Detroit Tigers’ Justin Verlander Winning AL MVP Sets a Great Precedent: Fan’s Take

I can only hope the Detroit Tigers starting pitcher and newly-crowned AL MVP, Justin Verlander(notes), is correct that the debate is now over whether a pitcher can win the award.

"I think this set a precedent," Verlander said Monday after receiving the award. "I'm happy that the voters acknowledged that, that we do have a major impact in this game and we can be extremely valuable to our team and its success. Obviously pitchers are not just written off all of a sudden because they're pitchers."

For years it seemed nothing pitchers did was good enough to overcome the inherent bias toward everyday players, and while I understood the arguments made for that view, I've always disagreed with them. To me, certain pitchers, like Verlander, the Philadelphia Phillies' ace Roy Halladay(notes), and even for stretches of a season someone like the Miami Marlins' (formerly the Florida Marlins) hurler Josh Johnson(notes), have been just as important to their team's success as any slugger on their club.

That was no less so this past season as Verlander won the AL's pitching triple crown. That feat—which made the Tigers pitcher the first to accomplish such a thing in the AL since the Minnesota Twins' Johan Santana(notes) did it in 2006—was equaled by the Los Angeles Dodgers Clayton Kershaw(notes)—who was the first to do it in the NL since the San Diego Padres' Jake Peavy(notes) did it in 2007—and made Verlander only the 40th pitcher to ever do so in the history of the sport.

Among the distinguished names of the pitchers he joined were such immortals as Cy Young, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Lefty Grove, Bob Feller, and Sandy Koufax, and of those, only Johnson, Grove, and Koufax ever won an MVP award (Johnson winning two AL MVPs).

Yet, there's no doubt Verlander deserves the award. He's thoroughly earned it, going 24-5 this past season—the most wins in the majors since the Oakland Athletics' Bob Welch went 27-6 in 1990—to go along with an ERA of 2.40 and 250 strikeouts. I can only hope it doesn't take another 25 years for a starting pitcher to earn the award (the Boston Red Sox' Roger Clemens was the last in 1986) or even 19 years for any pitcher (starter or reliever) as it's taken since Oakland's Dennis Eckersley won the award in 1992.

There's no question that most of the time a guy playing every day has far more of an impact on his team than anyone on a club's pitching staff, but there are times when that's not true, and they're certainly not as rare as the number of MVP awards handed out to pitchers seem to indicate. I can only hope and dream the Marlins' Johnson has a legitimate shot at the award next season as Miami begins their quest for a third title inside their new retractable-roof ballpark.

I would love nothing more than to say Miami Marlins' NL MVP Josh Johnson in the future, but today is about Verlander, and I'm sure Tigers fans have to be proud and happy. Their ace winning the AL MVP—as he himself said—sets a precedent; and it's a great one in my view.

Play Ball!

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All stats and information taken from personal notes and verified at Baseball-Reference.com, MLB.com, and Yahoo! Sports.

Read more by Daniel Barber aka Hotnuke at TFS Sports.

*Daniel Barber has rooted for all Miami teams since he was a child or since their inception having been born right above Miami.

Sources:

MLB.com

Baseball-Reference.com

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Updated Tuesday, Nov 22, 2011