Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander won the American League Most Valuable Player Award this afternoon. I don’t think that his performance was good enough to do so, but that’s based on my own preference for handing out such an award to a position player. That’s not because of anything ridiculous like Verlander appearing only every five games or anything like that. It’s actually the opposite. If we look at contribution and amount of responsibility for winning and losing games, starting pitchers should be the only pitchers considered for the award.

But if you don’t follow that reasoning, I can at least understand the vote for Verlander. In fact, if you look at the top five vote getters for the award, it’s not that atrocious at all. With some consideration given to Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler, I would likely find myself nodding in agreement with any argument suggesting that Justin Verlander, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Bautista, Curtis Granderson and Miguel Cabrera were the best players in the American League this past season.

Here are the voting results which give those five players top billing:

Player, Team 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th Points
Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers 13 3 3 4 1 2 1 280
Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox 4 13 4 1 4 1 1 242
Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays 5 7 4 4 4 1 1 1 1 231
Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees 3 4 4 8 6 1 2 215
Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers 2 9 5 5 2 4 1 193
Robinson Cano, New York Yankees 2 2 3 6 4 5 1 1 112
Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox 1 1 2 6 8 3 3 1 105
Michael Young, Texas Rangers 1 1 1 1 1 1 4 7 4 2 96
Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox 4 1 4 6 48
Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays 2 1 2 3 27
Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers 1 2 1 1 1 25
Alex Avila, Detroit Tigers 1 1 2 2 13
Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox 5 1 11
CC Sabathia, New York Yankees 2 10
Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers 2 1 1 9
Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays 1 1 7
Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers 1 1 2 7
James Shields, Tampa Bay Rays 1 5 7
Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees 1 1 5
Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians 1 2 4
Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals 3 3
Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers 1 1
David Robertson, New York Yankees 1 1

While I question the four writers who don’t believe that Jose Bautista was one of the five most valuable players in the American League this past season, most of my scorn is directed at Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News who placed Michael Young first on his ballot. This means that a professional baseball writer believed that Michael Young was the best player in the American League last season. Michael Young.

According to FanGraphs WAR, Michael Young was the eight best player on his team in 2011. In limited action in the field, he was judged to have cost his team the ninth most runs in the American League among qualified players. Sure, he led his team in RBIs with 106, but please try to remember this: RBIs speaks far more as to who is batting in front of you than individual skill. To show you what I mean by this, consider that Young had 73 more plate appearances with runners on base than Adrian Beltre did this season and within those 73 extra chances, he had a single more run batted in than the Rangers full time third baseman. One.

While a lot of scorn, from myself and others, is bound to be directed Grant’s way, it should also be remembered that Young received a second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth place vote, four seventh place votes, seven eighth place votes, four nine place votes, and two tenth place votes. Once again, all of this for a player that was the eighth best on his team.

When attempting to predict a player’s future true talent level, I have no problem bringing intangible elements into a discussion. I do so warily because I’m not a scout or a psychologist, and I think too often people from outside of these fields attempt to prescribe meaning to things that are simply beyond their base of knowledge. However, I’ll readily admit that there are important aspects beyond statistics that should enter into a conversation when attempting to judge a player.

Nonetheless, there is no excuse for not looking at numbers or properly weighing what numbers you’re looking at when you attempt to judge the success of a past season, especially when judging players that you have observed an unequal amount of times. All it takes is a little bit of critical thinking. Reason. Logic. Things to which we, as human beings living in the Western Hemisphere, collectively ascribe some value.

In the grand scheme of things, one person’s belief in who the best baseball players is doesn’t amount to very much. However, I really like baseball. I like discussion about baseball. And I like reason. I like reasonable discussions about baseball. And therefore, I support anything that advances reasonable discussions about baseball. Unfortunately, it will remain bothersome to me that someone given the privilege of advancing that type of discussion would rather rely on something other than reason. When that happens in any field, no matter its importance, I will always find it disagreeable.

Comments (17)

  1. needs more outrage.

    • Hmmm, why is that?

      • Because what good is a blog without rage? :)

        Richard Griffin can give us rational breakdowns of the voting and even some criticism of Michael Young’s performance.

        But nobody brings the hilarity and informative scorn like an outraged blogger.

  2. “If we look at contribution and amount of responsibility for winning and losing games, starting pitchers should be the only pitchers considered for the award.”

    Well, that goes without saying. I believe your original argument had starting pitchers being the only players considered for the award, though.

  3. I think we should be more offended at the voters who put Bautista (and Ellsbury{) so far down on their ballots.

    Someone really thought that there were 8 players better than Bautista this year?

  4. Since Bautista did not win, who the fuck cares. If he had won my opinion might be different but only slightly.

    Regardless of who the winner is, the fact that this award is voted on by the BBWA who have proven time and time again that they are generally complete hacks, really lessons the value of an already worthless award.

