The MVP voting: what are the standards?

Once the Baseball Writers Association of America announces its annual awards, we often hear voters explaining how they arrived at their choices. This year has been no exception. But what about the guidelines from the BBWAA? Does the organization give its members variables to use in voting for these annual awards?

When it comes time to talk about the results of the NL MVP on Monday and the AL’s on Tuesday, we can’t reasonably evaluate the job the voters did if we don’t know how they were told to measure the merits of the ballplayers.

The BBWAA has been voting on the MVP award since 1931. Jack O’Connell, secretary-treasurer for the BBWAA, said by email this week: “That award places ‘value’ on contributions to the team by a player. The only guidelines for the other awards is for voters to select the pitchers, players or managers they feel are most deserving of being honored. It’s as simple as that. These are elections, not coronations.

“The MVP Award fell into disarray in the late 1920s, and none was presented in 1930,” O’Connell wrote. “Commissioner Landis recommended that the BBWAA take them over. The organization has been conducting elections ever since, adding the Rookie of the Year Award in 1947 …. the Cy Young Award for pitchers in 1956 and the Manager of the Year Award in 1983. The BBWAA has also conducted the balloting for the Hall of Fame since the first year of 1936.”

BBWAA members assigned to the National League Most Valuable Player committee are told, “There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team. The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.

“The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931: (1) actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense; (2) number of games played; (3) general character, disposition, loyalty and effort; (4) former winners are eligible; and (5) members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.”

The MVP committee members are also urged, “to give serious consideration to all your selections, from 1 to 10.” The voters understand that a 10th-place vote can influence the outcome of an election. They must fill in all 10 places on the ballot and they are to consider only regular-season performances. The writers must also, “Keep in mind that all players are eligible for MVP, including pitchers and designated hitters.”

We know that over time the writers generally do a pretty consistent job in handing out the awards to worthy recipients. But every year, the second-guessing of the winners begins when the MVP votes are announced. Does this concern the BBWAA?

“This association is not concerned about being second-guessed,” O’Connell said. “Critics are entitled to their opinions. I have served on many committees in which the player I voted for did not win. I have also voted for Presidential candidates who did not win. … Opinions are healthy for the game. We recognize that. We also recognize that the awards are voted on in a democratic process and that various means of assessing a candidate’s value, worth, contributions, etc., are taken into account.”

What can we expect from the writers who vote for the MVP? According to O’Connell, “The BBWAA prides itself on having an educated electorate of members who are at the ballpark regularly and take their task seriously.” From a small sample size of the game’s experts, the ones who make some very important evaluations on a ballplayer’s merit for receiving an award, that’s a very nice thing to know.

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12 years ago

It’s a small sample size so a lot can happen. I would say the NL MVP is solidly Joey Votto’s. And he certainly deserves it. But it only goes to show just how rare a talent Pujols is that one of his bottom three seasons will still get him second place in the MVP voting.

The AL is harder to call, Josh Hamilton would seem to be the favorite, but he missed a fair amount of games. If the writer’s decide he missed too many then I would give the edge to Cabrera over Bautista, but you never know.

But the BBWAA will keep you on your toes. Who could have guessed the writers would pass on their golden opportunity to give Derek Jeter the MVP in 2006?

Jeffrey Gross
12 years ago

Great article Anna.

Anna McDonald
12 years ago

Jeff, thanks. Pete, I agree. Great comments.  And after putting this together I found the reminder about all players being eligible for the MVP interesting, in that there was so much talk about this being, “the year of the pitcher”.

Tom Hanrahan
12 years ago

Hamilton & Cabrera are going to be neck-&-neck. While voters love RBI leaders, they mostly only really love them win their team wins. Hamilton’s saving grace is probably that he got his 100th RBI, which looks better than 99, but Vlad also on the ballot might cost him the award.

Crawford and Cano will duel for 3/4, with Vlad, Konerko, A-Rod and Bautista a bit further back. Bautista is NOT gonna finish in the top 4.

Tom Hanrahan
12 years ago

Votto will be unanimous. Pujols will be #2, & Cargo 3rd.
So says my MVP predictor calc.

Carin Shulusky
12 years ago

thanks for shedding some light on the MVP process. It’s always been a mystery. Excellent article.

John Jackson
12 years ago

Enjoyed your article on the MVP process.  It did help to make sense of the process, but it is still a mystery about why it is obvious any more that players on division or league team winners are given more consderation when regular season performance is supposed to be one of the criteria and not post season performance. 
Glad I talked to you at Starbucks as I knew nothing about your publication before.  Keep up the good work.
Didn’t Bob Gibson win the MVP and Cy Young awards one year-maybe 1968?  Not sure.

Steve Wotka
12 years ago

I’ve been disappointed many times with the choices made and questioned the veracity of those doing the voting.  Thanks for your article, it has given me a better view.

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