Ranking the 10 Worst MLB Award Snubs of the Last 20 Years
As the MLB awards are given out after the conclusion of the playoffs every season, there are surprises every few years. Over the past 20 years, a number of players that deserved to win MLB awards have been snubbed.
There are a number of reasons that these players did not come home with the hardware that they truly earned during the regular season. Some times it is because a player was not completely in one or two of the major counting categories, such as wins for pitchers. In other cases, it is because the writers were not big fans of the player and docked votes accordingly. Additionally, there are other cases which are just simply harder to explain.
One of the other reasons that players get snubbed is because there is no official guideline as to how to vote for the MVP. It can be interpreted as the most outstanding player in the league that season or it could also be viewed as a dominant player that led his team to the postseason. This distinction should become very clear in the following slides.
Whatever the reason, it is apparent that the voters do not always make the best selection when it comes to MLB awards.
Note: bWAR totals from Baseball-Reference
10) 2003 American League Cy Young: Pedro Martinez
One of the biggest issues that occurs with the Cy Young Award every season is the fact that there is a lot of emphasis put on a statistic that is out of the pitcher's control. Wins are heavily considered and while a starter might have an outstanding season, he could miss out on the award if he does not have a great offense supporting him.
That is exactly what happened to Pedro Martinez during the 2003 season. Martinez was once again brilliant as he led the American League with both a 2.22 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP. On top of that, Martinez also led the AL with a 9.9 K/9 ratio thanks to 206 strikeouts in 186.2 innings. The problem was that Martinez only won 14 games that season.
The winner of the Cy Young in 2003 was Roy Halladay despite the fact that his ERA was more than a full run higher than Martinez's ERA and the fact that he had two less strikeouts than Martinez despite throwing almost 80 more innings than him. One of the big reasons that Halladay won the award in such a dominant fashion could be that he led the American League with both 22 wins and nine complete games.
9) 2012 American League MVP: Mike Trout
The 2012 American League MVP race will continue to be hotly debated for years to come. There were a number of reasons for the voters to go with either Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout and in reality, regardless of which player one, there would be a strong case to be made that the other player got snubbed.
Miguel Cabrera demonstrated that he is arguably the best pure hitter in baseball with his performance during the 2012 season. Cabrera was on an absolute roll all season and pitchers struggled to find ways to get him out.
He ended the season with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 129 RBI. These numbers were good enough to make him the first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. In any other season, he would have been the unanimous choice for American League MVP.
However, Mike Trout was putting up one of the greatest rookie seasons in MLB history that year. Trout made a huge impact during his first year in the majors to the tune of a 30/30 season with 30 home runs and league leading 49 stolen bases, 83 RBI a league leading 129 runs scored and a .326 batting average. In addition to this, Trout was also tremendous defensively.
Some of the sabermetric numbers also favor Trout that season as his 168 OPS+ was higher than Cabrera's 164 total and his bWAR of 10.9 was much higher than Cabrera's 7.27 mark.
While it can be stated that either player deserved the award, Trout still deserves a spot on this list because of all the merit behind the argument that he should have been the one that won it.
8) 2005 American League Cy Young: Johan Santana
The results of the 2005 American League Cy Young Award voting are certainly ones that could be brought into question. It seems as if the best pitcher in the league did not win the award that year.
Following the 2005 season, the Cy Young Award was given to American League wins leader Bartolo Colon. In addition to his 21 wins, Colon was eighth in the American League in both ERA (3.48) and strikeouts (157) that season.
Johan Santana on the other hand may not have had the win total in 2005, but he had the other numbers. Santana post 16 wins while playing on an 83 win Twins team, and finished second in the AL with a 2.87 ERA, nearly two-thirds of a run lower than Colon's mark. Additionally, Santana led the American League with a 0.97 WHIP, 238 strikeouts and a 155 ERA+.
It seems clear that the voters gave the Cy Young Award to the wrong player in 2005.
7) 2011 National League MVP: Matt Kemp
The 2011 National League MVP voting was expected to be very close after the outstanding seasons that both Matt Kemp and Ryan Braun had that year.
Kemp had led the National League in two of the three Triple Crown categories with 39 home runs and 126 RBI. Additionally, he had 40 stolen bases and a .324 batting average while playing Gold Glove defense in center field.
Meanwhile, Ryan Braun hit 33 home runs, drove in 111 runs and stole 33 bases while hitting .332. Braun also led the NL with a .994 OPS that season, but his OPS+ of 166 was lower than Kemp's OPS+ of 172.
While there was certainly some reason to believe that Braun deserved to win the award, it is hard to think that Kemp did not get snubbed. He had better numbers seemingly across the board, so it would make sense that Kemp should have been the 2011 NL MVP instead of Braun.
6) 1995 National League MVP: Greg Maddux
Looking back at the 1995 National MVP Award voting, it appears as if the writers choosing the winner may have made a mistake.
That season, award ended up going to Barry Larkin. The Cincinnati Reds shortstop had a fine year, finishing in the top ten of a number of offensive categories, however, he did not lead any. He hit .319 with 15 home runs, 66 RBI and 98 runs scored. Even his 51 stolen bases, second to Quilvio Veras were not enough to lead the league.
