MLB MVP – Mays gets the Nays

There is always a fair bit of discussion around choice of MVP’s and in recent years metrics have been developed which enable us to more objctively assess the decisions made by the writers
The easiest to use is probably Wins over Replacement (WAR) and several bloggers have already utilized to discuss aspects of the decision. Now it is my turn. With the odd interruption, the awards have been granted for each league for the best part of a century with 182 winners in all
Lets first take a look at the distribution of deserving (according to this criteria) and actual winners

We can straightaway see that the distributions differ. There appears to be a desire to spread the honour around. Only one player, Barry Bonds (7), has received more than 3 awards whilst several others could have expected more largesse. It should be noted that awards were not issued in many of Babe Ruth and earlier legends best years
Lets have a look at the multiple deservees in more detail

As can be seen, Willie Mays really did get the short end of the stick. Here are his performances in the years he obtained MVP votes

Mays completely dominated the NL from 1954 to 1965 with the best WAR in every year except 1956 when he should have been 3rd but only finished 17th. and 1959 (4th/6th)

But some years he can really feel aggrieved

1955 – (WAR margin over winner 3.8) Mays had won the year before and his performance took a small step backwards so that his WAR was only 0.4 greater than Duke Snider – of the fabled ‘Boys of Summe’r Brooklyn Dodgers who finally won the WS over the Yankees. The only problem was that it was Dodger’s catcher, Roy Campanella, that controversially won in spite of having lesser stats across the board than Snider. It was the third and final MVP for Campanella.
As an aside, Snider was unlucky again the following year when in a down year his WAR of 7.7 was the best in the division. He only managed 10th spot and amazingly was regarded by the voters as only the 5th best player on his team. Snider got into the HOF on the 11th attempt and died earlier this year Th sporting news made him 83rd best player of all time in their 1998 evaluation. Campanella was 50th and Mays second only to Ruth

1960 – (4.0) Once again he trailed two players from the World series winners and – more pertinently for HOF voting – the runaway winners in the NL. In this instance the beneficiaries were Dick Groat and Dan Hoak of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Groat was a pretty comprehensive winner with 16 of the 22 votes first-place votes. He led the league in batting average, would probably have reached 200 hits barring a late season injury and was also a slick shortstop although he walked less than 7% of the time and only hit 2 home runs. Frank Robinson was the other forgotten man this year. His WAR also exceeded Groat`s but he picked up a measly 2 votes compared to the winner’s 276. Groat actually had a superior individual season in 1963 when he was the best player on his new club, the St Louis Cardinals but he lost out to Sandy Koufax`s lone win. Needless to say, Mays outperformed them both in terms of WAR that year too

1962 – (4.5) This time Mays came close losing out by just 7 votes to a single season record as Maury Wills became the first player in the 20th century to steal 100 bases; he was only caught 13 times. His speed also enabled him to 13 triples against just 10 doubles but lack of power and a weak lineup meant he only managed 48 RBI’s. Mays topped that in Home Runs alone and may have won the award if he had reached the 50 mark. Wills may have deserved the Most Exciting Player though

1964 -(4.6) The final occurrence continues the pattern of losing out to players on team`s that won the regular season race, once again the Cardinals. This time Ken Boyer and Bill White made the top 3 as Mays managed only 6th place in spite of a WAR of 10.2 (only Mike Schmidt with 10.5 in 1974 was as low in voting for a postion player with such large value). Boyer led the league in RBI when more emphasis was placed on this factor
In six more seasons in the league, Boyer did not garner another MVP vote whilst 1965 finally saw Mays gain his second, and final, award

Mays appears to have suffered from both playing on relatively unsuccessful teams and at a time when less valuable metrics had a greater weight. However, it has not harmed his place in the discussion as the greatest player ever

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