Justin Verlander, #1 in 2011
People want to say that Verlander shouldn't be an MVP because he didn't start 40 games, throw 20 CG's and pitch 300 innings. They want to say his durability is inferior to players like Sandy Koufax, Denny McClain and Ron Guidry—legends of of an era far gone.
But Verlander throws as as hard in the 8th inning as he does in the 1st, 4th or 6th. He was still throwing 100 mph gas in the playoffs, so there is no need to question his durability. Tigers manager Jim Leyland has an elite back-end bullpen, so why on earth would he waste 20 or 30 more innings per year just to get him double-digit CG's?
It just doesn't make sense, if we're taking ego and emotion out of the equation. Why put more strain on your ace when you don't have to?
Ron Guidry's best year, 1978: 35 starts, 25-3, 1.74 ERA, 248 SO, 16 CG, 9 SHO, 273.2 IP, .946 WHIP, 6.1 H/IP.
These stats are very much in line with Verlander's 2011 season stats, with ERA obviously being much better and the 9 SHO being downright amazing. But here's the thing, Guidry was never really the same after that season. He pitched the rest of his career in and out of pain, and instead of having a first-ballot HOF career, he just had a really good career.
McClain burned out too, as he was never the same after throwing over 750 innings, and 51 CG in 82 (!!!) starts combined in the '68 and '69 seasons. That's a hard way to get 55 wins, and he was out of baseball at age 28.
And Koufax's elbow famously was wrecked after each season because he pitched so darned much. What he did was nothing short of amazing from 61-66, but NOBODY should have to subject their arm to doing something like throwing back-to-back seasons of 27 CG's (like he did in '65-'66). He was out of baseball at age 30, and the sport was worse for it.
So please, don't speak about durability and how today's pitchers are lesser for not throwing 300+ innings and 20 CG's per year. That's akin to saying today's soldiers aren't as good as the ones from WWI because they don't use trench warfare anymore. The game has become safer because we understand the limitations of the human body much better than we did 40 years ago.
Verlander struck out a batter per inning this year, averaged 6.2 H/9, and over a 4 K/BB ratio. These numbers are very much on par with what some of these greats from years past did to become legends. He logged more innings than anyone else in the baseball this year, and averaged right around 7.1 IP per start.
Yes, facts are facts, and they can convey virtually any message you want them to. So if you want to talk about how durable the pitchers from years past are—and obviously you think these guys were superior for doing so—you also have to take a look at how quickly their careers burned out due to overuse.
Justin Verlander clearly deserved the AL MVP this season, and the writers got it right this year.