There's a group of fans and writers in Philadelphia who are pretty upset that Ryan Howard didn't win the MVP and Albert Pujols did. The argument is simple: Ryan Howard's monster counting numbers led his team to a first place finish and the playoffs; Albert Pujols' better overall season led his team to nothing. Howard's performance was thus more valuable.
Here's the rub for Phillies fans. If you subscribe to the argument that Albert Pujols should not have won the MVP award because his team didn't reach the playoffs, you should also be willing to give up Mike Schmidt's 1986 MVP award as well as Ryan Howard's 2006 MVP award.
In 1986, Mike Schmidt led the NL in OPS with .937. He led the league in slugging and was tied for third in OBP. He took the MVP over Glenn Davis, the Astros' first baseman, by 56 points. Davis clearly had an inferior year. His OPS was .837, exactly 100 points lower than Schmidt's. But, Davis' team won the NL West by 10 games over the Reds with a .597 winning percentage. Schmidt's team finished in second place behind the Mets . . . 21.5 games out of first place.
Likewise, in 2006, Ryan Howard won the MVP thanks to his 1.084 OPS, 58 HR, and 149 RBI. He won by 41 points over Albert Pujols, who had an excellent season with a better OPS than Howard but worse counting numbers - 1.102 OPS, 49 HR, and 137 RBI. But, again, Pujols' team finished in first place (and ultimately won the World Series), 1.5 games ahead of the Astros. Howard's team finished in second place, 12 games behind the Mets.
Anyone arguing that Howard deserves the MVP this year because his team finished first and made the playoffs has to accept that Schmidt and Howard, playing for second place teams without a shot at first, did not deserve their MVP awards in 1986 and 2006. Their teams finished far from first place, whereas the MVP runner-up in both years, both of whom had very good to excellent seasons, were on first-place teams.