Most Valuable…Pitcher?

Posted: September 19, 2011 in MLB

Most valuable pitcher, that is a term that has not been thrown around that much this year. The thought that Detroit’s Justin Verlander could become the first pitcher since Roger Clemens to win both a Cy Young award as well as a Most Valuable Player award in the same season however, has been.

Justin Verlander has been dominating major league hitters this entire season and I would argue that he secured the Cy Young victory about six wins ago, when he was only 18-5. Yes I said it, ONLY 18-5, as he is now an impressive 24-5 and will probably finish an astounding 25-5, according to ESPN predictions.

After looking at the statistics in the last 10 years or so, Justin Verlander is having a year unlike any other, except perhaps Randy Johnson in 2002 when we had a ridiculous year of 24 wins, 334 strikeouts and a 2.32 ERA.

What makes Verlander’s year so incredible is that he also has four complete games and two shutouts to boot, as well as a no-hitter. Now I am well aware that Cliff Lee has had several moments of unbelievable brilliance, with six complete game shutouts, but his wins and other measurable statistics are not nearly as good.

There is also the ever elusive triple-crown that is in play this year, which many would believe is near impossible to get. Well start believing in the impossible dream sceptics, as Verlander leads all of major league baseball in the following categories as this posting: wins (24), innings pitched (244), striekouts (244), ERA (2.29), WHIP (0.91).

All Verlander needs to do is maintain this pace and hope that young guns like Clayton Kershaw blow-up in their next few starts and we could see the first triple-crown pitcher since Johan Santana did it in 2006. Note that Jake Peavy got a National League triple crown, whereas Santana led all of the majors in wins, strikeouts and ERA in 2006.

I thought that this accomplishment was going to be amazing, but I didn’t realize it was done so recently. The hitting triple-crown is the elusive mark of excellence that is so tough to achieve. Although I still think leading the majors in those three big categories for pitching is insane, and anyone that does it with the classic stats of wins-strikeouts-era, forget WHIP and WAR, deserves serious MVP consideration.

Back to the MVP talk, the most common argument against Verlander receiving both the CY as well as the MVP is that the CY is the pitcher MVP, and the MVP award should be given to an everyday player. I think we can make arguments both for and against this issue.

The Cy Young is the award given to the best pitcher in each league and that is their recognition for being the most valuable pitcher. They are recognized as the best within their respective league, however there is no award saying which pitcher is the best amongst all the teams. Perhaps that is a flaw in the award system, maybe we need to have a piece of hardware that clearly identifies the best pitcher in the game that year so that we don’t have two best pitcher winners when there could clearly be one better than the other.

It also brings into question, why do we have a best pitcher award if there is not a clearly defined best hitter/field player award? Then we have the combined efforts wrapped into the MVP discussion? It would seem unfair to me to award pitchers separately and then combine then with the batters to determine which player is most valuable to his team in a given season.

You are increasing the chances of pitchers receiving recognition for their efforts while at the same time potentially decreasing the chances of batters. In a year like this where raw power statistics like HRs, RBIs and hits are down there is no clear winner amongst the everyday players in either league.

Also, let’s not forget that pitchers go out there once every about five games to compete for their team whereas the fielders/batters are out there almost every single game of the 162 game season. How can you compare durability of a player that plays even 150 games versus a pitcher who takes the field maybe about 35 games in a year. There is no comparison when a player can contribute to every single win of that team’s season.

Now for the pro argument, a pitcher you could argue can be the difference between a winning season and a losing season. Let’s look at the team records this year for example and see where a pitcher is the difference between a winning record and a losing record. I understand that the flaw here is that I am assuming if the pitcher didn’t win these games, the team would have lost those games no matter who else was pitching, but just go with me on this.
The Tigers clinched their division with just over a 12 game lead on second place Cleveland. No other team except Philadelphia (which also clinched their division) has even secured themselves a playoff birth yet. That alone speaks to the value of Justin Verlander on that team. Even if you only took away half of his wins, the Tigers would then be only .5 games ahead of second, if not in second place or even third as Verlander has three wins against Cleveland already this year.

I know that wins are not a guaranteed loss against a team if you switch the pitchers, but let’s remember the effect that Verlander can have on a team. If you see the scorecard for that day and you know you’re going to be facing 100mph fastballs from start to finish you’re not going to be very optimistic.

Verlander has improved everything, his endurance, his speed, his control, and has taken over as the most dominant pitcher in the majors. Roy Halladay may be the best pitcher in the game overall, but this year it is by far Justin Verlander. He is the most valuable player on the Detroit Tigers, and that’s taking into consideration the great year Cabrera has had, once again.

So to sum up, as I always do, there are two strong arguments to give the MVP to a Cy Young winner in the same year. You can say that the Cy Young is the MVP for pitchers and that they can’t hog all the hardware in a given season. Or you can argue that if one is this dominant, they deserve to take home all the recognition for their consistent efforts. Either way this decision is ultimately left up to the selection committee, one club that I can say I’m happy not to be a member of.


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