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9 sabermetric stars who got jilted by baseball's MVP voters
Say it with me: Wins above replacement is more important than how far a home run travels
 
Miguel Cabrera has won the last two MVP awards, even though Mike Trout had statistically more impressive seasons.
Miguel Cabrera has won the last two MVP awards, even though Mike Trout had statistically more impressive seasons. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Miguel Cabrera won another MVP award Thursday night, because of course he did. He had an amazing season, won his third straight batting title, and anchored a playoff team.

But here's the thing: For a second straight year, Anaheim's Mike Trout led the league in wins above replacement (WAR) by also putting up great offensive numbers and, unlike Cabrera, being more than just a statue in the field.

Given voters' penchant for cherry-picking flashy numbers (So many home runs! So many RBIs!), it's not surprising that Trout is only the latest in a long line of players to miss out on an award he really deserved.

Here, in no particular order, and chosen through a mix of disgust and personal preference/vendetta, are nine other players who got snubbed. (All WAR figures are based on Baseball Reference's WAR. Pitchers are excluded, because that's another debate entirely.)

1979: Fred Lynn
WAR: 8.86
Finish: Fourth
WAR above winner: 5.15

Lynn hit more home runs than MVP winner Don Baylor, and had him beat in the triple-slash batting average/on-base percentage/slugging average, too. Baylor, on the other hand, led the league in runs scored and RBIs, which voters tend to overvalue.

1987: Tony Gwynn
WAR: 8.53
Finish: Eighth
WAR above winner: 4.53

Gwynn hit .370 and stole 56 bases — not bad for a dude who ended his career looking like David Ortiz — but still lost to Andre Dawson. Or, more accurately, he lost to Andre Dawson's league-leading 49 home runs and 137 RBIs.

1995: John Valentin
WAR: 8.29
Finish: Ninth
WAR above winner: 3.99

Valentin's teammate, Mo Vaughn, won that year because he hit .300, smacked a bunch of home runs, and drove in a lot of runs. (Notice a pattern?) Valentin, meanwhile, put up numbers that were nearly as impressive and, unlike Vaughn, made a significant defensive contribution as well.

So why did Vaughn win? Probably because Valentin never did stuff like this:

1996: Ken Griffey Jr.
WAR: 9.62
Finish: Fourth
WAR above winner: 5.83

Griffey's batting average, home runs, and RBIs were right in line with those of MVP winner Juan Gonzalez. And The Kid had yet another Gold Glove season while Gonzalez was so bad in the field he spent a chunk of time at DH.

So what gives? Gonzalez's Rangers went to the playoffs; Griffey's Mariners didn't.

1992: Kirby Puckett
WAR: 7.06
Finish: Second
WAR above winner: 4.14

Puckett placed second to Oakland's Dennis Eckersley at a time when American League voters had a penchant for picking closers. While Eckersley did have a great season, his 2.92 WAR is among the lowest ever for an MVP winner; he was less valuable, per WAR, than more than a couple dozen everyday players that year.

1950: Eddie Stanky
WAR: 8.05
Finish: Third
WAR above winner: 3.67

Stanky got on base almost half the time he came to the plate thanks to a .300 batting average and an incredible 144 walks. Yet voters at the time thought walks were witchcraft, so they passed on poor Stanky and his fantastic last name, opting instead for pitcher Jim Konstanty, whose Whiz Kid Phillies made the playoffs.

2006: Grady Sizemore
WAR: 6.64
Finish: Eleventh
WAR above winner: 2.31

MVP winner Justin Morneau ticked off all the shiny boxes: 34 home runs, 130 RBIs, and a .321 batting average. But he wasn't even the best player on his team. Fellow Twins Joe Mauer and Johan Santana put up better WAR numbers.

Then there was the Indians' Sizemore, who had a season in which he was very good at everything, but spectacular at nothing. Unfortunately for him though, voters aren't as interested in excellent across-the-board performance as they are in single eye-popping numbers. Plus, Cleveland isn't allowed to have nice things.

1934: Lou Gehrig
WAR: 10.42
Finish: Fifth
WAR above winner: 6.45

Boy did the voters screw up this one. Confronted with a choice between their two favorite types of MVP candidates — a Triple Crown winner (Gehrig) and a player on a postseason team (Detroit's Mickey Cochrane) — the voters went with the playoff-bound guy.

But based on raw numbers, it's unfathomable how this went to Cochrane. Gehrig had a huge edge in runs scored, batting average, and home runs — he hit 49 dingers to Cochrane's two. (Two!) Heck, he even stole more bases in what was one of the greatest offensive seasons ever.

Bad job, bad effort, voters.

2011: Matt Kemp
WAR: 8.13
Finish: Second
WAR above winner: 0.3

Sure, the margin here is so slim as to be almost negligible. But there are two very good reasons Kemp should have beaten Ryan Braun. (1) He was, statistically, a little better, and (2) Braun was a lying, juicing jerk.

 
Jon Terbush is an associate editor at TheWeek.com covering politics, sports, and other things he finds interesting. He has previously written for Talking Points Memo, Raw Story, and Business Insider.

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