look at who the winners would be for each of the last 20 seasons, starting with the 1994 realignment to six divisions. The chart on the left has the player in each division that finished highest in the MVP voting. The chart on the right has the player that led the division in Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement. Players listed in bold were both the WAR leader and leading vote-getter.

Going by the BBWAA voting, Albert Pujols wins seven NL Central MVPs in an eight-year span. That's three more than the next-highest total as Barry Bonds, Vladimir Guerrero and Chipper Jones received four. Switching to the WAR leader MVPs, Pujols has seven of those as well. Joining him at the top with seven is Bonds, and Alex Rodriguez is right behind them with six. Three-time division WAR leaders are Ken Griffey Jr., Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, Roy Halladay, Johan Santana and Robinson Cano.

The unlikeliest winner is 1999 AL West MVP Randy Velarde, who posted 7.0 bWAR with the Angels and Athletics. Poor guy couldn't even get one tenth-place spot on one ballot in the real vote.

Only 36 of the 120 winners (30 percent) were the top vote-getter in their division despite leading the way in WAR.

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