- Bobby Abreu RF- Philadelphia Phillies (2004) Statline: .301 BA, 118 R, 47 2B, 30 HR, 105 RBIs, 40 SB, 127 BB, .428 OBP, .971 OPS, 6.6 WAR
I think people, in general, tend to forget how good of a player Bobby Abreu was. A 5-tool
player, Abreu was about as consistent a player as you could find during his prime years with the Phillies. From 2000-2005, Abreu averaged a .300 average, .411 OBP, .517 SLG, .928 OPS, 25 homers, 43 doubles, 97 RBIs, and 31 stolen bases a year. Some would argue that these splits are MVP type numbers. 2004 was perhaps his best year across his 18 years in the majors. Abreu finished 7th in runs scored, 9th in doubles, 5th in stolen bases, 5th in on-base percentage, and was the most walked hitter in baseball behind Barry Bonds.
Bobby was also an excellent fielder, sporting a .982 fielding percentage. Runners beware; Abreu was not an arm to test. He was 2nd in all of baseball when it came to outfield assists in 2004 with 13. Abreu put together a fine 2004 campaign en-route to his first career All-Star appearance and Silver Slugger award. His numbers are comparatively similar in fact to Mike Trout in 2016, who went on to win MVP that season.
It becomes quite easy to forget about Bobby’s season when you take into account how talented the outfield group in the NL was at this time. Sluggers such as Barry Bonds and Adam Dunn blow away Abreu in terms of power numbers. Jim Edmonds, perhaps the best defensive center fielder of all time, put up a stellar campaign, and young studs like Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman put up quality numbers in Houston making it very tough for Abreu’s season to stand out. Alas, it is very rare to find players that excel across all areas of the diamond. It’s that same ability that we see today in players such as Ronald Acuna Jr. and Christian Yelich that make them so fun to watch.
2. Matt Holliday LF- Colorado Rockies (2007) Statline: .340 BA, 120 R, 216 H, 6 3B, 36 HR, 137 RBIs, .405 OBP, .607 SLG, 1.012 OPS, 6.0 WAR
Another prolific hitter during his career, Matt Holliday is perhaps best remembered for his St. Louis Cardinals playing days, but in my opinion, it is his time in Colorado that stands apart from the rest of his career. In 2007, Holliday was as good a baseball player you can ask for. He led the NL in Hits, Doubles, RBIs, and Slugging as he went on to win the NL batting title. So, why is it we forget about Holliday’s fantastic year? Unfortunately, it simply boils down that there were even more memorable moments from that 2007 season than Holliday’s great year. There was the September surge of Holliday’s Rockies.
Colorado had become the MLB’s hottest time at the right time winning 15 of their final 16 games to propel them to the playoffs. They went on to sweep the first two series to reach the franchise’s first-ever world series having won 21 out of the last 22 games before losing to the eventual champion Boston Red Sox. There is also the September collapse of the New York Mets who blew a 7 game division lead with 17 games to play to help the Phillies reach the postseason for the first time in 14 years. Speaking of the Phillies, shortstop Jimmy Rollins put up one of the greatest seasons by a shortstop ever when he became the first player in MLB history to record 200 hits, 20 triples, 30 home runs, and 30 stolen bases on his way to narrowly edge out Matt Holliday for the NL MVP.
Finally, we have A-Rod. Alex Rodriguez put together one of the most dominant offensive seasons we have seen in quite some time. The AL MVP smashed 54 home runs and 156 RBIs. This season also included multiple milestones for Rodriguez as he became the youngest player to hit 500 career home runs and the first player to hit 150 home runs for three different teams. As of 2020, Alex Rodriguez is the last player to have hit at least 150 RBIs.
3. Todd Helton 1B – Colorado Rockies (2000) Statline: .372 BA, 216 H, 138 R, 59 2B, 42 HR, 147 RBIs, .463 OBP, .698 SLG, 1.162 OPS, 8.9 WAR
Another Colorado player makes the list! Todd Helton is one of my favorite baseball players of all-time. He could hit for average, hit for power, was above average defensively, and played the game the right wayas he seemed to warrant a lot of respect around the league. I believe this season from Helton is forgotten, due to the grave injustice that happened during the offseason. In 2000 Todd Helton led all of baseball in batting average, doubles, RBIs, OPS, and Slugging. In addition, he led the National League in hits, on-Base Percentage, and WAR. Despite his best efforts, Helton finished 5th in NL MVP voting. Excuse me? Fifth!? How can that be? Below, I have listed the top 5 finalists for NL MVP in 2000 in the order they finished and included their stats.
