Tigers ace pitcher Justin Verlander had a historic season for several reasons, and you can now add MVP and Cy Young in the same season to the list. He won the American League MVP, the Baseball Writers Association of America announced Monday afternoon. Verlander becomes the first starting pitcher to win MVP since Roger Clemens took home the honors all the way back in 1986. This also marks the first time any pitcher has won since 1992, when A's closer Dennis Eckersley won. This marks the 10th time a pitcher has won both the MVP and Cy Young in the same season.
Verlander, 28, was clearly the best pitcher in baseball in 2011. He went 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 250 strikeouts in 251 innings. He had four complete games, two shutouts and one no-hitter. He led the American League in wins, winning percentage, starts, innings pitched, strikeouts, WHIP, ERA-plus and hits per nine innings.
The only real question as to whether or not Verlander would win the award was based upon his position. Pitchers only work once every fifth day, so many argued that they shouldn't be allowed to win an award that is traditionally given to players who are seen in the lineup every single game. But Verlander was so good it was tough to ignore. And he tied Jose Bautista with 8.5 wins above replacement, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
This vote was probably the most intriguing of all the BBWAA votes this season because it felt wide open. Should pitchers be allowed to win? Can a player on a fourth-place team be considered valuable? Can a player on a team who had a historic collapse down the stretch win? There were arguments all over the place for the last six weeks of the season. Here's how the final vote stacked up, with the final points in parentheses:
1. Verlander (280)
2. Jacoby Ellsbury (242)
3. Bautista (231)
4. Curtis Granderson (215)
5. Miguel Cabrera (193)
6. Robinson Cano (112)
7. Adrian Gonzalez (105)
8. Michael Young (96)
9. Dustin Pedroia (48)
10. Evan Longoria (27)
In order: Ian Kinsler, Alex Avila, Paul Konerko, CC Sabathia, Adrian Beltre, Ben Zobrist, Victor Martinez, James Shields, Mark Teixeira, Asdrubal Cabrera, Alex Gordon, Josh Hamilton and David Robertson also received votes.
Verlander received 13 of the 28 first-place votes. Bautista got five, Ellsbury, four; Granderson, three; Miguel Cabrera, two and Young got one first-place vote. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News gave Young his lone MVP vote.
One voter, Jim Ingraham of the Lake Herald News (Cleveland) completely left Verlander off the ballot. Via the Associated Press, here was Ingraham's rationale:
"I'd wrestled with this for a long time. If I was ever going to vote for pitcher for MVP, it would be him this year," Ingraham said. "He hasn't appeared in 79 percent of their games, any starting pitcher really doesn't appear in 79 percent of his team's games in a year.
"Would you vote for an NFL quarterback for MVP if he only appeared in three of his team's 16 games, which would 21 percent? So that's part of it. Another part of it is I think they're apples and oranges. The guys that are in there every day, there's a grind to a season that a starting pitcher doesn't, I don't think, experience the way the everyday position players do playing 150, 160 games."
Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon Journal gave Verlander an eighth-place vote while both Chad Jennings of the Journal News (New York) and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle voted him sixth.
Jacoby Ellsbury was hurt by a 10th place vote from Scot Gregor of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald (Chicago).
Other pitchers to win MVP and Cy Young in the same year were Don Newcombe (1956), Sandy Koufax (1963), Bob Gibson, Denny McLain (1968), Vida Blue (1971), Rollie Fingers (1981) and Willie Hernandez (1984).
This is the ninth time a Tigers player has won the MVP. The others: Mickey Cochrane (1934), Hank Greenberg (1935), Charlie Gehringer (1937), Greenberg (1940), Hal Newhouser (1944), Newhouser (1945), McLain (1968) and Hernandez (1984).
The National League MVP will be revealed Tuesday. It's likely to be either Ryan Braun or Matt Kemp, but a few others will factor heavily in the voting.