July 12, 2012
MVPs Who Weren't All-Stars
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.
*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.
*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.
*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:
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.)
Hal Newhouser, 1945
*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.”