José Abreu and Freddie Freeman are the latest American League and National League Most Valuable Player Award winners, and they have added their names to a vaunted list that includes Ted Williams, Barry Bonds, Mickey Mantle and … Zoilo Versalles. But not all MVP seasons are treated equally. Some MVP seasons just happen to be the best that particular year, and some can stand among the best of all time.
Today, we come to you having completed a Herculean task: We come to rank every MVP season ever. Starting in 1931 -- the first year the Baseball Writers' Association of America voted on an award for both leagues -- we're looking at all 181 MVP seasons and pitting them against each other. We'll use a variety of ways to judge them, from Wins Above Replacement to historical import to the background of the quality of the league itself the year a particular player won their award. And I'm sure we'll get a bunch of them wrong.
But who is the most MVPest of all the MVPs? Let's dive in. Remember: All these guys were great. There is only honor in being on this list, whatever place you finish at.
1. Barry Bonds, 2001 NL (Giants)
Key stats: 259 OPS+, 73 HR, 177 BB
The 73 homers is probably enough for me. Is it not enough for you?
Runner-up: Sammy Sosa, CHC (64 HR)
2. Bob Gibson, 1968 NL (Cardinals)
Key stats: 1.12 ERA, 258 ERA+, 13 shutouts
The pitching season by which all other pitching seasons will forever be judged.
Runner-up: Pete Rose, CIN (.335 BA)
3. Barry Bonds, 2004 NL (Giants)
Key stats: 263 OPS+, 232 BB, 120 IBB
This one isn't first overall only because Bonds barely played defense at all. But heavens: A .609 OBP!
Runner-up: Adrian Beltre, LAD (163 OPS+)
4. Mickey Mantle, 1956 AL (Yankees)
Key stats: 210 OPS+, 52 HR, 130 RBIs
This was Mantle at his absolute peak, aged 24 and perfect in every possible way.
Runner-up: Yogi Berra, NYY (105 RBIs)
5. Barry Bonds, 2002 NL (Giants)
Key stats: .370 BA, .799 SLG, 268 OPS+
This was actually the highest OPS+ of Bonds' career.
Runner-up: Albert Pujols, STL (127 RBIs)
6. Willie Mays, 1965 NL (Giants)
Key stats: 185 OPS+, 52 HR, 112 RBIs
Not only is it amazing that Mays put up the numbers he did this year at 34, but he also did it while revolutionizing the position defensively.
Runner-up: Sandy Koufax, LAD (382 K)
7. Carl Yastrzemski, 1967 AL (Red Sox)
Key stats: .326 BA, 193 OPS+, 44 HR
Actually the highest WAR on this entire list.
Runner-up: Harmon Killebrew, MIN (44 HR)
8. Stan Musial, 1948 NL (Cardinals)
Key stats: .376 BA, 200 OPS+, 131 RBIs
Musial hit .376 and had a career high in homers.
Runner-up: Johnny Sain, BSN (2.60 ERA)
9. Joe Morgan, 1975 NL (Reds)
Key stats: .327 BA, 169 OPS+, 67 SB
Morgan's best year, for maybe the best team of the past 50 years.
Runner-up: Greg Luzinski, PHI (120 RBIs)
10. Sandy Koufax, 1963 NL (Dodgers)
Key stats: 25-5, 1.88 ERA, 306 K
Your grandfather will never, ever stop talking about this season.
Runner-up: Dick Groat, STL (.319 BA)
11. Mickey Mantle, 1957 AL (Yankees)
Key stats: .365 BA, 221 OPS+, 34 HR
Mantle might not have had the longevity of his peers, but no one has ever looked more physically built solely to play baseball.
Runner-up: Ted Williams, BOS (.526 OBP)
12. Willie Mays, 1954 NL (Giants)
Key stats: .345 BA, 175 OPS+, 41 HR
This was Mays' first year back from military service. He was not rusty.
Runner-up: Ted Kluszewski, CIN (49 HR)
13. Cal Ripken Jr., 1991 AL (Orioles)
Key stats: .323 BA, 34 HR, 114 RBIs
Also, and you might not know this, Ripken didn't miss a game all year.
Runner-up: Cecil Fielder, DET (133 RBIs)
14. Mike Trout, 2016 AL (Angels)
Key stats: 173 OPS+, 123 R, 100 RBIs
Trout's team didn't make the postseason, of course. Also: How in the world does he only have two of these?
Runner-up: Mookie Betts, BOS (214 H)
15. Jimmie Foxx, 1932 AL (A's)
Key stats: 207 OPS+, 58 HR, 169 RBIs
Foxx should probably be as household a name as Gehrig, anyway.
Runner-up: Lou Gehrig, NYY (181 OPS+)
16. Ted Williams, 1946 AL (Red Sox)
Key stats: .497 OBP, 215 OPS+, 123 RBIs
This was Williams' first year back from the war, and it was as if he hadn't missed a day.
Runner-up: Hal Newhouser, DET (26-9)
17. Robin Yount, 1982 AL (Brewers)
Key stats: .331 BA, 129 R, 114 RBIs
If the Brewers had won the World Series that season, this might be in the top 10.
Runner-up: Eddie Murray, BAL (156 OPS+)
18. Jackie Robinson, 1949 NL (Dodgers)
Key stats: .342 BA, 124 RBIs, 37 SB
Robinson only played 10 years in the Majors. Suffice it to say, he made them count.
Runner-up: Stan Musial, STL (177 OPS+)
19. Albert Pujols, 2009 NL (Cardinals)
Key stats: 189 OPS+, 47 HR, 135 RBIs
It'll be a decade since Pujols' last truly breathtaking season next year. This was what it was like to see Williams.
Runner-up: Hanley Ramirez, FLA (.342 BA)
20. Alex Rodríguez, 2007 AL (Yankees)
Key stats: 176 OPS+, 54 HR, 156 RBIs
Even with this incredible year, there were still Yankees fans who would have voted for Derek Jeter.
Runner-up: Magglio Ordonez, DET (.363 BA)
21. Ted Williams, 1949 AL (Red Sox)
Key stats: .490 OBP, 191 OPS+, 159 RBIs
This was Williams' final MVP season, but it's difficult to argue he didn't deserve four or five more.
