Matt Kemp was the best player in the National League in 2011. He led the league in home runs, RBI and finished third in batting average—and yet he did not win the NL MVP Award.
Braun also had a year in which he went 30/30, but it could easily be argued that the reason he won the award instead of Kemp is because his team made the playoffs.
This is not the first time the best player in his respective league did not win the MVP award, and it certainly will not be the last. The following are some of the most undeserving MVP winners in baseball history.
Jackie Jensen had an outstanding year in 1958. He batted .283, hit 35 home runs and drove in 122 runs.
But he was not the best player in the American League that season.
Rocky Colavito, Mickey Mantle and Bob Cerv were all more deserving of the award than Jensen. They all had more home runs, a higher batting average and a better slugging percentage than Jensen.
Mantle had won the award the previous year, and voters were weary of giving a player back-to-back MVP awards. The thing is Mantle deserved it. He had a 9.8 WAR in 1958 for best in the AL, while Jensen had the 11th-highest WAR total (4.6) in the AL that year.
It is hard to win the MVP award when you are not even the best player on your own team, but Zoilo Versalles managed to pull off that feat in 1965. Versalles batted .273 with a 115 OPS+ while leading the AL in doubles, triples and strikeouts.
That same season, Tony Oliva hit .321 with a 141 OPS+. He hit three fewer home runs than Versalles, but he drove in 98 runs to Versalles' 78. Oliva also played 11 fewer games than Versalles and yet put up better numbers in hits, RBI and walks, among other categories.
While Mark McGwire may have admitted to using androstenedione during the 1998 season, it was not illegal at the time. There have also been concerns about Sosa and possible steroid use during this season as well.
Both players put up outstanding numbers. Sosa batted .308 with 66 HR, an NL-leading 158 RBI, 18 stolen bases, a 1.024 OPS and a 160 OPS+. McGwire hit .299 with a then-record 70 home runs, 147 RBI, an NL-leading 162 walks, an insane 1.222 OPS and a 210 OPS+.
This voting was not even close, and Sosa garnered 30 of the 32 first place votes. In the battle between the two slugging stars of the 1990s, the voters picked the wrong one for the 1998 NL MVP award.
Apparently being the best player in your league does not make you the most valuable player.
For an award that is supposed to go the league's best player, team performance had way too much of an impact in 2011.
Matt Kemp led the Nation League with 39 home runs and 126 RBI. His .324 batting average was third-best in the NL.
Kemp also stole 40 bases. He led the MLB with a 10.0 WAR year.
However, that was not enough to win the NL MVP award.
Ryan Braun had a good year in his own right, batting .332 with 33 home runs, 111 RBI and 33 stolen bases. He had 7.7 WAR.
In its own right, this is an outstanding year. But the MVP award went to Braun because he led his team to the playoffs—not because he had a better year than Kemp.
Take a look at the following WAR totals from the 1955 season: 9.5, 9.0, 3.8.
If one were to guess the WAR total of the player who won the AL MVP award in 1955, they would likely go with 9.5 or 9.0—and they would be very, very wrong.
Yogi Berra won the AL MVP award in a year where he had 3.8 WAR. He did hit 27 home runs, but he batted only .272.
Compare that to Al Kaline, who led the AL with a .340 batting average and also slugged 27 home runs. He is the player who had 9.0 WAR in 1955. Mickey Mantle blasted 37 home runs and hit .306 on the way to his 9.5 WAR season, and yet he finished fifth in the MVP voting that year.
Ivan Rodriguez had an outstanding year in 1995 when he batted .332 with 35 home runs and 113 RBI. He was also a Gold Glove catcher that season.
However, he was not even close to the best player in the AL that year.
Pedro Martinez had one of the best seasons a pitcher has had in the second half of the 21st Century. He won the AL Pitching Triple Crown by going 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA and 313 strikeouts. Martinez also led the AL in WHIP and had an insane 243 ERA+ that season.
Rodriguez put up a 6.0 WAR, but when it is compared to Martinez's 8.3 WAR, it is clear who should have won the award.
MVP voters love when players put up big home run and RBI totals; they were almost certainly swayed by Andre Dawson's NL-leading 49 home runs and 137 RBI in 1987.
However, Dawson had just a .328 on-base percentage that year. Even with his impressive numbers, Dawson had just 2.7 WAR in 1987; this was the 57th-highest total that year.
A pair of St. Louis Cardinals were each more deserving of the award.
