Getting Shut Out of the MVP Voting

You can set your watch to it: Every year after the MVP awards are announced, people complain about who got — or didn’t get — votes. We SABR nerds at Fangraphs are no different. But, of course, we look at things a little differently. With that in mind, here are some SABR-darlings who haven’t gotten a single MVP vote in five years — and why that might not change this year.

First things first, though. We need a metric by which to measure player production. Since this is Fangraphs, we’ll use WAR as the measuring stick. I’m using a five-year range because most MVP voters will have had some exposure to advanced metrics during that time.

So, here are the players who finished in the top 10 WAR rankings at the end of the season, but who didn’t get a single MVP vote (average 2.4 players per season):

SABRE Darling Year League WAR WAR Rank wRC+ Fld+BsR
Brett Gardner 2010 AL 6.1 8 120 29.8
Andres Torres 2010 NL 6.8 4 126 27.3
Rickie Weeks 2010 NL 6.5 6 128 6.1
Kelly Johnson 2010 NL 5.9 10 128 6.1
Franklin Gutierrez 2009 AL 6.3 6 105 32.4
Carl Crawford 2009 AL 5.9 7 125 18.5
Jason Bartlett 2009 AL 5.5 9 140 -0.5
Nick Markakis 2008 AL 6.3 3 137 13.7
Alex Rios 2008 AL 5.6 7 113 23.8
B.J. Upton 2008 AL 5.0 10 118 10.7
Jimmy Rollins 2008 NL 5.6 10 114 15.7
Russell Martin 2007 NL 5.9 9 121 8.0
Adrian Beltre 2006 AL 4.9 10 105 18.4
Scott Rolen 2006 NL 5.6 10 126 13.0
Average = 5.9 7.8 121.9 15.9
Range = 4.9 to 6.8 3 to 10 105 to 140 -0.5 to 32.4

Some generalities can be made about this group:

•  None of the top players was missed. On average, the players who didn’t receive a vote had ~6 WAR and were ranked eighth overall.

•  Generally, the players didn’t hit great that season. They had an average wRC+ of ~122. From 2006 to 2010, the players with the closest wRC+ were Jermaine Dye, Andre Either and Hideki Matsui. All of them are good hitters, but not great ones.

•  This group can field and run. With the lack of trust in fielding metrics, I understand how these players fell. Each of these players got an average boost of 1.6 WAR because of their fielding and base-running abilities.

I took the range of values from above and looked for players might be shut out from votes in 2011. Here are the top 10 position players in WAR in the AL and NL :

Rank Name League Team wRC+ UZR + BsR WAR
1 Jacoby Ellsbury AL Red Sox 150 16.8 9.4
2 Jose Bautista AL Blue Jays 181 -2.1 8.3
3 Dustin Pedroia AL Red Sox 134 17.0 8.0
4 Ian Kinsler AL Rangers 128 20.8 7.7
5 Miguel Cabrera AL Tigers 177 -6.6 7.3
6 Curtis Granderson AL Yankees 146 0.8 7.0
7 Alex Gordon AL Royals 141 14.1 6.9
8 Ben Zobrist AL Rays 131 13.1 6.6
9 Adrian Gonzalez AL Red Sox 153 2.5 6.6
10 Evan Longoria AL Rays 134 11.3 6.1
1 Matt Kemp NL Dodgers 171 -1.7 8.7
2 Ryan Braun NL Brewers 179 -0.5 7.8
3 Joey Votto NL Reds 155 5.0 6.9
4 Justin Upton NL Diamondbacks 140 12.1 6.4
5 Troy Tulowitzki NL Rockies 138 4.5 6.3
6 Jose Reyes NL Mets 149 -1.4 6.2
7 Brandon Phillips NL Reds 119 14.6 6.0
8 Shane Victorino NL Phillies 135 8.6 5.9
9 Andrew McCutchen NL Pirates 129 4.2 5.7
10 Prince Fielder NL Brewers 162 -10.5 5.5

Each of these players was removed from consideration for the following reasons:

Jose Bautista, Ryan Braun, Jacoby Ellsbury and Matt Kemp: Ranked first or second in their respective league in WAR.

Miguel Cabrera, Alex Gordon, Curtis Granderson, Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia and Joey Votto: All six had a WAR above 6.8.

Note: Alex Gordon barely made the WAR cut (by 0.1) and wRC+ cut (by 1). When I initially looked over the lists, Gordon’s name stood out as the player who didn’ get any votes. I’ll have see if my gut or if the numbers are right with him.

Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder and Jose Reyes: Each had a wRC+ greater than 140.

Seven players remained.

Evan Longoria, Troy Tulowitzki, Justin Upton and Ben Zobrist are all at the upper limits of the range of values. They have a chance of being shut out, but those chances are slimmer than the next guys: Andrew McCutchen, Brandon Phillips and Shane Victorino. Both McCutchen and Victorino have low WAR totals, but at least they have some value with wRC+ — which are higher than normal. If they fail to get an MVP vote, I wouldn’t be surprised. Phillips, though, appears to be the No. 1 candidate who could get the MVP-vote goose egg. Almost a quarter of his WAR came from fielding and base running. And he wasn’t that great of a hitter to begin with.

It’s no surprise, then, that players who have had great WAR seasons have been shut out of the MVP voting. Most of the time, though, these players were non-elite hitters who got a considerable amount of value from fielding and base running. And this year, Brandon Phillips fits that mold.

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, 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 four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR once, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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10 years ago

I really would not be surprised if Kinsler doesn’t get a single vote

10 years ago
Reply to  Josh

Ditto, that was my first thought from that list.

10 years ago
Reply to  colin

Hate replying to myself but I cannot edit/add.

Lowest wRC+ of the top 10 with seemingly little media attention playing for a team with bigger named sluggers who had very good seasons.

10 years ago
Reply to  Josh

Me either; hell the guy gets ripped by local radio / fans. I can’t believe the number of people with whom I’ve spoken who lament that he starts at 2nd instead of Young. A little piece of me dies every time I hear that…

10 years ago
Reply to  Eric

We’ll take him over here in Minnesota!

Keystone Heavy
10 years ago
Reply to  Eric

As a Rangers fan (named Eric no less!), here is my take on it. Kinsler can be a frustrating player to watch. He often has poor body language, and he tends to argue with umps. And as far as “eye test” production, he seems lackluster during games. No secret, he has a low BA and BABIP (mainly due to how many fly balls he hits). There also seems to be a perception that he makes alot of errors (which isn’t really true). But as frustrating as he can be to watch live, you just sit back and see the range, double plays, power numbers, walk rates, BB:K, and base stealing success rate, and you know that he actually IS a top 3 2B in baseball.

10 years ago
Reply to  Eric

Granted, I’ve never watched him live, but watching on TV the impression I get from the eye test is “this guy is really good.” He takes those long at bats, often finds his way on base after being behind in counts, and hits homers, as a middle infielder who doesn’t look like much of a hitter physically. Obviously a good baserunner, and makes some ridiculous defensive play seemingly every game. Not a Rangers fan but it’s evident he’s a very good player.

10 years ago
Reply to  Josh

Thought the same thing. I’m a Rangers fan and love Kinsler but I’m not expecting much