Runner-up: Phil Rizzuto, NYY (110 R)
22. Bryce Harper, 2015 NL (Nationals)
Key stats: .330 BA, 198 OPS+, 42 HR
Harper was so great this season he may spend the rest of his career trying to live it down … or maybe someday even match it.
Runner-up: Paul Goldschmidt, ARI (168 OPS+)
23. Rickey Henderson, 1990 AL (A's)
Key stats: 189 OPS+, 28 HR, 65 SB
Henderson's true value could never be entirely calculated … but you sure can come close.
Runner-up: Cecil Fielder, DET (51 HR)
24. Stan Musial, 1943 NL (Cardinals)
Key stats: .357 BA, 177 OPS+, 20 3B
Musial's first MVP season, and the one that established him as the model for every St. Louis Cardinals player who would ever come after him.
Runner-up: Walker Cooper, STL (.318 BA)
25. Ernie Banks, 1959 NL (Cubs)
Key stats: 156 OPS+, 45 HR, 143 RBIs
No player has ever earned a championship more and never had the chance to get one.
Runner-up: Eddie Mathews, MLN (46 HR)
26. Barry Bonds, 2003 NL (Giants)
Key stats: .341 BA, .231 OPS+, 45 HR
Somehow, Bonds' .341/.529/.749 line was a step down from the season before.
Runner-up: Albert Pujols, STL (187 OPS+)
27. Joe DiMaggio, 1939 AL (Yankees)
Key stats: .381 BA, .448 OBP, 184 OPS+
DiMaggio's .381 average this season would be the highest of his career.
Runner-up: Jimmie Foxx, BOS (188 OPS+)
28. Lou Boudreau, 1948 AL (Indians)
Key stats: .355 BA, .453 OBP, 165 OPS+
You won't believe this, but the Indians actually won the World Series this season. That actually happened.
Runner-up: Joe DiMaggio, NYY (155 RBIs)
29. Carl Hubbell, 1936 NL (Giants)
Key stats: 26-6, 2.31 ERA, 169 ERA+
Hubbell's numbers are sometimes so impressive they seem to come from a different sport altogether.
Runner-up: Dizzy Dean, STL (24-13)
30. Al Rosen, 1953 AL (Indians)
Key stats: 180 OPS+, 43 HR, 145 RBIs
Rosen's numbers look almost cartoonish compared to the rest of the league at the time.
Runner-up: Yogi Berra, NYY (108 RBIs)
31. Rod Carew, 1977 AL (Twins)
Key stats: .388 BA, 178 OPS+, 128 R
Still the smoothest swing you ever saw.
Runner-up: Al Cowens, KC (112 RBIs)
32. Roger Maris, 1961 AL (Yankees)
Key stats: 167 OPS+, 61 HR, 141 RBIs
One struggles to put this season in its right context. Statistically, it wasn't as impressive as a lot of other seasons it's ahead of on this list. But how do you discount the greatness of '61? This spot seems right.
Runner-up: Mickey Mantle, NYY (54 HR)
33. Barry Bonds, 1993 NL (Giants)
Key stats: .336 BA, 206 OPS+, 46 HR
Bonds' first year as a Giant was the best year of his career to that point … but he was just getting warmed up.
Runner-up: Lenny Dykstra, PHI (143 R)
34. Joe DiMaggio, 1941 AL (Yankees)
Key stats: .357 BA, 184 OPS+, 125 RBIs
DiMaggio was never quite what Williams was as a hitter, but he captured the imagination in a way Williams never could.
Runner-up: Ted Williams, BOS (.406 BA)
35. Jimmie Foxx, 1933 AL (A's)
Key stats: 201 OPS+, 48 HR, 163 RBIs
Even better when you remember Tom Hanks was playing a version of him in "A League of Their Own."
Runner-up: Joe Cronin, WSH (118 RBIs)
36. Johnny Bench, 1970 NL (Reds)
Key stats: 141 OPS+, 45 HR, 148 RBIs
Bench's greatest power season, and maybe his peak defensive season as well.
Runner-up: Billy Williams, CHC (129 RBIs)
37. Barry Bonds, 1990 NL (Pirates)
Key stats: 170 OPS+, 33 HR, 52 SB
Another one of those Bonds MVPs you actually forget about.
Runner-up: Bobby Bonilla, PIT (120 RBIs)
38. Joe Morgan, 1976 NL (Reds)
Key stats: .320 BA, 186 OPS+, 60 SB
One of the most well-rounded and underrated seasons in baseball history.
Runner-up: George Foster, CIN (121 RBIs)
39. Roberto Clemente, 1966 NL (Pirates)
Key stats: .317 BA, 29 HR, 119 RBIs
This was Clemente's only MVP season, but he deserved at least a couple of others, including the season after this one.
Runner-up: Sandy Koufax, LAD (1.73 ERA)
40. George Brett, 1980 AL (Royals)
Key stats: .390 BA, 203 OPS+, 118 RBIs
This was three years before the Pine Tar Game, and five years before his lone title.
Runner-up: Reggie Jackson, NYY (41 HR)
41. Lefty Grove, 1931 AL (A's)
Key stats: 31-4, 2.06 ERA, 217 ERA+
The first AL MVP, Grove's numbers are still pretty staggering.
Runner-up: Lou Gehrig, NYY (185 RBIs)
42. Albert Pujols, 2008 NL (Cardinals)
Key stats: .357 BA, 192 OPS+, 116 RBIs
Pujols was a star for the next three -- and final years -- with the Cardinals.
Runner-up: Ryan Howard, PHI (146 RBIs)
43. Ernie Banks, 1958 NL (Cubs)
Key stats: 155 OPS+, 47 HR, 129 RBIs
Banks would win two in a row, and this was the first one. The second one was even better.
Runner-up: Willie Mays, SF (165 OPS+)
44. Lou Gehrig, 1936 AL (Yankees)
Key stats: 190 OPS+, 49 HR, 152 RBIs
The MVP came around too late to fully appreciate both Gehrig and Babe Ruth.
