Should Pitchers Win MVP? It's Complicated (2024)

As awards week comes to a close with Thursday's MVP announcements, let's consider the place of the pitcher on a 10-player ballot. It looked for some time that Indians starter Shane Bieber may snag AL Cy Young andMVP honors this season. That no longer appears to be a viable outcome, but Bieber will certainly have a place on many ballots.

So how should pitchers factor into MVP voting? Should they be up for the award at all? What kind of workload do they need to produce? SI's MLB experts dive into it all.

Tom Verducci

Pitchers are expressly eligible for the MVP Award, therefore they should be allowed to win it. Here’s the problem with actually voting for a pitcher over a position player: Teams keep asking pitchers to work less. Their value is inherently diminished by a decrease in volume.

The average workload of starting pitchers who have won the MVP award is 292 innings. The last starter to win MVP, Clayton Kershaw in 2014, threw 198 1/3 innings. The number of pitchers to throw 198 innings dropped from 43 that year to just 15 in 2019.

In 2014 starters averaged 6.0 innings per start and 96 pitches. In 2019 those averages sank to 5.2 innings and 86 pitches. (In this shortened season they dropped to 4.8 innings and 80 pitches.)

“Regular” rest for starters now is five days, not four. Pitchers are pitching less often, and when they do they are throwing fewer innings.

What about relievers? They also are throwing less. Four relief pitchers have won the MVP. They averaged 112 innings in their MVP year, with no fewer than 78.

Because teams are so good at developing pitchers (the supply chain) and because we know so much more about the importance of recovery (preventative health), individual pitchers just don’t have to pitch as much, and there is no indication that will change for many years to come. Pitching is just as valuable as it always has been. Individual pitchers are not.

Should Pitchers Win MVP? It's Complicated (1)

Stephanie Apstein

I don't really buy the argument that pitchers have their own award and so somehow the MVP is off-limits for them. If the BBWAA wants that to be the case, we're more than welcome to codify it. (Really, we already see so very few that the frequent debates are a little silly: The only time two pitchers won in the same year was 1968, which seems about right, given that the league had to change the rules after that season to make hitting easier. And since MLB lowered the mound before the 1969 season, we have had six AL winners and two in the NL.)

I do think a pitcher really needs to put up the innings to win the MVP, whereas I'm more sympathetic to giving the Cy Young Award to a pitcher who misses a few starts but dominates. In order to be more valuable than an everyday player, you need to give your team some 200 innings—which, in the era of openers and high-80s pitch counts, means that we will likely see even fewer of them winning than we already do.

Emma Baccellieri

I think pitchers winning MVP is fine. If we regularly had a rash of votes for pitchers gumming up the works for position players, I might feel differently, but as it is, I think voters treat it appropriately. There's clearly a higher bar for a pitcher to receive a vote for MVP, even if there isn't necessarily agreement on just where that bar is, and that means that only the truly exceptional get rewarded. Just three pitchers have won since 1990, which feels like a perfectly appropriate rate—rare but not unthinkable.

Connor Grossman

Pitchers certainly have a place in MVP voting. Do they have a place atopMVP voting? As Tom and Steph outlined, those days appear to be coming to an end as the workload for starters continues to diminish. Personally, I enjoy the rare conversation about a pitcher firmly entering himself in the MVP race, but it should just that: a rare conversation. And so it shall be.

Will Laws

Starters have an obvious disadvantage in the quest to win an MVP; if they have a poor outing, they have to wait five days to get another crack at providing value. It's a fine line to tread, especially in a 60-game season, when one bad start could sink your chances. But what if a pitcher makes his rotation turn every five days and doesn't have a single stinker? That's what happened with Shane Bieber in 2020. He led the majors in win probability added (3.0)—not just among pitchers, but all players—and increased Cleveland's win probability in 11 of his 12 starts (the outlier was a six-inning start against the White Sox in which he allowed three runs and struck out eight). Isn't that the definition of a league's most valuable player?

Should Pitchers Win MVP? It's Complicated (2)

Matt Martell

Typically, I consider it a guideline thatonlyposition players should win MVP Awards, with pitchers being relegated to the Cy Young and down-ballot MVP votes. However, there are exceptions to this arbitrary guideline because, well, pitchers are eligible for the MVP award. For me to vote a pitcher for MVP (if I had a vote), that pitcher would have to be significantly more valuable to his team than any other position player in the league. Bob Gibson's 1968 season is the best example of this scenario.

Nick Selbe

Pitchers should be eligible to win the Most Valuable Player award, but the way Major League Baseball sets up its awards suite unnecessarily complicates the matter. The existence of the Cy Young Award designed specifically to recognize the year's best pitcher implicitly renders the MVP as a hitters' award. The descriptor of the MVP award itself—"There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team. The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier"—only muddies the waters even further. Why have a "best pitcher" award, but not a "best player" award? Why use the malleable term "most valuable" for what is ostensibly the top individual award in the sport?

Michael Shapiro

I have no problem with pitchers being considered for MVP, and a pitcher in the race can add some juice to the awards conversation in August and September. Should pitchers be winning the award more than a couple times per decade? No. But it's smart to view pitchers as similar to running backs in the NFL. If a player is so dominant as to outweigh his positional value, he deserves the recognition. Perhaps Gerrit Cole or Jacob deGrom can pull off the feat in 2021.

