Ranking the greatest MVP seasons in baseball history: Nos. 100-81

theScore Staff
theScore

Throughout the month of January, a cast of editors from theScore will share their rankings of the greatest teams, performances, pitchers, and position players in baseball history. This list focuses on the greatest MVP seasons of all time (*: led AL/NL; major-league leaders in italics):

100-81 | 80-61 | 60-41 | 40-21 | 20-1

Voter list:

  • James Bisson, National Sports Editor
  • Brandon Wile, Senior MLB Editor
  • Jonah Birenbaum, MLB News Editor
  • Michael Bradburn, MLB News Editor
  • Jason Wilson, MLB News Editor
  • Bryan Mcwilliam, MLB News Editor
  • Simon Sharkey-Gotlieb, MLB News Editor
  • Dylan Perego, News Editor
  • Josh Wegman, News Editor

100. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers (2011)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.332 109 33 111 33 .994*

Notwithstanding Matt Kemp's objectively stronger case for the MVP award (Roy Halladay had a pretty compelling one, too), Braun was an absolute monster in 2011, leading the National League in wRC+ (171) while also becoming just the fifth player in history to hit .330 or better with at least 33 homers and 33 stolen bases in a single season. - Birenbaum

99. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants (2012)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.336* 78 24 103 1 .957

Posey was 6 percent away from being a unanimous MVP choice. Not only did he win the batting title as a catcher, but his 7.3 WAR led the NL. - Wegman

98. Ken Caminiti, San Diego Padres (1996)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.326 109 40 130 11 1.028

While it appears, at least from a statistical standpoint, like the '96 NL MVP competition was a two-man race between Caminiti and Colorado Rockies outfielder Ellis Burks, it didn't turn out to be much of a competition. Caminiti led the Padres to a 91-win season and an NL West title - and for that, the late slugger was given all 28 first-place votes. - Bisson

97. Ryne Sandberg, Chicago Cubs (1984)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.314 114* 19 84 32 .887

1984 marked the coming-out party for the one they call "Ryno," as the future Hall of Famer was a force to be reckoned with in every facet of the game. Sandberg led the NL in runs scored, was one of just four players to reach the 200-hit plateau, and captured his second of nine consecutive Gold Glove awards, earning all but two first-place votes. - Perego

96. Denny McLain, Detroit Tigers (1968)

W L ERA WHIP K
31* 6 1.96 0.91 280

Wins! McLain had a boatload of 'em in 1968, becoming the first player in 34 years to finish with 30 or more victories; no one else has done it since. It was an impressive feat, to be sure - particularly in the eyes of awards voters, who gave McLain the unanimous MVP win despite Carl Yastrzemski (.301, 24 HR, 74 RBIs, .922 OPS) having a sensational season in his own right. - Bisson

95. Dazzy Vance, Brooklyn Robins (1924)

W L ERA WHIP K
28* 6 2.16* 1.02* 262*

The ‘20s were hardly the period for racking up strikeouts. While Vance’s 7.6 K/9 that season were quaint by today’s standards, no other pitcher was even within 100 total strikeouts. He was ahead of his time, dominant in a way none of his peers were. Add in that Vance tossed 30 complete games (in 34 starts), and it's easy to see that he earned his workhorse status. - Wilson

94. Lefty Grove, Philadelphia Athletics (1931)

W L ERA WHIP K
31* 4 2.06* 1.08* 175*

While the 1931 campaign was dominated by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, no pitcher was even close to as dominant as Grove. The old metrics have him as a 30-game winner with a 2.06 ERA who made it the distance in 27 of his 41 starts. The modern metrics back up that dominance, as Grove's 7.3 WAR led the Philadelphia Athletics within one win of a World Series title. - Bradburn

93. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates (2013)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.317 97 21 84 27 .911

Depriving McCutchen of the unanimous NL MVP nod in 2013 by two votes - both of which went to Yadier Molina - was nearly criminal, even if it's a meaningless distinction. The 26-year-old provided the Pirates with 8.4 WAR, hitting 56 percent better than the league average by wRC+, and carrying his cash-strapped team to within one win of the NLCS. - Bradburn

92. Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners (2001)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.350* 127 8 69 56* .838

Ichiro's first season in North America was not only a blessing for baseball fans who'd never witnessed the hitting wizard play, but it also earned him his first - and only - MVP award. Ichiro just barely bested Oakland Athletics slugger Jason Giambi for the honor, but how could voters overlook his 242 hits, which rank as the 10th most during a single season in MLB history. - Mcwilliam

