In the 54-year history of the Milwaukee Brewers (including their one season as the Seattle Pilots), four players have combined to win five MVP Awards. Let’s take a look at the five Brewers MVPs.
Milwaukee Brewers MVPs
Brewers MVPs: 1981 – Rollie Fingers
Fingers (and his glorious mustache) turned in a historic campaign in his first season in Milwaukee. In 78 innings of work, Fingers allowed only nine earned runs – good for a 1.04 ERA. He led the Majors with 28 saves, his third MLB saves title. His ERA+ of 333 was 233% better than the average pitcher. The Brewers made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history with Fingers’ help.
Fingers received 15 of 28 first-place votes for MVP, edging out the A’s Rickey Henderson by 11 total votes. Fingers also became the first Brewer to win the Cy Young, securing 22 of 28 first-place votes and receiving 50% more votes than second-place Steve McCatty. Fingers is one of just three relievers to sweep the MVP and Cy Young with Willie Hernandez (1984) and Dennis Eckersley (1992) joining the exclusive list.
Fingers did not match his 1981 campaign in his final three MLB seasons, but he is enshrined in Cooperstown, and he is among the best relievers of all time. He was perhaps at his best with the Brewers, holding a 2.54 ERA, almost a half-run lower than his A’s tenure. He was a seven-time All-Star, seven-time MVP vote-getter, and four-time Cy Young vote-getter.
Brewers MVPs: 1982 – Robin Yount
The Brewers made their first playoff appearance in 1981, but they won a playoff round and advanced to the World Series for the first time in 1982 with Yount’s help. After nearly a decade in the Majors, Yount finally put all of his exceptional tools together to post one of the best seasons by a shortstop in MLB history.
Yount racked up 10.6 WAR and led the Majors in hits, doubles, slugging, OPS, OPS+, and total bases. He also won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger, becoming the first American Leaguer to win MVP, Gold Glove, and Silver Slugger in the same season. Among primary shortstops, only Cal Ripken Jr. (1991) and Honus Wagner (1908) have surpassed Yount’s mammoth 10.6 WAR.
Yount was one vote shy of winning the MVP unanimously. Ironically, it was not second-place Eddie Murray who stole a vote but sixth-place Reggie Jackson (who led the league in home runs). Yount finished with 157 more vote points than Murray, nearly lapping the field. Yount was a clear choice at the time, but his season looks even better through a modern lens.
Yount never quite recaptured his 1982 magic, but he had another All-Star season in 1983 and received MVP votes four more times in his career. After the 1984 season, Yount moved to the outfield, settling into the everyday center field role for 1986. Speaking of…
Brewers MVPs: 1989 – Robin Yount
Yount’s 1989 was not as good as his 1982 season, but it was still very solid. He slashed .318/.384/.511, good for an OPS+ of 152. He cracked 300 total bases for the final time in his career, and he won his only outfield Silver Slugger. He scored 101 runs, drove in 103, and narrowly missed his second career 20-20 season. Yount posted 5.8 WAR, a mark dragged down by his questionable defense (-14 total zone).
While Yount lapped the field in 1982, his 1989 MVP was a much tighter race. Six players received a first-place vote, a pack led by Yount’s eight. Runner-up Ruben Sierra and third-place Ripken both notched six first-place votes.
Sierra had eerily similar offensive numbers in WAR, runs, hits, and OPS to Yount while Ripken buoyed a mediocre offensive season with a heroic defensive campaign at shortstop. In the end, Young received 65% of MVP shares, beating out Sierra (58%) and Ripken (55%).
Yount retired after the 1993 season, spending all 20 of his seasons with the Brewers. He was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and he finished with more than 3,100 hits, 500 doubles, and 250 home runs. His award cabinet is a little bare considering his two MVPs and Hall of Fame plaque, but he is a Brewers legend through and through and a historically relevant shortstop.
Brewers MVPs: 2011 – Ryan Braun
Braun’s MVP was certainly controversial, but this article is meant to celebrate the accomplishment. Braun led the NL in slugging and OPS, posting career highs in steals, walks, batting average, on-base percentage, and OPS+. He made his fourth consecutive All-Star Game and received MVP votes for the fifth consecutive season. Braun also had a healthy 7.7 WAR after a solid defensive season.
Braun received 20 of 32 first-place MVP votes, but he only beat runner-up Matt Kemp by 13% of the shares. Kemp edged Braun out in WAR, runs, hits, home runs, and RBI, but Braun was slightly better in terms of OPS, and Braun’s Brewers won 14 more games than Kemp’s Dodgers. Braun was perhaps hurt by a strong campaign from third-place finished Prince Fielder.
Braun had another excellent season in 2012, finishing second in MVP voting after leading the league in runs, home runs, and OPS. In 2013, Braun had to serve a PED suspension, and his potential Hall of Fame career lost its momentum. In the second half of Braun’s career, he made one All-Star game, received MVP votes once, and had an OPS+ of 119. In the first half, he was a five-time All-Star, six-time MVP vote-getter, and five-time Silver Slugger. He had a healthy 147 OPS+ and 33 WAR.
Brewers MVPs: 2018 – Christian Yelich
In five seasons with the Marlins, Yelich was a good player – not a great one. He had a 121 OPS+, won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger, and was worth 3.6 WAR four times. In 2018, Yelich broke out to be one of the best hitters in baseball. He led the league in batting average, slugging, OPS, OPS+, and total bases. Yelich also led NL position players with 7.3 WAR, the best of his career.
Similar to Yount 36 years earlier, Yelich was one vote shy of winning MVP unanimously. Fifth-place Jacob deGrom took the 30th vote from Yelich’s otherwise spotless mark. Yelich also made his first All-Star Game and earned his second Silver Slugger. He received 99% of the available MVP shares, even more than Mookie Betts received in the AL for his historic season.
Somehow, Yelich was even better in 2019, but he missed the last few weeks of the season and lost the MVP to Cody Bellinger. Yelich had a 30-30 season, won a second batting title and led the Majors in slugging and OPS (no small feat in a world with Mike Trout winning an MVP). Since the injury, Yelich has been unable to match the production. He has been a marginally above-average hitter (107 OPS+) with good on-base skills, but he has entirely lost his prodigious slugging abilities. However, he is only 31.