When Justin Verlander put the finishing touches on his second career no-hitter against Toronto in May, his reaction to the final out was curious.  A mild fist pump and wry smile.  When Verlander received the call informing him that he had won the MVP award, I'm betting the reaction was much more animated.

Verlander capped one of the more dominating season by a Tigers pitcher in a long time by securing the A.L. Cy Young and MVP awards. I must admit, I thought JV lost his chance at the MVP when he allowed five runs in seven innings against the Orioles in his final start of the regular season.  The loss pushed his ERA from 2.29 before the start, to it's final resting spot of 2.40.  Still very impressive in the American League, but was it good enough to win an MVP?  The voters thought so.

Verlander's season has helped fuel the debate between traditionalists (I'm one of them) and out-of-the-box thinkers as to whether or not a pitcher should be considered for the award.  I have always felt that the MVP should go to an everyday player.  Part of me still feels that way, but this season has helped me think more outside the box and loosen the sometimes stubborn traditionalist views (as much as I love sushi, it's still not ballpark food) that rule my thinking.  In fact, I'm just now accepting stats such as VORP and WHIP.  While there were many deserving offensive players that could have easily staked their claim as the the league's most valuable player, none in my opinion, created the buzz that Verlander did.  Admit it, how many times did you rearrange your schedule to catch the Verlander Show?  Many compared it to the days of Mark "The Bird" Fidrych.  Personally, I wouldn't go that far, but JV's starts were an event.  You know you're kind of a big deal when people simply refer to you by your initials.

So does " buzz creating ability" become a new criteria on the list of considerations voters must follow for the award.  Probably not, but how many times this season did you hear someone say, "Is Adrian Gonzalez playing tonight?"  "Is Jacoby Ellsbury in the line-up?"  No disrespect to either of those players, in fact I had both of them winning he award at some point this year.  But, maybe it's time to look just a little beyond just the pure numbers.  I can promise you this, wherever we were this season, at home or on the road, people wanted to know when Verlander was pitching next.

One of the major arguments used against pitchers is the number of games played, one of the criteria that voters are expected to consider.  In my opinion, the spirit of that consideration is to guard against players that may have missed considerable time due to injury (see Josh Hamilton in 2010).  In Verlander's case, "games played" should be viewed as a positive.  The Tigers ace made 34 starts, tied for the most in baseball.  Verlander pitched 251 innings, more than anyone in baseball.

There is also the matter of the triple crown.  Verlander led the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts.  If an offensive player were to win the triple crown, he would be a shoe-in for the award.

Many still feel that a pitcher should not win the award.  In fact, Jim Ingraham who covers the Indians for The News-Herald did not even have Verlander on his ballot.  Wow.  Ok.  That debate will always rage.  But, maybe this year opened the door a little bit for pitchers to be more involved in the conversation.

In the meantime, I can't wait for opening day next year.  I think Verlander is pitching.


11/25/2011 15:43

I especially like the WHIP statistic, because a pitcher with a really high whip but success elsewhere might be a pitcher who is getting lucky via great defense, or striking out the side with the bases loaded or what have you.

A pitcher with a low WHIP is a pitcher who is controlling the games he is pitching. Very little happens on that diamond that the pitcher doesn't want to happen.

To me, that's the value of looking at WHIP.

If you want a worthless stat, it is WAR. Why? Great players are always going to have a great WAR rating. If you feel like you have to look at a player's WAR, I think that you already should know that the player is replaceable by a Triple A player.

Do we have to look at Miguel Cabrera's WAR? Um, no. Should we look at Ramon Santiago's WAR? Maybe, but why? Don't we already know that losing Ramon isn't going to automatically make the Tigers lose lots of games?

Some will say, "well, WAR is used to compare great players." Yeah, you can also compare great players with BA and OPS. Heck, throw out BA. If the average isn't there, neither will the OPS be there. Just use OPS!

I just don't understand using WAR, which relies on "would haves" and intangible theories of what a Triple A player would have done, when there is OPS, at least for megastar players.

Linda M
11/25/2011 15:45

Great blog. I really enjoyed this thoughtful and insightful view. Mario, keep it up; especially for those of us who are still missing your and Rod's commentary during the baseball season!

Ellen Wigginton
11/26/2011 03:49

Welcome to the blogosphere! Looking forward to your insights as we count down the days until spring training. I hope you'll share some player tidbits....weird routines, superstitions, favorite off-season hobbies. Love those boys!

MSU Comm '82

08/15/2012 09:38

MARIO & ROB You 2 are THE GREATEST ANNOUNCERS ON T.V. RIGHT NOW . Love to watch the games . Been a fan for years ,use to take tunnel bus from Windsor to Detroit then walk to the stadiumfor a game . Will never forget a double header in Detroit in 1970 when Gates Brown hit a home run in each extra inning games to win them .Both games went 16 innings . Can you tell me who they were playing ? We live in leamington Ontario. I am a 5 year survivor of breast cancer . Would love to see some in Detroit games. I have a Detroit T- Shirt ( orange ) with Detroit tiger logo on front & D on one sleeve ,46 on the other ,plus Valverde 46 on the back .Wish I could meet you guys , YOU ARE GREAT .

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