Ozzie Smith was a defensive wizard, drove in 75 and stole 43 bases. He had a 7.1 WAR season. Jack Clark hit 35 home runs and drove in 106. He had a .459 on-base percentage that year.
These two players finished second and third in the voting, but they were not even the most deserving MVP candidates that year.
That honor goes to Tony Gwynn. Gwynn batted .370 and stole 56 bases while playing Gold Glove defense on his way to an 8.1 WAR season. A case can also be made for Eric Davis as well. Davis batted .293 with 37 home runs, 100 RBI and 50 stolen bases during his 8.0 WAR year.
It is not only amazing that Jim Konstanty won the 1950 NL MVP award but it is also surprising that he received 18 first-place votes. Pitching out of the Philadelphia Phillies' bullpen, Konstanty went 16-7 with a 2.66 ERA and an NL-leading 22 saves.
Konstanty was worth 3.6 WAR that year. Stan Musial led the NL with a .346 batting average while hitting 28 home runs and driving in 105, and yet he finished in second in the voting.
Eddie Stanky led the NL with an 8.0 WAR in 1950, and he finished behind both Konstanty and Musial. Stanky had an NL-leading .460 on-base percentage, and he scored 115 times while driving in 51.
The 1996 American League MVP award race was a very interesting one because it could have been given to any of the players who finished in the top nine of the voting that year; that season, nine players had an OPS of over 1.000.
While Juan Gonzalez had an impressive 47 home runs and 144 RBI in just 134 games, he was not the best choice for the award. He had the eighth-lowest OPS of the players with an OPS of over 1.000.
Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez each put up similar numbers to Gonzalez, but had much higher batting averages and higher stolen base totals. They were also outstanding defensively. What makes Rodriguez's numbers even more impressive is that he put up his totals as a shortstop.
Rollie Fingers had an outstanding year in 1981, but if MVP voters have a hard enough time justifying giving the award to a starting pitcher, then it makes little-to-no sense to give it to a closer, regardless of how good he was. (Fingers led the AL with 28 saves in 1981.)
Rickey Henderson was more deserving of the 1981 AL MVP award. He hit .319 and led the American League in both runs scored and stolen bases.
Hank Sauer edged out Robin Roberts by 15 points in the 1952 AL MVP voting.
However, the voters were impressed by Sauer's dazzling home run (37) and RBI (121) totals. He was worth 5.3 WAR in 1952.
Roberts was by far the best pitcher in the National League that season. He was also the league's best player. Roberts went 28-7 with a 2.59 ERA while striking out 148. His 7.8 WAR wasn't even the best in the NL that year.
That honor went to Jackie Robinson, who had an 8.7 WAR year. Robinson batted .309, hit 19 home runs, stole 24 bases and drove in 75 runners that season while playing outstanding defense.
It has already been stated in this slideshow, but it is incredibly hard to justify a closer being the most valuable player in baseball during any season. This happened in 1984 when Willie Hernandez won the 1984 AL MVP award by going 9-3 with 32 saves and a 1.92 ERA.
The AL MVP award should have gone to Don Mattingly or Eddie Murray that year.
They each had 110 RBI on the season. Mattingly hit .343 with 23 home runs while Murray batted .306 and hit 29 home runs. Each of these players had a WAR above 6.0 while Hernandez had a 4.8 WAR.
Johnny Bench put together one of the best offensive seasons ever for a catcher in 1972. This 40-home run, 125-RBI performance won him the MVP award. Bench hit .270 that season, which is one of the lowest totals ever for an MVP winner, but he had an outstanding 9.1 WAR in 1972.
Amazingly, that was not even the highest WAR total on the Reds in 1972. Joe Morgan posted a 10.0 WAR after batting .292 with 16 home runs, 73 RBI, 58 stolen bases and 122 runs scored.
But Joe Morgan was not the best player in the NL that season. That was Steve Carlton. Carlton was lights out on the mound and pitched his way to a 12.4 WAR.
Carlton won the AL Pitching Triple Crown in 1972 and was responsible for almost 46 percent of the Philadelphia Phillies' wins that year. He went 27-10 with a 1.97 ERA and 310 strikeouts. Had he pitched for a better team, Carlton could have won 35 games that year.
Nellie Fox won the 1959 AL MVP award with his defense. At the plate, Fox batted .306 with just two home runs, but he managed to drive in 70 runs.
If there were no other candidates who put up outstanding seasons, then the Fox selection would make sense.
However, Rocky Colavito hit an AL-leading 42 home runs and drove in 111 runners. He did only hit .257 though, which hurt his candidacy.