Runner-up: Luke Appling, CHW (.388 BA)
45. Mookie Betts, 2018 AL (Red Sox)
.346/.438/.640, 186 OPS+, 1.078 OPS
It took this incredible of a year to beat Mike Trout … and he ended it with a World Series title.
Runner-up: Mike Trout, LAA (1.088 OPS)
46. Alex Rodriguez, 2005 AL (Yankees)
Key stats: 173 OPS+, 48 HR, 130 RBIs
This one came on the heels of the Red Sox's 2004 title, so no one wanted to give A-Rod much credit.
Runner-up: David Ortiz, BOS (148 RBIs)
47. Ken Griffey Jr., 1997 AL (Mariners)
Key stats: 165 OPS+, 56 HR, 147 RBIs
Griffey actually wore his hat forward during games, not that you'll ever remember him that way.
Runner-up: Tino Martinez, NYY (141 RBIs)
48. Frank Robinson, 1966 AL (Orioles)
Key stats: 198 OPS+, 49 HR, 122 RBIs
And Robinson was a pretty good manager, too, you know.
Runner-up: Brooks Robinson, BAL (100 RBIs)
49. Brooks Robinson, 1964 AL (Orioles)
Key stats: .317 BA, 28 HR, 118 RBIs
Close your eyes and you can still see Robinson diving and throwing it to first from deep in the hole.
Runner-up: Mickey Mantle, NYY (177 OPS+)
50. Larry Walker, 1997 NL (Rockies)
Key stats: .366 BA, 178 OPS+, 49 HR
The only Rockie to win an MVP award, it's possible Walker's 1997 is still underrated.
Runner-up: Mike Piazza, LAD (185 OPS+)
51. Barry Bonds, 1992 NL (Pirates)
Key stats: 204 OPS+, 34 HR, 39 SB
To think that we all thought this was as good as Bonds was going to get.
Runner-up: Terry Pendleton, ATL (.311 BA)
52. Stan Musial, 1946 NL (Cardinals)
Key stats: .365 BA, .434 OBP, 183 OPS+
This was Musial's first year back after the war. He hadn't missed a beat.
Runner-up: Dixie Walker, BRO (116 RBIs)
53. Cal Ripken Jr., 1983 AL (Orioles)
Key stats: .318 BA, 121 R, 102 RBIs
This was the World Series season for Ripken and the Orioles … but his most remarkable year was yet to come.
Runner-up: Eddie Murray, BAL (156 OPS+)
54. Hank Aaron, 1957 NL (Braves)
Key stats: 166 OPS+, 44 HR, 132 RBIs
This was Aaron's only MVP, but the greatness of Aaron was never about one specific season.
Runner-up: Stan Musial, STL (172 OPS+)
55. Mike Schmidt, 1980 NL (Phillies)
Key stats: 171 OPS+, 48 HR, 121 RBIs
Not that this stopped Philadelphia fans from giving Schmidt a hard time.
Runner-up: Gary Carter, MON (101 RBIs)
56. Carl Hubbell, 1933 NL (Giants)
Key stats: 23-12, 1.66 ERA, 193 ERA+
Though you probably remember the All-Star Game more.
Runner-up: Chuck Klein, PHI (176 OPS+)
57. Alex Rodriguez, 2003 AL (Rangers)
Key stats: 147 OPS+, 47 HR, 118 RBIs
At this point, you thought Rodriguez was going to be the most popular athlete on earth.
Runner-up: Carlos Delgado (145 RBIs)
58. George Foster, 1977 NL (Reds)
Key stats: 165 OPS+, 52 HR, 149 RBIs
In an era where no one was hitting 50 homers, big George did.
Runner-up: Greg Luzinski, PHI (130 RBIs)
59. Bobby Shantz, 1952 AL (A's)
Key stats: 24-7, 2.48 ERA, 159 ERA+
Shantz might be one of the least famous MVPs ever, but he did win eight Gold Gloves.
Runner-up: Allie Reynolds, NYY (161 ERA+)
60. Dizzy Dean, 1934 NL (Cardinals)
Key stats: 30-7, 2.66 ERA, 311 2/3 IP
It's always amusing that his brother Paul has a no-hitter but he doesn't.
Runner-up: Paul Waner, PIT (.362 BA)
61. Albert Pujols, 2005 NL (Cardinals)
Key stats: .330 BA, 168 OPS+, 41 HR
Pujols may have actually been better the year before, but he had teammates Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen to compete with.
Runner-up: Andruw Jones, ATL (51 HR)
62. Denny McLain, 1968 AL (Tigers)
Key stats: 31-6, 1.96 ERA, 280 K
That win total hasn't gotten any less eye-popping in the past 50 years.
Runner-up: Bill Freehan, DET (145 OPS+)
63. Ryne Sandberg, 1984 NL (Cubs)
Key stats: .314 BA, 114 R, 32 SB
In an alternative universe, Sandberg caps this season off with a Cubs championship and spends the next two weeks partying with Harry Caray.
Runner-up: Keith Hernandez, NYM (.311 BA)
64. Jose Altuve
Key stats: .346 BA, 204 H, 32 SB
And Altuve threw to first base to get the last out that gave the Astros their first World Series title.
Runner-up: Aaron Judge, NYY (52 HR)
65. Johnny Bench, 1972 NL (Reds)
Key stats: 166 OPS+, 40 HR, 125 RBIs
Looking back, it seems sort of impossible how good Bench was.
Runner-up: Billy Williams, CHC (171 OPS+)
66. Josh Hamilton, 2010 AL (Rangers)
Key stats: .359 BA, .633 SLG, 170 OPS+
Still one of the most inspiring baseball seasons you'll ever see.
Runner-up: Miguel Cabrera, DET (178 OPS+)
67. Mickey Mantle, 1962 AL (Yankees)
Key stats: .321 BA, 195 OPS+, 30 HR
This wasn't a terrific WAR year for Mantle, and he had 24 fewer homers than he did the year before, but this was also the second-highest OBP of his career.
Runner-up: Bobby Richardson, NYY (.302 BA)
68. Pete Rose, 1973 NL (Reds)
Key stats: .338 BA, 115 R, 230 H
Rose made 17 All-Star teams but only won this lone MVP, which feels about right.
