Tuesday, January 10, 2012
The Hall of Fame and MVP winners
By David Schoenfield
With the Hall of Fame voting still on our minds, I thought it would be fun to look at which non-Hall of Famers fared best in MVP voting, and which Hall of Famers have fared worst.
Modern MVP voting began in 1931 so we'll focus on players whose careers began after that. We'll also limit our scope to position players. We'll use award shares, a metric invented by Bill James that Baseball-Reference tracks. If you're a unanimous MVP winner, meaning you've collected 100 percent of the possible maximum points, your award share is 1.00. If you get 80 percent of the possible maximum points, your award share is 0.80. You can than add up individual seasons to reach a career total.
Dave Parker won the MVP award in 1978.
Not including active players, those yet to have appear on the Hall of Fame ballot (like Barry Bonds or Frank Thomas) or those ineligible for Hall of Fame selection (we mean you, Pete Rose), the player with the most award shares not in the Hall of Fame is ... Dave Parker. With 3.19 career award shares, he's 28th all time. Parker was an amazing player with the Pirates from 1975 to 1979, compiling 30.1 WAR and winning MVP honors in 1978 when he hit .334 to win the batting title, led the league in slugging percentage and hit 30 home runs with 117 RBIs. He also finished third in MVP votes in '75 and '77 and 10th in '79. After that, he got fat, dabbled in drugs and ruined his career for a few years. He bounced back with the Reds and on the basis of a league-leading 125 RBIs in 1985, finished second in the MVP vote. Another big RBI season in 1986 got him up to fifth in MVP voting. Parker never fared well in the Hall of Fame voting, peaking at 24.5 percent in his second year but holding at around 15 percent after that.
Parker, by the way, had a slightly higher award shares total than Jim Rice (3.15), a similar player from the same era who did make the Hall of Fame in large part due to his success in MVP voting.
Here are the next five:
Jeff Bagwell (2.89 award shares): The unanimous MVP in 1994, Bagwell also had a second-place and third-place finish and three other top-10 finishes.
Juan Gonzalez (2.76 award shares): A two-time MVP, although his 1996 win was one of the worst MVP selections ever.
Steve Garvey (2.46 award shares): Garvey won the NL MVP in '74 with a pedestrian-looking .312/.342/.469 line. It was a good line for the time, but not that good -- he ranked 14th in the NL in OPS. But he was third in the league in RBIs and the Dodgers won the division.
Albert Belle (2.38 award shares): From 1991 through 2000, he hit .300 and averaged 39 homers and 122 RBIs per season. He had a second and two thirds in MVP voting. Despite his peak value, his Hall of Fame support was approximately equal to Herman Cain's in the Iowa caucus.
George Foster (2.37 award shares): The 1977 NL MVP when he hit 52 home runs and drove in 149 runs for the Reds, Foster had a nice run from '75 to '81. Just don't ask Mets fans what happened after that.
Some Hall of Famers with low award shares:
Wade Boggs (1.20 award shares): I was surprised Boggs' total wasn't higher. His best MVP finish was fourth in 1985. He wasn't an RBI guy, so was underrated to some extent during his time, although he cruised into the Hall of Fame. Baseball-Reference rates him as the best player in AL in 1986, '87 and '88.
Tony Perez (0.93 award shares): Despite being a big RBI guy, the kind of player MVP voters have historically loved, he had just one top-five MVP finish in his career.
Ozzie Smith (0.65 award shares): He finished second in 1987 but that was his only top-10 MVP finish. The MVP vote has always been about offense, but it's interesting that the player widely regarded -- even while active -- as perhaps the greatest defensive player ever fared so poorly, especially since he did became a solid offensive contributor in the mid-'80s.
Richie Ashburn (0.62 award shares): A Veterans Committee selection in 1995, Ashburn was a gifted center fielder with a career .308 average but only 29 home runs. He twice finished seventh in the MVP vote, his only top-10 appearances.
Bill Mazeroski (0.19 award shares): A Veterans Committee selection, he was the Ozzie of second basemen, except even less valuable with the bat. He received MVP votes in just two seasons: One eighth-place finish and one 23rd.
New Hall of Famer Barry Larkin finished with 1.10 award shares, including a 0.72 for his 1995 win. Alan Trammell, a similar player who hasn't fared well in the Hall of Fame voting, recorded 1.22 award shares.