A look back at the MVP voting since 1980 shows us that it is not unusual for the league leaders in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) to fail to win the MVP. But the trend does seem to be getting better.
In the 1980s, each league’s offensive leader in WAR averaged an eighth place finish in the MVP voting and won 35% of the awards (7 of 20). In fact, three times, the league leader didn’t even finish in the top 20, including 1988 when Barry Larkin led all N.L. position players in WAR, but failed to receive a single MVP vote.
Since then, the league leaders are still winning just 43.5% of the time, but their average finish is up to fourth. However, there have been some glaring omissions, such as 2008 when Nick Markakis did not receive a single MVP vote or 2011 when Ben Zobrist finished 16th.
Data via Baseball-Reference.com. UR=unranked
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