Without going into much detail, allow me to state what should be more than obvious to everyone at this point.
Justin Verlander should be the American League MVP.
I know that sounds a bit crazy considering the MVP award is typically reserved for position players, but the argument holds some merit. In fact, it holds a lot of merit, at least from my perspective.
As a fan of the Cleveland Indians, I’m extremely familiar with Justin Verlander and his body of work. I’ve watched him regularly dominate my team on a consistent basis for the past six seasons. To say I’ve grown a bit sick of seeing his name come up on scouting reports would be quite the understatement. I’ve seen him throw shutouts, I’ve seen him throw no hitters, hell… I saw him throw what came very close to a perfect game this season. He’s a freak, always has been, but never more so than this season.
Verlander has been damn near untouchable when he takes the mound and the stats back it up. In 251 innings, Verlander accumulated 25o strikeouts (1st overall), an ERA of 2.40 (4th overall, 1st in AL), a WHIP of .92 (walks and hits per innings pitched, 1st overall), opponents batting average of .192 (1st overall), and a record of 24-5 (1st overall). Those numbers are ridiculous. Verlander dominated every major pitching statistic in 2011. Not to mention, the Tigers won 95 games this season. That means Verlander accounted for 25.3% of his teams victories and kept them in countless others.
Now I ask you. If a position player dominated every major statistical category as a hitter in the same way Verlander just did as a pitcher would there even be a debate? Would anyone question whether or not player X was worthy of being the MVP, especially if said player was on a team that won 95 games and a division crown? No, there wouldn’t and any debate contrary to that player being named MVP would be laughable.
Then take a look at the other candidates. Jose Bautista? While leading most statistical categories he’s had a superb year, but Toronto’s record makes him no more valuable than J.P. Arencibia or Adam Lind. Curtis Granderson? Sure, he’s also had a great year, but wouldn’t the Yankees survive without him in all honesty? Jacoby Ellsbury? Sorry, but being the most valuable player on a team that just completed the worst choke job in the history of baseball deserves disqualification. Grady Sizemore? He ranks somewhere after the fat kid from “The Sandlot” in terms of value.
So why then are so many people down on Verlander? The simple answer, and in all honesty the only answer provided, is because Verlander is a pitcher. He doesn’t play everyday. How than can someone be considered most valuable when they play every five days? That’s the argument. In an attempt to pee in the Wheaties of every naysayer, I provide the following argument.
How many players are directly involved, if not solely held responsible, for every single play in a game every five days?
Verlander is a starting pitcher, and as such, he takes part in every single play every time he’s in the game. Meanwhile, someone like Jose Bautista, who plays everyday, could in theory play an entire week, accumulate 24 plate appearances and a handful of put outs and is somehow deemed “more valuable” by the masses? How does that possibly compare? The stress Verlander is under on every pitch (often close to 100+ pitches per game) every time he takes the mound is 10 fold anything felt by any other player on the field at that time.
There is also the historical significance of the Justin Verlander’s 2011 season. It is arguably one of the most dominating seasons ever turned in by a pitcher. It ranks up there with the likes of Bob Gibson in 1968, Roger Clemons in 1986, Pedro Martinez in 1999 and 2000, etc. Every time Verlander took the mound he not only gave the Tigers a chance to win, but it was basically expected. When Justin Verlander took the mound in 2011 you had no chance as a fan of the opposition. Not awarding Verlander with the MVP would almost serve as an asterisk, almost as if to say your season was great… but not that great. Do we really want it to fade away into distant memory lumped together with so many other less than memorable seasons? Yes, he’ll win the Cy Young, but the MVP would help serve as the historical “icing on the cake” so to speak.
Now we are seeing Justin Verlander on the grandest of stages in the playoffs against the Yankees. The performance he turned in last night, while it has no influence on the MVP race, it was MVP worthy. Eight innings pitched, 11 strike outs, and routinely hitting 100 MPH or faster on the radar gun (15 times to be exact). That is the definition of unhittable. Yes, he gave up some runs, but at no point past the second inning did it feel like the Yankees had any chance. He wouldn’t allow it. He is the leader of a very good Tigers team that is now in a position to advance to the ALCS, where he will likely pitch two, maybe three times if need be.
If that’s not most valuable, then it’s about time we all reevaluate the meaning of the word valuable.