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:
|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.