Runner-up: Willie Stargell, PIT (186 OPS+)
69. Roger Clemens, 1986 AL (Red Sox)
Key stats: 24-4, 2.48 ERA, 169 ERA+
The only problem with this season is that Clemens had about six non-MVP seasons that were better.
Runner-up: Don Mattingly, NYY (.352 BA)
70. Kris Bryant, 2016 NL (Cubs)
Key stats: 146 OPS+, 39 HR, 102 RBIs
Bryant was probably even better in 2017, but you get extra credit when you, you know, end the longest championship drought in professional sports.
Runner-up: Daniel Murphy, WSH (.347 BA)
71. Jimmie Foxx, 1938 AL (Red Sox)
Key stats: 182 OPS+, 50 HR, 175 RBIs
Foxx was such an amazing hitter. He drove in 175 runs, and it's probably the worst of his three MVP seasons.
Runner-up: Bill Dickey, NYY (115 RBIs)
72. Joe Gordon, 1942 AL (Yankees)
Key stats: .322 BA, 154 OPS+, 103 RBIs
Both Gordon and DiMaggio were 27 in 1942 … but Gordon was better.
Runner-up: Ted Williams, BOS (216 OPS+)
73. Ichiro Suzuki, 2001 AL (Mariners)
Key stats: .350 BA, 242 H, 56 SB
Does Ichiro get an extra push up the list because of what he meant to baseball? Absolutely.
Runner-up: Jason Giambi, OAK (199 OPS+)
74. Reggie Jackson, 1973 AL (A's)
Key stats: 161 OPS+, 32 HR, 117 RBIs
Jackson won only this MVP, though he did finish second for the Yankees in 1980.
Runner-up: Jim Palmer, BAL (2.40 ERA)
75. Dick Allen, 1972 AL (White Sox)
Key stats: 199 OPS+, 37 HR, 113 RBIs
There are some White Sox fans who believe this season was influential in keeping the club in Chicago.
Runner-up: Joe Rudi, OAK (.305 BA)
76. Sammy Sosa, 1998 NL (Cubs)
Key stats: 160 OPS+, 66 HR, 158 RBIs
I understand why voters got cute in 1998 … but honestly, Mark McGwire really did have the better season.
Runner-up: Mark McGwire (70 HR)
77. Joe Medwick, 1937 NL (Cardinals)
Key stats: .374 BA, 182 OPS+, 154 RBIs
There's always special credit given to anyone with the nickname "Ducky."
Runner-up: Gabby Hartnett, CHC (.354 BA)
78. Cody Bellinger, 2019 NL (Dodgers)
Key stats: .629 SLG, 169 OPS+, 47 HR
His second half wasn't as overwhelming as his first half, but he definitely looks like a guy who has more of these in him.
Runner up: Christian Yelich (179 OPS+)
79. Mike Trout, 2014 AL (Angels)
Key stats: 168 OPS+, 36 HR, 111 RBIs
Trout has had four seasons with a higher WAR (7.6) in which he did not win the MVP.
Runner-up: Victor Martinez (172 OPS+)
80. Mike Trout, 2019 AL (Angels)
Key stats: .438 OBP, 185 OPS+, 45 HR
Trout lost a little bit of oomph by missing the end of the season ... not that anyone could catch him anyway.
Runner-up: Alex Bregman (1.015 OPS)
81. Freddie Freeman, 2020 NL (Braves)
Key stats: .341/.462/.640, 186 OPS+
You have to adjust SOMEWHAT for a 60-game season in the middle of a pandemic. But no one knows how difficult 2020 was more than Freeman, who started the season deathly ill with COVID-19 and ended it winning a well-deserved MVP.
Runner-up: Mookie Betts (.927 OPS)
82. Christian Yelich, 2018 NL MVP (Brewers)
164 OPS+, 1.000 OPS, 36 HR, 110 RBIs
Yelich's incredible September didn't just win him the MVP … it won his team its division.
Runner-up: Javier Baez, CHC (111 RBIs)
83. Clayton Kershaw, 2014 NL (Dodgers)
Key stats: 21-3, 1.77 ERA, 197 ERA+
Kershaw is the sort of all-timer as a pitcher that makes you relieved he got at least one of these in his career.
Runner-up: Giancarlo Stanton, MIA (37 HR)
84. Bucky Walters, 1939 NL (Reds)
Key stats: 27-11, 2.29 ERA, 319 IP
Twenty-seven wins … and 31 complete games.
Runner-up: Johnny Mize, STL (178 OPS+)
85. Vida Blue, 1971 AL (A's)
Key stats: 24-8, 1.82 ERA, 301 K
More anti-pitching bias. I'm sorry.
Runner-up: Sal Bando, OAK (137 OPS+)
86. Hal Newhouser, 1945 AL (Tigers)
Key stats: 25-9, 1.81 ERA, 195 ERA+
Speaking of which, it's probably time to deal with Newhouser, who was dominant in 1944 and '45, but mostly because he had a heart murmur and couldn't join the armed forces. This allowed him to tower over what was essentially replacement-level talent. Newhouser was great, but he didn't have to face Williams those two years.
Runner-up: Eddie Mayo, DET (112 OPS+)
87. Hal Newhouser, 1944 AL (Tigers)
Key stats: 29-9, 2.22 ERA, 159 ERA+
Runner-up: Dizzy Trout, DET (27-14, 2.12 ERA, 167 ERA+)
88. Justin Verlander, 2011 AL (Tigers)
Key stats: 24-5, 2.40 ERA, 172 ERA+
You will note a bit of an anti-pitcher-as-MVP bias in this ranking that I'll confess is difficult to shake.
Runner-up: Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS (39 SB)
89. Josh Donaldson, 2015 AL (Blue Jays)
Key stats: 151 OPS+, 41 HR, 123 RBIs
Injuries ate Donaldson alive the next two seasons, but this was recent enough that someone will give him a shot this offseason.
Runner-up: Mike Trout (176 OPS+)
90. Mike Schmidt, 1981 NL (Phillies)
Key stats: .316 BA, .644 SLG, 198 OPS+
This was Schmidt's second MVP in a row; he'd win another five years later.
