Ranking the greatest MVP seasons in baseball history: Nos. 40-21

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 (*: 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

40. Barry Bonds, Pittsburgh Pirates (1992)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.311 109* 34 103 39 1.080*

Two years after winning his first MVP award, and with free agency looming, the 27-year-old Bonds really kicked it into gear, managing a slugging percentage above .600 for the first time while also setting then-career highs in homers (34), doubles (36), walks (127), runs (109), batting average (.311), and OBP (.456) to help Pittsburgh to a third straight NL East title. That winter, Bonds signed with the Giants. The Pirates haven't won a division title since. - Birenbaum

39. Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn Dodgers (1949)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.342* 122 16 124 37* .960

Robinson is seen as a trailblazer in pro baseball - but he was also really, really good. Robinson nabbed his first and only MVP award in his third season with the Dodgers, leading the majors in stolen bases for the second time to finish 38 points ahead of runner-up Stan Musial. Robinson would go on to finish in the top 15 in MVP voting in each of the next four years. - Bisson

38. Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals (2008)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.357 100 37 116 7 1.114*

If you ever find yourself wondering why Chase Utley never tracked down an MVP award, blame Pujols. Utley's 2008 season was about as dominant as a second baseman has ever been - at least one not named Rogers Hornsby, Joe Morgan, or Jackie Robinson. Alas, it was Pujols who outslugged everyone with a remarkable 192 OPS+. - Bradburn

37. Ken Griffey Jr., Seattle Mariners (1997)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.304 125* 56* 147* 15 1.028

That Griffey only won a single MVP award in his Seattle years seems criminal in retrospect, but if he had to only win one, this was a fine choice. The Kid put together a line of career bests in runs, hits, homers, and RBIs. It’s seasons like this that make his statue outside Safeco Field an obvious choice. - Wilson

36. Robin Yount, Milwaukee Brewers (1982)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.331 129 29 114 14 .957*

You can't spell Robin without RBI - and Yount established a career high in that category in '82, while also setting personal bests in OPS, slugging percentage (.578), and hits (210). Yount was a unanimous choice for the American League MVP, and celebrated the best all-around season of his career by adding Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards. - Bisson

35. Sandy Koufax, Los Angeles Dodgers (1963)

W L ERA WHIP K
25* 5 1.88* 0.88* 306*

“The Left Arm of God's” peak as a top pitcher may have been relatively brief, but it's the best for which a pitcher could hope. In '63, he threw 311 innings while compiling a silly 1.88 ERA. Pitch counts and a general concern for players’ health prevent this from happening again, which makes feats like this doubly special. Willie Stargell famously said trying to hit Koufax was “like trying to drink coffee with a fork.” That says it all. - Wilson

34. Rod Carew, Minnesota Twins (1977)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.388* 128* 14 100 23 1.019*

After finishing in the top 10 in MVP voting the previous four seasons, Carew finally won his first in 1977. The 31-year-old flirted with a .400 season, finishing with a league-leading .388 average - the highest-single season mark since Ted Williams in 1957. Carew's performance was so remarkable that he won the MVP despite playing on a losing team, just the 16th player at the time from a non-playoff team to win the award. - Wile

33. Joe Morgan, Cincinnati Reds (1976)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.320 113 27 111 60 1.020*

Winning consecutive MVP awards is a tall order for even the game's most legendary players, but Morgan did just that in 1976 by improving his already stellar stats. At 32 years old, Morgan topped the 100 RBI mark for the first and only time while leading the league in OBP (.444), slugging (.576), and OPS (1.020) from a position not always known for its offensive prowess. - Perego

32. Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals (2009)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.327 124* 47* 135 16 1.101*

After Pujols' rookie season, the bold ink started showing up on his Baseball Reference page with impunity, and no single season boasts more league-leading numbers than 2009. The then-29-year-old led baseball in runs, homers, total bases, slugging, and OPS, while leading the NL in OBP, snatching his first unanimous MVP. - Bradburn

31. George Brett, Kansas City Royals (1980)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.390* 87 24 118 15 1.118*

Brett remains the last player to hit .390 or better in a full season - Tony Gwynn batted .394 during the strike-shortened 1994 campaign - and the Royals legend parlayed that parade of hits into his only MVP award. After finishing in the top three on two prior occasions, Brett left no doubt, leading the majors in OBP, SLG, and OPS to outpace Reggie Jackson for AL honors. - Bisson

