Justin Verlander Wins His Rightful Prize in AL MVP Award

For the first time since 1992 (Dennis Eckersley), a pitcher has won an MVP award. Justin Verlander’s incredible season for an ALCS team was too much to deny as he was crowned the AL MVP on the Monday before Thanksgiving. He won the pitcher’s triple crown with the most wins (24), lowest ERA (2.40) and the most strikeouts (250). Hopefully he’ll get to spend Thanksgiving with his family celebrating both his AL Cy Young award and his AL MVP–a pretty spectacular feat.

Way back in August I wrote a blog post about who should win the AL MVP. At the time I had Granderson in first place, Jose Bautista in second, and Justin Verlander in third place with Ellsbury and Gonzalez garnering honorable mentions. Here’s the article.

As the final month of the season progressed, everything that needed to happen for Verlander to win the award happened. Granderson, my pick at time allowed his batting average to drop to .262 with a three home runs .205 batting average in September, essentially destroying his MVP season. Bautista also faded in September, hitting just .259 with four home runs.

Jacoby Ellsbury finished strong, slugging eight home runs while hitting .358 with an OBP of .400 on the dot in September. It would have been enough to win him the MVP–which would have been the second Red Sox MVP since 2008 when Dustin Pedroia won the award with just 17 home runs, 20 stolen bases, and 83 RBI. The final chip that had to fall for the voters to allow themselves to vote for a pitcher was the Red Sox historic collapse. After the Sox blew their 9 game wild card lead it became hard to justify giving anyone on that team any award. Ellsbury would finish second with four first place votes.

Verlander won with 13 of the 28 first place votes. Nobody could be more deserving. I’m pleased to see that the voters got it right, and didn’t snub Verlander just because he is a pitcher, as I expected they would. He was clearly the most dominant player in baseball this season and was the most vital to his team’s success. Congratulations to Justin Verlander!

…and back to my diatribe about Pedroia’s ridiculous 2008 MVP award. In 2006 Derek Jeter tallied 97 RBI with a .344 batting average, 14 home runs, and a career high 34 steals. All of those marks are better than what Pedroia posted in 2008 except the home run totals. Obviously the competition was stiffer in 2006, but man what a soft MVP winner Pedroia was in 2008. How do you give someone without excellent power (17 home runs), excellent speed (20 steals, two triples), or especially impressive production ( 83 RBI) an MVP award? Weak sauce 2008 voters! Weak!

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5 thoughts on “Justin Verlander Wins His Rightful Prize in AL MVP Award

  1. Justin Verlander was NOT the rightful winner of the MVP. In a season with three or four perfectly viable position player candidates, Verlander shouldn’t have won. Ellsbury, Bautista, Granderson or Miguel Cabrera are all better choices.

    For some reason, after a few seasons of progress regarding the value of pitchers wins, the baseball writers fell right back in love with them when they saw a big shiny 24 under the “W” column.

    Replace Justin Verlander on the Tigers with just a league average starter, and they still most likely win the division. Miguel Cabrera is a better MVP choice from the Tigers. Verlander’s season was great, but not historically so. There have been plenty of more impressive seasons by pitchers in the past 20 years, and they haven’t won MVPs.

    His wins, ERA and strikeout totals are impressive, but his peripheral stats don’t indicate his season was as phenomenal as his MVP suggests it was. He was 10 in FIP and 8th in xFIP in 2011, and benefited from an unusually low BABIP (.236) and an unusually high LOB% (80.1%). He led the majors in K’s, but only because his manager let him throw a ton of innings. He was 9th in K/9. CC Sabathia had a higher WAR, despite throwing 15 fewer innings.

    All in all, the statistics point to Verlander’s season being excellent, but not worthy of an MVP. The voting this year is a step backwards for baseball’s writers. I don’t know why the writers decided now was was time to champion a pitcher for MVP, but they did. It kind of feels like they didn’t go all in on Pedro’s pocket ace season or Greg Maddux’s pocket Kings and then got a bunch of crappy 9-4 hands so when Verlander gave them an Ace-King offsuit, they decided it was time to make a stand.

  2. Respect your opinion, but have to disagree. Can’t give it to a (Jacoby) who frankly may not be as good as his team’s 1B… especially when his team ended the season the way the Sox did. They don’t deserve any awards.

    Granderson had the award in the bag, but blew it when he let his BA dip all the way below .270. Bautista would have won it with a stronger team or a stronger September. Had the Jays had any success then maybe you could say he was vital to it, but they weren’t very good again. I could see the argument for him, but he also blew it in the last month. Cabrera wasn’t as good as Bautista, so if I give it to a hitter, it’s Jose not Miguel.

    The bad stats you offer about Verlander don’t really hurt his case that much. Sure he was 9th in K/9, but he did pitch more innings. Pitching more innings runs counter to the argument about how pitchers don’t play in enough games to win the MVP. He threw an amazing 251 innings. Bautista had 655 plate appearances. So if you figure that Verlander recorded three outs per inning, that’s 753 plate appearances that Verlander recorded an out in. Bautista only had 655 total plate appearances, let alone hits.

    So who really had more of an impact on his team? Sure, Verlander played in less games, but those he did play in, he had such a bigger role that he actually was involved in WAY more plate appearances than Jose Bautista.

    Now what’s this jazz about FIP?

  3. Based on my regression model that I’m finishing up for my econometrics class, I can value the total runs a lineup of Curtis Granderson’s or Jacoby Ellsbury’s would score. I’ll have to make this a full blog post later, but here’s a little teaser:

    A lineup composed of nine 2011 Jose Bautistas would score: 1109 runs

    A lineup composed of nine Jacoby Ellsburys would score: 1149 runs

    Jacoby shouldn’t have won the MVP, he’s not the best hitter in the race.

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