Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant had a dream season in 2016 when he snatched the very first MVP award of his career. But how does this season compare to other MVP seasons of the last 20 years?
The fleet of writers at MLB.com is at again, entertaining us with content as we grind through another week without baseball.
At the end of last month, they ranked the past 25 World Series champions, and the 2016 Chicago Cubs performed exceptionally well. Now, they ranked every MVP (in both leagues) since 2000 (forty men in total).
Kris Bryant was the 2016 MVP, the only Cub to win the award in the last 20 seasons.
Will Leitch and Mike Petriello were the MLB.com writers who compiled the rankings. They did it draft style, alternating picks with no specified criteria used to rank the players.
How’d Kris Bryant’s 2016 MVP season stack up to others?
Not amazingly, although let’s stop to contextualize for a minute. He’s squaring up against some of the best baseball players of all time in some of their best individual seasons of all time. Sure, Bryant’s MVP season can get lost in the shuffle when discussing some of the other MVP seasons in the last two decades. But, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t still an out-of-this-world in 2016.
Bryant’s 2016 season showed up in the No. 30 slot on this list. Here’s what Petriello has to say about Bryant:
"This one, in a lot of ways, felt pre-ordained. Bryant was the No. 2 overall pick in 2013, the unanimous Rookie of the Year in ’15, and then the near-unanimous MVP in ’16 (Daniel Murphy received a single vote). It’s the obvious career path for a guy who was clearly going to be a superstar years before he was even drafted. He earned it, too, mashing 39 homers and hitting .292/.385/.554, an eight-win season that stands, then as now, as one of the 10 best in Cubs history. And, of course, he was the best player on the team that finally won the ring.So why doesn’t this one feel like it should be higher? It’s partially because this wasn’t a year full of great seasons in the NL, so while Bryant’s year was obviously very good, it didn’t have a ton of competition. It’s partially because that due to injuries, he’s been more “very good” than “great” over the last few seasons, like his team. But for that one magical year, he was everything we expected he’d be, and more. Let’s hope it’s not the last time we see it.’"
Chicago Cubs: A cursory review suggests MLB.com could have ranked Kris Bryant a little bit higher.
Is this ranking fair?
If we compare all the players based on Wins Above Replacement (which offers probably the best reference point in comparing players, although no statistic can encapsulate all context, so it is still limited), Bryant probably could have been higher.
1). Barry Bonds 2002: 12.7
2). Barry Bonds 2001: 12.5
3). Barry Bonds 2004: 11.9
4). Mookie Betts 2018: 10.4
5). Barry Bonds 2002: 10.2
6.). Buster Posey 2012: 10.1
7). Mike Trout 2016: 9.7
8). Alex Rodriguez 2007: 9.6
9). Bryce Harper 2015: 9.3
10). Alex Rodriguez 2003: 9.2
11). Alex Rodriguez 2005: 9.1
T14). Mike Trout 2019, Miguel Cabrera 2013: 8.6
19). Mike Trout 2014: 8.3
20). Andrew McCutchen 2013: 8.1
T21). Clayton Kershaw 2014, Kris Bryant 2016: 7.9
23). Cody Bellinger 2019: 7.8
T24). Albert Pujols 2005, Jason Giambi 2000: 7.7
28). Jeff Kent 2000: 7.4
T29). Giancarlo Stanton 2017, Miguel Cabrera 2012: 7.3
31). Ryan Braun 2011: 7.1
32). Joey Votto 2010: 6.9
35). Dustin Pedroia 2008: 6.4
36). Ichiro Suzuki 2001: 6.0
39). Miguel Tejada 2002: 4.5
40). Justin Morneau 2006: 3.8
Perhaps, Kris Bryant’s MVP season gets hurt in the rankings because there weren’t a lot of great National League MVP candidates that season.
The Cubs’ third baseman won almost unanimously. Daniel Murphy finished second; a young Corey Seager was third. Anthony Rizzo finished fourth, and Nolan Arenado, whose WAR that season was his lowest of his last six seasons, finished fifth.
But it probably isn’t worth getting too caught up with these rankings anyway.
Bryant won an MVP award in his second full season as a big-league ballplayer, helping to propel the Cubs to a World Series Championship for the first time in 108 years. He has already cemented himself as a Cubs legend, just like these players.
That is what fans care about, not about how that fantastic season compared to others.