Runner-up: Andre Dawson, MON (157 OPS+)
91. Hank Greenberg, 1935 AL (Tigers)
Key stats: 170 OPS+, 36 HR, 168 RBIs
This is your reminder to watch the great documentary "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg."
Runner-up: Wes Ferrell, BOS (25-14)
92. Frank Robinson, 1961 NL (Reds)
Key stats: .323 BA, 164 OPS+, 124 RBIs
Until Stanton wins one for the Yankees, the answer to the trivia question, "Who's the only man to win an MVP in both leagues?" remains Robinson.
Runner-up: Orlando Cepeda, SF (46 HR)
923. Jason Giambi, 2000 AL (A's)
Key stats: 187 OPS+, 43 HR, 137 RBIs
Only loses points because "Moneyball" was written after he left.
Runner-up: Frank Thomas, CHW (143 RBIs)
94. Willie McCovey, 1969 NL (Giants)
Key stats: 209 OPS+, 45 HR, 126 RBIs
This is the sort of year that gets a cove named after you.
Runner-up: Tom Seaver, NYM (25-7)
95. Miguel Cabrera, 2012 AL (Tigers)
Key stats: .330 BA, 44 HR, 139 RBIs
Yes, yes, Triple Crown. We'll still argue forever that Trout was better that year.
Runner-up: Mike Trout, LAA (49 SB)
96. Giancarlo Stanton, 2017 NL (Marlins)
Key stats: 169 OPS+, 59 HR, 132 RBIs
We always wondered what Stanton would do in a healthy season. We found out.
Runner-up: Joey Votto, CIN (.454 OBP)
97. Chipper Jones, 1999 NL (Braves)
Key stats: .319 BA, 169 OPS+, 45 HR
Chipper peaked in his age-27 season: 45 homers is no joke.
Runner-up: Jeff Bagwell, HOU (149 BB)
98. Willie McGee, 1985 NL (Cardinals)
Key stats: .353 BA, 114 R, 56 SB
Any Cardinals fan who saw this season still thinks it's the most fun Cards season ever.
Runner-up: Dave Parker, CIN (125 RBIs)
99. Andrew McCutchen, 2013 NL (Pirates)
Key stats: .317 BA, 157 OPS+, 27 SB
We'd remember this one even more if the Pirates could have broken through in the postseason.
Runner-up: Paul Goldschmidt, ARI (125 RBIs)
100. Ryan Braun, 2011 NL (Brewers)
Key stats: .332 BA, 166 OPS+, 111 RBIs
This was right before everything went downhill for Braun. But he's still there.
Runner-up: Matt Kemp, LAD (172 OPS+)
1001. Buster Posey, 2012 NL (Giants)
Key stats: .336 BA, 171 OPS+, 103 RBIs
Posey is the most recent catcher to win one, but unlike a few backstops on this list, he absolutely deserved his.
Runner-up: Ryan Braun, MIL (41 HR)
102. Mort Cooper, 1942 NL (Cardinals)
Key stats: 22-7, 1.78 ERA, 192 ERA+
Cooper was fantastic, but they probably should have just had the Cy Young back then.
Runner-up: Enos Slaughter, STL (156 OPS+)
103. Hank Greenberg, 1940 AL (Tigers)
Key stats: 171 OPS+, 41 HR, 150 RBIs
The second of Greenberg's MVPs. He deserved them both.
Runner-up: Bob Feller, CLE (27-11)
104. Fred Lynn, 1975 AL (Red Sox)
Key stats: .331 BA, 162 OPS+, 105 RBIs
It would be 26 years until someone would win Rookie of the Year and MVP awards the same year again.
Runner-up: John Mayberry, KC (168 OPS+)
105. Roger Maris, 1960 AL (Yankees)
Key stats: 160 OPS+, 39 HR, 112 RBIs
This was actually a higher WAR season (7.5) for Maris than 1961 (6.9), but come on.
Runner-up: Mickey Mantle, NYY (40 HR)
106. Joe Mauer, 2009 AL (Twins)
Key stats: .365 BA, .444 OBP, 171 OPS+
Mauer would never show that sort of power again.
Runner-up: Mark Teixeira, NYY (122 RBIs)
107. Charlie Gehringer, 1937 AL (Tigers)
Key stats: .371 BA, 144 OPS+, 133 R
Gehringer hit .371, but the Tigers missed the postseason.
Runner-up: Joe DiMaggio, NYY (167 RBIs)
108. Jim Rice, 1978 AL (Red Sox)
Key stats: .315 BA, 46 HR, 139 RBIs
There is considerable debate about Rice's Hall of Fame credentials for his career, but he was a monster in 1978.
Runner-up: Ron Guidry (1.74 ERA)
109. Jose Canseco, 1988 AL (A's)
Key stats: 170 OPS+, 42 HR, 40 SB
We'll say this: We're glad Twitter wasn't around in 1988.
Runner-up: Mike Greenwell, BOS (.325 BA)
110. Joe DiMaggio, 1947 AL (Yankees)
Key stats: .315 BA, 154 OPS+, 97 RBIs
Voters wanted to honor Joltin' Joe after his military service, so they picked this year, even though it wasn't actually one of his best ones.
Runner-up: Ted Williams, BOS (205 OPS+)
111. Ken Caminiti, 1996 NL (Padres)
Key stats: 174 OPS+, 40 HR, 130 RBIs
Caminiti's early death -- after admitting to using PEDs during his career -- is still one of baseball's saddest stories.
Runner-up: Mike Piazza, LAD (.336 BA)
112. Chuck Klein, 1932 NL (Phillies)
Key stats: 164 OPS+, 38 HR, 137 RBIs
One of baseball's great forgotten sluggers.
Runner-up: Lon Warneke, CHC (22-6)
113. Roy Campanella, 1953 NL (Dodgers)
Key stats: 154 OPS+, 41 HR, 142 RBIs
The best of Campanella's three MVP seasons.
Runner-up: Eddie Mathews, MLN (47 HR)
114. Mike Schmidt, 1986 NL (Phillies)
Key stats: 153 OPS+, 37 HR, 119 RBIs
The final of Schmidt's three MVPs came when he was 36 years old.
