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July 12, 2012

BP Unfiltered

MVPs Who Weren't All-Stars

by Ben Lindbergh

If you watched the All-Star game on Tuesday—and judging by the ratings, that’s a pretty big “if”—you probably thought you were watching the best players Major League Baseball had to offer (except for some injured ones). After all, bringing the best in baseball together for our viewing pleasure is what the All-Star game is for, or ​was for when it was still relevant. And since nothing can be better than the best, you're probably thinking, why even bother to see the second half of the season?

Well, here's a pretty persuasive reason: nothing is set in stone after the first few months. Only some of the best first-half players will also be among the best from now on. This is never more clear than it is when a player goes on to win the MVP award after an All-Star snub. You’d think the players selected by the BBWAA as the best in their leagues at the end of each season would also have been selected as one of the 30-something best in their leagues at the break, but surprisingly often, that hasn't been the case. The following players won MVP awards without making the All-Star team in the same season. I know, off-day posts are awesome! Don't worry, they're going to start games again tomorrow.

Jimmy Rollins, 2007
First-half stats: 419 PA, .286/.329/.518, 16 HR
Who made it instead: Jose Reyes, J.J. Hardy

Justin Morneau, 2006
First-half stats: 335 PA, .300/.352/587, 23 HR
Who made it instead: David Ortiz, Paul Konerko

Chipper Jones, 1999
First-half stats: 338 PA, .313/.422/.589, 21 HR
Who made it instead: Matt Williams, Ed Sprague (!)

Juan Gonzalez, 1996
First-half stats: 268, .320/.381/.652, 22 HR
Who made it instead: Brady Anderson*, Jay Buhner, Greg Vaughn

*Yeah, this was that Brady Anderson year. Almost as unbelievable as Brady Anderson hitting 50 HR in 1996: Brady Anderson finishing ninth in AL MVP voting in 1996. Offense was insane that year. AL teams scored 5.39 R/G, the most since the 1930s. For what it’s worth, Anderson was fifth in WARP.

Terry Pendleton, 1991
First-half stats: 282 PA, .324/.377/.512, 8 HR
Who made it instead: Chris Sabo, Howard Johnson

Robin Yount, 1989
First-half stats: 372 PA, .299/.369/.468, 10 HR
Who made it instead: Kirby Puckett, Devon White

Kirk Gibson, 1988*
First-half stats: 348 PA, .299/.384/.517, 15 HR
Who made it instead: Will Clark, Andres Galarraga, Gerald Perry

*If all you remember about Gibson’s 1988 season is the way he limped around the bases after his famous World Series home run, you probably wouldn’t have guessed that he stole 26 bases and led the NL with 8.7 BRR that season. What a difference two functioning legs make.

Willie Stargell, 1979
First-half stats: 234 PA, .306/.359/.617, 18 HR*
Who made it instead: Steve Garvey, Keith Hernandez, Pete Rose

*Stargell had a great first half, but I’m okay with the All-Star snub, since—thanks to an awful second half—his MVP win was so undeserved. Stargel won the MVP in 480 plate appearances, the fewest for any non-pitcher MVP in a non-strike season. He was worth 2.4 WARP. That’s the lowest WARP total for any non-pitcher MVP, but not the lowest WARP total, period. Least-valuable-MVP table time:

Name

Year

WARP

Jim Konstanty

1950

-0.2

Rollie Fingers

1981

1.6

Willie Stargell

1979

2.4

Don Newcombe

1956

2.8

Bobby Shantz

1952

3.0

Dennis Eckersley

1992

3.0

Denny McLain

1968

3.2

Andre Dawson

1987

3.4

Willie Hernandez

1984

3.4

Jeff Burroughs

1974

3.7

Juan Gonzalez

1996

3.7

Juan Gonzalez

1998

3.8

Mo Vaughn

1995

3.8

So, to recap: Stargell had an excellent first half, but it wasn’t enough to be an All-Star. Then he had an awful second half, and it was enough to be MVP.  

Speaking of seasons that weren’t as good as contemporary voters thought they were, here’s the most Coors Field fact ever, courtesy of Bradley Ankrom: in 1995, Dante Bichette led the NL in hits, home runs, RBI, total bases, and slugging percentage, and he finished second to Barry Larkin in the NL MVP voting. He was worth 1.1 WARP. (Admittedly, a lot of that was his fielding’s fault.)

Dave Parker, 1978
First-half stats: 310 PA, .316/.377/.535, 13 HR
Who made it instead: Rick Monday, Jack Clark, Reggie Smith, Dave Winfield

Don Newcombe, 1956
First-half stats: 118 IP, 3.51 ERA, 5.1 K/9, 1.4 BB/9
Who made it instead: Bob Friend, Johnny Antonelli, Clem Labine, Brooks Lawrence, Joe Nuxhall, Robin Roberts, Warren Spahn

Hal Newhouser, 1945
First-half stats: 167 2/3 IP, 1.66 ERA, 6.0 K/9, 3.1 BB/9
and
Phil Cavarretta, 1945
First-half stats: 341 PA, .368/.465/.510
Who made it instead: No one. There was a war on! But according to Wikipedia*, The Sporting News polled almost all the major-league managers, and they would’ve selected both Newhouser and Cavarretta had the game been played.

*Also according to Wikipedia: “Impresario Mike Todd floated the idea of holding the contest in, of all places, newly-liberated Berlin. Although baseball’s commissioner, Happy Chandler, was reportedly ‘intrigued’ by the idea, it was ultimately dismissed as impractical.”

Hank Greenberg, 1935
First-half stats: 360 PA, .317/.391/.671, 25 HR
Who made it instead: Lou Gehrig


Rob McQuown provided research assistance for this article.

Ben Lindbergh is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here

Related Content:  All-Star Game,  MVP,  Most Valuable Player,  All-stars,  Mvps,  Mvp Award

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