Last month, the Baseball Writers' Association of America awarded Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander the AL Cy Young award. Just three days later, he was named the 2011 AL MVP, marking the first time since 1986 that a pitcher has received the prestigious award.
This prompted the age-old debate over whether or not pitchers should be able to win the Most Valuable Player award. Many point to the fact that pitchers, unlike positional players, only play every four to five days for the respective clubs, and how that alone makes them ineligible to win the coveted award.
Regardless of the beliefs of many baseball traditionalists, the fact remains that pitchers are very much deemed suitable to win MVP. With that in mind, here are 10 pitchers who could win both Cy Young and MVP next season.
Clayton Kershaw already has three outstanding seasons of MLB experience to his credit, and was named the NL Cy Young winner last season by going 21-5 with a 2.28 ERA and 248 Ks, nearly nabbing the pitcher's triple-crown.
Keeping in mind the fact that Kershaw is just 23 years of age and already has a Cy Young under his belt, one would have to assume he's bound to win another. But can he win MVP?
His numbers from a season ago nearly mirrored Verlander's, and he'll only get better with age.
Since signing his eight-year, $182 million contract with the Yankees back in 2008, Sabathia has been nothing short of sensational for the Bronx Bombers.
In each of the past three seasons, Sabathia has amassed at least 19 wins, 197 strikeouts, 230.0 innings and a 3.37 ERA per season. If there's any one pitcher who could make a run at the AL MVP next season, it's Sabathia.
Granted, it'll be awfully difficult to maintain such prestigious numbers in what looks to be another power-packed AL East next season. However, Sabathia certainly has what it takes to be an MVP, regardless of what division he plays in.
Roy Halladay is arguably the most feared starting pitcher in MLB today, and its stunning he hasn't already won an MVP award.
Last season, Philly's top hurler finished third among all NL pitchers in strikeouts (220), second in ERA (2.35) and first in complete games (8). He also managed an MLB-best 6.29 K/BB.
Next season will be Doc's third go-around with the Phillies, and if he's able to maintain his pace into 2012, he'll more than likely have a legitimate shot at taking home the NL MVP.
Outside of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, there's no disputing Axford was the Brewers' most valuable player last season.
The 28-year-old former bartender led all NL closers with 46 saves and an astounding 1.95 ERA. He held batters to a feeble .212 BA and struck out 86 in 73.2 innings of work, additionally, and received the most MVP votes among all NL closers.
It may be a bit of a stretch to say Axford has a practical shot at winning NL MVP next season. But with Prince Fielder likely leaving town, he'll have to step up the intensity if the Brewers are to make it to the postseason. If he does that, all bets are off.
Justin Verlander's unprecedented 2011 campaign was arguably the greatest season ever pieced together by a pitcher. Going 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA and 250 SO, he nabbed almost half of the first-place AL MVP votes, and was clearly deserving of winning the prestigious award.
If he's able to dominate batters in the fashion he did last season (.192 BAA, 0.92 WHIP), there's no doubting he'll be in the running for MVP in 2012.
There'll be stiff competition, without question, but there's a very real possibility for a repeat.
At just 27 years of age, Lincecum has already transformed into one of the most feared power-pitchers in all of baseball, hoarding massive strikeout numbers that are largely unparalleled among all MLB hurlers.
Last season, however, was quite disheartening for the youngster as he went just 13-14 in 33 starts. Don't let his record fool you, though. Lincecum amassed 220 strikeouts to go with an splendid 2.74 ERA.
If he's able to get more run support from Bruce Bochy's offense next season, he could potentially eclipse the 25-win plateau. That may be enough for Lincecum to get a substantial amount of MVP votes.
There may not be one MLB pitcher over the last three seasons who is more qualified to win an MVP award than Lee.
Since winning the AL Cy Young award in 2008, Lee has averaged a 2.79 ERA, 201 strikeouts and six complete games in each of the past three seasons.
Last season, Lee was absolutely sensational for the Phillies, going 17-8 with a 2.40 ERA, hoarding 238 strikeouts while holding batters to a .226 BA. He finished third in the NL Cy Young voting and also received a number of MVP votes.
If he can somehow improve his gaudy numbers from a season ago, there's no doubt he'll be in the discussion for NL MVP.
If not for Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver would have been the runaway AL Cy Young award winner last season, and it wouldn't have been close.
Going 18-8 with a 2.41 ERA, 198 strikeouts and four complete games, Weaver was probably the biggest reason the Angels were in the playoff hunt late in September.
His superb strikeout abilities will have him in Cy Young discussions for many years to come, and if his ERA can stay where it was at the end of last season, he'll have an outside chance to grab some MVP votes in 2012.
With all do respect to Justin Upton, Ian Kennedy was the Diamondbacks' MVP of 2011. Without Kennedy, I'm not sure if Arizona makes it to the postseason.
Anchoring Kirk Gibson's rotation to the tune of a 21-4 overall record, 2.88 ERA and 222.0 innings of work, Kennedy provided much-needed stability and talent to a inept Arizona starting rotation.
Finishing fourth in the NL Cy Young voting while garnering a number of MVP votes, Kennedy is on the track to stardom and may be in for an MVP-type season in 2012.
Not many 23-year-old closers tie for the league lead for saves in their rookie season. Then again, not many young relievers are like Kimbrel.
In just his first full season at the major league level, Kimbrel garnered a league-leading 46 saves, breaking the rookie record for saves in a single season previously held by Neftali Feliz back in 2010. He also managed a 2.10 ERA and 127 punchouts while holding batters to just a .176 BA.
Kimbrel was named the 2011 NL Rookie of the Year, and actually received a few votes for NL MVP, as well. If he can put up those types of numbers in just his first professional season, who knows what he could do in 2012.