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The Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander would not be denied in 2011 – no matter what arguments the nonbelievers made against the 28-year-old flame-throwing right hander’s chances of winning the American League MVP, it’s only fitting that he still came out with the award on Monday.
“If you had told me at the beginning of the year I would be a shoe-in for the Cy Young, I would have been excited and ecstatic. I would’ve never even thought about the MVP,” said Verlander after learning that he had won the vote. The baseball writers gave Verlander 13 of the 28 first place votes, and he won with a total accumulation of 280 points, according to mlb.com.
The next closest player to him was Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who finished with 242 total points. As far as individual accomplishments for a starting pitcher are concerned, Verlander achieved practically all of them this year. He led the majors in both wins with a regular season record of 24-5 and 250 strikeouts.
He also led the American League with a 2.40 E.R.A., which effectively won him the league’s pitching triple crown. Let’s not forget that he threw a no-hitter in Toronto against the Blue Jays on May 7, the second of his career. The only thing really missing was a perfect game, which anyone could easily overlook.
All of these triumphs by Verlander earned him the Cy Young award last week. There was only one question to be answered: could this man actually be the league’s most valuable player? No starting pitcher had won the award since Roger Clemens with the Red Sox in 1986, and no pitcher had won it since Athletics Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley in 1992.
The debate lingered for months due to a number of peculiar circumstances. Verlander is not a position player and was not out there every day going to battle with his teammates over the course of a six month, 162 game regular season.
However, Verlander was nothing but absolutely dominating and overpowering nearly every single time he towed the rubber for Detroit. He may have only played in thirty-four regular season games, but he provided an old-school ace-like mentality supported by the most lively arm in the league, almost stating, ‘I’m the best and I know it, so here it comes.’
If there were any pitcher to fear in 2011, it was Verlander. His MVP campaign was strengthened by the fact that the Red Sox suffered the most monumental collapse in history, missing the postseason after blowing what was a nine game lead in the Wild Card on September 3. Ellsbury, was viewed as the favorite for the award until the end of September.
He posted career high numbers: he had an average of .321, 119 runs scored, 212 hits, 105 in RBI, and 32 home runs. Other players who gained much consideration for the award included Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson and Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista.
Granderson hit 41 home runs, drove in 119 runs, and led New York to the best record in baseball, but his .262 average was likely too low for the baseball writers to accept. Bautista batted .302 and led the majors with 43 home runs, but Toronto only finished at .500 with an 81-81 record.
Since no A.L. position player was able to run away with the award, Verlander began to gain a significant amount of interest as a potential winner. The conversation will not end here, as many will discuss whether or not the proper decision was made. Nonetheless, Verlander had a pitcher’s dream season in 2011, and no one can take that or his MVP award away from him.