The 10 oldest MVPs

Ryan Fagan took a look for Sporting News today at David Ortiz’s chances of winning the American League Most Valuable Player Award. The Boston Red Sox designated hitter has been having a sublime final season, with 33 home runs, 111 RBIs, and a 164 OPS+ as of this writing. He has an outside chance of becoming the oldest MVP winner.

Here’s the current list of the 10 oldest MVP winners:

1. Barry Bonds, 2004, National League
Age the day he won the award: 40 years, 3 months, 22 days

Bonds’ surreal 2001 to 2004 run helped him to four of 10 spots on this list. Without the injury that cost him most of the 2005 season, the number might even be higher.

2. Willie Stargell, 1979, National League
Age the day he won the award: 39 years, 8 months, 7 days

Stargell helped carry the “We Are Family” Pirates to the 1979 championship, winning one of the more sabermetrically questionable MVPs in the process. Stargell rated just 2.5 Wins Above Replacement with teammate Dave Parker at a sounder 6.7 WAR but a distant tenth in voting.

3. Bonds, 2003, National League
Age the day he won the award: 39 years, 3 months, 25 days

4. Bonds, 2002, National League
Age the day he won the award: 38 years, 3 months, 18 days

5. Dennis Eckersley, 1992, American League
Age the day he won the award: 38 years, 1 month, 16 days

After reinventing himself as a closer late in his career, Eckersley went 24-9 with a 1.90 ERA, 198 ERA+ and 220 saves from 1988 through 1992. That last season, as if by acclimation, he finally won awards for his efforts, nabbing both the AL MVP and Cy Young.

6. Bonds, 2001, National League
Age the day he won the award: 37 years, 3 months, 26 days

7. Mike Schmidt, 1986, National League
Age the day he won the award: 37 years, 1 month, 23 days

Schmidt won his third and final MVP by leading the National League in home runs and RBIs in a year where his Philadelphia Phillies finished a distant second to the New York Mets.

8. Walter Johnson, 1924, American League
Age the day he won the award: 36 years, 10 months, 7 days

Narrative sometimes trumps statistical reason in giving MVPs to aging players. They managed to come together here, though, with the Big Train going 23-7 with a 2.72 ERA and, we know now, the third-highest WAR in the American League while he helped his Washington Senators finally win their first World Series.

9. Spud Chandler, 1943, American League
Age the day he won the award: 36 years, 1 month, 28 days

Weird things happened during World War II, with much of the majors either seeing combat or off playing on USO teams. Chandler, a longtime minor leaguer, became a star, going 20-4 with a 1.64 ERA in his MVP season. Interestingly, he remained effective as baseball returned from war, with Chandler going 20-8 with a 2.10 ERA in 1946.

10. Hank Sauer 1952, National League
Age the day he won the award: 35 years, 3 months, 8 days

Sauer had just 169 lifetime at-bats on his 30th birthday thanks to World War II. He quickly made up for lost time with his bat, averaging 32 home runs, 96 RBIs, and a 128 OPS+ from 1948 through 1954. He won his award in 1952 when he led the National League with 37 home runs and 121 RBIs.