The most surprising thing about Verlander's victory may not have been the fact that he won, but rather who he edged out for second place in the voting, as well as the margin which he won by. He finished 38 points ahead of Jacoby Ellsbury and 49 points ahead of Jose Bautista.
Verlander collected 13 of the 28 first places votes from the BBWAA. He became the first starting pitcher in the last 25 years to be named MVP. Roger Clemens was the last starting pitcher to take home the award when he went 24-4 in 1986. Closer Dennis Eckersley won the award in 1992.
This season, Verlander took home the American League Pitching Triple Crown. He also led the AL in WHIP. Along with his 24-5 record, Verlander had a 2.50 ERA, a 0.92 WHIP and 250 strikeouts. Verlander's 24 wins were the highest total by a starting pitcher in either league over the past nine years.
The crowning achievement of Verlander's season came on May 7th. In a game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Verlander was masterful and threw a no-hitter.
There will certainly be a number of detractors that say Verlander was not worthy of the award because he is only on the field once every five days. Some people may also point to his WAR. However, depending on the source, that is not a valid claim. While Fangraphs' calculation has Verlander listed with the second best WAR amongst pitchers in the American League, Baseball-Reference list Verlander with the best WAR in the American League amongst all players.
Did Justin Verlander deserve to win the 2011 AL MVP?
Any questions surrounding Verlander's victory should immediately stop once it is remembered who the award is being given out to. It is supposed to go to the most valuable player in the American League.
It is impossible to find a player who was more valuable to his team. Without Justin Verlander, the Detroit Tigers are not in the playoffs. While the other players who received votes were incredibly important to their teams, they could not match Verlander's value to the Tigers.
Almost every single time that Verlander stepped onto the mound, the Tigers won. They were confident that they had a chance in every single game that he pitched.
While there are other players that could have taken home the 2011 AL MVP Award, it was given to the right person. Verlander had an incredible year, and his value to the Tigers was immeasurable. He is completely deserving of the title of 2011 American League MVP.