AL MVP 2011: Justin Verlander
Well, here we go again. The argument for infinity. Is it legitimate to award a pitcher the Most Valuable Player trophy, particularly the AL MVP 2011? There are as many arguments for–as against–this premise.
Monday, November 21st, 2011, saw the best pitcher on the planet, the Detroit Tigers’ Justin Verlander, win the AL MVP Award, one of a small handful who have ever won both the Cy Young and MVP crowns. Obviously, the baseball community is divided on whether a pitcher should even be allowed to win an MVP Award.
The advocates for such a travesty say, “If the Cy Young Award winner is the most valuable player for a team, then he should be allowed to win the MVP, too.” The “No Way!” crowd says, “A player who only takes the field every 5 days cannot be more valuable than an everyday player who has a career year!”
One of the controversial stats is the “W.A.R.” or Wins Above Replacement calculation, a stat that many voters use to show a player’s value. While the stat is important, there is some question regarding the apples-to-apples protocols on the way this stat is applied, on the one hand, to position players, and then, to pitchers. These nay-sayers have a point. It appears that there may be a slight prejudice in favor of pitchers. Then, the context for this argument is still controversial.
The discussion gets even more heated when the protocols start to include relief pitchers. Look what the Tigers’ great closer, Jose Valverde, did this year. An astonishing achievement, but he didn’t do well in the Cy Young or MVP voting. Yet, Dennis Eckersley (1992) and Willie Hernández (1984), have won both the Cy Young and MVP crowns–as relievers. In a given year, a career effort by a relief pitcher can eclipse the league’s starting pitchers’ best stats, thereby, also allowing a relief pitcher the chance, under the current rules, to win the MVP. Then, there is the controversy over whether a relief pitcher should be allowed the Cy Young Award! The problem, or, the beauty of all this inconsistency is that some pundits like it–while others would prefer more structured protocols.
There is a field of thought that the protocols for evaluating pitchers–and position players–should be calibrated more differently than now. To wit, values for relief pitchers, starting pitchers, and position players–and the relationship of those values to team performance should be tweaked in a more “realistic” manner. Of course, many feel that only position players should be eligible for the MVP Award. This writer leans toward that direction… at least a little bit. The statistics tend to support that viewpoint… almost every year.
In 1986, Roger Clemens won both the Cy Young and the MVP Awards, the last starting pitcher before Verlander to do so. Many of us then thought Don Mattingly should have won that year, especially when you add in “Donnie Baseball’s” Gold Glove defensive skills.
In Verlander’s defense, he won pitching’s Triple Crown (single season leader in Wins, E.R.A. and K’s), a very rare achievement. Since 1893, there are less than two dozen hurlers who have ever done it. Grover Cleveland Alexander won this elusive Award an amazing 4 times. Unreachable?!
Now, to show good sportsmanship, our heartiest congratulations to Justin Verlander, a player who does things the right way, for a truly remarkable season. Yet, our view of the MVP would have thrown more votes to players such as Adrian Gonzalez or Michael Young, position players who are clutch performers on both offense and defense.
What is your viewpoint? Let us know in the comments section and chime in on Twitter here.