The 10 worst Post-MVP seasons

[editor's note, by dajafi] Promoted from the diaries.

At this point, even the most optimistic fan is starting to scratch their head a bit when it comes to Ryan Howard. Every analyst and wanna be swing coach has weighed in. He's moving his hands too much, his head too much, he's shifting his weight too fast, he's trying to pull too much. We've heard it all. Well, after a month's worth of games, most people feel like he'll eventually snap out of it, but where will this season rank among other post MVP seasons? Let's take a look.

I wanted to go back further, but time doesn't permit at this point, as I have four or five other projects on the front burner. I started at 1969 and went forward, '69 of course being the year the mound was lowered, and I figure that's as decent a dividing line as I'll find for this study. I'm going to look only at raw OPS in the season following the player's MVP campaign. At some point, maybe in the next few days, I'm going to look at OPS+ and ERA+ (for the 5 pitchers that have won the MVP since 1969) and possibly VORP as well, but for now, a crude study of OPS should be a good enough starting point. So, looking at decline/increase from the player's MVP season to his next season, here are the 10 worst and 5 best post MVP seasons


10. Ricky Henderson, 1991: .268/.400/.423 (-.193 DIF)
Henderson's 1990 was flat out awesome, with a line of .325/.439/.577 including 65 stolen bases. His 1991 wasn't nearly as good, as his power greatly dropped off.

9. Joe Torre, 1972: .289/.357/.419 (-.200 DIF)

In 1971, Torre put up a line of .363/.421/.555 en route to winning the batting title, leading the league in hits, runs created and total bases. '72 saw a drop in all 3 departments of his 3 slash line, most notably the power.

8. George Bell, 1988: .269/.304/.446 (-.207 DIF)

Bell posted a .308/.352/.605 line in 1987 after a big 1986, and was rewarded with his only MVP award. He would revert back in the neighborhood of his career averages in 1988, and played 5 more seasons, seeing his numbers level off.

7. Johnny Bench, 1971: .238/.299/.423 (-.210 DIF)

In 1970, Bench had an outstanding season behind the dish, posting a .293/.345/.587 batting line, winning his 3rd of 9 straight gold gloves (10 overall), and led the league in home runs with 45 as well as extra base hits with 84. In 1971, not so much, as he didn't crack a .300 OB% and his slugging was way down. He did however win his 4th gold glove, and in 1972, he'd win his second MVP award.

6. Willie McGee, 1986: .256/.306/.370 (-.211 DIF)

McGee was an offensive force atop the Cards lineup in the mid 80's, and in 1985 posted a .353/.384/.503 batting line, well exceeding his career numbers of .295/.333/.396. In 1986, he came back to Earth.

5. Don Baylor, 1980: .250/.316/.341 (-.244 DIF)

Baylor had 4 solid seasons from 1975-1978, and his brekout year came in 1979, when he posted a great .296/.371/.530 line, leading the league in both runs and rbi's. In 1980, he hit the wall and posted numbers far below his career arc, playing in only 90 games. He'd scuffle for a few seasons, have two more good seasons in 1983 and 1984, then fade into the night.

4. Cal Ripken, 1992: .251/.323/.366 (-.251 DIFF)

Ripken's 1991 season saw him go .323/.374/.566, collecting a gold glove, the silver slugger, as well as leading the league in total bases, finishing 6th in batting, third in home runs and fourth in rbi's. His 1992 saw him post the second lowest slugging percentage of his career, behind only his final season.

3. George Brett, 1981: .314/.361/.484 (-.273 DIF)

Brett's 1980 was outstanding, posting a .390/.454/.664 line and helping lead KC to the World Series. His OPS+ of 202 is tied for the 47th best season in history, and just by glancing quickly, was the best single season ever offensively for a 3B. His 1981 wasn't "bad", but his slugging percentage dropped almost 200 points.

2. Jeff Bagwell, 1995: .290/.399/.496 (-.306 DIF)

Bagpipes posted a .368/.451/.750 line in a shortened 1994, and his 2005, while good, was a sharp drop off.

1. Barry Bonds, 2005: .286/.404/.667 (-.350 DIF)

Bonds had a ridiculous 2004, and spent most of 2005 on the DL, and when he played, he still managed good numbers, but far down from his .362/.609/.812 season in 2004.

Five Best

5. Mike Schmidt, 1981: .316/.435/.644 (+.075 DIF)

Schmidt's 1980 will always be memorable, in which he hit .286/.380/.624 on his way to helping the Phillies win their first and only World Series. However, his 1981 was even better, with higher numbers in all three of the 3 slash categories.

4. Barry Larkin, 1996: .298/.410/.567 (+.091 DIF)

I'm still trying to figure out why Larkin won the MVP in 1995 and didn't win in 1996. His 1995 line looks like this .319/.394/.492, lower in on base and slugging and higher in average. Was that really enough? Greg Maddux had one of the 10 best single seasons ever in 1995, maybe they should have given him the MVP and given Larkin his in 1996. Yeah well.

3. Ivan Rodriguez, 2000: .347/.375/.667 (+.128 DIF)
Pudge won his MVP in 1999, posting a .332/.356/.558 line, but he bettered those numbers in 2000, but got no consideration for MVP, with the award going to Jason Giambi.

2. Barry Bonds, 2004: .362/.609/.812 (+.143 DIF)

Bonds was at the top of the "worst" list, and is also near the top of the "best" list. In 2003, his batting line of .341/.529/.749 was mindboggling good, but who knew a player in this era would put up a .600 OB% and an .800 slugging percentage in the same year? Wow.

1. Frank Thomas, 1994: .353/.487/.729 (+.183 DIFF)

In the strike shortened season, Thomas bettered his 1993 line of .317/.426/.607 in every way, en route to his back to back MVP awards.

3 of the 5 guys on the "best" list would winning back to back awards, but two of the five ended having a better year than their MVP year and NOT winning the award.

So, where does Ryan Howard fit on that list?

  1. .313/.425/.659
  2. .200/.381/.400
He's at -.303, which would rank 3rd worst of all time behind Bagwell in Bonds. So, Ryan, you've got 5 months to put yourself on the good list and get yourself out of the top 10.