Another better choice for the MVP award was Tito Francona. Despite playing in just 122 games, Francona hit 20 home runs and drove in 79. Francona hit .363 that year, but he did not have enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title.
Mickey Mantle, who finished 17th in the AL MVP voting that season, was also a good option for the award. He hit .285 with 31 home runs, but he had only 75 RBI that year. Mantle did steal 21 bases in 1959, though.
Frankie Frisch had a great year in 1931.
However, he did not put up MVP numbers, and yet he won the award. Frisch batted .311 with four home runs, 82 RBI and an NL-leading 28 stolen bases. These numbers were enough for a 4.4 WAR season.
There were at least two players who had a better year than Frisch. Chuck Klein won two parts of the Triple Crown by leading the NL with 37 home runs and 120 RBI. He also batted .337, the fourth-highest total in the NL. Amazingly, he only had 4.5 WAR this season.
Bill Terry would lead the National League with 6.8 WAR in 1931. He batted .349 with nine home runs, 112 RBI and led the NL in both runs scored (121) and triples (20).
While Dick Groat did lead the National League with a .325 batting average in 1960, his selection as the 1960 NL MVP was certainly a head-scratching one. His two home runs and 50 RBI were certainly not MVP-caliber numbers.
This same season saw outstanding years from Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, Ken Boyer, Roberto Clemente, Eddie Matthews and Hank Aaron.
Mays hit .319 with 29 home runs, 103 RBI and 23 stolen bases. He was also outstanding defensively.
Banks led the National League with 41 home runs and also drove in 117 while batting .271.
Boyer batted .304 with 32 home runs and 97 RBI, which was certainly a better year than Groat had.
Clemente hit .314 with 16 home runs and 94 RBI while being an elite defensive outfielder.
Both Matthews and Aaron had outstanding years as well. Matthews hit 39 home runs and drove in an 124 RBI while batting .277. Aaron led the NL with 126 RBI and slugged 40 home runs. He also hit .292 on the year.
Up until 1930, players who had won an MVP award were not eligible to win another one.
However, that is still no excuse for why Roger Peckinpaugh won the 1925 AL MVP Award with a 2.4 WAR season.
Among the more deserving and eligible players were Al Simmons and Harry Heilmann; each had an outstanding year.
Simmons batted an impressive .387 and hit for power. He knocked 24 balls over the fences and drove in 129. Simmons also had seven stolen bases.
Heilmann had what was arguably an even better year than Simmons. He led the National League with a .393 batting average. He also hit 13 home runs and drove in 134 runs in addition to stealing six bases. He also led the NL with a 6.7 WAR in 1925.
In 1944, many of the best players in the game were overseas fighting in World War II.
That opened up an opportunity for Marty Marion to win an MVP award he did not deserve.
Marion posted a .267/.324/.362 line while hitting six home runs, driving in 63 and scoring 50 times. His triple slash line was actually below the NL average when pitchers were excluded.
This is not an MVP season.
This same season saw Bill Nicholson hit 33 home runs and drive in 122 while batting .287. Dixie Walker hit an NL-leading .357 with 13 home runs and 91 RBI, and Stan Musial put up an NL-leading 9.1 WAR after batting .347 with 12 home runs and 94 RBI.
Imagine a year where a player won the AL Triple Crown and another player won the AL Pitching Triple Crown, and neither of them finished in the top two of the AL MVP voting.
There is no need to imagine because that is exactly what happened in 1934.
Lou Gehrig had one of the best seasons of his career in 1934 when he won the AL Triple Crown. He batted .363, slugged 49 home runs and drove in 165 runs. Additionally, he led the AL with a .465 on-base percentage, .706 slugging percentage, 1.172 OPS and a 206 OPS+.
Somehow, he finished fifth in the AL MVP voting this season.
Lefty Gomez took home the AL Pitching Triple Crown in 1934. He went 26-5 with a 2.33 ERA and 158 strikeouts. He also had the lowest WHIP (1.13) in the American League. This was not enough to give him the AL MVP award in 1934 though, and he finished in third place.
Since this slideshow is about fraudulent MVP award winners, Barry Bonds needs to be included. There is no arguing that Bonds was the most valuable player in the National League from 2001-2004, but there is a reason why he is on this list.
Bonds was using performance-enhancers during this time period. Unlike when McGwire hit 70 home runs a few years earlier, the drugs Bonds was using were illegal.
Bonds did win the NL MVP award in 1990, 1992 and 1993, but for now, it must be assumed that he was clean when he won those awards.