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MVP Voting Has Many Different Criteria

How could one MVP voter have Mike Trout listed seventh? He has an explanation...

We know who the real MVP is.
We know who the real MVP is.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Baseball Writers Association of America announced their choices for the Most Valuable Player award winners on Thursday, and it was no surprise Miguel Cabrera from the Detroit Tigers was their choice for the A.L. MVP for the second year in a row.  Of the thirty votes submitted by the writers, Cabrera received 23 first-place and 7 second-place votes, totally 385 points (14-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 scoring system).

Once again, Los Angeles Angels' outfielder Mike Tout finished second in voting.  The writers submitted 5 first-place, 19 second, 3 third, a 4th, 5th and 7th place ballots for the league's runner-up.  Trout's point total was 282, fifty more than third place finisher Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles.  Davis, and Oakland's Josh Donaldson, were the only other players to receive first-place votes.

As it was with last season's voting, 2013 included many debates as to who was truly more valuable.  The Lyle Spencer, "I've seen 4000 games with my own eyes" crowd stood strong in their choice of Cabrera usually based on his stellar triple-crown numbers, while the stat-nerd group rallied behind Trout's overall greatness.  But as it is with any group, there are always outliers who see thing differently.

One criteria used, as explained by Bill Ballou of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Trout's seventh-place voter, is selecting a player who was most valuable to the team's success in reaching the postseason.  In his article from September 22nd, Ballou wrote:

If the award were Player of the Year, Mike Trout probably would be the winner. As an all-around player, Trout's abilities are unsurpassed. He is both sides of the offense-defense equation. However, how valuable could he have been for a team that is going to finish well out of contention? The Angels could have missed the playoffs without him. 
Because the Angels were not really serious contenders, the pick for AL MVP probably will come down to Cabrera or Davis. Their offensive statistics are comparable. Their defensive contributions are adequate, not compelling.

When asked if the primary reason he didn't think Trout was worthy of the A.L. MVP was because he didn't play for a playoff team, Ballou replied, "Exactly. I am a strict constructionist when it comes to "valuable" as opposed to overall ability. To take that logic all the way to the end, I would not vote for any players from non-contenders, but the fact is -- the BBWAA requires we fill out all 10 spots on the ballot, and I don't believe that there were 10 worthy candidates from contending teams. So, I do vote for players such as Trout who had great seasons, but did not help their teams contend, but nearer the bottom of the ballot."

"Contending teams" seems to be the key element in his voting, as he had players who had lesser seasons than Trout, yet whose teams finished higher in the standings, higher on his ballot.  From the 9/22/13 article:

The deciding factor on this ballot is probably going to be the question, "How much would the respective teams suffer if they lost their valuable player?" 

Would the Tigers be worse off without Cabrera than the Orioles would be without Davis? 

The gut feeling here is that the Tigers would manage without Cabrera, but the Orioles would be in big trouble.

This would explain why his was the lone vote for Chris Davis while the Orioles were not a playoff team.

Other voters will disregard the actual numbers and come up with their own criteria. Some, like the Oakland Tribune's John Hickey, will use their ballot to vote for a hometown favorite--Hickey's was the only first-place vote of the Athletics' Josh Donaldson - while others will cast a vote for a player as a "reward" for a great, but not the best season.

Last week, SB Nation announced their choices for their "Best Player" award, with Trout winning easily.  Of the 39 ballots submitted, Trout was named first on 35 of them, with 2 second, and 2 third-place votes.  One of Trout's third-place votes was submitted by Lone Star Ball's ghostofErikThompson.  His reasoning was

"Trout's obviously the better player...and he'll be better next year and the year after that and then someday he'll be remembered as our modern day Mickey Mantle. I was mostly just "rewarding" (as much as a second place vote on a website is a reward) Chris Davis for having a monster year and finally reaching that crazy power ceiling. Davis put together an otherwise fantastic campaign in areas beyond just drilling dingers. I certainly thought that was impressive. Plus, I knew Trout was going to top the list anyway."

The MVP voting is always going to have its share of controversy, but that's not a bad thing.  Without these outlier votes, what would we have to talk about between the end of the World Series and December's Winter Meetings?