Runner-up: Glenn Davis, HOU (101 RBIs)
115. Harmon Killebrew, 1969 AL (Twins)
Key stats: 177 OPS+, 49 HR, 140 RBIs
Forty-nine homers made a lot of eyeballs pop in 1969. Killebrew was also due for an MVP at this point in his career.
Runner-up: Boog Powell, BAL (121 RBIs)
116. Don Mattingly, 1985 AL (Yankees)
Key stats: .324 BA, 35 HR, 145 RBIs
When your nickname is your first name with "Baseball" on the end of it, you're doing something right.
Runner-up: George Brett, KC (179 OPS+)
117. Joey Votto, 2010 NL (Reds)
Key stats: 171 OPS+, 37 HR, 113 RBIs
The scary thing about Votto is that he actually got better after this.
Runner-up: Albert Pujols, STL (173 OPS+)
118. Miguel Cabrera, 2013 AL (Tigers)
Key stats: 190 OPS+, 44 HR, 137 RBIs
This was the year after Cabrera's Triple Crown season, though, predictably, Trout had the higher WAR.
Runner-up: Mike Trout, LAA (179 OPS+)
119. Frank Thomas, 1993 AL (White Sox)
Key stats: 177 OPS+, 41 HR, 128 RBIs
There was a time when it seemed impossible to get Thomas out.
Runner-up: Paul Molitor, TOR (.332 BA)
120. Orlando Cepeda, 1967 NL (Cardinals)
Key stats: .325 BA, 164 OPS+, 111 RBIs
Remembered more as a Giant, but Cepeda earned his MVP in St. Louis.
Runner-up: Tim McCarver, STL (136 OPS+)
121. Dustin Pedroia, 2008 AL (Red Sox)
Key stats: .326 BA, 213 H, 118 R
Runner-up: Justin Morneau, MIN (129 RBIs)
122. Kirk Gibson, 1988 NL (Dodgers)
Key stats: 148 OPS+, 25 HR, 31 SB
Really just a precursor for what Gibson would do in October.
Runner-up: Darryl Strawberry, NYM (165 OPS+)
123. Roy Campanella, 1951 NL (Dodgers)
Key stats: .325 BA, 159 OPS+, 33 HR
Catchers are always the most difficult to quantify decades later. They're the hardest to quantify now.
Runner-up: Stan Musial, STL (183 OPS+)
124. Dale Murphy, 1982 NL (Braves)
Key stats: 142 OPS+, 113 R, 36 HR
Again: You're happy just thinking about Murphy, aren't you?
Runner-up: Lonnie Smith, STL (68 SB)
125. Spud Chandler, 1943 AL (Yankees)
Key stats: 20-4, 1.64 ERA, 20 CG
One of the first "run support" pitcher MVPs of his time.
Runner-up: Luke Appling, CWS (.328 BA)
126. Yogi Berra, 1954 AL (Yankees)
Key stats: .307 BA, 136 OPS+, 125 RBIs
You try not to be betrothed to WAR here, but it must be pointed out that Berra's 5.4 WAR this year was roughly what Whit Merrifield's was in 2018.
Runner-up: Larry Doby, CLE (126 RBIs)
127. Dolph Camilli, 1941 NL (Dodgers)
Key stats: 164 OPS+, 34 HR, 120 RBIs
It's good to live in a world where a man named "Dolph" won an MVP.
Runner-up: Pete Reiser, BRO (.343 BA)
128. Ken Boyer, 1964 NL (Cardinals)
Key stats: .295 BA, 100 R, 119 RBIs
Credited, rightly, for helping that team to such an unlikely World Series win.
Runner-up: Johnny Callison, PHI (31 HR)
129. Kevin Mitchell, 1989 NL (Giants)
Key stats: 192 OPS+, 47 HR, 125 RBIs
I'll still remember Mitchell more for the fly ball he caught barehanded.
Runner-up: Will Clark, SF (.333 BA)
130. Jeff Kent, 2000 NL (Giants)
Key stats: .334 BA, 162 OPS+, 125 RBIs
Hurt historically by the fact that he was on the same team as Bonds, who was of course better. He was always better than everyone.
Runner-up: Barry Bonds, SF (188 OPS+)
131. Jeff Bagwell, 1994 NL (Astros)
Key stats: .368 BA, 213 OPS+, 116 RBIs
I like to pretend that 1994 never happened -- the year simply vanished from the earth when they cancelled the World Series. But what Bagwell did in the famously pitcher-friendly Astrodome was impressive.
Runner-up: Matt Williams, SF (43 HR)
132. Frank Thomas, 1994 AL (White Sox)
Key stats: .353 BA, 212 OPS+, 38 HR
Thomas won MVP the year before, so at least he can say he had a full-season MVP in addition to a strike-shortened one.
Runner-up: Ken Griffey Jr., SEA (40 HR)
133. Dale Murphy, 1983 NL (Braves)
Key stats: 149 OPS+, 36 HR, 121 RBIs
There is nothing about Murphy that doesn't put one in a good mood.
Runner-up: Andre Dawson, MON (113 RBIs)
134. Dave Parker, 1978 NL (Pirates)
Key stats: .334 BA, 166 OPS+, 117 RBIs
Parker might be among the most unfairly forgotten players of the late 1970s and early '80s.
Runner-up: Steve Garvey, LAD (113 RBIs)
135. Mickey Cochrane, 1934 AL (Tigers)
Key stats: .320 BA, .428 OBP, 117 OPS+
On one of the great all-time teams, Cochrane was undeniably the leader. But he should probably get points taken away here for also being the manager, right?
Runner-up: Charlie Gehringer, DET (127 RBIs)
136. Phil Cavarretta, 1945 NL (Cubs)
Key stats: .355 BA, .449 OBP, 166 OPS+
This was the last time the Cubs would make the World Series until … well, you know.
Runner-up: Tommy Holmes, BSN (175 OPS+)
137. Zoilo Versalles, 1965 AL (Twins)
Key stats: 126 R, 45 2B, 27 SB
Versalles struck out all the time before it was cool to strike out all the time.
Runner-up: Tony Oliva, MIN (141 OPS+)
138. Joe Torre, 1971 NL (Cardinals)
Key stats: .363 BA, 230 H, 137 RBIs
Torre's career year as a player, though he'd have a few more as a manager.
