Most Valuable Careers in 2012

Every year, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America sits down to deliberate on the most valuable National League and American League players of the season. Each player’s contributions are carefully considered, with all narratives and statistics taken into account, allowing voters to make balanced, unbiased judgments…

Okay, I’ll stop. The voting processes for baseball awards are never without some measure of controversy, but the 2012 MVP nominations held my attention past the whole Cabrera vs. Trout debacle.

Here’s why: In 2012, Ryan Braun received 32 MVP votes, Miguel Cabrera 28, and Albert Pujols 3.

Three votes for Pujols may seem inconsequential, but it makes this trio the only active MLBers with an MVP nomination for every single year of their major league careers to date.*

Side note: I should point out that while Mike Trout has also earned a nomination for every year of his major league career, I prefer to focus on those with careers exceeding one season.

Ryan Braun

MLB career: 6 seasons (2007 – present)
MVP titles: 1 (2011)
Career bWAR: 32.0

After receiving two nominations in his rookie year, Braun placed in the top five three times in his six-season career. As runner-up in 2012, he led the NL in runs (108), home runs (41), OPS (.987), and total bases (356). Notwithstanding a banner year in 2011, Braun’s most successful campaign for NL MVP came in 2012, when the entire committee handed him a vote despite his close brush with PED allegations earlier that year.

Miguel Cabrera

MLB career: 10 years (2003 – present)
MVP titles: 1 (2012)
Career bWAR: 44.4

I promised myself I’d set aside the Cabrera vs. Trout arguments in this post, but there’s no denying Miguel had an incredible year. He led the AL in home runs (44), RBI (139), SLG (.606), OPS (.999), and total bases (377). His batting average (.330) topped MLB leaderboards for the second year in a row, after peaking at .344 in 2011.

Of the three MVPs listed here, Cabrera was the only one snubbed for Rookie of the Year status—that was awarded to Dontrelle Willis in 2003. However, by his third year in the majors, Miguel had already cracked the top five in MVP nominations, earning his spot in back-to-back seasons with 30+ home runs, 100+ RBI, and a team-leading 4.9 bWAR.

Albert Pujols

MLB career: 12 years (2001 – present)
MVP titles: 3 (2005, 2008, 2009)
Career bWAR: 88.5

Sure, Cabrera won the elusive Triple Crown and Braun evaded a 50-game suspension, but it was Pujols who sustained over a decade of MVP nominations, laying claim to 32 votes in at least seven different seasons. Braun received 32 votes twice (2011-12), while Cabrera never garnered more than 28 in a single year (though he did so five times).

In 2009, Pujols put up the best numbers of his career: an NL-leading 124 runs, 47 home runs, .443 OBP, .658 SLG, 1.101 OPS, 189 OPS+, 374 total bases, and 38 intentional walks. His bWAR clocked in at 9.4, a full 5.1 wins above fellow teammateĀ Brendan Ryan. Not only did Pujols manage 32 nominations from the BBWAA—he received 32 first-place votes. Last season, his three votes were the fewest of his career and landed him below the top ten for the first time.

While I’d imagine this is a pretty small category, I haven’t yet gone through the pre-2001 MVP ballots to find out which other MLB-ers gathered MVP votes in every year of their careers—or, for that matter, if any player has topped Barry Bonds‘ 15 consecutive MVP seasons. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.

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42 Comments on "Most Valuable Careers in 2012"

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Dr. Doom
Guest
“Cabrera never garnered more than 28 in a single year (though he did so five times).” Isn’t that pretty darn likely, considering that Cabrera has played his best years in the AL, where (before this upcoming year) there have only been 28 votes to give? Two come from each city in the League, and since there were only 14 teams in the AL (again, until this upcoming year), it really isn’t Cabrera’s fault he didn’t get more than 28. For all intents and purposes, finishing with 32 votes in the NL and 28 in the AL are the same thing.
bstar
Guest
Yeah, Hank Aaron’s got Bonds beat. After getting no MVP love for his 4th-place-Rookie-of-the-Year 1954 season, The Hammer rattled off nineteen consecutive appearances on the MVP ballot from 1955-1973, which looks like it might be the longest streak ever. Ted Williams got MVP votes in all but one of his 19 years, 1952, where he only played 6 games. He even got a few votes for his 37-game 1953 season. Longest streaks with MVP votes I can find: 1. Aaron – 19 years 2. Bonds – 15 years 2. Yogi – 15 years 4. Mays – 13 years 4. ARod… Read more »
Dr. Doom
Guest

12 for DiMaggio (if you ignore the War).
11 for Gehrig. Actually, 11 in 14 years, but the three years he didn’t get votes, there WAS no MVP, so that’s not his fault.
9 for Pete Rose, then a year off, then 5 more, then a year off, and then another.

