Much to the chagrin of Blue Jays fans everywhere, Jose Bautista was NOT awarded the AL MVP for 2011. To make matters worse for Jays fans, he wasn’t even 2nd place. Verlander had 13 first place votes and 280 total points, followed by Ellsbury at 242 (4 first place votes), and Bautista with 231 (5 first place votes).
For a moment lets pretend that pitchers shouldn’t be considered for the award. How would the MVP look if we take Verlander out, and move everyone that was behind him up a spot on all cast ballots? It seems that without question, Jacoby Ellsbury would be the winner. It’s safe to say the majority of Ellsbury’s 13 second place votes came behind Verlander’s 13 first place votes, and even though Bautista had more first place votes than Ellsbury, he earned votes as low as ninth place.
So what gives? Everyone in Toronto thinks Bautista should have been the MVP this year. He led the league in home runs for a second straight season, and he won his second straight Hank Aaron award. How could he not be the MVP? Is it because the Blue Jays were out of the playoff discussion by the end of August? Well that shouldn’t matter. After all, Alex Rodriguez won the award in 2003 playing for the, at the time, last place Texas Rangers. Maybe playing for a team based out of Canada hindered him, but it certainly didn’t stop him from becoming the highest all-star vote getter ever this past June, and it’s not unheard of for a player on a Canadian team to win the MVP. George Bell won in 1987. I don’t know what else Bautista had to do to win the MVP this year, maybe he should have sold souvenirs at the Jays Shop between innings.
Now for our winner. For weeks now the debate hasn’t only been who will win the award, but should a pitcher even be considered. No doubt from my point of view there is overwhelming evidence that the majority of fans (likely not including the city of Detroit) thought that pitchers should not be allowed to win the MVP. The question here was not should Justin Verlander be the 2011 winner, but should pitchers in general be considered. Without further ado, here’s what I think.
Should Pitchers Be Considered For The MVP?
Categorically yes I believe they should. Just looking only at the name of the award, Most Valuable Player, by definition says yes. Last time I checked, pitchers were players too. In the criteria presented to voters, there is no distinction between pitchers and position players and all are fair game. The pitchers do have their own award though, in shape of the Cy Young making it a little bit unfair that they are eligible for the MVP as well.
So how can we fix this? Well, the hitters have their own award too. The Hank Aaron award has been given to the top hitter in each league since 1999. Unfortunately the Hank Aaron does NOT hold as much weight with hitters as the Cy Young does with pitchers. Therefore I propose that the Hank Aaron award is given more meaning to make it just as important as the Cy Young. Then the MVP can be truly considered all encompassing where there is no question both pitchers and hitters are to be considered. Both sides of the ball have their own award so everyone can be considered for the top dog MVP. How about making it part of the ballot, vote Cy Young and Hand Aaron then from your two first place votes pick the MVP. The Cy Young and Hank Aaron awards will be decided as they currently are, and the MVP by the total votes received.
Now that we’ve determined that I’m not against pitchers winning the MVP award, let’s decide if Verlander is deserving. I will put aside the no-hitter against the Blue Jays in May. I will also ignore the fact that Justin Verlander earned himself a triple crown by having the most Wins and Strike Outs, plus the league best ERA. I will take each of Verlander’s stats and look at the numbers individually.
Wins – 24
Verlander chalked up the most wins in the AL since Bob Welch won 27 games in 1990. The most wins in 21 years is quite a feat but only 3 more win that the league average of 21 over the last 12 years. This span includes 23 wins by Barry Zito (2002), 22 wins by Roy Halladay (2003) and Cliff Lee (2008), and 21 wins by Mark Mulder (2001) and CC Sabathia (2010). None of those guys won MVPs in those seasons.
Strike Outs – 250
The 12 year average since 2000 is 245 strike outs per season, only 5 less than Verlander’s season total. Pedro Martinez threw 284 strikeouts in 2000, and Verlander himself threw 265 in 2009 but neither won of them won MVPs in those seasons.
ERA – 2.40
While it was tops in 2011, a 2.40 ERA is fairly average when you consider past ERA champions Felix Hernandez 2.27 (2010), Zack Greinke 2.16 (2009), and most notably Pedro Martinez 1.74 (2000). Over the past 12 seasons since 2000 the average ERA for the AL ERA leader is 2.49 making Verlander’s only 0.09 better than average.
Take those 3 categories on their own and you’ll see that Verlander had a good season, with stats right around average for the league champion. There’s no question that Justin Verlander is more than deserving of the AL Cy Young award, but the numbers are no better than previous league champions. Those guys weren’t MVPs and neither should Verlander.