2011 AL MVP Justin Verlander
For the first time in 25 years a starting pitcher was named the Most Valuable Player of the American League. Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers was named the American League MVP today in as convincing manner as he pitched during the season.
The last time a starting pitcher won this honor was in 1986 when a young up and coming Roger Clemens won it as a member of the Boston Red Sox. The last time a pitcher won the ward was in 1992 when Dennis Eckersley won it as a closer for the Oakland Athletics. It was the first time since 1984 that a pitcher won the MVP as well as the Cy Young award. In winning both in the same season Verlander joined Brooklyn Dodgers’ great Don Newcombe who won them in 1956, Los Angeles Dodgers’ legend Sandy Koufax who did it in 1963, St. Louis Cardinals’ great Bob Gibson and Detroit’s Denny McLain who led pitchers in both leagues in 1968, Oakland’s Vida Blue in 1971, Rollie Fingers who won it as a relief pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1981 and Detroit’s Willie Hernandez who did so in 1984.
It is unusual that a pitcher wins the MVP. Part of the equation is that starting pitchers are not every day players and even like relief pitchers who may appear several times a week. Because of this a starting pitcher must be absolutely dominating in all aspects of his game and do so in such a way that their team’s success is in large part attributable to their play. This was the case with Verlander who dominated pitching this year.
Verlander’s accomplishments speak for themselves. He went 25-4 in 34 starts, had a ERA of 2.40, held opposing teams to a .192 team batting average, struck out 250 batters while walking just 57 men. His Walks/Hits inning pitched WHIP was a tiny 0.92. He led every competitive category for pitching in the American League and for that matter led all pitchers in wins and strikeouts during the season. To top things off Verlander also had a no-hitter against Toronto coming a walk from a perfect game and he won 12 consecutive games leading the Tigers to their first division title since 1987.
The was no player in baseball that was as valuable to their team or as dominant as Verlander this year. That may be a hard sell for those that believe that pitchers should not be considered for the MVP since they are not every day players but the numbers support Verlander’s selection as the 2011 American League Most Valuable Player. His competition among American League position players could make no such claim, while excellent ballplayers none was such a standout that they had any real chance of winning.
Congratulations on a job well done!