Those were the most I could find.

Andrew
Guest

Interestingly, after A-Rod’s breakout 1996 he failed to get a single vote 1997… otherwise he would have a consecutive streak of 15 as well.

Tim Pea
Guest

How come we haven’t had any pieces by the Polish, bearded rifle Adam lately?

Bryan O'Connor
Editor

Ashley, I don’t understand the Brendan Ryan comment. B-R tells me that Ben Zobrist had 8.3 WAR in 2009, while Utley had 8.0 in the NL. Are you saying Ryan was the second most valuable player on the Cardinals?

Doug
Editor
This topic of one player being so much better than all his teammates came up in a recent thread. At that time, several examples were found of a single player on a team having more WAR than the sum total of the rest of his team. But, more to than point, if a single player on a team outshines everyone else, does that make him “more” valuable to his team than if there were another comparable player. For example was Babe Ruth more valuable to the pre-Gehrig Yankees with 11 and 12 WAR seasons in 1920-21, than with 11 and… Read more »
MikeD
Guest

Brendan Ryan? Is there a joke here I’m not registering before my second cup of coffee?!

John Autin
Editor
Something curious about Cabrera’s progression through the minor leagues: Granted, he was extremely young for every level — but they kept moving him up, even though he didn’t really hit until his last half-year on the farm: 2000, Rookie/low-A: .259 BA, .685 OPS, 2 HRs 2001, class A: .268/.709, 7 HRs 2002, high-A: .274/.754, 9 HRs 2003, AA: .365/1.038 He also fanned twice as much as he walked in the first 3 years. Obviously, they’re smarter than I am. It just seems a little odd. Contrast that with Josh Willingham, Cabrera’s minor-league teammate from 2000-02 and a more productive hitter… Read more »
Ed
Guest

Of course Cabrera’s a lot younger than Willingham. At age 20, Cabrera was already in the majors, putting up a 106 OPS+. Willingham, on the other hand, didn’t even begin his minor league career till age 21. Big difference.

MikeD
Guest
I will frequently note Cabrera’s progression through the minors when friends will at times either write a player off, or proclaim he’s the second coming of Henry Aaron based on his minor league stats. In Cabrera’s case, it wasn’t just the Marlins who believed in him, so did pretty much all talent evaluators. After Cabrera triple slashed to the tune of .259/.338/.347 in rookie, low-A ball in 2000, Baseball America decided the eighteen-year-old was one of the 100 best prospects in the game, ranking him at #91 heading into 2001. The Marlins moved him up to A-ball that season, where… Read more »
John Autin
Editor

MikeD, all excellent points about the scouting reports on Cabrera.

A betting man will still come out way ahead trusting minor-league numbers (understood in context) over scouting reports.

In Cabrera’s case, I probably underemphasized the context of his being 2 to 3 years younger than average at every level.

birtelcom
Editor
B-ref has leader boards for career “award shares” for MVP and Cy Young, calculated by totaling the “award share” of the vote each player has received for these awards each year of his career. Award shares are calculated by taking the award points the player received in the voting and dividing that by the maximum number of points a player could have recieved in the voting, i.e., as a unanimous first-place selection. So, for example, in 2012, Cabrera received 22 first place votes and 6 second place votes, for 362 points (the BBWAA currently gives 14 points for a first… Read more »
wlcmlc
Guest

Pujols has 505 career doubles after hitting 50 last year. Does he have a shot for 800?

Lawrence Azrin
Guest
Assuming he plays out he rest of his contract, Pujols needs 295 2Bs in 9 years, or about 33 a year. That doesn’t sound very unlikely at first glance, as he has exceeeded that all but two years so far. However – he’s never missed significant time in a season – never less than 143 G in a year, only three times less than 154 G. He’s probably going to miss big chunks of time in the future. The biggest negative, though, is he might not hit well enough at the end of his career – I wouldn’t be surprised… Read more »
Nick Pain
Guest

Bill James milestone predictor gives Pujols a 20% chance of reaching 800. It predicts 710 for this total.

