We've talked endlessly about Miguel Cabrera winning the AL MVP award over Mike Trout, and that's a debate we're not going to get into anymore. But looking at the balloting, there were plenty of players that didn't receive nearly enough support in either league for their performances this season. Here are some of them.
Ben Zobrist, Rays. Seven points: one seventh, one ninth, one tenth.
Zobrist continues to be one of the most underrated players in the game, year-in and year-out. Zobrist finished fifth among all American League hitters with 5.9 fWAR, due in part to his versatility and above average defense across the diamond. But defense aside, Zobrist still had 20 homers, 14 stolen bases, and an .848 OPS, carrying the Rays offense this season when Evan Longoria was hurt. Yet, he finished 18th in the voting behind a pair of relievers and two of his teammates. Zobrist has been worth 25.1 wins above replacement over the last four seasons, and his highest MVP finish has been eighth. He just can't get any love.
Alex Gordon, Royals. Zero points.
Gordon is essentially the face of the Royals, a former second overall pick that has come into his own over the last two seasons. He's won Gold Gloves in each of the last two years, put together a 5.9 fWAR season this year, and got shut out of the voting. His relatively low total of 14 homers is probably a black mark against him as a corner outfielder, but he nearly hit .300 and had an .823 OPS for a putrid franchise. He was the primary reason that the Royals didn't lose 100 games, and for him to not even get a sympathy tenth place vote is disappointing. It's not as if this is a huge departure from last year, when he had a 6.9 fWAR season, 23 homers, and an .879 OPS, and finished 21st in the voting.
Austin Jackson, Tigers. Zero points.
Three Tigers finished in the top ten of voting, but it apparently would have killed someone to give Jackson some love. Jackson suffered from Mike Trout syndrome in that his defense was continually overlooked by the mainstream media, but he was fantatstic in the field and should have gotten more support. But like Trout, it's not as if he was a slouch offensively either, hitting 16 homers with an .856 OPS. And hey, you know who scored a ton of those runs that Cabrera drove in? Jackson, the guy who everyone continually ignores despite a 5.5 win season.
Joe Mauer, Twins. Six points: one eighth and three tenths.
You know, Mauer's contract gets rightfully lambasted a lot, but the man had a great 2012 after dealing with injuries and ineffectiveness in 2011. Mauer had a career-high 641 plate appearances in 2012, walked more than he struck out, hit .319, and had an .862 OPS, far and away the best among all full-time AL catchers. Of course, he finished 19th in the voting, but he was at least the leading vote getter among all AL catchers.
Jason Heyward, Braves. Four points: one ninth and two tenths.
Heyward put together a 6.6 fWAR season that was the sixth highest total in the National League. Of course, he finished third in votes *in his own outfield* behind Michael Bourn and Martin Prado, who both put together inferior seasons both offensively and defensively. Out of the five 20/20 seasons in the National League in 2012, two of them finished in the top three of voting (Ryan Braun and Andrew McCutchen), one finished 17th (Ian Desmond), one finished 28th (Heyward), and one received no votes (Jimmy Rollins). When you consider that the gap in fWAR between Heyward and McCutchen was smaller than that of the gap betwen Heyward and Demond, the omission of Heyward from all but three ballots is nearly criminal.
Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks. Six points: one seventh and two tenths.
A six win season from a middle infielder is a special event. It happened twice in 2012: once in the American League, where Robinson Cano finished fourth, and once in the National League, where Hill finished 26th, right ahead of another six win player in Heyward. Hill had an .888 OPS and blasted 26 homers…but because the Diamondbacks were a huge disappointment in 2012 and got continually overshadowed by the Giants and Dodgers, he got no publicity. That's pretty shameful considering how great of a player Hill really is.
Cliff Lee, Phillies. Zero points.
Yeah, it was a bad year for pitching in the National League, with only Cy Young winner RA Dickey and runner-up Clayton Kershaw cracking five fWAR. But Lee finished third in the league with a 4.9 win season, and his 7.39 strikeout to walk ratio was the second best mark in his career and was 30% better than 2011. But Lee got no Cy Young or MVP love this year, unlike last season, because of a pitiful 6-9 record for an underwhelming Phillies team. Of course, people are going to make the argument that he's not making his paycheck solely because of his win/loss record, and that's a pretty sad thing.