One player that had a stronger case than Larkin for the MVP Award that season was Greg Maddux. During a year in which National League teams averaged 4.63 runs per game, Maddux was able to shut down opposing offenses with ease.
The numbers that Maddux put up that season are nothing short of stunning. He went 19-2 with a 1.63 ERA and a 0.81 WHIP. Maddux struck out 181 batters that year and only allowed 23 walks in 209.2 innings. Additionally, he led the National League with 10 complete games and three shutouts.
If one turns to bWAR totals for the year, it makes the pitcher even more clear as to who the MVP should be. Larkin had a bWAR of 5.90 that season. Dante Bichette, the second place finisher who led the National League in hits (197), home runs (40), RBI (128) and slugging percentage (.620) only had a bWAR total of 1.16.
And then there is Maddux, whose sterling performance earned him the highest bWAR in the National League that year with the mark of 9.61.
5) 1995 American League MVP: Albert Belle
The race for the American League MVP Award was much closer than it probably should have been, but that was not the biggest surprise about the results. The fact that Albert Belle came in second is certainly a bit shocking when looking at the numbers.
The award would go to Mo Vaughn, the Boston Red Sox first baseman who hit .300 with 39 home runs and 126 RBI on the year. However, Vaughn also led the American League with 150 strikeouts.
While those are strong numbers, Belle was even better. The Cleveland Indians slugger led the American League with 50 home runs, was tied with Vaughn for the league lead with 126 RBI and as hit .317 on the year. Additionally, Belle scored 121 runs to Vaughn's 98 runs.
Part of the reason why Belle may have lost the award was because of his reputation which stemmed from things such as the corked bat incident the previous season.
4) 2002 American League MVP: Alex Rodriguez
Sometimes it is clear that a team's performance has a big impact on which player takes home the MVP Award and that certainly appeared to be the case in the American League in 2002.
Miguel Tejada put together an outstanding season as he led the Oakland Athletics to 103 wins and the American League West title. Along the way, he played solid defense while also posting a .308 batting average, 34 home runs and 131 RBI. Those are certainly strong numbers for a shortstop.
However, Tejada was not even the best shortstop in his division that season. Alex Rodriguez was on an absolute tear that season as he led the American League with 57 home runs and 142 RBI while also managing to hit an even .300 on the year.
The issue for Rodriguez was the play of this team. The Texas Rangers only managed to win 72 games that season. Voting results like this help lead to the debate over what the MVP Award actually represents.
3) 1999 American League MVP: Pedro Martinez
Winning an MVP Award as a pitcher is an incredibly difficult task, but it has been done in the past. Justin Verlander did it in 2011, but there was another pitcher that should have won both awards as well in the past 20 years.
During the 1999 season, Pedro Martinez was in the midst of one of the best seven year runs that a pitcher has had in decades. He was absolutely lights out in 1999 and hitters were completely unable to handle him.
Martinez picked up the AL Pitching Triple Crown with 23 wins, a 2.07 ERA and 313 strikeouts. For good measure, Martinez also led the AL with 0.92 WHIP, 6.8 H/9 rate, 0.4 HR/9 rate and an absurd 13.2 K/9 rate.
He unanimously won the AL Cy Young that season, but finished second in the MVP voting to Ivan Rodriguez. While Pudge had a great year with a .332 batting average, 35 home runs, 113 RBI and 25 steals, the level of dominance he had was nowhere close to that of Martinez.
It just goes to show how difficult it really is for a pitcher to take home an MVP award.
2) 1996 American League MVP: Alex Rodriguez
The American League MVP voting in 1996 was incredibly close and the first and second place finishers were just three points apart. Coming in first that season was Juan Gonzalez.
Gonzalez was knocking the cover off the ball that season to the tune of a .314 batting average, 47 home runs and 144 RBI. While he was great offensively, Gonzalez was a big liability on defense for the Texas Rangers.
Meanwhile, a fresh faced 20-year old shortstop was lighting things up in the division as well for the Seattle Mariners. Alex Rodriguez was a superstar in his first full season in the bigs and he batted .358 with 36 home runs, 123 RBI and 15 stolen bases. In addition to his league leading batting average, Rodriguez also led the American League with 54 doubles and 141 runs scored.
Taking a look at bWAR shows that this race should not have even been close. Gonzalez posted a bWAR total of 3.79 that season while Rodriguez bWAR was almost two-and-a-half times higher at 9.31.
One of the reasons that Gonzalez may have been able to edge out Rodriguez for the hardware was because his Rangers finished in first place in the American League West ahead of Rodriguez's Mariners.
1) 1996 National League MVP: Barry Bonds
There are four players that have managed to make it to Major League Baseball's vaunted 40/40 club. Shockingly, the only one to take home an MVP Award in the season that they did it was Jose Canseco in 1988.
During the 1996 season, Bonds became the second player to join the 40/40 club with 42 home runs and 40 stolen bases. In addition to that, Bonds hit .308, walked 151 times, drove in 129 runs and scored 122 times.
Amazingly, those stats did not even get Bonds close to the National League MVP Award that season. Not only did he fail to win, but he finished fifth in the voting that season.
The award winner that season was Ken Caminiti. While Caminiti had a fine season, batting .326 with 40 home runs, 130 RBI and 11 stolen bases, it is very hard to say that he had a better year that Bonds.