30. Larry Walker, Colorado Rockies (1997)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.366 143 49* 130 33 1.172*

Say what you will about the effects of hitting at Coors Field, but Walker had arguably one of the greatest five-tool seasons in MLB history. The Canadian slugger did it all, hitting for average and power while stealing bases and earning his third of seven career Gold Gloves. Playing in a notorious era for PED use, Walker's seemingly clean reputation sometimes gets overshadowed, but his offensive dominance at the time is undeniable. - Perego

29. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (2016)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.315 123* 29 100 30 .991

The face of present-day MLB joined elite company in 2016 by becoming just the third player in history to win two MVP awards before age 25. Trout's game evolved after winning the award two years prior, as he slashed his strikeout rate significantly without sacrificing offensive production. An increase in OBP from .377 to .441 in MVP seasons is a downright scary trend for pitchers to see, and it might not be long before Trout has to find a bigger trophy case. - Perego

28. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals (2015)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.330 118* 42* 99 6 1.109*

Despite being named NL Rookie of the Year at 19 and earning All-Star nods in each of his first two major-league seasons, Harper, a Sports Illustrated cover-boy at 16, didn't truly validate all the hype until 2015, when he managed a 198 OPS+ with 9.9 WAR - the most by any 22-year-old not named Ted Williams - and became the youngest unanimous MVP in history. - Birenbaum

27. Cal Ripken Jr., Baltimore Orioles (1991)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.323 99 34 114 6 .940

Ripken's '91 season was certainly his finest, setting career bests in homers, RBIs, OBP, slugging percentage, and stolen bases. As usual, he played Gold-Glove defense at short and didn't miss a game. - Wegman.

26. Rickey Henderson, Oakland Athletics (1990)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.325 119* 28 61 65* 1.016*

In one of the more unique ways of winning an MVP, it wasn't home runs or RBIs that earned Henderson the 1990 award. It was his speed and ability to get on base which helped him take home the crown. The speedy outfielder - baseball's stolen base king - swiped 65 bags, reached base at a .439 clip, and earned 81 percent of the vote that season, ahead of runner-up Cecil Fielder and his 51 home runs. - Mcwilliam

25. Jimmie Foxx, Philadelphia Athletics (1933)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.356* 125 48* 163* 2 1.153*

Double-X doubled his personal MVP total in 1933 with a season for the ages. His Triple Crown was impressive enough on its own, but Foxx also finished '33 hitting above .350 with over 45 homers, 200 hits, and 120 runs for a second straight year - and it's still one of only nine such seasons in history. Oh yeah, he also became one of just two players with consecutive 160-plus RBI seasons. Having also won it in 1932, this award made Foxx the first to win back-to-back MVP awards. - Sharkey-Gotlieb

24. Lou Boudreau, Cleveland Indians (1948)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.355 116 18 106 3 .987

Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams may have been the more popular of the three players, but Boudreau took home all but two first-place votes en route to his first - and only - MVP in 1948. The Cleveland Indians shortstop was worth 10.4 WAR and got on base at a ridiculous .453 clip - which was actually 44 points lower than Williams that season - and never returned to the same form again. - Mcwilliam

23. Joe Morgan, Cincinnati Reds (1975)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.327 107 17 94 67 .974*

While Morgan rarely batted leadoff - that was Pete Rose's gig - his table-setting skillset was second to none aboard the Big Red Machine. The 31-year-old second baseman set a career-high .466 OBP while stealing 67 bases in 1975, the first year of back-to-back World Series championships for the Reds. - Bradburn

22. Ted Williams, Boston Red Sox (1949)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.343 150* 43* 159* 1 1.141*

In the final campaign of the de facto second leg of his illustrious career - injuries limited him to just 82 games per year, on average, over the ensuing six seasons - Williams reached base safely in all but six (!) of his 155 games. As if that wasn't Splendid enough, he also blasted a career-high 43 homers and set a Red Sox franchise record for runs scored (150) that year. - Birenbaum

21. Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees (2007)

AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
.314 143* 54* 156* 24 1.067*

This was A-Rod's final elite season, and the best of his three MVP campaigns. It featured him leading the league in two Triple Crown categories while also setting career highs in runs scored and on-base percentage, with his third and final 50-homer season almost hidden in plain sight. He was already a villain by this point, and his legacy took even more hits from here on out - but as his 2007 AL MVP continues to remind us, few men were better at baseball than peak-of-his-powers Alex Rodriguez. - Sharkey-Gotlieb

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)