MVP the logical ending to Donaldson's 2015
In the modern era of baseball, 98 players have assembled a season that included at least 80 extra-base hits, at least 120 runs scored and at least 120 RBIs. In some years -- such as 1930 -- reaching that trio seemed almost pedestrian. That year, nine players got there, including five in the American League. In other scenarios -- 17 of them, to be exact -- attaining all three of those numbers included the added bonus of leading the league in all three. Toronto's Josh Donaldson is the latest of the 17, one of the signifying accomplishments to his 2015 AL MVP campaign.
Of the 17 players since 1901 to have at least 80 extra-base hits, 120 runs and 120 RBIs and lead the league in all three categories, nine have done so since Jackie Robinson played his first Major League game in 1947. And for the most part, doing this has been a pretty good indicator that being named league MVP was going to cap off the season. The nine:
• Stan Musial (1948): 103 extra-base hits, 135 runs, 131 RBIs. Collects his third MVP.
• Ted Williams (1949): 85, 150, 159. Receives his second MVP.
• Duke Snider (1955): 82, 126, 136. Finishes an extremely close second in MVP balloting, losing out to teammate Roy Campanella.
• Roger Maris (1961): 81, 132, 141. Receives his second straight MVP.
• Frank Robinson (1966): 85, 122, 122. Wins the Triple Crown and adds a second MVP to his resume.
• George Foster (1977): 85, 124, 149. Wins his first and only MVP.
• Albert Belle (1995): 103, 121, 126. Finishes an extremely close second to Mo Vaughn in MVP balloting.
• Ken Griffey Jr. (1997): 93, 125, 147. Claims his first and only MVP.
• Donaldson (2015): 84, 122, 123. In his first year with Toronto, claims his first MVP.
To the keen eye, inclusion on the list of the nine catapults Donaldson into a corner all by himself: He is the only third baseman. This, too, is a part of the narrative threaded into his MVP campaign. Some other tidbits from his year:
• Donaldson joins Alex Rodriguez (2007) as the only players to play at least half his total games at third and to post this specific 80/120/120 line. Rodriguez -- while capturing his third MVP in 2007 -- collected 85 extra-base hits, scored 143 runs and drove in 156. He did not lead the AL in extra-base hits.
• Donaldson's 84 extra-base hits tied him for the seventh most for a player with at least half of his games at third. The others with at least that many: Nolan Arenado (89 in 2015, setting a high mark), Chipper Jones (87 in 1999), Eddie Mathews (86 in 1953), George Brett (85 in 1979), Troy Glaus (85 in 2000), Rodriguez (85 in 2007) and Miguel Cabrera (84 in 2012).
• Donaldson is now one of four third basemen (using that "half games played" minimum) to have a 40-homer, 40-double season. In addition to Arenado this year, a couple of past MVPs -- Jones in 1999 and Cabrera in 2012 -- did this.
• Most of Donaldson's damage came while hitting out of the No. 2 spot in the order: His 38 home runs while hitting second are tied for the third most all-time. Fellow third baseman Mathews amassed 46 in 1959, Ryne Sandberg hit 40 in 1990, Rodriguez had 38 in 1998 and a year later, Jay Bell hit 38.
Per Baseball-Reference.com, 13 third-sackers since 1901 have produced a WAR of at least 8.8 in a season. Six Hall of Famers are among the 13; there are Gold Glovers, batting title winners, and six MVPs, including Donaldson. Over the past three seasons, Donaldson has been (by WAR) more valuable than any other player outside Mike Trout. And whether one wants to bundle up a few stats, isolate just one, or stand back and take in the entire picture, Donaldson's 2015 campaign has long looked -- and felt -- as though it would end with M-V-P.