Justin Verlander is on the verge of doing something that hasn’t been done in the American League since 1992; win the Most Valuable Player award. In 1992, Dennis Eckersley, pitcher for the Oakland Athletics, went 7-1 with 51 saves and had an ERA of 1.91. He received 15 of the 28 1st-place votes, finishing with 306 vote points, and was named the AL MVP. Eck was 37 during that season and his 51 saves is good for 9th all-time on the single-season saves list. The last starting pitcher to win the award was Roger Clemens in 1986. Clemens went 24-4 that year with an ERA of 2.48. He received 19 of the 28 1st-place votes, easily winning the MVP. Randy Johnson was the last pitcher to win 24 games (2002), only winning the CY Young award that season.
Already at 20-5 and going for his 21st win tomorrow night, it is fair to say that Verlander is having another impeccable season. The 20 wins are already a career-high for the righty and he can add at least 3 or 4 more to his 2011 campaign. He is also 52 strikeouts away from another career-high. The Detroit ace ranks first in the AL in wins (20), innings pitched (215.2), strikeouts (218), whip (0.90) and win percentage (.800). He is second in ERA (2.38) and third in complete games (4). Another stat to consider is that 3 of his 5 losses came in his first 6 starts, meaning that he is 18-2 since the end of April. Is any other player in the AL as dominant as Verlander?
The other MVP candidates seem to be coming from the two powerhouses in the American League, Boston and New York. Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury have all had outstanding seasons for Boston and are all MVP-worthy. On the other side of the American League East are the New York Yankees who also have three great candidates in Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano. Here is what separates Verlander for the AL East sluggers; if the Yankees or Red Sox lost two of their respective All-Stars they would still be contenders whereas if you take Verlander away from Detroit, they instantly become irrelevant in the American League.
Whether he is a pitcher or position player shouldn’t matter in the baseball writers’ minds when it comes to voting. The MVP award is supposed to awarded to player who is most dominant in his respective league. Without question Verlander has fit that description this season with his impeccable numbers and leadership. Mr. Verlander, you better make some space on your mantle for the Cy Young and MVP awards you will be winning this season.