Monday, November 21, 2011

Justin Verlander MVP??

Today, the baseball writers announced that Detroit Tigers starting pitcher won the American League MVP award garnering 13 first place votes.  I know what you're thinking, pitchers do not usually win most valuable player awards.  You're right, the last starting pitcher to win the MVP award was Roger Clemens in 1986.  If you are looking for "the case for Verlander" visit FangraphsVerlander.  Verlander went 24-5 with a 2.42 ERA, with 250 strikeouts and a 7.0 WAR.  He compiled a 0.92 WHIP and a .236 BABIP.  Verlander showed durability by not appearing on the disabled list and pitching over 250 innings pitched while averaging 7.38 innings per start.  The tiger's star has emerged as a complete pitcher who does not rely on the fastball to get outs.  Verlander threw fastballs only 57% of the time this season, a career low but did not achieve a career high in percentage thrown of any other pitch demonstrating his versatility on the mound.  By not relying heavily on any one pitch batters lose the ability to take educated guesses as to the pitch type.  Finally, Verlander achieved a 2.99 FIP which accounted for 8th in Major League Baseball.

So, I think it is fair to assume that Justin Verlander deserves the Cy Young award and possible consideration for the MVP , but does he deserve to win MVP.  The MVP is historically an award dominated by position players.  In my opinion pitching and hitting are extremely different, so just as  WAR is different for pitchers and hitters so should the MVP award.  Most people consider the Cy Young award to be based mostly on statistics, which implies that the playoff status of a team does not factor into writers' votes.  In addition baseball writers consider the most valuable player award to factor in team success as well as personal statistics.

Non-pitchers play on an every day basis, while starting pitchers only play 1 out of every 5 games.  A position player can effect his team on an everyday basis, which also implies he can consistently detract from his team.  I still believe that a team's success should factor into the most valuable player award, but if we agree not to separate a players value and their personal statistics than I think personal statistics should be taken into greater account.  A player can prove extremely valuable to his team but not lead them to the playoffs.  For example, Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp has a significant chance to win the National League MVP despite playing for a team that finished 3rd in the NL west with a .509 winning percentage.  Overall, my opinion is such, awards should be separated by pitcher and position player, just as NFL player awards are separated by offense and defense.  Also, both pitcher and position player should have either two awards, one for best player and one for most valuable player, or one award for each.

While the overall considerations for these awards deserve amending, 2011 proved no different.  Jose Bautista and Jacoby Ellsbury, the 3rd and 2nd place winners in the MVP race respectively both play in the AL east, a significantly more difficult division than the AL central.  Overall Jose Bautista compiled a league leading 10.3 WARP.  Ellsbury's numbers proved similar to Bautista's, but Ellsbury proved more versitille due to his great base running (39 stolen bases) and ability to play an outstanding center field.  The Red Sox may have completed the greatest September meltdown in MLB history, but it was not due to Ellsbury's play.  Statistically, September proved to be Ellsbury's second best month.  In the season's final month Ellsbury had a .358 batting average, with a 1.067 OPS, and 8 home runs.  The Red Sox may have faltered down the stretch, but the collapse does not rest on the shoulders of Jacoby Ellsbury.

In the end, Justin Verlander is the 2011 American MVP, not Jose Bautista, Jacoby Ellsbury, nor any other AL player.  We entrust the baseball writers with the power to give out awards and the writers have spoken.  Verlander may not deserve the MVP by our newer more progressive statistical models, but he had an outstanding season.  His play was integral to the Tigers, even if Ellsbury's and Bautista's play were more significant to their teams.  Perhaps the 2011 AL MVP will serve as an example in the fight for a different set of standards and for deciding the winners of seasonal accolades.  Whether this vote changes any fans' minds concerning player awards has yet to be determined, but hopefully the debate over whether Justin Verlander deserved this award will continue to prove the importance of questioning by whom and how these awards are given out.

No comments:

Post a Comment