Runner-up: Willie Stargell, PIT (185 OPS+)
139. Phil Rizzuto, 1950 AL (Yankees)
Key stats: .324 BA, .418 OBP, 125 R
Rizzuto will always be the guy on the Meat Loaf song to me.
Runner-up: Billy Goodman, BOS (.354 BA)
140. Yogi Berra, 1955 AL (Yankees)
Key stats: 120 OPS+, 27 HR, 108 RBIs
Not to play WAR games again, but Berra's WAR this year (4.5) was about the same as J.T. Realmuto's in 2018 (4.3).
Runner-up: Al Kaline, DET (162 OPS+)
141. Jimmy Rollins, 2007 NL (Phillies)
Key stats: 212 H, 139 R, 41 SB
Considering all the numbers being put up this season, that Rollins still stood out speaks extremely well of him.
Runner-up: Matt Holliday, COL (137 RBIs)
142. Roy Campanella, 1955 NL (Dodgers)
Key stats: .318 BA, 152 OPS+, 32 HR
Campanella was terrific, of course, but 123 games isn't that much, even for a catcher.
Runner-up: Duke Snider, BRO (169 OPS+)
143. Ivan Rodriguez, 1999 AL (Rangers)
Key stats: .332 BA, 35 HR, 113 RBIs
Pudge more than earned an MVP at some point in his career.
Runner-up: Pedro Martinez, BOS (243 ERA+)
144. Vladimir Guerrero, 2004 AL (Angels)
Key stats: .337 BA, 39 HR, 126 RBIs
Vlad never had the OBP numbers to crack truly rarified air historically, but he was always the MVP for pure pleasantness to watch.
Runner-up: Gary Sheffield, NYY (121 RBIs)
145. Yogi Berra, 1951 AL (Yankees)
Key stats: 130 OPS+, 27 HR, 88 RBIs
What do you do with Yogi? He won three MVPs, but none of them were historically dominating seasons statistically. As always, Yogi is his own animal.
Runner-up: Ned Garver, SLB (20-12)
146. Barry Larkin, 1995 NL (Reds)
Key stats: .319 BA, 134 OPS+, 51 SB
In a strike-shortened season, you couldn't go wrong with picking a team leader of a terrific team.
Runner-up: Dante Bichette, COL (.340 BA)
147. Maury Wills, 1962 NL (Dodgers)
Key stats: 208 H, 130 R, 104 SB
The stolen-base revolution that Wills ushered in led to some eye-popping numbers that swayed many MVP voters.
Runner-up: Willie Mays, SF (49 HR)
148. Nellie Fox, 1959 AL (White Sox)
Key stats: .306 BA, .380 OBP, 191 H
Fox's numbers and the general esteem with which he is held make a strong argument that you had to be there.
Runner-up: Luis Aparicio, CHW (56 SB)
149. Ryan Howard, 2006 NL (Phillies)
Key stats: .659 SLG, 58 HR, 149 RBIs
Howard was always a little overranked as a hitter, a boon to RBI voters, but this was unquestionably his best season.
Runner-up: Albert Pujols, STL (178 OPS+)
150. Hank Sauer, 1952 NL (Cubs)
Key stats: 143 OPS+, 37 HR, 121 RBIs
Because of his military service, Sauer's career didn't really get going until his early 30s. His peak came during this MVP year, when he was 35.
Runner-up: Robin Roberts, PHI (28-7)
151. Elston Howard, 1963 AL (Yankees)
Key stats: 141 OPS+, 28 HR, 85 RBIs
They were just used to voting for Yankees at this point.
Runner-up: Al Kaline, DET (.312 BA)
152. Robin Yount, 1989 AL (Brewers)
Key stats: .318 BA, 152 OPS+, 103 RBIs
Of his two MVPs, this was the less inspiring.
Runner-up: Ruben Sierra, TEX (119 RBIs)
153. Thurman Munson, 1976 AL (Yankees)
Key stats: .302 BA, 17 HR, 105 RBIs
Munson is understandably revered, but it is worth noting how much voters used to absolutely adore awarding catchers.
Runner-up: George Brett, KC (.333 BA)
154. Terry Pendleton, 1991 NL (Braves)
Key stats: .319 BA, 187 H, 139 OPS+
Pendleton was excellent for the Braves this season and is a beloved franchise icon, but when you think of the 1990s Braves, is Pendleton even in the top seven?
Runner-up: Barry Bonds, PIT (160 OPS+)
155. José Abreu, 2020 AL (White Sox)
.317/.370/.617, led Majors in RBIs and total bases
Abreu had long been the Sox's steadiest hitter, but he had his career year right as the team's young talent was breaking through.
Runner-up: José Ramirez, CLE (.993 OPS)
156. Bob Elliot, 1947 NL (Braves)
Key stats: .317 BA, .410 OBP, 113 RBIs
This is a strange one. Elliot wasn't the best player on his own team (that would have been Warren Spahn), and the team only finished third. RBIs, man.
Runner-up: Ewell Blackwell, CIN (22-8)
157. Ernie Lombardi, 1938 NL (Reds)
Key stats: .342 BA, 152 OPS+, 95 RBIs
There was no way they weren't going to vote for a catcher who led the league in hitting.
Runner-up: Bill Lee, CHC (22-9)
158. Gabby Hartnett, 1935 NL (Cubs)
Key stats: .344 BA, 151 OPS+, 91 RBIs
No disrespect to Old Tomato Face intended here.
Runner-up: Dizzy Dean, STL (28-12)
159. Frank McCormick, 1940 NL (Reds)
Key stats: .309 BA, 44 2B, 127 RBIs
If you had 127 RBIs for a team that finished in first during this age, you had a slam-dunk MVP case.
Runner-up: Johnny Mize, STL (43 HR)
160. Miguel Tejada, 2002 AL (A's)
Key stats: .308 BA, 34 HR, 131 RBIs
Of all the star players who were playing this particular year, Tejada isn't the one whose name tends to jump out at you first.