Ed
Guest

The problem with the Bill James’ predictor is that it only predicts Pujols to play for 5 more years. We know that’s untrue unless he suffers some horrendous injury.

Hartvig
Guest

Five years can’t be right, can it? If the predictor “gives” him another 205 doubles (710 minus 505) that would mean it’s predicting he will average 41 doubles a year, Only Tris Speaker managed to do that. Even such well known “old” players like Musial, Aaron, Cobb & Wagner didn’t average much over 30.

Ed
Guest

Hartvig – Yes,it’s right. The formula presumes (42-age)/2 seasons remaining. Plug Pujols’ age from last year (32) into the equation and you get 5 years left.

The formula figures the number of doubles (or other stat) by weighting the most recent year by 3, the year from 2 years ago by 2, and the year from 3 years ago by 1.

50*3=150
29*2=58
39*1=39

Added together that’s 247/6 which equals 41.2 doubles per year.

bstar
Guest
The problem with this Toy thingie every time it’s used is it doesn’t give us any chance to input how historically great of a hitter Pujols has been. It’s only using current age and his last three seasons as input, so I wouldn’t expect that thing to be very accurate. Thru age 32, Pujols is eighth best all-time in RBat, 8th also in OPS+, and most importantly, second only to Joe Medwick in doubles. And his 50-double season last year pretty strongly suggests he’s not done putting up good seasonal doubles totals despite his age. To get the best projection… Read more »
Hartvig
Guest
Looking at Stan Musial- partly because of the St. Louis connection- I think we might have at least one reasonable “projection” for Pujols’ future. In the 5 years after Musial turned 33 he hit 41, 30, 33, 38 & 35 doubles- a total of exactly 150. In the 5 years he played after that he hit another 80, with a season high of 22 as a 40 year old. Looking at the closest similar batter on Pujols’ page on B-R we have Hank Aaron. He hit 148 doubles in the 5 years starting at age 33 and another and another… Read more »
Lawrence Azrin
Guest
Pujols hit 50 doubles last year, the most in 8 years, and only one short of his career high. Is there anything in the Angels ballpark, or his batting approach last year, that boosted his doubles total? Because if there is, that should be factored into his future doubles totals. I still think (as I stated in #12 above what will determine his career doubles total more than anything else is how long he remains a regular; if he remains a regular till the end of his contract (nine more years!) he’s get a great shot at breaking Speaker’s record,… Read more »
Ed
Guest
Lawrence – Pujols hit 22 doubles at home, 28 on the road last year. So it definitely wasn’t the ballpark. He also had a career low in home runs last year. My guess is some balls that would have been home runs for him in the past were doubles last year. Looking a bit more at his splits, it appears that he’s being affected a bit more by cold weather. In the colder months of April, September and October, Pujols his 23 doubles and only 1 home run! In the warmer months, he hit 27 doubles and 29 home runs.
Lawrence Azrin
Guest

Ed,

I feel like Homer Simpson (going “D’oh!”); I should’ve checked the Home/Road splits for 2012 first.

Your theory that past HRs turned into doubles in 2012 did cross my mind. His extra-base hit totals (2bs+3Bs+HRs) are 80 and above most recent years except for 2011, so maybe he’s just losing that extra bit of loft on fly balls that often turns doubles in HRs.

In general, baseballs travel further in warmer weather, but I’m not sure that explains the warm/cold split for 2Bs/HRs.

Hartvig
Guest
This is what’s happened in the past by age: age # with 50 or more 2b # with 80 or more XBH 33 8 11 with 85 or more 34 2 (13 w 43+) 7 35 3 (13 w 43+) 7 36 0 (11 w 40+) 5 37 1 (8 w 40+) 0 38 2 (7 w 40+) 0 (only 1 with more than 68) 39 0 (4 with 40+) 0 (only 1 with more than 67} 40 0 (0 w 40+) 0 (only 1 with more than 54) If Pujols is to have any realistic chance of catching Speaker… Read more »
Ed
Guest

Besides the injury factor that Hartvig mentioned, I think the other issue is that as Pujols ages he’s likely to lose speed and thus hit fewer doubles. Right now, he needs 288 doubles to pass Speaker. Only 8 players have that many doubles post age-32. The 8 are Pete Rose, Tris Speaker, Sam Rice, Craig Biggio, Edgar Martinez, Honus Wagner, Paul Molitor and Ty Cobb. With the exception of Edgar, those are all speed/aggressive baserunner types.

