“Alex Bregman is the runaway AL MVP for 2019” – MVP voters from the 1950s & 1960s
“Mike Trout finishes a disappointing 5th in 2019 AL MVP voting” – MVP voters from the 1960s & 1970s
“Christian Yelich is the near-unanimous 2019 NL MVP” – MVP voters from the 1980s & 1990s
“Xander Bogaerts narrowly misses the 2019 AL MVP” – MVP voters from the 1960s & 1970s
The Evolving MVP Voter’s Criteria
The winner of the MLB MVP awards is a function of two factors: How the players performed, and how the electorate evaluated that performance.
Much attention is paid to how players perform and how they stack up historically to peers from different eras, but for MVP selection, little attention has been paid to how the electorate has changed and shifted the definition of the Most Valuable Player.
Since 1931, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) has voted and awarded each league’s MVP award. Over this period of time, the world’s understanding of player performance and what contributes to winning has changed dramatically. The 1931 voters probably looked at home runs, RBIs, and batting average leaderboards printed at year-end in their daily newspaper before filling out their ballot. That’s not to accuse them of being narrowly minded, it was just all they had available to them and all the baseball world knew to look at.
On the other hand, the 2019 voter (hopefully) spent at least a few minutes on FanGraphs or a similar site looking at things like WAR, wRC+, and DRS, and at best also considered advanced Statcast data and maybe even built their own AI-powered simulations to model a season without the player to see how much worse their team performed. At least, that’s what I would do if I had a ballot, and that’s what I would call “responsible voting” in 2019. Read the rest of this entry »