Runner-up: Alex Rodriguez, TEX (57 HR)
161. Don Newcombe, 1956 NL (Dodgers)
Key stats: 27-7, 3.06 ERA, 0.989 WHIP
Newcombe won 27 games, which, man, 27 games, but still: He had a 3.06 ERA and barely struck out five batters a game.
Runner-up: Sal Maglie, BRO (2.87 ERA)
162. Boog Powell, 1970 AL (Orioles)
Key stats: 163 OPS+, 35 HR, 114 RBIs
Everybody loves Boog, but this was another empty RBI vote season.
Runner-up: Tony Oliva, MIN (.325 BA)
163. Dick Groat, 1960 NL (Pirates)
Key stats: .325 BA, 186 H, 85 R
Great defense, a high average, but only two homers?
Runner-up: Don Hoak, PIT (97 R)
164. Justin Morneau, 2006 AL (Twins)
Key stats: .321 BA, 34 HR, 130 RBIs
If you can't believe Jeter never won an MVP, know that this is the year he should have.
Runner-up: Derek Jeter, NYY (.343 BA)
165. George Bell, 1987 AL (Blue Jays)
Key stats: .605 SLG, 47 HR, 134 RBIs
Bell is generally an underappreciated player from his time, but this was not a particularly monster year.
Runner-up: Alan Trammell, DET (155 OPS+)
166. Mo Vaughn, 1995 AL (Red Sox)
Key stats: 144 OPS+, 39 HR, 126 RBIs
Voters were really, really into RBIs in the 1990s.
Runner-up: Albert Belle, CLE (50 HR)
167. Juan Gonzalez, 1998 AL (Rangers)
Key stats: .318 BA, 45 HR, 157 RBIs
Gonzalez won two MVP awards despite having mostly impressive baseball card numbers each year, but not much else.
Runner-up: Nomar Garciaparra, BOS (.323 BA)
168. Juan Gonzalez, 1996 AL (Rangers)
Key stats: .314 BA, 47 HR, 144 RBIs
We don't talk about Gonzalez nearly as much as we talk about other multiple MVP winners, do we?
Runner-up: Alex Rodriguez, SEA (.358 BA)
169. Frankie Frisch, 1931 NL (Cardinals)
Key stats: .311 BA, 96 R, 28 SB
Frisch was the leader of the Gashouse Gang, but his primary contribution seemed to be leading the league in steals.
Runner-up: Chuck Klein, PHI (121 RBIs)
170. Jackie Jensen, 1958 AL (Red Sox)
Key stats: 148 OPS+, 35 HR, 122 RBIs
Jensen had a bunch of homers and RBIs, but you could argue teammates Pete Runnels and a 39-year-old Ted Williams were both better.
Runner-up: Bob Turley, NYY (21-7)
171. Don Baylor, 1979 AL (Angels)
Key stats: 145 OPS+, 36 HR, 139 RBIs
Baylor had some gaudy offensive numbers, but essentially zero, or even negative, defensive value.
Runner-up: Ken Singleton, BAL (155 OPS+)
172. Andre Dawson, 1987 NL (Cubs)
Key stats: .568 SLG, 49 HR, 137 RBIs
One of the more famous voting mistakes of all time, Dawson won despite having a merely RBI-heavy season for a last-place team.
Runner-up: Ozzie Smith, STL (43 SB)
173. Marty Marion, 1944 NL (Cardinals)
Key stats: 90 OPS+, 26 2B, 63 RBIs
Marion batted .267 with six homers and one stolen base. Sure, he was a great defensive player, but come on.
Runner-up: Bill Nicholson, CHC (122 RBIs)
174. Steve Garvey, 1974 NL (Dodgers)
Key stats: .312 BA, 200 H, 111 RBIs
It is possible Garvey won this award in large part because he just looked like a superstar. This was a modest statistical season by modern MVP standards.
Runner-up: Lou Brock, STL (118 SB)
175. Jeff Burroughs, 1974 AL (Rangers)
Key stats: .301 BA, 25 HR, 118 RBIs
Tough year for voters, 1974. An entirely RBI-driven award, Burroughs was actually 25th in AL bWAR that year.
Runner-up: Joe Rudi, OAK (99 RBIs)
176. Jim Konstanty, 1950 NL (Phillies)
Key stats: 16-7, 2.66 ERA, 22 SV
Konstanty at least threw 152 innings in 74 relief appearances and won 16 games without making a start. He might have had a place in today's game, actually.
Runner-up: Stan Musial, STL (164 OPS+)
177. Willie Hernandez, 1984 AL (Tigers)
Key stats: 1.92 ERA, 32 SV, 140 1/3 IP
Fine, so you had to honor somebody from that incredible Tigers roster. But Hernandez probably wasn't one of the best three players on his own team that year.
Runner-up: Kent Hrbek, MIN (27 HR)
178. Rollie Fingers, 1981 AL (Brewers)
Key stats: 1.04 ERA, 333 ERA+, 28 SV
We'll give Fingers a boost because he had an absurd ERA. But as you can see, relief pitcher MVPs are not my jam.
Runner-up: Rickey Henderson, OAK (56 SB)
179. Dennis Eckersley, 1992 AL (A's)
Key stats: 1.91 ERA, 51 SV, 8.5 K/BB
I love the Eck. You love the Eck. And he was great in 1992. But Eckersley also threw 80 innings in 1992. You're gonna give a guy an MVP for 80 innings? He has the lowest WAR (2.9) of any of the 175 winners by a rather dramatic amount. Seriously, though: We still love you, Eck.
Runner-up: Kirby Puckett, MIN (.329 BA)
180. Keith Hernandez, 1979 NL (Cardinals)
Key stats: .344 BA, 116 R, 105 RBIs
Hernandez, who shared the honor with Stargell, could have won three MVPs with the Cardinals, and the world will still think of him forever as a Met.
Runner-up (3rd): Dave Winfield, SD (118 RBIs)
181. Willie Stargell, 1979 NL (Pirates)
Key stats: .552 SLG, 139 OPS+, 32 HR
Any ties automatically drop you to the bottom. It's like the Highlander: There can be only one. But if we're going to separate them, even if it's just one spot, Hernandez has to be higher than Stargell, who didn't even have that great of a year in 1979.
Runner-up (3rd): Dave Winfield, SD (118 RBIs)