With 280 points and double the first place votes that anyone else received, Justin Verlander was selected by AL sportswriters as the 2011 American League MVP. The New York Times notes that a pitcher being selected as most valuable player is nothing new, as the very first American League M.V.P. in 1931 was Philadelphia Athletics ace Lefty Grove, and that pitchers have won 20 times since then. Still, it has been almost 20 years since Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley was selected and you have to go back to 1986 to find another starter who won the award.
Both Eckersley and the ’86 winner Roger Clemens won the Cy Young as well, which puts Verlander in some very elite company. You can read more about his accomplishments at his MLB player page and in the Wikipedia entry for Justin Verlander.
On the blog front, Roar of the Tigers named Justin Verlander MVP of Everything and has a look at what hitters experienced. Kurt at Bless You Boys has some notes from the Verlander conference call and adds that Miguel Cabrera finished 5th, battery mate Alex Avila 12th and Victor Martinez 17th.
An interesting feature on the Tigers’ site relates that Verlander was by no means a shoo-in for the award due to the fact many believe pitchers can’t really be compared to hitters. However, the stats are pretty compelling:
Verlander — only the second player in baseball history to capture a Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and Most Valuable Player award over his career — finished this season with pitching’s Triple Crown. He led the AL in wins (24), ERA (2.40) and strikeouts (25), as well as innings (251) and opponents’ batting average (.192). (ed: other player was Dodger Ace Don Newcombe)
…As it happened, Verlander went 16-3 in starts following a Detroit loss. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is the most such victories since Philadelphia’s Steve Carlton had 19 wins following a Phillies loss during the 1972 season.
That amazing statistic was one that jumped out for Morosi (Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports).
“Basically, he was the best stopper in almost 40 years for a team that won its division,” Morosi said. “That’s pretty good. Also, the fact that on the day that he started his 12-start winning streak, the Tigers and Indians were tied for first place. To me, he single-handedly, I think, was the difference.”
Here’s an AP video to take it home, we’ll update if we can find a better one!