Verlander wins AL MVP award

Verlander, who last week won the American League Cy Young Award as top pitcher, became the first...

Verlander, who last week won the American League Cy Young Award as top pitcher, became the first starting pitcher in 25 years to win the MVP award. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:55 AM ET

TORONTO - The wait for the American League Most Valuable Player balloting is over but the debate will, no doubt, continue to rage.

In the most wide-open MVP election in memory, Detroit Tiger pitcher Justin Verlander won the award Monday over runnerup Jacoby Ellsbury of Boston and third-place finisher Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays.

No fewer than six players received at least one first-place vote and one player, Michael Young, of Texas received votes ranging from 1-through-10 and was left off five ballots. Bautista’s rankings ranged from 1-through-9 and he was named on all 28 ballots.

Verlander’s victory makes him a lightning rod for the ongoing argument that only position players should be eligible for the league’s most prestigious award.

“I think that a starting pitcher has to do something special to be as valuable, or moreso, than a position player,” Verlander said. “Obviously, having the chance to play in 160-some games in the case of (position players), they can have a huge impact every day. “(As a pitcher) you have to have a great impact almost every time out to supersede (position players). It happens on rare occasions, and I guess this year was one of those years.”

There is no question Verlander had great impact. In addition to winning the starting pitchers’ Triple Crown (lowest ERA, most wins, most strikeouts) he worked a league-high 251 innings. The Tigers won 25 of the 34 games he started. During one stretch, the Tigers won a dozen Verlander starts in a row. Sixteen of his wins came in games following a Detroit loss.

Importantly, Verlander combination of excellence and durability allowed him to pitch at least six innings in each of his 34 starts. In 25 of his starts, he pitched at least seven innings and he tossed eight or more innings 14 times. He averaged about 71/3 innings per start, leaving just five outs, on average, for his bullpen. All other Tigers starters averaged less than six innings per start.

With Verlander pitching deep into games, Tigers manager Jim Leyland was able to empty his bullpen on days before his ace pitched, knowing they would be fresh the day after as well.

Verlander is the 12th pitcher in the 82-year history of the award but the first since Dennis Eckersley in 1992. Strangely enough, including Verlander, the past four Tigers to win MVP honours (Hal Newhouser in 1944 and 1945, Denny McLain in 1968 and Willie Hernandez in 1984) are all pitchers.

Bautista is respectful of the process but wonders if pitchers shouldn’t be considered for the award.

“In a perfect world,” he said, from his home in the Dominican Republic, “there should be two separate awards. When it’s not really defined, it can be interpreted any way people want, but it’s not really my place to be suggesting changes.”

The fact that the Jays were not in contention may have influenced some voters in addition to the fact that Bautista’s production dropped off in the second half. His first-half numbers (.354 BA, 28 HR, .506 OBP, .749 SLG, 1.255 OPS) were spectacular but in the second half, not so much (.248 BA, 15 HR, .381 OBP, .460 SLG and .841 OPS).

In his defence, Bautista was playing through a couple of nagging injuries (neck, ankle) but he refuses to accept those excuses.

“I went away from my game plan, chasing pitches out of the strike zone,” he said. “I probably should have remained more patient but it gets difficult to remain consistent over a long season. I just wasn’t disciplined enough to lay off the bad pitches.”

MVP Voting Instructions

There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team. The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.

The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931:

1. Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defence.

2. Number of games played.

3. General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.

4. Former winners are eligible.

5. Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.

You are also urged to give serious consideration to all your selections, from 1 to 10. A 10th-place vote can influence the outcome of an election. You must fill in all 10 places on your ballot. Only regular-season performances are to be taken into consideration.

Keep in mind that all players are eligible for MVP, including pitchers and designated hitters.

Fidlin's Ballot

1. Justin Verlander

2. Jose Bautista

3. Curtis Granderson

4. Miguel Cabrera

5. Jacoby Ellsbury

6. Robinson Cano

7. Adrian Gonzalez

8. Evan Longoria

9. Adrian Beltre

10. Mark Teixeira


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