Justin Verlander Was a Legitimate Choice for Most Valuable Player... for Now

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 13:  Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers waves to the crowd after being pulled in the eighth inning of Game Five of the American League Championship Series at Comerica Park on October 13, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images
Austin WynneContributor INovember 21, 2011

Justin Verlander added the American League Most Valuable Player Award to his resume on Monday.  The decision came days after he was awarded the Cy Young.  Verlander is only the seventh pitcher to win both awards in the same year.  Any time an award like the MVP is given out, there is sure to be controversy.

There's no doubt that Verlander was the best pitcher in the American League.  He was dominant in almost every game he pitched.  Teams no doubt moved around their rotation, played their best players and managed the game differently when he was in line to get the start.  At 24-5 with a sub-three ERA, his regular season was better than any other AL pitcher this year.  

It wasn't historic though.  

How much of an impact could he have had?  Was he really the most valuable player in the American League?  In a league with Jose Bautista, Jacoby Ellsbury, Michael Young and Robinson Cano, a pitcher surely couldn't have been the most valuable.  He only appeared in 20.9 percent of his team's games.  He doesn't get the grind of playing 140-plus games in a season.  

The bottom line is that this award is defined by ambiguity.  There aren't any guidelines.  Valuable means "Of considerable use, service or importance."  By that definition Johnny Damon could have won for being an emotional clubhouse leader for the Tampa Bay Rays.  

Stellar pitching is always valuable—always.  The award is more subjective than most all of the awards.  Comparing pitchers and hitters is apples and oranges.  Their stats can't be objectively looked at side by side.  

The writers try to vote without bias.  Before everyone jumps on Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News for voting Michael Young No. 1, remember Young got a vote at literally every spot from first to 10th.  Young's numbers for a World Series team back up the pick.  There was a wide array of votes for everyone (James Shields got an ninth-place vote) and it may go down as one of the widest in history.  

I'm on board with making the MVP available to only hitters.  Until the award has some guidelines (minimum at-bats, games played, etc.) we can't fault voters for going with their opinion.  Verlander was thought to be the most valuable player by a lot of people who are smarter than I am—consistently.  

MVPs can be debated for months.  This one may be debated for years.

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