When you look at the numbers here it’s absolutely ridiculous why Helton wasn’t unanimously awarded the MVP award. He led in almost every offensive category and WAR. Not to mention that Helton’s .698 SLG% ranks in the top 40 of the highest single-season slugging percentages of all time. I’d also like to include that according to Baseball Reference’s scale for position player WAR, a 5+ is labeled as “All-Star Quality” and an 8+ is “MVP Quality”. Perhaps Helton can attribute his defeat to his home ballpark being Coors field, a stadium notorious for its thin air which allows the ball to fly out of the ballpark. Perhaps it was a voter bias towards Jeff Kent for playing second base. It’s rare to find that sort of offensive production out of a second baseman. When comparing splits between Kent and Helton, an argument certainly can be made that Kent finished strong where Helton really dropped off especially in September.
Regardless, I believe Helton was robbed of an MVP and he should’ve warranted more votes than he received. Todd Helton would never get as close to winning as he would in 2000.
4. Ian Kennedy RHP – Arizona Diamondbacks (2011) Statline: 33 GS, 222 IP, 21-4 W/L, 2.88 ERA, 1.086 WHIP, 198 K, 4.8 WAR
I think it’s about time I include a pitcher on this list. You all remember Ian Kennedy right? He’s currently in his 13th MLB season and is the closing pitcher for the Kansas City Royals, but like many bullpen pitchers, Kennedy was once a starter before transitioning to the pen. For his career Kennedy was an average pitcher. He eclipsed 10 wins only four times, but only two of those four years did he have an above .500 winning percentage (11’& 12’). However, Kennedy was exceptional in 2011. One of only three pitchers in all of baseball to earn 20 or more wins. AL Cy Young Winner, Justin Verlander (24), NL Cy Young Winner, Clayton Kershaw (21), and of course, Ian Kennedy. Kennedy finished the year tied for the 2nd most wins, finished 11th in ERA, 16th in strikeouts, and 13th in WHIP. Kennedy was incredible for the D-Backs down the stretch, sporting a 12-1 record with an impressive 2.11 era to help propel Arizona to their first division title in 4 years.
Kennedy had some tough breaks when it came to accolades in 2011 however. He was left off of the initial All-Star ballot but was later one of five NL players selected to the second ballot to determine the final roster spot. Kennedy would be beaten out by Shane Victorino for the final spot. Kennedy would go on to finish 4th in the Cy Young Voting behind the Clayton Kershaw, Roy Halladay, and Cliff Lee.
5. Victor Martinez C/DH – Detroit Tigers (2014) Statline: .335 BA, 188 H, 87 R, 32 HR, 103 RBIs, .409 OBP, .565 SLG, .974 OPS, 5.5 WAR
At 35 years young, Victor Martinez put together the best statistical season of his career. He set new career highs in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, OPS, hits, and home runs. His batting average ranked 2nd in all of baseball and he led all of baseball in OBP, OPS, and Intentional walks.
Martinez was an extremely frustrating batter to face all season for opposing pitchers. Of all batters who had at least 500 at-bats, Martinez ranked dead last in strikeouts only striking out 42 times all year. Martinez is only the 3rd player since 1990 to hit at least 30 home runs and have 42 or fewer strikeouts, joining Barry Bonds in 2004 and Gary Sheffield in 1992. Martinez went 93/276 with 2 strikes for a .337 average, the second-best two-strike average since 1914. Martinez had the 2nd best OPS+ in 2014 with 173. Let me remind you that the league average OPS+ is 100. To have this type of success this late in a career is very impressive and Martinez was deservedly awarded his 5th and would be final all-star appearance. He was also one of the three finalists for the AL MVP award. Martinez finished 2nd behind Mike Trout. It would’ve been the 4th consecutive Tiger to win the award had Martinez won.
Martinez would be awarded his second silver slugger trophy. It was the first time in 10 years that Martinez brought that trophy home. It is quite easy to bypass this season from Martinez when thinking about the Tigers in the 2010s. The teams they put on the field were oozing with talent. Miguel Cabrera’s triple crown season or Justin Verlander’s’4-year reign as the best pitcher in baseball are instant thoughts when thinking of these teams. It’s really quite a shame that those teams could never capitalize on the talent around them and failed to bring home a world series title. It’s always a nice feel-good moment to see a fan-favorite who is nearing the end of their career win the big one. If you don’t know what I mean, see Ryan Zimmerman this past year.