Should Pitchers Win MVP? It's Complicated (2024)


Should pitchers be able to win MVP? ›

Pitchers are expressly eligible for the MVP Award, therefore they should be allowed to win it.

Who are the only pitchers to win MVP? ›

Since the advent of the Cy Young Award, which was first handed out in 1956, only 12 pitchers (nine starting pitchers) have been named MVP. Just two (Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw) have won one since 1992, when reliever Dennis Eckersley took home AL MVP honors.

When was the last time a pitcher won the MVP award? ›

In recent decades, pitchers have rarely won the award. When Shohei Ohtani won the AL award in 2021, he became the first pitcher in either league to be named the MVP since Clayton Kershaw in 2014, and the first in the American League since Justin Verlander in 2011.

Has a pitcher ever won WS MVP? ›

From 1987 until 1991, all of the World Series MVPs were pitchers, and, since 1995, pitchers have won the award nine times. The most recent pitcher to win the award is Stephen Strasburg, who won in 2019.

Who is most likely to win MVP? ›

Favorites to Win NBA MVP
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  • Nikola Jokic.
  • Luka Doncic.
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Apr 15, 2024

Could a rookie win MVP? ›

Yes, a rookie has won the NBA MVP Award. In fact, this has happened on two occasions. Wilt Chamberlain won the prize in the 1959/60 season, which was his rookie year, as he went on to put together an outstanding career in which he was named MVP four times.

Has a DH ever won MVP? ›

Hideki Matsui (2009), David Ortiz (2013), and Jorge Soler (2021) were the only other designated hitters to win World Series MVP. Soler was also the only DH to win the award while a member of a National League team, having played for the Atlanta Braves in their World Series-winning season.

Who has 3 MLB MVPs? ›

Following Bonds, a distinguished group of players claim three MVP awards each: Mike Trout (2014, '16, '19), Albert Pujols (2005, '08, '09), Alex Rodriguez (2003, '05, '07), Mike Schmidt (1980, '81, '86), Mickey Mantle (1956, '57, '62), Yogi Berra (1951, '54, '55), Roy Campanella (1951, '53, '55), Stan Musial (1943, '46 ...

Who is the oldest MVP in MLB? ›

Barry Bonds and Willie Stargell are tied for the oldest MVPs in a season. They were 39 years old.

Who is the youngest MVP in MLB history? ›

That was the first full MLB season for the late Vida Blue, who started the 1971 season at 21 years old (he turned 22 on July 28) for the Oakland Athletics. He went on to become the youngest MVP winner in MLB history – and remains so, just ahead of fellow 22-year-old MVPs Johnny Bench and Musial.

Who won the youngest MVP? ›

Hakeem Olajuwon is one of three players to win the NBA MVP and the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award in the same season. Derrick Rose became the youngest player to ever win the award at age 22. LeBron James is a four-time NBA MVP. Stephen Curry won back-to-back MVP awards in 2014–15 and 2015–16.

Who won MVP 3 years in a row? ›

However, only three have successfully achieved the MVP three-peat: Bill Russell: 1960-63. Wilt Chamberlain: 1965-68. Larry Bird: 1983-86.

Which pitcher threw a perfect game on Mother's Day? ›

Braden's perfect game occurred on Mother's Day, a holiday he resented due to the death of his mother from melanoma.

Who has won the most Cy Youngs? ›

Roger Clemens leads the way with seven Cy Young Awards in his career. He is followed by Randy Johnson, who won five. Steve Carlton and Greg Maddux each won four. Three-time winners include Koufax, Tom Seaver, Jim Palmer, Pedro Martinez, Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander.

Who was the last pitcher to have 30 wins? ›

On September 14, 1968, in front of 33,688 fans on a Saturday in Detroit, Dennis McLain stuck out 10 batters in a 5–4 win over the Oakland Athletics to become the first 30-game winner since Jay “Dizzy” Dean (St. Louis Cardinals) in 1934. He is also the last pitcher in Major League Baseball to win 30 games in one season.

Can pitchers win MVP reddit? ›

Shohei Ohtani was the most recent pitcher to win MVP when he achieved 46 HRs and a 3.18 ERA, however a pure starting pitcher hasn't won in 8+ years since Clayton Kershaw won in 2014.

Can a receiver win MVP? ›

Surprisingly, in the history of NFL MVP, a wide receiver has never won the award. Despite great seasons by many great receivers, none managed to achieve the award. Of all the non-quarterbacks, Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill has the best chance of winning MVP in 2023.

What makes a pitcher eligible for a win? ›

In Major League Baseball, the winning pitcher is defined as the pitcher who last pitched prior to the half-inning when his team maintains the lead that it never relinquishes. There are two exceptions to this rule. The first is that a starting pitcher must complete a minimum of five innings to earn a win.

Can a losing player win MVP? ›

We've seen outstanding individual performances in this game through the decades and typically, the most impactful player on the winning team wins Super Bowl MVP. But has there ever been a player from the losing team to win the award? The answer is yes, it has happened...just once.


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