Justin Verlander Wins AL MVP: Why He Was the Right Choice
This ended months of debate on whether a pitcher should, or could, win an MVP award. Apparently the voters thought so.
There were other worthy candidates for the award. Jacoby Ellsbury had one of the best years in his careers. Curtis Granderson put up MVP-type numbers. Jose Bautista did everything he could to keep the Toronto Blue Jays relevant.
However, in the end, Justin Verlander was able to come away with the award.
We'll be looking at the reasons why he was the right choice as well as why the other candidates didn't win.
First, we'll look at the other candidates and Jose Bautista is up first.
Sabermetrics value Bautista equally in wins above replacement, at 8.5, according to baseball-reference.com. Bautista also hit .302 with 42 HR, 103 RBI, and a .447 OBP.
Numbers aren't everything, however.
Bautista made have had the best statistical season out of any position player. He also certainly meant a lot to his lineup and his team. Who knows where the Toronto Blue Jays would've finished without Bautista's bat?
To me at least, the phrase "Most Valuable" doesn't just mean the best player. MLB already gives out the Hank Aaron award for that, which Bautista won.
Justin Verlander was just a little more valuable to his team than Bautista was.
Curtis Granderson was another player who had a statistically amazing season.
He hit .269 with 41 HR, 119 RBI, and a .364 OBP, all numbers worthy of an MVP. However, as I said in the last slide, numbers aren't everything and Granderson's numbers overall weren't as good as Jose Bautista's.
Granderson's .269 average is a slight blemish on an otherwise great season. And yet, you don't get the feeling that he was the MVP of the team.
The New York Yankees have other stars such as Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez who all had relatively down years. Jeter and A-Rod missed some time because of injuries and A-Rod wasn't A-Rod this year.
There's also Robinson Cano who's emerging to be the real staple and star of the Yankees lineup.
Granderson didn't necessarily feel the need to perform every time he came up since he knew his team had his back.
Jacoby Ellsbury had one heck of a year. Sabermetrics place his WAR at 7.2.
Ellsbury hit .321 with 32 HR, 105 RBI, .376 OBP, and 39 SB. He hit for average, power, got on base and stole bases as well. He did everything short of guarantee his team a win.
However, one of the factors that may have led to him not winning was the September collapse of the Boston Red Sox. Granted, the collapse wasn't his fault. He couldn't control what the players were doing.
At the same time, it's the role of a player, and a true MVP, to rally his team in desperate times. Ellsbury did everything he could with his bat to keep his team alive, but it needed more than that, it needed a leader.
To me, an MVP also has to be a leader of sorts to his team. The other players look to him when times are down but he makes sure they'll get out of it on top.
The Red Sox didn't look to Ellsbury in the same way the Detroit Tigers looked to Verlander.
The Rest of the Detroit Tigers' Pitching Staff
Now we'll look at the reasons why Justin Verlander won the MVP award.
The rest of the Detroit Tigers' pitching staff, with the exception of Doug Fister who joined the team halfway through, weren't exactly the most reliable rotation in the majors.
The Tigers had Justin Verlander and a bunch of guys who would play catch with the catcher pitching behind him. Kinda like the New York Yankees with CC Sabathia except Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon turned out to be miracle workers.
Rick Porcello would struggle a lot in his outings. Brad Penny wanted to see if his ERA could catch John Lackey's (it didn't, not even the Flash could've caught up to that). Max Scherzer was inconsistent, being great one outing and terrible the next.
Doug Fister finally gave Verlander some much needed help, but by then, it seemed like Verlander would never lose.
There was no question as to who was the leader of the Detroit Tiger's pitching staff. It was Justin Verlander.
In fact, he was the leader of the whole team.
The Tigers looked to him to give the team a win every time he stepped on the mound.
From July 21 to September 18, that's exactly what he did. He also did that for the entire month of June too.
Jim Leyland, the manager, knew he could count on Verlander every fifth day. He could even tell some parts of his bullpen to take the day off when Verlander pitch.
Verlander didn't disappoint.
He was the leader of the Detroit Tigers, without him, they would've lost many games and never made it to the playoffs.
Going off of leadership, Justin Verlander was in total control of himself throughout the season.
He didn't have an epic collapse or end up on Sportscenter every week because of a tirade on the field or in the clubhouse or for snorting a whole fried chicken (gotta love those Red Sox).
Verlander kept his composure on the mound despite all the pressure. The team knew they could count on Verlander for a win, but he knew that as well.
Imagine the pressure of knowing that your team needs you to win every time. Most people would crack under that, but not Verlander.
He didn't even falter down the stretch as the inning totals should've caught up with him along with the pennant races. Verlander just went out there every fifth day and did his job. Win.
Pitching Triple Crown
24 wins, 2.40 ERA, 250 strikeouts. Justin Verlander led the AL in each of those categories.
Obtaining the pitching Triple Crown is no easy feat that only the best pitchers can accomplish.
To do so means you have to be a well-rounded pitcher. You can't just strike people out, but give up homers inflating your ERA or breaking down at the final out giving up the hit that loses the game for you.
Instead, you have to be dominate in all three areas. Verlander was.
He was able to pitch well until he got the win. He was able to maintain a low ERA. He was able to strikeout 250 batters he faced.
Those numbers alone are impressive, even more so when they belong to one pitcher. However, when you realize that pitcher led the league in each of those categories, you gain a whole new respect for the guy.
251 innings pitched—more than anyone else in the league.
3,941 pitches thrown—167 more than the guy in second place for that category.
So let's just say he defines what it means to be a workhorse.
To win a game, a pitcher only has to go five innings which means five innings is the minimum a pitcher has to work.
Verlander went at least six innings 34 times, seven 25 times, eight 14 times, and even had four complete games with two shutouts. Oh, and one of those shutouts/complete games was a no-no.
I'm gonna go out on a limb and say he probably qualifies for overtime.
But this is what you expect from your ace, your leader. He has to go out every night thinking he has to pitch a complete game to give his team a win.
If I'm a manager, I could ask for nothing more from my number one.
I like for my MVPs to have a bit of a fear factor in them. By that, I mean every time that player steps up to the plate or goes on the mound, the opposing player fears him just a little bit.
It doesn't have to be like when John Kruk was absolutely terrified to face Randy Johnson and his fastball, but it'd be nice.
When that player comes up, I want the opposing team and their fans to pray that he doesn't do something to put the game out of reach. For batters, it's a big home run. For pitchers, it's that strike out with the bases loaded.
An MVP's name should instill fear in fans of opposing teams every time he's mentioned that season. If not, than that player is not as good he could be.
Every great player was once feared, it just makes sense for the MVP to also be the most feared player that season.
Justin Verlander was the most feared player in the 2011 season. Every time he pitched, I felt like the other team would lose, which it did at least 24 times.
The fear factor can only be obtained once a player has reached absolute dominance.
For position players, it's a stretch when he's mashing out extra base hits, getting on base all the time, and hitting game changing home runs.
For pitchers, it's when they go on a win streak by going at least six innings instead of the needed five.
It's also how they pitch in that streak. They have to seem like they're pitching effortlessly, like they're striking out batters as if it's no big deal.
MVPs have to dominate the league and no one dominated it better than Justin Verlander. His streak when on for nearly three months from July 21 to September 18.
You can be sure there were players and managers out there who thought the guy would never lose. Don't forget the guy also threw the second no-hitter of his career. That pretty much sums up dominance.