After getting his 19th win last night in Tampa, national writers such as ESPN’s Buster Olney and Jayson Stark and pundits like Mike Greenberg of ESPN’s Mike & Mike in the Morning radio show are starting to notice the historic brilliance of Justin Verlander’s season thus far and are not only calling for him to win the AL Cy Young, but also the Most Valuable Player.
They couldn’t be more right.
Verlander leads the league in wins, strikeouts (212) and WHIP (.88) and only trails Jered Weaver in ERA (2.28 to 2.10) who completely unraveled when the two faced each other back in July and hasn’t won a game since. JV is on track to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Johan Santana in 2006. Did I mention he threw a no-hitter? The debate for AL Cy Young is over—now on to the MVP.
Verlander will become the first pitcher to win the MVP since Dennis Eckersley in 1992 not only because of his dominance in relation to his peers, but also because his numbers are simply staggering when put in historic context. Not only is he the first pitcher with a shot at getting his 20th win before September since “Roids” Clemens in 1997, but he also has two separate seven-game winning streaks—a feat not seen since Frank Viola pulled it off in 1988.
Aiding Verlander’s case is that while sluggers such as Jose Bautista, Curtis Granderson, Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury have all had impressive seasons, none has distinguished himself as head-and-shoulders above the others and each has chinks in his armour. The three BoSox basically cancel each other out since it would be impossible to deem one “most valuable” even on his team, let alone the league. Bautista has tailed off significantly in the second half, batting a very mortal .268 with only 5 HRs. That leaves former Tiger, Granderson with the best case to win it. But Grandy’s .281 batting average would be the lowest of an MVP in over 40 years when Harmon Killebrew won it in with a .279 average in 1969. Voters won’t be likely to overlook those deficiencies in each of the offensive candidates when Verlander’s shining example of utter dominance is staring them in the face.
MVP voters have traditionally shunned pitchers in favor of everyday players, but when a pitcher approaches such historic dominance over his peers and no offensive player has set himself apart, they’ve occasionally lifted their informal ban—12 times in the AL since voting began in 1911 to be exact. Verlander will be lucky 13.