MVP and WAR (06/24/15)

By John Ewing Director of Research and Analytics @johnewing

Last week, Grantland's Bill Barnwell wrote about baseball's vexing MVP voting. Barnwell noted that throughout the history of the game replacement-level players had received MVP votes even though their play did not warrant such respect.

After reading his column it made me wonder, are there any current players with odds to win the MVP that are actively detracting from their team?'s Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is used as a metric of identifying players performing below replacement-level talent. Of course WAR is not the be-all and end-all sports statistics, we have even suggested ways to improve WAR, but for this exercise it will suffice.

There are 24 players, courtesy of, that currently have odds to win the 2015 MVP in their respective league. Mike Trout is 2/1 to win the American League MVP and Bryce Harper is the favorite in the National League.

The young superstars have two of the highest WARs, Trout (4.07) and Harper (5.39), in the majors. No one would be shocked if either player took home the hardware.

On the list there is a player that is receiving consideration for the MVP but likely should not.

Hanley Ramirez is a three time All-Star, won the NL Rookie of the Year in 2006 and the batting title in 2009. Ramirez has received MVP votes in 2007, 2008, 2009 (finished 2nd) and 2013.

Boston's left fielder is currently 33/1 to win the AL MVP thanks in large part to the 15 home runs he has blasted, ten that came in the first month of the season.

Ramirez suffered a shoulder injury in May that slowed his offensive production but he is beginning to find his form again - two home runs and five RBIs in his last four games.

What limits Ramirez is his defense. The Red Sox are employing one of the worst outfielders in the game and some have questioned whether it is time to move the former shortstop to first base.

Ramirez is still dangerous with the bat but by Defensive Runs Saved he has cost Boston 15 runs already this season. Ten runs equals a win, Ramirez's defense has cost the Red Sox 1.5 wins.

Hanley Ramirez is the only player with current odds to win the MVP that has a negative WAR (-0.4). Ramirez will not win the trophy but home runs still mean something to voters. Do not be surprised if Ramirez gets a vote at the end of somebody's ballot even if he isn't above replacement-level talent.

MVP Odds and Wins Above Replacement

Player League Odds WAR
Mike Trout AL 2/1 4.07
Nelson Cruz AL 4/1 2.56
Miguel Cabrera AL 4/1 3.70
Prince Fielder AL 5/1 1.57
Jason Kipnis AL 5/1 4.41
Josh Donaldson AL 9/1 3.88
Stephen Vogt AL 12/1 2.98
Adam Jones AL 25/1 2.25
Lorenzo Cain AL 25/1 3.33
Eric Hosmer AL 25/1 1.72
Hanley Ramirez AL 33/1 -0.40
Jose Abreu AL 50/1 1.27
Bryce Harper NL 2/1 5.39
Paul Goldschmidt NL 4/1 5.07
Adrian Gonzalez NL 9/2 2.47
Anthony Rizzo NL 15/2 3.29
Matt Carpenter NL 12/1 2.05
Andrew McCutchen NL 12/1 1.80
Giancarlo Stanton NL 12/1 3.35
Todd Frazier NL 14/1 3.79
Justin Upton NL 16/1 2.47
Kris Bryant NL 16/1 2.06
Dee Gordon NL 20/1 3.28
Joey Votto NL 33/1 3.04