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.
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.
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.
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.
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 teammate 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.