  5. What interests me the most, besides the winner and Bautista, is that Weaver doesn’t get any votes. He’s second in Cy Young voting but gets no MVP votes despite pitchers finishing after him in Cy getting votes. Fascinating to me considering much of the debate surrounding the MVP voting was whether or not pitchers should get it and the second best pitcher this year gets nothing.

    • I was just noticing that myself – somehow some hack of a (Yankees) writer had the gall to vote for David Robertson over Jered Weaver. There’s no action that better justifies a “WTF?!?!” than this.

      I’m willing to bet money that it was the same guy who gave him a 5th-place vote for the AL Cy Young… maybe Robertson gets a bonus clause in his contract if he gets votes, so he’s giving the writer a kickback? That’s the only rational explanation for something so ridiculous…

  6. Do the writers who vote on this all have to publish their list? They should if they don’t.

    The fact that someone out there thinks Bautista was the 8th or 9th best player in baseball just shows how little these guys actually know outside of their own regional interest – and how far the national narrative dictates how the majority will vote.

  7. if you look at that 24th win verlander got. what did he give up 6 runs?

    did anyone consider the run support he may have gotten in some of those wins. Verlander was amazing, but, he also had guys like Cabrera, Martinez…

    bautista was the only truly good player all season long for the jays. maybe, romero, maybe.

    VErlander is better than anybody when he’s on, which was a good majority of the time this year. Totally deserved AL Cy Young.

    hell he deserved both Cy Youngs for how good he was.

    But, to know how rare it is for a pitcher to get the mvp, you have to do something really above and beyond.

    Something like pitching closer to 2.00 runs than 2.50

  8. At least they like our uniforms…..*cough*

  9. I still cannot believe Verlander won. I know he was a big reason in Detroit clinching their division, but for a guy to play in 35 of 162 games, a positioned player is much more deserving of this award. If the Jays got on base a bit more,
    Bautista’s stats could easily be that of AGon’s, in terms of RBIs and Runs. Needless to say Bautista should have received more 1st place votes. Ellsbury, I believe, did have a great comeback season but that should be all. He did not have MVP calibur stats, just as I thought of Pedroia a few years ago. Only because he plays for the Red Sox does he receive so many votes. Same goes for any of the Yankees. Like the brain child that gave David Robertson a vote. I suggest a recount.

  10. @kwader – I think the Tigers would have won that division without Verlander. They won it by a large margin, and were basically the least shitty out of 2 awful teams, 2 bad teams, and 1 so-so team.

    What makes the least sense to me about Verlander winning is that not only was this nowhere near the best pitching season of the last 20 years, it wasn’t even Verlander’s best year. He won this award because of the mystique afforded him by being fortunate enough to win 24 games. If each of those wins was a complete game shutout, I might be more inclined to give him the award, but the fallacious stat of the pitcher win unfortunately seems to give magic powers to pitchers with otherwise unremarkable numbers (good numbers, maybe even great, but not remarkable). There have been a host of other pitchers over the last 20 years who had better seasons than Verlander did this year (Verlander himself, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez).

    What’s interesting too about the Michael Young debacle is that Jose Bautista brings many of the same intangibles to the table that Michael Young supposedly did – being a on-field presence that made other players better (supposedly, except in Bautista’s case, it’s because he’s NOT a shitty defender – average, but not a total fucking mess like Young), and being a good influence in the club-house. By Evan Grant’s logic, Bautista should have been much higher than 7th on his ballot simply because of the influence he had on Yunel Escobar, making him one of the top fWAR players in all of baseball. Such horseshit…

  11. Verlander’s 2011 Season – 2.40 ERA, 250Ks, 0.92 WHIP, 2.0BB/9, 9.0K/9, 2.99 FIP.
    Kershaw’s 2011 Season – 2.28 ERA, 248Ks, 0.977 WHIP, 2.1BB/9, 9.6K/9, 2.47 FIP.
    Verlander’s team made the playoffs, Kershaw’s didn’t. Somehow, that puts Verlander in the running as MVP in the AL, while in the NL Kershaw doesn’t get talked about (and there is a debate as to whether or not he should have won the Cy Young).
    How can you vote one pitcher as an MVP, but not the other (who arguably had better stats?)

    • Good point, man. Cliff Lee also had a better year this year than Verlander, and I’d imagine that a stat comparison with Halladay would show Doc had a better year too.

      The reason Verlander won is because it’s a narrative. That, and 24 wins. If he won 20, we’re not having a discussion of him winning. He’d be out of the Top 10. So much mysticism was attached to that number – 24 wins – that the people who voted for him even deluded themselves into thinking that he was the only reason Detroit made the playoffs despite playing in the worst division in baseball. The MVP voting was hijacked by those members of the media who believe in traditional statistics above all else, whether this was intentional or not. Think about it – WAR, fWAR and OPS lost out to pitcher wins. It’s sad.

  12. the voting should be held by the GM’S, and Managers, not writers

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