bstar
Guest
But since Pujols is #2 all-time thru age 32, is it completely unreasonable to expect him to be one of the top eight after that? Remember he’s a full 60 doubles ahead of Speaker at this point of their careers. Pujols matched Speaker’s age 32 season as they both had 50 doubles at that age. But then Speaker went 52-48-59 from ages 33-35. Even if Albert goes 40-40-40 in the next three, he’s lost 39 of his 60-double lead. It should be interesting. And don’t sleep on Miggy Cabrera. He’s lurking 116 doubles and three years behind Pujols. Three 40-double… Read more »
Mike L
Guest

Purely speculating, I wonder if Pujols isn’t adjusting to slightly slower bat speed. His walk rate has declined sharply over the past two years. His batting average is also down, but not so sharply. Maybe he’s looking to square up earlier in the count and drive something before he’s down to two strikes. Still immensely talented, just older.

Hartvig
Guest
I have a vague recollection of noticing that his walk rate dropped in ’11 but that significant a difference 2 years in a row would seem to indicate that something has changed. Especially since I remember Bill James writing about how most hitters K/BB rates improve as they get older whereas Pujols’ have regressed in the last 2 years to almost exactly what they were in his first 2 seasons. I think you might be on to something with his compensating for a loss in bat speed and IF that turns out to be true his decline could be sooner… Read more »
Nick Pain
Guest

After his age 32 season, Stan Musial was at 468 doubles and had just come off a season of 53, so he could be a decent litmus test. Over the next 5 years he had 177 and 257 over the final 10 years of his career ending at 725. I’d say Pujols has his work cut out for him, but it will be fun to watch.

Brooklyn MIck
Guest

Warren Spahn received MVP votes in (15) different seasons, including streaks of 8 and 6 years.

Clemens and Seaver each received votes in (10) different seasons, although Seaver’s longest streak was 5 years and Clemens’s was 3.

Mariano Rivera, Randy Johnson, and Whitey Ford each received votes in (9) different seasons, with Whitey having streaks of 4 and 3, and Mo and Randy having individual streaks of 4.

Obviously much more difficult for a pitcher to get MVP votes since the advent of the CYA.

bstar
Guest

OK that 8 year run for Spahn getting MVP votes looks like it might be the longest one. Robin Roberts had 7 straight in the 50s for the Phils and Mr. Koufax finished off his career with 6 straight.

JasonZ
Guest

Giancarlo Stanton just hit a line drive homer homer about 430 ft. against the Mets at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter.

That ball left here in a hurry.

He should be getting MVP votes for many years to come.

Sadly, idiot Luria will probably trade him too.

If I did not have freebies I would not be here.

JasonZ
Guest

Jeurys Familia, #27 with Mets is throwing 96-97MPH in the top of the 7th.

He looks real good.

Remember the name.

birtelcom
Editor

For some Mets fans, the name is already familia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sting_(percussion)

John Autin
Editor

birtelcom, it jeurys nice of you to use my favorite pun.

RJ
Guest

The jeurys out on that pun.

JasonZ
Guest

I could tell by the way the Mets came out of the dugout to congratulate him after his inning that expectations are high.

The fact that he walked 9 in 12 innings last season during his cup of coffee tells us that command is the issue.

If he is able to conquer wildness, he will be “familia” to all.

The 2 best sounds of the day were Familia hitting the glove and Stanton hitting the ball.

Jeff Hill
Guest

My question is how did Pujols receive any votes considering how awful he was for the first half of the season?

RJ
Guest

Because it was more like only a quarter of a season. In the 110 games Pujols played after May 24th he hit .315/.377/.592 with 41 doubles and 26 HRs. His 4.6 WAR for the season wasn’t up to usual standards, but only six other position players who received MVP votes bettered it.

bstar
Guest

Pujols did the same thing in 2011 too, RJ.

After April and May of 2011, Pujols was at .267/.336/.419/.755
After that, he went .318/.353/.613/.997

I’m still burning a candle for Albert the Great to show up again. His talent certainly deserves for us to at least consider the possibility. And he did, as you say RJ, put up a strangely quiet 4.6 WAR season last year. That’s hardly chopped liver. Plus he’s looked like his old self for significant portions of the last two years (including his fantastic 2011 postseason).

I’ll be rooting for him this year whatever happens.

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