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.