Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Should Justin Verlander, a Pitcher, Win the AL MVP?

By Jackson Alexander

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Courtesy of GotCup

Justin Verlander will win the American League Cy Young award this season. That’s not up for debate. But whether or not he deserves an MVP is certainly a debatable topic.

People began throwing the words Verlander and MVP into the same sentence at some point during his current 11 game-winning streak. The basis of his MVP argument are these superlative numbers:

W-L (wins/losses) record: 23-5, Innings pitched: 236, ERA (earned run average): 2.36, WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched): 0.915, Strikeouts: 238

Are those statistics good enough to win an MVP? History says no.

In 1992, Dennis Eckersley a relief pitcher for the Oakland Athletics, won the MVP. It’s been nearly 20 years with no pitchers collecting the award since.

The lack of pitchers winning MVPs recently resonates largely from the steroid era. It’s tough to justify handing over an MVP award to a pitcher, when guys are breaking barriers, hitting 50, 60, and even 70 home runs in a single season.

The past two seasons have been labeled “years of the pitcher” thanks to Major League Baseball enforcing stricter policies on performance enhancing drugs. Offensive production is down in nearly every regard. So what better chance for a pitcher to win an MVP than now?

Verlander’s hardly the first pitcher in the past two decades to contend for an MVP.

Johan Santana put together a strong case in 2006 and finished 6th in the voting.

Randy Johnson won four straight Cy Young awards with the Arizona Diamondbacks from 1999-2002. His four-year statistical average during that time:

W-L record: 20-6, Innings pitched: 257, ERA: 2.48, WHIP: 1.054, Strikeouts: 355!!!

Those numbers are astonishing, particularly the strikeouts. Here’s where he finished in MVP voting during those years:

1999: 15th
2000: 17th
2001: 11th
2002: 7th

Johnson hardly even contended in the MVP races during those years. This can’t be chalked up to his team performing poorly either, as the Diamondbacks made the playoffs in three of those four years. It must be noted that 2001 and 2002 were his best years and during that time Barry Bonds was doing things on a baseball field that no one imagined possible. Needless to say, Bonds took home the MVP both of those years.

How about Pedro Martinez? Most Red Sox fans remember the magical run of utter dominance he put together in 1999 and 2000. The two-year average for that run?

W-L record: 21-5, Innings pitched: 215, ERA: 1.91, WHIP: 0.83, Strikeouts: 299

Even in today’s game those numbers would be astonishing. Pedro contended for the MVP both of those years, finishing second in 1999, and fifth in 2000. Since Pedro finished second in 2000, no pitcher has finished higher than sixth in MVP voting. Then again, we haven’t seen anyone pitch at Verlander’s level since Johnson’s four years of brilliance, and Pedro’s two straight virtuoso seasons.  Ultimately, it all comes back to the voters. Some feel that one can’t be the most valuable player in baseball if they only play once in every five games.

Verlander’s final two starts will be vital, as he’ll attempt to improve his already gaudy win total to 25.

In my opinion, he shouldn’t win the MVP. Pitchers have had a rough time winning this award over the past 20 years, and even some of the most deserving candidates were denied.

It would be different if the voters were dealing with a group of wet blanket hitters and Verlander. But that’s not the case, six other hitters have strong cases for the MVP, and it’s my belief that one of them will win it.

Statistics were used from BaseballReference.com.

Jackson Alexander can be reached at [email protected]

2 Comments

2 Responses to “Should Justin Verlander, a Pitcher, Win the AL MVP?”

  1. Chris Maurer on September 19th, 2011 10:58 pm

    Mr. Alexander

    Verlander’s 2011 compelling campaign has one historic accomplishment that best’s 1986 Rocket, 1992 Eck, 1999 Pedro;
    Verlander’s no-hitter May 7, 2011.

  2. Lynn Brigan on September 26th, 2011 7:42 am

    Nice writing Jackson!!

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