Who has been the most dominant American League player in baseball this season?
The answer is Justin Verlander.
Depending on your personal beliefs and geographic location you may have different opinions on who the most dominant player might be. Some popular choices are Curtis Granderson, Adrian Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Bautista, Dustin Pedroia and Miguel Cabrera.
All of these players have had spectacular seasons in their own right, but none of them can even touch Justin Verlander in terms of dominance, opponent's fear and overall numbers.
Justin Verlander 2011 Season Stats
2.29 Earned Run Average
33 Games Started, 244 Innings Pitched
244 Strikeouts, 56 Walks
If you're a baseball enthusiast and you subscribe to the old-school belief that pitchers should not be MVP eligible because they "have their own award" (said in Grandpa Simpson's voice), then please consider the following article to be nothing more than a review of statistics with bits of opinion sprinkled in.
Justin Verlander is in line for the pitching triple crown, which has never received as much hype as the hitting triple crown (but is probably just as difficult to achieve). His 33 starts are another facet of being a pitcher that he has working against him. Naysayers say that pitchers only play in about one-sixth of the games that everyday players participate in.
While that is hard to argue, I intend to do so.
A player like Curtis Granderson will play in close to 160 games this season and while that is very impressive, it is not altogether indicative of his value. Curtis will strike out roughly once per game this season and is on pace to hit around .270.
That means in an average game he will strike out, have one hit and record a couple of outs. Every four games he hits a home run, every eight games he hits a double and every nine to 10 games he will steal a base. All that is very beneficial to his team and does make him valuable.
The difference between Granderson and someone like Verlander is that Curtis is allowed to be decent every day, but only expected to be great over the course of a month or a few weeks. Justin has to be great every single start he makes, or else he will be unable to keep his team in contention and his stats at MVP caliber.
Verlander has an ERA of 2.29. Every time he starts a game you can count on him giving up fewer than two-and-a-half runs and striking out between seven and eight batters, whereas Granderson may only hit a single and strikeout a few times on any given night.
This is the common misconception with the value of position players over pitchers. It is easy to think hitters are worth more because you watch them produce (or in Adam Dunn's case, not produce) day after day.
When a pitcher takes the mound every five days he is expected to give his team a chance to win. Granderson's 40-plus home runs and 100-plus RBI would be irrelevant if the Yankees had pitchers who gave up 10 runs per night.
Verlander has been the best player in baseball this season, in both the American and National Leagues. His numbers are more impressive than Roger Clemens' were when he won the MVP in 1986. The era that we are in now features a much higher caliber of hitter and a definite decrease in the number of innings a pitcher throws, as more of a focus is put on pitch counts. If Verlander were pitching in the '60s, '70s and possibly even the '80s, then he may very well have won 30 games.
Don't allow yourself to be fooled by the 33 starts and the ancient perception of pitchers not being valuable enough to win the award. We all know how great Justin Verlander has been this year.