91. Brooks Robinson, Baltimore Orioles (1964)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.317 82 28 118* 1 .889

In 1964, for the first and only time in his illustrious career, really, Robinson enjoyed a truly excellent season at the plate, setting personal bests in batting average (.317), OBP (.368), slugging percentage (.521), homers (28), and OPS+ (145). That, along with his superlative defense at third base, helped Robinson trounce Mickey Mantle in MVP voting despite the fact that Balitmore missed the postseason while the Yankees won their fifth straight AL pennant. - Birenbaum

90. Jeff Kent, San Francisco Giants (2000)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.334 114 33 125 12 1.021

Barry Bonds already has enough MVP trophies to name each of them after one of the seven Dwarves, but you could make a strong case that he deserved an eighth. And yet, it was his infield teammate and occasional sparring partner who took home 22-of-32 first-place votes to become the last NL MVP of the 21st century. - Bisson

89. Chipper Jones, Atlanta Braves (1999)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.319 116 45 110 25 1.074

At no point in his illustrious career was Larry "Chipper" Jones more lethal than in 1999. Never once linked to the noted steroid users of his era, Jones belted a career-high 45 home runs and complimented his lethal plate approach with 25 stolen bases and a career-high 1.074 OPS to leave sluggers like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Jeff Bagwell in the dust. - Perego

88. Roger Clemens, Boston Red Sox (1986)

W L ERA WHIP K
24* 4 2.48* 0.97* 238

Clemens officially arrived in 1986. At just 24 years old, he became the eighth pitcher to win both the Cy Young and MVP award in the same season, and the first starter since 1971. The right-hander led the majors with 24 wins, while posting an AL-best 2.48 ERA and 0.97 WHIP across 254 innings. Clemens also set the major-league record by striking out 20 batters in a game, and is one of only three pitchers to reach that milestone. - Wile

87. Jose Canseco, Oakland Athletics (1988)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.307 120 42* 124* 40 .959

Before he started spewing nonsense on Twitter, and before his unforgettable cameo on "The Simpsons" (and on the beloved '90s sitcom Horsin' Around), and before he famously blew the whistle on baseball's steroid epidemic, Canseco was best known as the founder of the 40-40 club, starting the hallowed fraternity in 1988 that's since welcomed only three new members. - Birenbaum

86. Joe Gordon, New York Yankees (1942)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.322 88 18 103 12 .900

Despite Ted Williams winning the AL triple crown, it was Gordon who was named MVP. The Yankees second baseman received 12 first-place votes to Williams' nine for his first and only MVP award. Gordon won despite not leading the league in any main category - he finished fourth in the AL in average, OPS, and RBIs, fifth in stolen bases, and sixth in home runs. - Wile

85. Jose Altuve, Houston Astros (2017)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.346* 112 24 81 32 .957

For a long time, Altuve's 2017 season will be one of the most interesting and discussed MVP seasons, and that's not just recency bias. The diminutive second baseman led his league in hits for the fourth consecutive year, and led all of baseball in batting average for the second time in his short career - no pun intended. Perhaps most amazing though, is that he lost only two first-place votes to Aaron Judge, who was the better player by WAR, OBP, and SLG. With that, David bested Goliath yet again. - Bradburn

84. Roy Campanella, Brooklyn Dodgers (1953)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.312 103 41 142* 4 1.006

Campanella actually finished seventh in WAR among NL players, but he was likely handed the MVP because of how clutch he was. He slashed .337/.437/.633 with runners in scoring position that season, leading to 142 RBIs. - Wegman

83. Jim Rice, Boston Red Sox (1978)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.315 121 46* 139* 7 .970*

Rice became just the second AL player to ever lead the league in both home runs and triples (15) during his 1978 MVP season. The Red Sox outfielder also led the league in RBIs, hits, total bases, and slugging percentage, while his 46 homers were the most in the AL since 1969. Rice is one of only 19 players to ever record at least 400 total bases in a single season. - Wile

82. Cal Ripken Jr., Baltimore Orioles (1983)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.318 121* 27 102 0 .888

Before being known as "that guy who showed up to work every day for 55 years," Ripken made a name for himself as a sensational offensive talent at a position usually devoid of production. Ripken's .318 average, 27 home runs, 102 RBIs, and winning smile earned him 15 first-place votes and a comfortable win over teammate and runner-up Eddie Murray. - Bisson

81. Johnny Bench, Cincinnati Reds (1970)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.293 97 45* 148* 5 .932

Not only was Bench ultra-productive at the plate, but he was also fantastic behind it, throwing out 48 percent of potential base-stealers and posting 1.8 defensive wins above replacement to earn a Gold Glove. - Wegman

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)